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Did Changing Sentiment Drive Gap's (NYSE:GPS) Share Price Down A Worrying 57%?

Simply Wall St

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Statistically speaking, long term investing is a profitable endeavour. But no-one is immune from buying too high. Zooming in on an example, the The Gap, Inc. (NYSE:GPS) share price dropped 57% in the last half decade. That is extremely sub-optimal, to say the least. We also note that the stock has performed poorly over the last year, with the share price down 47%. The falls have accelerated recently, with the share price down 30% in the last three months. We note that the company has reported results fairly recently; and the market is hardly delighted. You can check out the latest numbers in our company report.

Check out our latest analysis for Gap

While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.

While the share price declined over five years, Gap actually managed to increase EPS by an average of 1.0% per year. Given the share price reaction, one might suspect that EPS is not a good guide to the business performance during the period (perhaps due to a one-off loss or gain). Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past. Based on these numbers, we'd venture that the market may have been over-optimistic about forecast growth, half a decade ago. Having said that, we might get a better idea of what's going on with the stock by looking at other metrics.

The steady dividend doesn't really explain why the share price is down. While it's not completely obvious why the share price is down, a closer look at the company's history might help explain it.

The chart below shows how revenue and earnings have changed with time, (if you click on the chart you can see the actual values).

NYSE:GPS Income Statement, June 24th 2019

Gap is a well known stock, with plenty of analyst coverage, suggesting some visibility into future growth. So we recommend checking out this free report showing consensus forecasts

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of Gap, it has a TSR of -50% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

Gap shareholders are down 45% for the year (even including dividends), but the market itself is up 7.2%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 13% over the last half decade. Generally speaking long term share price weakness can be a bad sign, though contrarian investors might want to research the stock in hope of a turnaround. If you would like to research Gap in more detail then you might want to take a look at whether insiders have been buying or selling shares in the company.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies we expect will grow earnings.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.