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Did Changing Sentiment Drive Saga Communications's (NASDAQ:SGA) Share Price Down By 33%?

Simply Wall St

In order to justify the effort of selecting individual stocks, it's worth striving to beat the returns from a market index fund. But the risk of stock picking is that you will likely buy under-performing companies. Unfortunately, that's been the case for longer term Saga Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:SGA) shareholders, since the share price is down 33% in the last three years, falling well short of the market return of around 51%. The good news is that the stock is up 3.0% in the last week.

See our latest analysis for Saga Communications

To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

During the unfortunate three years of share price decline, Saga Communications actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 0.9% per year. This is quite a puzzle, and suggests there might be something temporarily buoying the share price. Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past.

It's pretty reasonable to suspect the market was previously to bullish on the stock, and has since moderated expectations. Looking to other metrics might better explain the share price change.

Given the healthiness of the dividend payments, we doubt that they've concerned the market. Saga Communications has maintained its top line over three years, so we doubt that has shareholders worried. So it might be worth looking at how revenue growth over time, in greater detail.

You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).

NasdaqGM:SGA Income Statement, November 28th 2019

Balance sheet strength is crucial. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on how its financial position has changed over time.

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. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. As it happens, Saga Communications's TSR for the last 3 years was -25%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

While the broader market gained around 17% in the last year, Saga Communications shareholders lost 15% (even including dividends) . However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Regrettably, last year's performance caps off a bad run, with the shareholders facing a total loss of 0.1% per year over five years. 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. Most investors take the time to check the data on insider transactions. You can click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling.

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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.