One simple way to benefit from the stock market is to buy an index fund. But many of us dare to dream of bigger returns, and build a portfolio ourselves. For example, CRA International, Inc. (NASDAQ:CRAI) shareholders have seen the share price rise 63% over three years, well in excess of the market return (39%, not including dividends). On the other hand, the returns haven't been quite so good recently, with shareholders up just 14% , including dividends .
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 imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.
During three years of share price growth, CRA International achieved compound earnings per share growth of 38% per year. The average annual share price increase of 18% is actually lower than the EPS growth. So it seems investors have become more cautious about the company, over time.
The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
It is of course excellent to see how CRA International has grown profits over the years, but the future is more important for shareholders. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on how its financial position has changed over time.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of CRA International, it has a TSR of 70% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
CRA International shareholders gained a total return of 14% during the year. But that return falls short of the market. The silver lining is that the gain was actually better than the average annual return of 11% per year over five year. This could indicate that the company is winning over new investors, as it pursues its strategy. 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.
But note: CRA International may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with past earnings growth (and further growth forecast).
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 email@example.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.