Generally speaking the aim of active stock picking is to find companies that provide returns that are superior to the market average. Buying under-rated businesses is one path to excess returns. For example, the American Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE:AFG) share price is up 80% in the last 5 years, clearly besting the market return of around 45% (ignoring dividends). However, more recent returns haven't been as impressive as that, with the stock returning just 11% in the last year , 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. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
During five years of share price growth, American Financial Group achieved compound earnings per share (EPS) growth of 6.3% per year. This EPS growth is slower than the share price growth of 13% per year, over the same period. This suggests that market participants hold the company in higher regard, these days. That's not necessarily surprising considering the five-year track record of earnings growth.
The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
This free interactive report on American Financial Group's earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of American Financial Group, it has a TSR of 123% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
American Financial Group shareholders gained a total return of 11% during the year. Unfortunately this falls short of the market return. It's probably a good sign that the company has an even better long term track record, having provided shareholders with an annual TSR of 17% over five years. It's quite possible the business continues to execute with prowess, even as the share price gains are slowing. Before spending more time on American Financial Group it might be wise to click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling shares.
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).
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.