One simple way to benefit from the stock market is to buy an index fund. But if you buy good businesses at attractive prices, your portfolio returns could exceed the average market return. For example, Forward Air Corporation (NASDAQ:FWRD) shareholders have seen the share price rise 54% over three years, well in excess of the market return (41%, not including dividends). On the other hand, the returns haven’t been quite so good recently, with shareholders up just 20%, including dividends.
In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. 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.
Forward Air was able to grow its EPS at 20% per year over three years, sending the share price higher. The average annual share price increase of 15% is actually lower than the EPS growth. Therefore, it seems the market has moderated its expectations for growth, somewhat.
The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).
This free interactive report on Forward Air’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. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. We note that for Forward Air the TSR over the last 3 years was 59%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there’s no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
It’s good to see that Forward Air has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 20% in the last twelve months. Of course, that includes the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 8.5%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. In the best case scenario, this may hint at some real business momentum, implying that now could be a great time to delve deeper. If you would like to research Forward Air in more detail then you might want to take a look at whether insiders have been buying or selling shares in the company.
But note: Forward Air 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.