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Buying a low-cost index fund will get you the average market return. But across the board there are plenty of stocks that underperform the market. Unfortunately for shareholders, while the The Southern Company (NYSE:SO) share price is up 40% in the last three years, that falls short of the market return. Zooming in, the stock is up a respectable 11% in the last year.
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 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 three years of share price growth, Southern achieved compound earnings per share growth of 52% per year. This EPS growth is higher than the 12% average annual increase in the share price. So it seems investors have become more cautious about the company, over time.
You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).
We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. This free interactive report on Southern's earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of Southern, it has a TSR of 61% 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
Southern shareholders gained a total return of 16% during the year. Unfortunately this falls short of the market return. On the bright side, that's still a gain, and it's actually better than the average return of 10% over half a decade It is possible that returns will improve along with the business fundamentals. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Southern better, we need to consider many other factors. For example, we've discovered 3 warning signs for Southern (1 can't be ignored!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
Southern is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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