By buying an index fund, investors can approximate the average market return. But many of us dare to dream of bigger returns, and build a portfolio ourselves. For example, Agilent Technologies, Inc. (NYSE:A) shareholders have seen the share price rise 74% over three years, well in excess of the market return (39%, not including dividends). However, more recent returns haven't been as impressive as that, with the stock returning just 21% in the last year , 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 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.
Agilent Technologies was able to grow its EPS at 33% per year over three years, sending the share price higher. This EPS growth is higher than the 20% average annual increase in the share price. So it seems investors have become more cautious about the company, over time.
The image below shows how EPS has tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
It is of course excellent to see how Agilent Technologies has grown profits over the years, but the future is more important for shareholders. You can see how its balance sheet has strengthened (or weakened) over time in this free interactive graphic.
What About Dividends?
It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Agilent Technologies the TSR over the last 3 years was 79%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
We're pleased to report that Agilent Technologies shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 21% over one year. And that does include the dividend. That's better than the annualised return of 15% over half a decade, implying that the company is doing better recently. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. Before spending more time on Agilent Technologies it might be wise to click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling shares.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.