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Does Hallmark Financial Services, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:HALL) P/E Ratio Signal A Buying Opportunity?

Simply Wall St

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll look at Hallmark Financial Services, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:HALL) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Hallmark Financial Services has a P/E ratio of 11.42, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 8.8%.

View our latest analysis for Hallmark Financial Services

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Hallmark Financial Services:

P/E of 11.42 = $17.84 ÷ $1.56 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

The higher the P/E ratio, the higher the price tag of a business, relative to its trailing earnings. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price'.

Does Hallmark Financial Services Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (16.6) for companies in the insurance industry is higher than Hallmark Financial Services's P/E.

NasdaqGM:HALL Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 8th 2020

This suggests that market participants think Hallmark Financial Services will underperform other companies in its industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

In the last year, Hallmark Financial Services grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 491% gain was both fast and well deserved. The cherry on top is that the five year growth rate was an impressive 18% per year. So I'd be surprised if the P/E ratio was not above average.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

Is Debt Impacting Hallmark Financial Services's P/E?

Hallmark Financial Services's net debt is 13% of its market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Bottom Line On Hallmark Financial Services's P/E Ratio

Hallmark Financial Services has a P/E of 11.4. That's below the average in the US market, which is 18.7. The company does have a little debt, and EPS growth was good last year. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low. Given analysts are expecting further growth, one might have expected a higher P/E ratio. That may be worth further research.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Hallmark Financial Services. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.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.

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. Thank you for reading.