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What Does Martin Marietta Materials, Inc.'s (NYSE:MLM) P/E Ratio Tell You?

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Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. To keep it practical, we'll show how Martin Marietta Materials, Inc.'s (NYSE:MLM) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. What is Martin Marietta Materials's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 28.25. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 3.5%.

How Do You Calculate Martin Marietta Materials's P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price Ã· Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Martin Marietta Materials:

P/E of 28.25 = \$225.85 Ã· \$7.99 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each \$1 the company has earned over the last year. That isn't necessarily good or bad, but a high P/E implies relatively high expectations of what a company can achieve in the future.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

Martin Marietta Materials saw earnings per share decrease by 26% last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 24% per year over the last five years.

Does Martin Marietta Materials Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that Martin Marietta Materials has a higher P/E than the average (25.8) P/E for companies in the basic materials industry.

Its relatively high P/E ratio indicates that Martin Marietta Materials shareholders think it will perform better than other companies in its industry classification. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

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

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

Martin Marietta Materials's Balance Sheet

Net debt is 26% of Martin Marietta Materials's market cap. You'd want to be aware of this fact, but it doesn't bother us.

The Bottom Line On Martin Marietta Materials's P/E Ratio

Martin Marietta Materials has a P/E of 28.3. That's higher than the average in the US market, which is 17.4. With a bit of debt, but a lack of recent growth, it's safe to say the market is expecting improved profit performance from the company, in the next few years.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.' 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.

But note: Martin Marietta Materials may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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 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. Thank you for reading.