MSCI (NYSE:MSCI) shareholders are no doubt pleased to see that the share price has had a great month, posting a 30% gain, recovering from prior weakness. And the full year gain of 43% isn't too shabby, either!
All else being equal, a sharp share price increase should make a stock less attractive to potential investors. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. The implication here is that deep value investors might steer clear when expectations of a company are too high. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors' expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E ratio means that investors have a high expectation about future growth, while a low P/E ratio means they have low expectations about future growth.
How Does MSCI's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
MSCI's P/E of 47.63 indicates some degree of optimism towards the stock. As you can see below, MSCI has a higher P/E than the average company (35.7) in the capital markets industry.
MSCI's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So investors should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
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. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.
It's great to see that MSCI grew EPS by 14% in the last year. And earnings per share have improved by 31% annually, over the last five years. So one might expect an above average P/E ratio.
A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank
One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.
Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.
MSCI's Balance Sheet
Net debt totals just 5.8% of MSCI's market cap. The market might award it a higher P/E ratio if it had net cash, but its unlikely this low level of net borrowing is having a big impact on the P/E multiple.
The Bottom Line On MSCI's P/E Ratio
MSCI has a P/E of 47.6. That's significantly higher than the average in its market, which is 13.6. The company is not overly constrained by its modest debt levels, and its recent EPS growth very solid. Therefore, it's not particularly surprising that it has a above average P/E ratio. What is very clear is that the market has become significantly more optimistic about MSCI over the last month, with the P/E ratio rising from 36.5 back then to 47.6 today. If you like to buy stocks that have recently impressed the market, then this one might be a candidate; but if you prefer to invest when there is 'blood in the streets', then you may feel the opportunity has passed.
Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
Of course you might be able to find a better stock than MSCI. 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 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.
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.