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Passive investing in an index fund is a good way to ensure your own returns roughly match the overall market. When you buy individual stocks, you can make higher profits, but you also face the risk of under-performance. That downside risk was realized by Hercules Capital, Inc. (NYSE:HTGC) shareholders over the last year, as the share price declined 14%. That's disappointing when you consider the market returned 25%. Longer term shareholders haven't suffered as badly, since the stock is down a comparatively less painful 8.2% in three years.
To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.
Unfortunately Hercules Capital reported an EPS drop of 32% for the last year. The share price fall of 14% isn't as bad as the reduction in earnings per share. So the market may not be too worried about the EPS figure, at the moment -- or it may have expected earnings to drop faster.
The image below shows how EPS has tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
This free interactive report on Hercules Capital's earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). 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. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. We note that for Hercules Capital the TSR over the last year was -3.7%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
Investors in Hercules Capital had a tough year, with a total loss of 3.7% (including dividends), against a market gain of about 25%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. On the bright side, long term shareholders have made money, with a gain of 10% per year over half a decade. It could be that the recent sell-off is an opportunity, so it may be worth checking the fundamental data for signs of a long term growth trend. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Hercules Capital better, we need to consider many other factors. To that end, you should learn about the 5 warning signs we've spotted with Hercules Capital (including 2 which is are significant) .
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).
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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