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Here's What Central Federal Corporation's (NASDAQ:CFBK) P/E Ratio Is Telling Us

Simply Wall St

Central Federal (NASDAQ:CFBK) shares have retraced a considerable in the last month. But there's still good reason for shareholders to be content; the stock has gained 5.9% in the last 90 days. The stock has been solid, longer term, gaining 11% in the last year.

All else being equal, a sharp share price increase should make a stock less attractive to potential investors. In the long term, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, but in the short term prices bounce around in response to short term factors (which are not always obvious). So some would prefer to hold off buying when there is a lot of optimism towards a stock. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E implies that investors have high expectations of what a company can achieve compared to a company with a low P/E ratio.

View our latest analysis for Central Federal

Does Central Federal Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

Central Federal's P/E of 7.53 indicates relatively low sentiment towards the stock. If you look at the image below, you can see Central Federal has a lower P/E than the average (13.7) in the mortgage industry classification.

NasdaqCM:CFBK Price Estimation Relative to Market, February 2nd 2020

Central Federal's P/E tells us that market participants think it will not fare as well as its peers in the same industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. You 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. If earnings are growing quickly, then the 'E' in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Central Federal's 205% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive. The cherry on top is that the five year growth rate was an impressive 47% per year. With that kind of growth rate we would generally expect a high P/E ratio.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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 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.

Central Federal's Balance Sheet

Since Central Federal holds net cash of US$3.2m, it can spend on growth, justifying a higher P/E ratio than otherwise.

The Bottom Line On Central Federal's P/E Ratio

Central Federal has a P/E of 7.5. That's below the average in the US market, which is 18.0. Not only should the net cash position reduce risk, but the recent growth has been impressive. The relatively low P/E ratio implies the market is pessimistic. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become more pessimistic about Central Federal over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 7.5 back then to 7.5 today. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for deep value investors this stock might justify some research.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. We don't have analyst forecasts, but shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Central Federal. 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.