Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll show how you can use MGIC Investment Corporation's (NYSE:MTG) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. What is MGIC Investment's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 7.69. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $7.69 for every $1 in prior year profit.
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 MGIC Investment:
P/E of 7.69 = $14.15 ÷ $1.84 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)
Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?
A higher P/E ratio means that investors are paying a higher price for each $1 of company earnings. 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 Does MGIC Investment's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that MGIC Investment has a lower P/E than the average (14.2) P/E for companies in the mortgage industry.
Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that MGIC Investment shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. 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
Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
MGIC Investment increased earnings per share by a whopping 25% last year. And it has bolstered its earnings per share by 29% per year over the last five years. I'd therefore be a little surprised if its P/E ratio was not relatively high.
Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits
The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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).
Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).
Is Debt Impacting MGIC Investment's P/E?
Net debt totals 14% of MGIC Investment's market cap. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.
The Verdict On MGIC Investment's P/E Ratio
MGIC Investment trades on a P/E ratio of 7.7, which is below the US market average of 18.3. The company hasn't stretched its balance sheet, and earnings growth was good last year. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified.
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 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 MGIC Investment. 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.