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Here's How P/E Ratios Can Help Us Understand Arch Capital Group Ltd. (NASDAQ:ACGL)

Simply Wall St

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 Arch Capital Group Ltd.'s (NASDAQ:ACGL) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Arch Capital Group has a P/E ratio of 12.93, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 7.7%.

Check out our latest analysis for Arch Capital Group

How Do I Calculate Arch Capital Group's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Arch Capital Group:

P/E of 12.93 = USD45.24 ÷ USD3.50 (Based on the year 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 USD1 of company earnings. All else being equal, it's better to pay a low price -- but as Warren Buffett said, 'It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price'.

Does Arch Capital Group Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (16.9) for companies in the insurance industry is higher than Arch Capital Group's P/E.

NasdaqGS:ACGL Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 24th 2020

This suggests that market participants think Arch Capital Group will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with Arch Capital Group, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. 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. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

In the last year, Arch Capital Group grew EPS like Taylor Swift grew her fan base back in 2010; the 79% gain was both fast and well deserved. Even better, EPS is up 25% per year over three years. So you might say it really deserves to have an above-average P/E ratio.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. 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.

While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.

Is Debt Impacting Arch Capital Group's P/E?

Arch Capital Group has net debt worth just 4.2% of its market capitalization. So it doesn't have as many options as it would with net cash, but its debt would not have much of an impact on its P/E ratio.

The Bottom Line On Arch Capital Group's P/E Ratio

Arch Capital Group has a P/E of 12.9. That's below the average in the US market, which is 18.8. The company hasn't stretched its balance sheet, and earnings growth was good last year. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. 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 find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.