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HireQuest, Inc. (NASDAQ:HQI) shareholders might be concerned after seeing the share price drop 13% in the last quarter. In contrast, the return over three years has been impressive. In three years the stock price has launched 161% higher: a great result. It's not uncommon to see a share price retrace a bit, after a big gain. If the business can perform well for years to come, then the recent drop could be an opportunity.
With that in mind, it's worth seeing if the company's underlying fundamentals have been the driver of long term performance, or if there are some discrepancies.
To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' 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.
During the three years of share price growth, HireQuest actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) drop 5.0% per year.
Companies are not always focussed on EPS growth in the short term, and looking at how the share price has reacted, we don't think EPS is the most important metric for HireQuest at the moment. Therefore, it makes sense to look into other metrics.
Languishing at just 1.6%, we doubt the dividend is doing much to prop up the share price. It could be that the revenue growth of 20% per year is viewed as evidence that HireQuest is growing. In that case, the company may be sacrificing current earnings per share to drive growth, and maybe shareholder's faith in better days ahead will be rewarded.
You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
It's probably worth noting we've seen significant insider buying in the last quarter, which we consider a positive. On the other hand, we think the revenue and earnings trends are much more meaningful measures of the business. So it makes a lot of sense to check out what analysts think HireQuest will earn in the future (free profit forecasts).
What About Dividends?
It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, HireQuest's TSR for the last 3 years was 170%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
The last twelve months weren't great for HireQuest shares, which performed worse than the market, costing holders 21%, including dividends. Meanwhile, the broader market slid about 15%, likely weighing on the stock. Fortunately the longer term story is brighter, with total returns averaging about 39% per year over three years. Sometimes when a good quality long term winner has a weak period, it's turns out to be an opportunity, but you really need to be sure that the quality is there. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. For example, we've discovered 3 warning signs for HireQuest that you should be aware of before investing here.
HireQuest is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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