Stock pickers are generally looking for stocks that will outperform the broader market. And the truth is, you can make significant gains if you buy good quality businesses at the right price. For example, the Equifax Inc. (NYSE:EFX) share price is up 82% in the last 5 years, clearly besting than the market return of around 47% (ignoring dividends). On the other hand, the more recent gains haven't been so impressive, with shareholders gaining just 7.2%, including dividends.
To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
During five years of share price growth, Equifax actually saw its EPS drop 2.0% per year. So it's hard to argue that the earnings per share are the best metric to judge the company, as it may not be optimized for profits at this point. Since the change in EPS doesn't seem to correlate with the change in share price, it's worth taking a look at other metrics.
The modest 1.2% dividend yield is unlikely to be propping up the share price. On the other hand, Equifax's revenue is growing nicely, at a compound rate of 9.4% over the last five years. In that case, the company may be sacrificing current earnings per share to drive growth.
Depicted in the graphic below, you'll see revenue and earnings over time. If you want more detail, you can click on the chart itself.
We like that insiders have been buying shares in the last twelve months. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. So we recommend checking out this free report showing consensus forecasts
What About Dividends?
It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of Equifax, it has a TSR of 94% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
Equifax shareholders gained a total return of 7.2% during the year. Unfortunately this falls short of the market return. On the bright side, the longer term returns (running at about 14% a year, over half a decade) look better. It's quite possible the business continues to execute with prowess, even as the share price gains are slowing. It is all well and good that insiders have been buying shares, but we suggest you check here to see what price insiders were buying at.
Equifax 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.
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.
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. Thank you for reading.