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It's easy to match the overall market return by buying an index fund. When you buy individual stocks, you can make higher profits, but you also face the risk of under-performance. For example, the Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. (NYSE:TDS) share price is down 35% in the last year. That contrasts poorly with the market return of 7.0%. Even if shareholders bought some time ago, they wouldn't be particularly happy: the stock is down 30% in three years. But it's up 5.9% in the last week.
There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. 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.
Unfortunately Telephone and Data Systems reported an EPS drop of 17% for the last year. This reduction in EPS is not as bad as the 35% share price fall. So it seems the market was too confident about the business, a year ago.
The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).
We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here..
What about the Total Shareholder Return (TSR)?
We'd be remiss not to mention the difference between Telephone and Data Systems's total shareholder return (TSR) and its share price return. The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. Dividends have been really beneficial for Telephone and Data Systems shareholders, and that cash payout explains why its total shareholder loss of 34%, over the last year, isn't as bad as the share price return.
A Different Perspective
Investors in Telephone and Data Systems had a tough year, with a total loss of 34% (including dividends) , against a market gain of about 7.0%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 5.7% over the last half decade. Generally speaking long term share price weakness can be a bad sign, though contrarian investors might want to research the stock in hope of a turnaround. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. To that end, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Telephone and Data Systems (including 2 which is are a bit unpleasant) .
Telephone and Data Systems is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.
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. 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. Thank you for reading.