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One simple way to benefit from the stock market is to buy an index fund. But if you choose individual stocks with prowess, you can make superior returns. For example, Tractor Supply Company (NASDAQ:TSCO) shareholders have seen the share price rise 88% over three years, well in excess of the market return (37%, not including dividends). On the other hand, the returns haven't been quite so good recently, with shareholders up just 67% , including dividends .
In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. 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.
Tractor Supply was able to grow its EPS at 24% per year over three years, sending the share price higher. Notably, the 23% average annual share price gain matches up nicely with the EPS growth rate. This observation indicates that the market's attitude to the business hasn't changed all that much. Quite to the contrary, the share price has arguably reflected the EPS growth.
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. Dive deeper into the earnings by checking this interactive graph of Tractor Supply's earnings, revenue and cash flow.
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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Tractor Supply the TSR over the last 3 years was 96%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
It's good to see that Tractor Supply has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 67% in the last twelve months. And that does include the dividend. That's better than the annualised return of 14% over half a decade, implying that the company is doing better recently. Given the share price momentum remains strong, it might be worth taking a closer look at the stock, lest you miss an opportunity. 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 instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for Tractor Supply that you should be aware of.
Tractor Supply 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.
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.
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