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Investing in East West Bancorp (NASDAQ:EWBC) three years ago would have delivered you a 70% gain

By buying an index fund, you can roughly match the market return with ease. But if you choose individual stocks with prowess, you can make superior returns. For example, East West Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:EWBC) shareholders have seen the share price rise 59% over three years, well in excess of the market return (20%, not including dividends).

So let's assess the underlying fundamentals over the last 3 years and see if they've moved in lock-step with shareholder returns.

View our latest analysis for East West Bancorp

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 three years of share price growth, East West Bancorp achieved compound earnings per share growth of 14% per year. We don't think it is entirely coincidental that the EPS growth is reasonably close to the 17% average annual increase in the share price. This suggests that sentiment and expectations have not changed drastically. 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).

earnings-per-share-growth
earnings-per-share-growth

We know that East West Bancorp has improved its bottom line lately, but is it going to grow revenue? If you're interested, you could check this free report showing consensus revenue forecasts.

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. As it happens, East West Bancorp's TSR for the last 3 years was 70%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

While it's certainly disappointing to see that East West Bancorp shares lost 13% throughout the year, that wasn't as bad as the market loss of 22%. Of course, the long term returns are far more important and the good news is that over five years, the stock has returned 4% for each year. In the best case scenario the last year is just a temporary blip on the journey to a brighter future. If you would like to research East West Bancorp in more detail then you might want to take a look at whether insiders have been buying or selling shares in the company.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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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