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The worst result, after buying shares in a company (assuming no leverage), would be if you lose all the money you put in. But when you pick a company that is really flourishing, you can make more than 100%. For example, the Barrett Business Services, Inc. (NASDAQ:BBSI) share price has soared 101% in the last three years. How nice for those who held the stock! The last week saw the share price soften some 3.9%.
There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. 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.
Barrett Business Services was able to grow its EPS at 23% per year over three years, sending the share price higher. We don't think it is entirely coincidental that the EPS growth is reasonably close to the 26% average annual increase in the share price. This observation indicates that the market's attitude to the business hasn't changed all that much. Au contraire, the share price change has arguably mimicked the EPS growth.
You can see how EPS has changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
We know that Barrett Business Services has improved its bottom line lately, but is it going to grow revenue? Check if analysts think Barrett Business Services will grow revenue in the future.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). 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. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. We note that for Barrett Business Services the TSR over the last 3 years was 111%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
Barrett Business Services shareholders are down 12% for the year (even including dividends), but the market itself is up 3.7%. 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. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 13%, each year, over five years. It could be that the recent sell-off is an opportunity, so it may be worth checking the fundamental data for signs of a long term growth trend. Most investors take the time to check the data on insider transactions. You can click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling.
But note: Barrett Business Services may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with past earnings growth (and further growth forecast).
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.