Unfortunately for some shareholders, the KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY) share price has dived 38% in the last thirty days. Even longer term holders have taken a real hit with the stock declining 29% in the last year.
All else being equal, a share price drop should make a stock more attractive to potential investors. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. The implication here is that long term investors have an opportunity when expectations of a company are too low. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E ratio means that investors have a high expectation about future growth, while a low P/E ratio means they have low expectations about future growth.
Does KeyCorp Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 7.49 that sentiment around KeyCorp isn't particularly high. If you look at the image below, you can see KeyCorp has a lower P/E than the average (10.5) in the banks industry classification.
Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that KeyCorp shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
KeyCorp saw earnings per share decrease by 5.7% last year. But EPS is up 9.1% over the last 5 years.
Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits
It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.
While growth expenditure doesn't always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.
KeyCorp's Balance Sheet
Net debt totals 98% of KeyCorp's market cap. This is enough debt that you'd have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.
The Verdict On KeyCorp's P/E Ratio
KeyCorp trades on a P/E ratio of 7.5, which is below the US market average of 15.1. The P/E reflects market pessimism that probably arises from the lack of recent EPS growth, paired with significant leverage. Given KeyCorp's P/E ratio has declined from 12.1 to 7.5 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is more worried about the business today, than it was back then. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for deep value investors this stock might justify some research.
Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.
You might be able to find a better buy than KeyCorp. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).
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.
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