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Do You Know What Torchmark Corporation's (NYSE:TMK) P/E Ratio Means?

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Torchmark Corporation's (NYSE:TMK), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Torchmark has a P/E ratio of 14.29, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $14.29 for every $1 in prior year profit.

Check out our latest analysis for Torchmark

How Do I Calculate Torchmark's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Torchmark:

P/E of 14.29 = $91.1 ÷ $6.37 (Based on the year to March 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That isn't a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

Does Torchmark Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. If you look at the image below, you can see Torchmark has a lower P/E than the average (17.4) in the insurance industry classification.

NYSE:TMK Price Estimation Relative to Market, July 23rd 2019

This suggests that market participants think Torchmark will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with Torchmark, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

Torchmark's earnings per share fell by 51% in the last twelve months. But it has grown its earnings per share by 9.8% per year over the last five years.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).

Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).

How Does Torchmark's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Torchmark's net debt is 15% of its market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Verdict On Torchmark's P/E Ratio

Torchmark's P/E is 14.3 which is below average (17.8) in the US market. The debt levels are not a major concern, but the lack of EPS growth is likely weighing on sentiment.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

But note: Torchmark may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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 editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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.