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Such Is Life: How Fluor (NYSE:FLR) Shareholders Saw Their Shares Drop 70%

Simply Wall St

Statistically speaking, long term investing is a profitable endeavour. But that doesn't mean long term investors can avoid big losses. Zooming in on an example, the Fluor Corporation (NYSE:FLR) share price dropped 70% in the last half decade. We certainly feel for shareholders who bought near the top. And it's not just long term holders hurting, because the stock is down 58% in the last year. The falls have accelerated recently, with the share price down 43% in the last three months.

See our latest analysis for Fluor

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 way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

In the last half decade Fluor saw its share price fall as its EPS declined below zero. At present it's hard to make valid comparisons between EPS and the share price. But we would generally expect a lower price, given the situation.

The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

NYSE:FLR Past and Future Earnings, October 14th 2019

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. This free interactive report on Fluor's earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. We note that for Fluor the TSR over the last 5 years was -67%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

While the broader market gained around 9.1% in the last year, Fluor shareholders lost 57% (even including dividends) . 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. Regrettably, last year's performance caps off a bad run, with the shareholders facing a total loss of 20% per year over five years. We realise that Buffett has said investors should 'buy when there is blood on the streets', but we caution that investors should first be sure they are buying a high quality businesses. It is all well and good that insiders have been buying shares, but we suggest you check here to see what price insiders were buying at.

Fluor 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.

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.