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Do You Like Limestone Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:LMST) At This P/E Ratio?

Simply Wall St

Of late the Limestone Bancorp (NASDAQ:LMST) share price has softened like an ice cream in the sun, melting a full . But plenty of shareholders will still be smiling, given that the stock is up 15% over the last quarter. The stock has been solid, longer term, gaining 25% in the last year.

All else being equal, a sharp share price increase should make a stock less attractive to potential investors. In the long term, share prices tend to follow earnings per share, but in the short term prices bounce around in response to short term factors (which are not always obvious). So some would prefer to hold off buying when there is a lot of optimism towards a stock. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors' expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.

See our latest analysis for Limestone Bancorp

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

We can tell from its P/E ratio of 11.48 that sentiment around Limestone Bancorp isn't particularly high. The image below shows that Limestone Bancorp has a lower P/E than the average (13.0) P/E for companies in the banks industry.

NasdaqCM:LMST Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 5th 2020

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Limestone Bancorp shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

Limestone Bancorp shrunk earnings per share by 74% over the last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 38% per year over the last three years.

Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. 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.

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

So What Does Limestone Bancorp's Balance Sheet Tell Us?

Limestone Bancorp has net debt equal to 33% of its market cap. While that's enough to warrant consideration, it doesn't really concern us.

The Verdict On Limestone Bancorp's P/E Ratio

Limestone Bancorp trades on a P/E ratio of 11.5, which is below the US market average of 18.8. With only modest debt, it's likely the lack of EPS growth at least partially explains the pessimism implied by the P/E ratio. Given Limestone Bancorp's P/E ratio has declined from 11.5 to 11.5 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is less confident 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 a contrarian, it may signal opportunity.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.