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A Look At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's (NASDAQ:HMHC) Share Price Returns

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company (NASDAQ:HMHC) shareholders will doubtless be very grateful to see the share price up 35% in the last quarter. But will that repair the damage for the weary investors who have owned this stock as it declined over half a decade? Probably not. Indeed, the share price is down a whopping 90% in that time. It's true that the recent bounce could signal the company is turning over a new leaf, but we are not so sure. The million dollar question is whether the company can justify a long term recovery.

While a drop like that is definitely a body blow, money isn't as important as health and happiness.

Check out our latest analysis for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt wasn't profitable in the last twelve months, it is unlikely we'll see a strong correlation between its share price and its earnings per share (EPS). Arguably revenue is our next best option. When a company doesn't make profits, we'd generally expect to see good revenue growth. As you can imagine, fast revenue growth, when maintained, often leads to fast profit growth.

In the last five years Houghton Mifflin Harcourt saw its revenue shrink by 1.2% per year. That's not what investors generally want to see. If a business loses money, you want it to grow, so no surprises that the share price has dropped 14% each year in that time. It takes a certain kind of mental fortitude (or recklessness) to buy shares in a company that loses money and doesn't grow revenue. That is not really what the successful investors we know aim for.

The graphic below depicts how earnings and revenue have changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
earnings-and-revenue-growth

Take a more thorough look at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's financial health with this free report on its balance sheet.

A Different Perspective

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt shareholders are down 61% for the year, but the market itself is up 25%. 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 14% per year over five years. We realise that Baron Rothschild 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 business. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that you should be aware of.

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.

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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team@simplywallst.com.