These days it's easy to simply buy an index fund, and your returns should (roughly) match the market. But the truth is, you can make significant gains if you buy good quality businesses at the right price. For example, the Northwest Natural Holding Company (NYSE:NWN) share price is up 57% in the last five years, slightly above the market return. Zooming in, the stock is up a respectable 19% in the last year.
To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.
During five years of share price growth, Northwest Natural Holding actually saw its EPS drop 0.1% per year.
So it's hard to argue that the earnings per share are the best metric to judge the company, as it may not be optimized for profits at this point. Since the change in EPS doesn't seem to correlate with the change in share price, it's worth taking a look at other metrics.
The revenue reduction of 0.4% per year is not a positive. So it seems one might have to take closer look at earnings and revenue trends to see how they might influence the share price.
The company's revenue and earnings (over time) are depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
If you are thinking of buying or selling Northwest Natural Holding stock, you should check out this FREE detailed report on its balance sheet.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). 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. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. We note that for Northwest Natural Holding the TSR over the last 5 years was 84%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
Northwest Natural Holding shareholders have received returns of 22% over twelve months (even including dividends) , which isn't far from the general market return. Most would be happy with a gain, and it helps that the year's return is actually better than the average return over five years, which was 13%. It is possible that management foresight will bring growth well into the future, even if the share price slows down. 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 example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Northwest Natural Holding (1 is significant!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
We will like Northwest Natural Holding better if we see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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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