Objective (ASX:OCL) shares have continued recent momentum with a 30% gain in the last month alone. That's tops off a massive gain of 154% in the last year.
All else being equal, a sharp share price increase should make a stock less attractive to potential investors. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. 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). A high P/E ratio means that investors have a high expectation about future growth, while a low P/E ratio means they have low expectations about future growth.
How Does Objective's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
Objective's P/E of 67.17 indicates some degree of optimism towards the stock. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (36.5) for companies in the software industry is lower than Objective's P/E.
That means that the market expects Objective will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.
Most would be impressed by Objective earnings growth of 22% in the last year. And its annual EPS growth rate over 5 years is 10%. So one might expect an above average P/E ratio.
Don't Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits
Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. 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).
Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.
How Does Objective's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
Objective has net cash of AU$35m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.
The Bottom Line On Objective's P/E Ratio
With a P/E ratio of 67.2, Objective is expected to grow earnings very strongly in the years to come. With cash in the bank the company has plenty of growth options -- and it is already on the right track. So it is not surprising the market is probably extrapolating recent growth well into the future, reflected in the relatively high P/E ratio. What we know for sure is that investors have become much more excited about Objective recently, since they have pushed its P/E ratio from 51.6 to 67.2 over the last month. If you like to buy stocks that have recently impressed the market, then this one might be a candidate; but if you prefer to invest when there is 'blood in the streets', then you may feel the opportunity has passed.
Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. People often underestimate remarkable growth -- so investors can make money when fast growth is not fully appreciated. We don't have analyst forecasts, but shareholders might want to examine this detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
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 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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