Thanks in no small measure to Vanguard founder Jack Bogle, it's easy buy a low cost index fund, which should provide the average market return. But you can make superior returns by picking better-than average stocks. For example, the Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL) share price is up 39% in the last three years, slightly above the market return. More recently the stock has gained 17% in a year, which isn't too bad.
While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
Oracle was able to grow its EPS at 15% per year over three years, sending the share price higher. The average annual share price increase of 12% is actually lower than the EPS growth. Therefore, it seems the market has moderated its expectations for growth, somewhat.
You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).
It's probably worth noting that the CEO is paid less than the median at similar sized companies. But while CEO remuneration is always worth checking, the really important question is whether the company can grow earnings going forward. This free interactive report on Oracle's earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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 Oracle the TSR over the last 3 years was 46%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
Oracle shareholders gained a total return of 19% during the year. Unfortunately this falls short of the market return. The silver lining is that the gain was actually better than the average annual return of 5.1% per year over five year. It is possible that returns will improve along with the business fundamentals. Most investors take the time to check the data on insider transactions. You can click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies we expect will grow earnings.
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 email@example.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.
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