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Progress Software's (NASDAQ:PRGS) investors will be pleased with their favorable 79% return over the last five years

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Stock pickers are generally looking for stocks that will outperform the broader market. And in our experience, buying the right stocks can give your wealth a significant boost. For example, long term Progress Software Corporation (NASDAQ:PRGS) shareholders have enjoyed a 66% share price rise over the last half decade, well in excess of the market return of around 52% (not including dividends). On the other hand, the more recent gains haven't been so impressive, with shareholders gaining just 2.2% , including dividends .

Let's take a look at the underlying fundamentals over the longer term, and see if they've been consistent with shareholders returns.

Check out our latest analysis for Progress Software

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.

During the five years of share price growth, Progress Software moved from a loss to profitability. That's generally thought to be a genuine positive, so we would expect to see an increasing share price. Given that the company made a profit three years ago, but not five years ago, it is worth looking at the share price returns over the last three years, too. Indeed, the Progress Software share price has gained 18% in three years. Meanwhile, EPS is up 22% per year. This EPS growth is higher than the 6% average annual increase in the share price over the same three years. So you might conclude the market is a little more cautious about the stock, these days.

The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-per-share-growth
earnings-per-share-growth

This free interactive report on Progress Software'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. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. We note that for Progress Software the TSR over the last 5 years was 79%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

We're pleased to report that Progress Software shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 2.2% over one year. Of course, that includes the dividend. Having said that, the five-year TSR of 12% a year, is even better. Potential buyers might understandably feel they've missed the opportunity, but it's always possible business is still firing on all cylinders. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Progress Software that you should be aware of.

But note: Progress Software may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with past earnings growth (and further growth forecast).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.