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Is Provident Financial Services Inc’s (NYSE:PFS) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

This analysis is intended to introduce important early concepts to people who are starting to invest and want to learn about the link between company’s fundamentals and stock market performance.

Provident Financial Services Inc (NYSE:PFS) is trading with a trailing P/E of 15.9x, which is lower than the industry average of 18.2x. Although some investors may jump to the conclusion that this is a great buying opportunity, understanding the assumptions behind the P/E ratio might change your mind. Today, I will explain what the P/E ratio is as well as what you should look out for when using it.

View our latest analysis for Provident Financial Services

Demystifying the P/E ratio

NYSE:PFS PE PEG Gauge October 26th 18

The P/E ratio is a popular ratio used in relative valuation since earnings power is a key driver of investment value. By comparing a stock’s price per share to its earnings per share, we are able to see how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.

P/E Calculation for PFS

Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share

PFS Price-Earnings Ratio = $22.92 ÷ $1.441 = 15.9x

The P/E ratio itself doesn’t tell you a lot; however, it becomes very insightful when you compare it with other similar companies. Our goal is to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar attributes to PFS, such as company lifetime and products sold. One way of gathering a peer group is to use firms in the same industry, which is what I’ll do. Since PFS’s P/E of 15.9 is lower than its industry peers (18.2), it means that investors are paying less for each dollar of PFS’s earnings. This multiple is a median of profitable companies of 25 Mortgage companies in US including Security National Financial, PennyMac Financial Services and Bank7. One could put it like this: the market is pricing PFS as if it is a weaker company than the average company in its industry.

Assumptions to watch out for

Before you jump to conclusions it is important to realise that our assumptions rests on two assertions. The first is that our “similar companies” are actually similar to PFS, or else the difference in P/E might be a result of other factors. For example, if you compared higher growth firms with PFS, then its P/E would naturally be lower since investors would reward its peers’ higher growth with a higher price. The second assumption that must hold true is that the stocks we are comparing PFS to are fairly valued by the market. If this is violated, PFS’s P/E may be lower than its peers as they are actually overvalued by investors.

What this means for you:

You may have already conducted fundamental analysis on the stock as a shareholder, so its current undervaluation could signal a good buying opportunity to increase your exposure to PFS. Now that you understand the ins and outs of the PE metric, you should know to bear in mind its limitations before you make an investment decision. Remember that basing your investment decision off one metric alone is certainly not sufficient. There are many things I have not taken into account in this article and the PE ratio is very one-dimensional. If you have not done so already, I highly recommend you to complete your research by taking a look at the following:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for PFS’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for PFS’s outlook.
  2. Past Track Record: Has PFS been consistently performing well irrespective of the ups and downs in the market? Go into more detail in the past performance analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of PFS’s historicals for more clarity.
  3. Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.