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Read This Before You Buy CSX Corporation (NASDAQ:CSX) Because Of Its P/E Ratio

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to CSX Corporation's (NASDAQ:CSX), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. What is CSX's P/E ratio? Well, based on the last twelve months it is 17.01. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $17.01 for every $1 in prior year profit.

Check out our latest analysis for CSX

How Do You Calculate CSX's P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for CSX:

P/E of 17.01 = $70.97 ÷ $4.17 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. That is not a good or a bad thing per se, but a high P/E does imply buyers are optimistic about the future.

How Does CSX's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. You can see in the image below that the average P/E (18) for companies in the transportation industry is roughly the same as CSX's P/E.

NasdaqGS:CSX Price Estimation Relative to Market, September 12th 2019

Its P/E ratio suggests that CSX shareholders think that in the future it will perform about the same as other companies in its industry classification. So if CSX actually outperforms its peers going forward, that should be a positive for the share price. I would further inform my view by checking insider buying and selling., among other things.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. That's because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the 'E' in the equation. Therefore, even if you pay a high multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become lower in the future. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

CSX saw earnings per share decrease by 40% last year. But EPS is up 18% over the last 5 years.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.

Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.

Is Debt Impacting CSX's P/E?

CSX's net debt is 25% of its market cap. It would probably deserve a higher P/E ratio if it was net cash, since it would have more options for growth.

The Bottom Line On CSX's P/E Ratio

CSX has a P/E of 17. That's around the same as the average in the US market, which is 18.2. Given it has some debt, but didn't grow last year, the P/E indicates the market is expecting higher profits ahead for the business.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

You might be able to find a better buy than CSX. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.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. Thank you for reading.