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Read This Before You Buy KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY) Because Of Its P/E Ratio

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Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll show how you can use KeyCorp's (NYSE:KEY) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. KeyCorp has a P/E ratio of 9.86, based on the last twelve months. In other words, at today's prices, investors are paying $9.86 for every $1 in prior year profit.

Check out our latest analysis for KeyCorp

How Do I Calculate KeyCorp's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for KeyCorp:

P/E of 9.86 = $17.03 ÷ $1.73 (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That isn't a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. A lower P/E should indicate the stock is cheap relative to others -- and that may attract buyers.

It's nice to see that KeyCorp grew EPS by a stonking 39% in the last year. And earnings per share have improved by 12% annually, over the last five years. With that performance, I would expect it to have an above average P/E ratio.

Does KeyCorp Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

The P/E ratio indicates whether the market has higher or lower expectations of a company. The image below shows that KeyCorp has a lower P/E than the average (12.6) P/E for companies in the banks industry.

NYSE:KEY Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 26th 2019

Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that KeyCorp shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. Since the market seems unimpressed with KeyCorp, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.

Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).

Is Debt Impacting KeyCorp's P/E?

KeyCorp has net debt worth 77% of its market capitalization. This is enough debt that you'd have to make some adjustments before using the P/E ratio to compare it to a company with net cash.

The Bottom Line On KeyCorp's P/E Ratio

KeyCorp trades on a P/E ratio of 9.9, which is below the US market average of 17.8. While the EPS growth last year was strong, the significant debt levels reduce the number of options available to management. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.' 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 KeyCorp. 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.