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A Rising Share Price Has Us Looking Closely At Jack in the Box Inc.'s (NASDAQ:JACK) P/E Ratio

Simply Wall St

Those holding Jack in the Box (NASDAQ:JACK) shares must be pleased that the share price has rebounded 50% in the last thirty days. But unfortunately, the stock is still down by 45% over a quarter. But shareholders may not all be feeling jubilant, since the share price is still down 43% in the last year.

Assuming no other changes, a sharply higher share price makes a stock less attractive to potential buyers. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. The implication here is that deep value investors might steer clear when expectations of a company are too high. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors' expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E implies that investors have high expectations of what a company can achieve compared to a company with a low P/E ratio.

Check out our latest analysis for Jack in the Box

How Does Jack in the Box's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can tell from its P/E ratio of 16.36 that there is some investor optimism about Jack in the Box. As you can see below, Jack in the Box has a higher P/E than the average company (12.8) in the hospitality industry.

NasdaqGS:JACK Price Estimation Relative to Market April 15th 2020

That means that the market expects Jack in the Box will outperform other companies in its industry. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn't guarantee future growth. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

If earnings fall then in the future the 'E' will be lower. Therefore, even if you pay a low multiple of earnings now, that multiple will become higher in the future. A higher P/E should indicate the stock is expensive relative to others -- and that may encourage shareholders to sell.

Jack in the Box shrunk earnings per share by 39% over the last year. But EPS is up 1.8% over the last 5 years. And it has shrunk its earnings per share by 11% per year over the last three years. This growth rate might warrant a low P/E ratio.

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

It's important to note that the P/E ratio considers the market capitalization, not the enterprise value. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

Jack in the Box's Balance Sheet

Jack in the Box's net debt is considerable, at 125% of its market cap. If you want to compare its P/E ratio to other companies, you must keep in mind that these debt levels would usually warrant a relatively low P/E.

The Bottom Line On Jack in the Box's P/E Ratio

Jack in the Box has a P/E of 16.4. That's higher than the average in its market, which is 13.7. With relatively high debt, and no earnings per share growth over twelve months, it's safe to say the market believes the company will improve its earnings growth in the future. What we know for sure is that investors have become much more excited about Jack in the Box recently, since they have pushed its P/E ratio from 10.9 to 16.4 over the last month. If you like to buy stocks that have recently impressed the market, then this one might be a candidate; but if you prefer to invest when there is 'blood in the streets', then you may feel the opportunity has passed.

Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. So this free visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Jack in the Box. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.