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Shareholders Of Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) Must Be Happy With Their 167% Total Return

Simply Wall St
·3 min read

The most you can lose on any stock (assuming you don't use leverage) is 100% of your money. But when you pick a company that is really flourishing, you can make more than 100%. Long term Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) shareholders would be well aware of this, since the stock is up 131% in five years. Also pleasing for shareholders was the 20% gain in the last three months. But this move may well have been assisted by the reasonably buoyant market (up 9.6% in 90 days).

See our latest analysis for Caterpillar

While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.

Over half a decade, Caterpillar managed to grow its earnings per share at 3.7% a year. This EPS growth is slower than the share price growth of 18% per year, over the same period. This suggests that market participants hold the company in higher regard, these days. That's not necessarily surprising considering the five-year track record of earnings growth.

The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

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

It is of course excellent to see how Caterpillar has grown profits over the years, but the future is more important for shareholders. This free interactive report on Caterpillar's balance sheet strength is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Caterpillar the TSR over the last 5 years was 167%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

It's nice to see that Caterpillar shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 28% over the last year. And that does include the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 22%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. 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. To that end, you should learn about the 2 warning signs we've spotted with Caterpillar (including 1 which is is a bit concerning) .

Of course Caterpillar may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of growth stocks.

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

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. 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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team@simplywallst.com.