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The simplest way to benefit from a rising market is to buy an index fund. While individual stocks can be big winners, plenty more fail to generate satisfactory returns. For example, the The Clorox Company (NYSE:CLX) share price is down 26% in the last year. That falls noticeably short of the market return of around 37%. The silver lining (for longer term investors) is that the stock is still 16% higher than it was three years ago.
It's worthwhile assessing if the company's economics have been moving in lockstep with these underwhelming shareholder returns, or if there is some disparity between the two. So let's do just that.
In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
Unhappily, Clorox had to report a 24% decline in EPS over the last year. This proportional reduction in earnings per share isn't far from the 26% decrease in the share price. Therefore one could posit that the market has not become more concerned about the company, despite the lower EPS. Rather, the share price has approximately tracked EPS growth.
You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).
We're pleased to report that the CEO is remunerated more modestly than most CEOs at similarly capitalized companies. But while CEO remuneration is always worth checking, the really important question is whether the company can grow earnings going forward. Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here..
A Different Perspective
Clorox shareholders are down 24% for the year (even including dividends), but the market itself is up 37%. However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 7%, each year, over five years. It could be that the recent sell-off is an opportunity, so it may be worth checking the fundamental data for signs of a long term growth trend. 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. Take risks, for example - Clorox has 3 warning signs we think you should be aware of.
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).
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. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.
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