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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%. For example, the Lithia Motors, Inc. (NYSE:LAD) share price has soared 156% in the last three years. How nice for those who held the stock! Also pleasing for shareholders was the 102% gain in the last three months.
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 way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).
During three years of share price growth, Lithia Motors achieved compound earnings per share growth of 13% per year. This EPS growth is lower than the 37% average annual increase in the share price. This suggests that, as the business progressed over the last few years, it gained the confidence of market participants. That's not necessarily surprising considering the three-year track record of earnings growth.
The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).
Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here.
What About Dividends?
It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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 Lithia Motors the TSR over the last 3 years was 164%, 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 Lithia Motors shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 110% over the last year. And that does include the dividend. That's better than the annualised return of 21% over half a decade, implying that the company is doing better recently. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Lithia Motors better, we need to consider many other factors. For example, we've discovered 3 warning signs for Lithia Motors that you should be aware of before investing here.
But note: Lithia Motors may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with past earnings growth (and further growth forecast).
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.
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