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A Sliding Share Price Has Us Looking At American Airlines Group Inc.'s (NASDAQ:AAL) P/E Ratio

Simply Wall St

Unfortunately for some shareholders, the American Airlines Group (NASDAQ:AAL) share price has dived 31% in the last thirty days. That drop has capped off a tough year for shareholders, with the share price down 45% in that time.

Assuming nothing else has changed, a lower share price makes a stock more 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 long term investors have an opportunity when expectations of a company are too low. 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). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.

See our latest analysis for American Airlines Group

How Does American Airlines Group's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can tell from its P/E ratio of 4.99 that sentiment around American Airlines Group isn't particularly high. We can see in the image below that the average P/E (6.6) for companies in the airlines industry is higher than American Airlines Group's P/E.

NasdaqGS:AAL Price Estimation Relative to Market, February 29th 2020

This suggests that market participants think American Airlines Group will underperform other companies in its industry. Many investors like to buy stocks when the market is pessimistic about their prospects. You should delve deeper. I like to check if company insiders have been buying or selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. 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.

It's nice to see that American Airlines Group grew EPS by a stonking 25% in the last year. Unfortunately, earnings per share are down 1.1% a year, over 5 years.

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

Don't forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. 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).

American Airlines Group's Balance Sheet

Net debt totals a substantial 226% of American Airlines Group's market cap. This level of debt justifies a relatively low P/E, so remain cognizant of the debt, if you're comparing it to other stocks.

The Verdict On American Airlines Group's P/E Ratio

American Airlines Group has a P/E of 5.0. That's below the average in the US market, which is 16.7. The company has a meaningful amount of debt on the balance sheet, but that should not eclipse the solid earnings growth. The low P/E ratio suggests current market expectations are muted, implying these levels of growth will not continue. Given American Airlines Group's P/E ratio has declined from 7.3 to 5.0 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is more worried about the business today, than it was back then. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for deep value investors this stock might justify some research.

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 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 American Airlines Group. 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.