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Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) adds US$960m to market cap in the past 7 days, though investors from a year ago are still down 21%

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Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) shareholders should be happy to see the share price up 12% in the last month. But that doesn't change the reality of under-performance over the last twelve months. In fact the stock is down 21% in the last year, well below the market return.

While the last year has been tough for Southwest Airlines shareholders, this past week has shown signs of promise. So let's look at the longer term fundamentals and see if they've been the driver of the negative returns.

Check out our latest analysis for Southwest Airlines

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.

Southwest Airlines managed to increase earnings per share from a loss to a profit, over the last 12 months.

The result looks like a strong improvement to us, so we're surprised the market has sold down the shares. If the company can sustain the earnings growth, this might be an inflection point for the business, which would make right now a really interesting time to study it more closely.

The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

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

It's probably worth noting that the CEO is paid less than the median at similar sized companies. But while CEO remuneration is always worth checking, the really important question is whether the company can grow earnings going forward. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on Southwest Airlines' earnings, revenue and cash flow.

A Different Perspective

While the broader market lost about 0.6% in the twelve months, Southwest Airlines shareholders did even worse, losing 21%. However, it could simply be that the share price has been impacted by broader market jitters. It might be worth keeping an eye on the fundamentals, in case there's a good opportunity. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 2% over the last half decade. We realise that Baron Rothschild has said investors should "buy when there is blood on the streets", but we caution that investors should first be sure they are buying a high quality business. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. For example, we've discovered 1 warning sign for Southwest Airlines that you should be aware of before investing here.

We will like Southwest Airlines better if we see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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

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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.