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Those who invested in NL Industries (NYSE:NL) three years ago are up 74%

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Buying a low-cost index fund will get you the average market return. But across the board there are plenty of stocks that underperform the market. That's what has happened with the NL Industries, Inc. (NYSE:NL) share price. It's up 61% over three years, but that is below the market return. Having said that, the 51% increase over the past year is good to see.

So let's assess the underlying fundamentals over the last 3 years and see if they've moved in lock-step with shareholder returns.

See our latest analysis for NL Industries

To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' 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.

During three years of share price growth, NL Industries achieved compound earnings per share growth of 96% per year. The average annual share price increase of 17% is actually lower than the EPS growth. Therefore, it seems the market has moderated its expectations for growth, somewhat. This cautious sentiment is reflected in its (fairly low) P/E ratio of 8.64.

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

We're pleased to report that the CEO is remunerated more modestly than most CEOs at similarly capitalized companies. It's always worth keeping an eye on CEO pay, but a more important question is whether the company will grow earnings throughout the years. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on NL Industries' earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of NL Industries, it has a TSR of 74% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

It's good to see that NL Industries has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 57% in the last twelve months. Of course, that includes the dividend. There's no doubt those recent returns are much better than the TSR loss of 0.2% per year over five years. We generally put more weight on the long term performance over the short term, but the recent improvement could hint at a (positive) inflection point within the 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 instance, we've identified 3 warning signs for NL Industries (1 doesn't sit too well with us) that you should be aware of.

If you would prefer to check out another company -- one with potentially superior financials -- then do not miss this free list of companies that have proven they can grow earnings.

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

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

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.