While not a mind-blowing move, it is good to see that the Patterson Companies, Inc. (NASDAQ:PDCO) share price has gained 17% in the last three months. But that doesn't change the fact that the returns over the last half decade have been disappointing. In that time the share price has delivered a rude shock to holders, who find themselves down 60% after a long stretch. So we're not so sure if the recent bounce should be celebrated. We'd err towards caution given the long term under-performance.
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 flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.
Looking back five years, both Patterson Companies's share price and EPS declined; the latter at a rate of 8.0% per year. Readers should note that the share price has fallen faster than the EPS, at a rate of 17% per year, over the period. This implies that the market is more cautious about the business these days.
The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here..
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. We note that for Patterson Companies the TSR over the last 5 years was -53%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
Investors in Patterson Companies had a tough year, with a total loss of 18% (including dividends) , against a market gain of about 19%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 14% over the last half decade. Generally speaking long term share price weakness can be a bad sign, though contrarian investors might want to research the stock in hope of a turnaround. Before forming an opinion on Patterson Companies you might want to consider the cold hard cash it pays as a dividend. This free chart tracks its dividend over time.
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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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