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The three-year decline in earnings for Arcosa NYSE:ACA) isn't encouraging, but shareholders are still up 51% over that period

·3 min read

Arcosa, Inc. (NYSE:ACA) shareholders might be concerned after seeing the share price drop 20% in the last quarter. On the other hand the share price is higher than it was three years ago. In that time, it is up 49%, which isn't bad, but not amazing either.

While the stock has fallen 3.9% this week, it's worth focusing on the longer term and seeing if the stocks historical returns have been driven by the underlying fundamentals.

View our latest analysis for Arcosa

To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. 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.

During the three years of share price growth, Arcosa actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) drop 0.3% per year.

Given the share price resilience, we don't think the (declining) EPS numbers are a good measure of how the business is moving forward, right now. Therefore, it makes sense to look into other metrics.

Languishing at just 0.5%, we doubt the dividend is doing much to prop up the share price. It could be that the revenue growth of 11% per year is viewed as evidence that Arcosa is growing. If the company is being managed for the long term good, today's shareholders might be right to hold on.

You can see below how earnings and revenue have changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
earnings-and-revenue-growth

Balance sheet strength is crucial. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on how its financial position has changed over time.

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. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. We note that for Arcosa the TSR over the last 3 years was 51%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

Arcosa shareholders are down 28% for the year, (even including dividends), but the broader market is up 5.9%. However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Fortunately the longer term story is brighter, with total returns averaging about 15% per year over three years. Sometimes when a good quality long term winner has a weak period, it's turns out to be an opportunity, but you really need to be sure that the quality is there. 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. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 2 warning signs with Arcosa , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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.

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.