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Is The Travelers Companies, Inc.'s (NYSE:TRV) P/E Ratio Really That Good?

Simply Wall St

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We'll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to The Travelers Companies, Inc.'s (NYSE:TRV), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Travelers Companies has a price to earnings ratio of 15.45, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 6.5%.

See our latest analysis for Travelers Companies

How Do I Calculate Travelers Companies's Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Travelers Companies:

P/E of 15.45 = USD138.85 ÷ USD8.99 (Based on the year to September 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each USD1 the company has earned over the last year. That isn't a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

Does Travelers Companies Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that Travelers Companies has a lower P/E than the average (16.9) P/E for companies in the insurance industry.

NYSE:TRV Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 17th 2020

This suggests that market participants think Travelers Companies will underperform other companies in its industry. Since the market seems unimpressed with Travelers Companies, it's quite possible it could surprise on the upside. If you consider the stock interesting, further research is recommended. For example, I often monitor director buying and selling.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Companies that shrink earnings per share quickly will rapidly decrease the 'E' in the equation. That means even if the current P/E is low, it will increase over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a higher P/E might scare off shareholders, pushing the share price down.

Travelers Companies maintained roughly steady earnings over the last twelve months. And EPS is down 2.9% a year, over the last 5 years. So you wouldn't expect a very high P/E.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. So it won't reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

Is Debt Impacting Travelers Companies's P/E?

Travelers Companies has net debt worth just 4.1% of its market capitalization. So it doesn't have as many options as it would with net cash, but its debt would not have much of an impact on its P/E ratio.

The Verdict On Travelers Companies's P/E Ratio

Travelers Companies trades on a P/E ratio of 15.4, which is below the US market average of 19.1. Since it only carries a modest debt load, it's likely the low expectations implied by the P/E ratio arise from the lack of recent earnings growth.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. 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 Travelers Companies. 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.