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It might seem bad, but the worst that can happen when you buy a stock (without leverage) is that its share price goes to zero. But if you buy shares in a really great company, you can more than double your money. For instance the Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE:UNP) share price is 105% higher than it was three years ago. Most would be happy with that. Also pleasing for shareholders was the 26% gain in the last three months. But this move may well have been assisted by the reasonably buoyant market (up 18% in 90 days).
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 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, Union Pacific achieved compound earnings per share growth of 13% per year. In comparison, the 27% per year gain in the share price outpaces the EPS growth. This indicates that the market is feeling more optimistic on the stock, after the last few years of progress. That’s not necessarily surprising considering the three-year track record of earnings growth.
You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).
This free interactive report on Union Pacific’s earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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. It’s fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of Union Pacific, it has a TSR of 119% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
We’re pleased to report that Union Pacific shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 24% over one year. Of course, that includes the dividend. That’s better than the annualised return of 14% over half a decade, implying that the company is doing better recently. Given the share price momentum remains strong, it might be worth taking a closer look at the stock, lest you miss an opportunity. Is Union Pacific cheap compared to other companies? These 3 valuation measures might help you decide.
Of course Union Pacific may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of growth stocks.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Thank you for reading.