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Graco Inc.'s (NYSE:GGG) price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 33.5x might make it look like a strong sell right now compared to the market in the United States, where around half of the companies have P/E ratios below 17x and even P/E's below 9x are quite common. Although, it's not wise to just take the P/E at face value as there may be an explanation why it's so lofty.
Recent times haven't been advantageous for Graco as its earnings have been falling quicker than most other companies. It might be that many expect the dismal earnings performance to recover substantially, which has kept the P/E from collapsing. If not, then existing shareholders may be very nervous about the viability of the share price.
Keen to find out how analysts think Graco's future stacks up against the industry? In that case, our free report is a great place to start.
What Are Growth Metrics Telling Us About The High P/E?
Graco's P/E ratio would be typical for a company that's expected to deliver very strong growth, and importantly, perform much better than the market.
Taking a look back first, the company's earnings per share growth last year wasn't something to get excited about as it posted a disappointing decline of 21%. Still, the latest three year period has seen an excellent 200% overall rise in EPS, in spite of its unsatisfying short-term performance. So we can start by confirming that the company has generally done a very good job of growing earnings over that time, even though it had some hiccups along the way.
Turning to the outlook, the next three years should generate growth of 9.7% per year as estimated by the ten analysts watching the company. Meanwhile, the rest of the market is forecast to expand by 10% each year, which is not materially different.
With this information, we find it interesting that Graco is trading at a high P/E compared to the market. It seems most investors are ignoring the fairly average growth expectations and are willing to pay up for exposure to the stock. Although, additional gains will be difficult to achieve as this level of earnings growth is likely to weigh down the share price eventually.
What We Can Learn From Graco's P/E?
While the price-to-earnings ratio shouldn't be the defining factor in whether you buy a stock or not, it's quite a capable barometer of earnings expectations.
We've established that Graco currently trades on a higher than expected P/E since its forecast growth is only in line with the wider market. When we see an average earnings outlook with market-like growth, we suspect the share price is at risk of declining, sending the high P/E lower. Unless these conditions improve, it's challenging to accept these prices as being reasonable.
Before you settle on your opinion, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Graco that you should be aware of.
If these risks are making you reconsider your opinion on Graco, explore our interactive list of high quality stocks to get an idea of what else is out there.
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. 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.
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