Investors can approximate the average market return by buying an index fund. Active investors aim to buy stocks that vastly outperform the market - but in the process, they risk under-performance. Investors in US Ecology, Inc. (NASDAQ:ECOL) have tasted that bitter downside in the last year, as the share price dropped 44%. That falls noticeably short of the market return of around 15%. Longer term shareholders haven't suffered as badly, since the stock is down a comparatively less painful 29% in three years.
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.
During the last year US Ecology saw its earnings per share drop below zero. Buyers no doubt think it's a temporary situation, but those with a nose for quality have low tolerance for losses. However, there may be an opportunity for investors if the company can recover.
You can see how EPS has changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
It's probably worth noting we've seen significant insider buying in the last quarter, which we consider a positive. On the other hand, we think the revenue and earnings trends are much more meaningful measures of the business. Dive deeper into the earnings by checking this interactive graph of US Ecology's earnings, revenue and cash flow.
What about the Total Shareholder Return (TSR)?
Investors should note that there's a difference between US Ecology's total shareholder return (TSR) and its share price change, which we've covered above. Arguably the TSR is a more complete return calculation because it accounts for the value of dividends (as if they were reinvested), along with the hypothetical value of any discounted capital that have been offered to shareholders. US Ecology's TSR of was a loss of 44% for the year. That wasn't as bad as its share price return, because it has paid dividends.
A Different Perspective
US Ecology shareholders are down 44% for the year, but the market itself is up 15%. 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. Regrettably, last year's performance caps off a bad run, with the shareholders facing a total loss of 3.7% per year over five years. 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. 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. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for US Ecology (1 doesn't sit too well with us!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
US Ecology is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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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