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W.W. Grainger's (NYSE:GWW) earnings growth rate lags the 24% CAGR delivered to shareholders

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When you buy shares in a company, it's worth keeping in mind the possibility that it could fail, and you could lose your money. But on a lighter note, a good company can see its share price rise well over 100%. One great example is W.W. Grainger, Inc. (NYSE:GWW) which saw its share price drive 166% higher over five years. But it's down 4.1% in the last week.

While this past week has detracted from the company's five-year return, let's look at the recent trends of the underlying business and see if the gains have been in alignment.

View our latest analysis for W.W. Grainger

To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.

During five years of share price growth, W.W. Grainger achieved compound earnings per share (EPS) growth of 18% per year. So the EPS growth rate is rather close to the annualized share price gain of 22% per year. This indicates that investor sentiment towards the company has not changed a great deal. Indeed, it would appear the share price is reacting to the EPS.

The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

earnings-per-share-growth
earnings-per-share-growth

We know that W.W. Grainger has improved its bottom line lately, but is it going to grow revenue? This free report showing analyst revenue forecasts should help you figure out if the EPS growth can be sustained.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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 W.W. Grainger, it has a TSR of 192% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

It's good to see that W.W. Grainger has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 6.6% in the last twelve months. Of course, that includes the dividend. However, that falls short of the 24% TSR per annum it has made for shareholders, each year, over five years. The pessimistic view would be that be that the stock has its best days behind it, but on the other hand the price might simply be moderating while the business itself continues to execute. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand W.W. Grainger better, we need to consider many other factors. To that end, you should be aware of the 2 warning signs we've spotted with W.W. Grainger .

If you would prefer to check out another company -- one with potentially superior financials -- then do not miss this free list of companies that have proven they can grow earnings.

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.