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Williams Companies' (NYSE:WMB) investors will be pleased with their respectable 57% return over the last year

The simplest way to invest in stocks is to buy exchange traded funds. But if you pick the right individual stocks, you could make more than that. To wit, the The Williams Companies, Inc. (NYSE:WMB) share price is 47% higher than it was a year ago, much better than the market return of around 31% (not including dividends) in the same period. If it can keep that out-performance up over the long term, investors will do very well! Having said that, the longer term returns aren't so impressive, with stock gaining just 12% in three years.

So let's assess the underlying fundamentals over the last 1 year and see if they've moved in lock-step with shareholder returns.

View our latest analysis for Williams Companies

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 way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

Williams Companies boasted truly magnificent EPS growth in the last year. We don't think the exact number is a good guide to the sustainable growth rate, but we do think this sort of increase is impressive. So we're unsurprised to see the share price gaining ground. We're real advocates of letting inflection points like this guide our research as stock pickers.

You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).

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

We know that Williams Companies has improved its bottom line lately, but is it going to grow revenue? If you're interested, you could check this free report showing consensus revenue forecasts.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Williams Companies the TSR over the last 1 year was 57%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

It's good to see that Williams Companies has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 57% in the last twelve months. Of course, that includes the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 6%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. In the best case scenario, this may hint at some real business momentum, implying that now could be a great time to delve deeper. 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. Consider risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Williams Companies you should know about.

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.

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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.