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Should We Worry About Citi Trends, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:CTRN) P/E Ratio?

Simply Wall St

Today, we'll introduce the concept of the P/E ratio for those who are learning about investing. We'll show how you can use Citi Trends, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:CTRN) P/E ratio to inform your assessment of the investment opportunity. Citi Trends has a P/E ratio of 17.28, based on the last twelve months. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $17.28 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

See our latest analysis for Citi Trends

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Share Price ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Citi Trends:

P/E of 17.28 = $20.80 ÷ $1.20 (Based on the year to November 2019.)

Is A High P/E Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That isn't a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business's prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

How Does Citi Trends's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

We can get an indication of market expectations by looking at the P/E ratio. The image below shows that Citi Trends has a higher P/E than the average (16.1) P/E for companies in the specialty retail industry.

NasdaqGS:CTRN Price Estimation Relative to Market, December 4th 2019

Citi Trends's P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn't guaranteed. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. Earnings growth means that in the future the 'E' will be higher. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

Citi Trends shrunk earnings per share by 17% over the last year. But it has grown its earnings per share by 26% per year over the last five years.

Remember: P/E Ratios Don't Consider The Balance Sheet

One drawback of using a P/E ratio is that it considers market capitalization, but not the balance sheet. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. Theoretically, a business can improve its earnings (and produce a lower P/E in the future) by investing in growth. That means taking on debt (or spending its cash).

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

How Does Citi Trends's Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Citi Trends has net cash of US$56m. This is fairly high at 23% of its market capitalization. That might mean balance sheet strength is important to the business, but should also help push the P/E a bit higher than it would otherwise be.

The Verdict On Citi Trends's P/E Ratio

Citi Trends trades on a P/E ratio of 17.3, which is fairly close to the US market average of 18.1. While the absence of growth in the last year is probably causing a degree of pessimism, the net cash position means it's not surprising that expectations put the company roughly in line with the market average P/E.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. Although we don't have analyst forecasts you could get a better understanding of its growth by checking out this more detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.

But note: Citi Trends may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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.

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. Thank you for reading.