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Should We Worry About Haverty Furniture Companies, Inc.'s (NYSE:HVT) 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 look at Haverty Furniture Companies, Inc.'s (NYSE:HVT) P/E ratio and reflect on what it tells us about the company's share price. Based on the last twelve months, Haverty Furniture Companies's P/E ratio is 14.88. That means that at current prices, buyers pay $14.88 for every $1 in trailing yearly profits.

View our latest analysis for Haverty Furniture Companies

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for P/E is:

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

Or for Haverty Furniture Companies:

P/E of 14.88 = $19.84 ÷ $1.33 (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio means that buyers have to pay a higher price for each $1 the company has earned over the last year. 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 Haverty Furniture Companies's P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. As you can see below Haverty Furniture Companies has a P/E ratio that is fairly close for the average for the specialty retail industry, which is 14.8.

NYSE:HVT Price Estimation Relative to Market, September 19th 2019

That indicates that the market expects Haverty Furniture Companies will perform roughly in line with other companies in its industry. So if Haverty Furniture Companies actually outperforms its peers going forward, that should be a positive for the share price. Checking factors such as director buying and selling. could help you form your own view on if that will happen.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Generally speaking the rate of earnings growth has a profound impact on a company's P/E multiple. When earnings grow, the 'E' increases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Notably, Haverty Furniture Companies grew EPS by a whopping 32% in the last year. And it has improved its earnings per share by 3.1% per year over the last three years. I'd therefore be a little surprised if its P/E ratio was not relatively high.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

The 'Price' in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. That means it doesn't take debt or cash into account. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.

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.

Haverty Furniture Companies's Balance Sheet

Haverty Furniture Companies has net cash of US$56m. This is fairly high at 14% 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 Haverty Furniture Companies's P/E Ratio

Haverty Furniture Companies's P/E is 14.9 which is below average (18) in the US market. The net cash position gives plenty of options to the business, and the recent improvement in EPS is good to see. The relatively low P/E ratio implies the market is pessimistic.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, 'In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.' So this free report on the analyst consensus forecasts could help you make a master move on this stock.

Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Haverty Furniture Companies. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.