Generally speaking the aim of active stock picking is to find companies that provide returns that are superior to the market average. And while active stock picking involves risks (and requires diversification) it can also provide excess returns. For example, long term Spire Inc. (NYSE:SR) shareholders have enjoyed a 68% share price rise over the last half decade, well in excess of the market return of around 54% (not including dividends). However, more recent returns haven't been as impressive as that, with the stock returning just 18% in the last year , including dividends .
In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. 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, Spire achieved compound earnings per share (EPS) growth of 6.7% per year. This EPS growth is slower than the share price growth of 11% per year, over the same period. So it's fair to assume the market has a higher opinion of the business than it did five years ago. And that's hardly shocking given the track record of growth.
You can see how EPS has changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here.
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of Spire, it has a TSR of 97% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
Spire provided a TSR of 18% over the last twelve months. But that return falls short of the market. On the bright side, that's still a gain, and it's actually better than the average return of 14% over half a decade It is possible that returns will improve along with the business fundamentals. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. Take risks, for example - Spire has 2 warning signs (and 1 which can't be ignored) we think you should know about.
We will like Spire better if we see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, 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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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