Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Hartford Financial Services Group (NYSE:HIG) share price has dived 34% in the last thirty days. The recent drop has obliterated the annual return, with the share price now down 29% over that longer period.
Assuming nothing else has changed, a lower share price makes a stock more attractive to potential buyers. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. The implication here is that long term investors have an opportunity when expectations of a company are too low. One way to gauge market expectations of a stock is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E implies that investors have high expectations of what a company can achieve compared to a company with a low P/E ratio.
How Does Hartford Financial Services Group’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 6.16 that sentiment around Hartford Financial Services Group isn’t particularly high. The image below shows that Hartford Financial Services Group has a lower P/E than the average (9.2) P/E for companies in the insurance industry.
Its relatively low P/E ratio indicates that Hartford Financial Services Group shareholders think it will struggle to do as well as other companies in its industry classification. While current expectations are low, the stock could be undervalued if the situation is better than the market assumes. It is arguably worth checking if insiders are buying shares, because that might imply they believe the stock is undervalued.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Probably the most important factor in determining what P/E a company trades on is the earnings growth. If earnings are growing quickly, then the ‘E’ in the equation will increase faster than it would otherwise. And in that case, the P/E ratio itself will drop rather quickly. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
Hartford Financial Services Group increased earnings per share by a whopping 39% last year. And earnings per share have improved by 13% annually, over the last five years. With that performance, I would expect it to have an above average P/E ratio.
Don’t Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits
The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. In other words, it does not consider any debt or cash that the company may have on the balance sheet. Hypothetically, a company could reduce its future P/E ratio by spending its cash (or taking on debt) to achieve higher earnings.
While growth expenditure doesn’t always pay off, the point is that it is a good option to have; but one that the P/E ratio ignores.
How Does Hartford Financial Services Group’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?
Net debt totals 14% of Hartford Financial Services Group’s market cap. That’s enough debt to impact the P/E ratio a little; so keep it in mind if you’re comparing it to companies without debt.
The Verdict On Hartford Financial Services Group’s P/E Ratio
Hartford Financial Services Group’s P/E is 6.2 which is below average (13.1) in the US market. The company hasn’t stretched its balance sheet, and earnings growth was good last year. If it continues to grow, then the current low P/E may prove to be unjustified. What can be absolutely certain is that the market has become more pessimistic about Hartford Financial Services Group over the last month, with the P/E ratio falling from 9.3 back then to 6.2 today. For those who prefer invest in growth, this stock apparently offers limited promise, but the deep value investors may find the pessimism around this stock enticing.
Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. 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 visual report on analyst forecasts could hold the key to an excellent investment decision.
Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Hartford Financial Services Group. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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