Here’s What American River Bankshares’s (NASDAQ:AMRB) P/E Ratio Is Telling Us

American River Bankshares (NASDAQ:AMRB) shares have retraced a considerable in the last month. But plenty of shareholders will still be smiling, given that the stock is up 6.4% over the last quarter. The stock has been solid, longer term, gaining 15% in the last year.

All else being equal, a sharp share price increase should make a stock less attractive to potential investors. 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. So some would prefer to hold off buying when there is a lot of optimism towards a stock. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors’ expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). Investors have optimistic expectations of companies with higher P/E ratios, compared to companies with lower P/E ratios.

Check out our latest analysis for American River Bankshares

Does American River Bankshares Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

American River Bankshares’s P/E of 17.00 indicates some degree of optimism towards the stock. The image below shows that American River Bankshares has a higher P/E than the average (13.0) P/E for companies in the banks industry.

NasdaqGS:AMRB Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 5th 2020
NasdaqGS:AMRB Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 5th 2020

American River Bankshares’s P/E tells us that market participants think the company will perform better than its industry peers, going forward. Shareholders are clearly optimistic, but the future is always uncertain. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.

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 unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. So while a stock may look expensive based on past earnings, it could be cheap based on future earnings.

American River Bankshares’s 54% EPS improvement over the last year was like bamboo growth after rain; rapid and impressive.

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. So it won’t reflect the advantage of cash, or disadvantage of debt. 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).

Spending on growth might be good or bad a few years later, but the point is that the P/E ratio does not account for the option (or lack thereof).

American River Bankshares’s Balance Sheet

With net cash of US$14m, American River Bankshares has a very strong balance sheet, which may be important for its business. Having said that, at 16% of its market capitalization the cash hoard would contribute towards a higher P/E ratio.

The Verdict On American River Bankshares’s P/E Ratio

American River Bankshares’s P/E is 17.0 which is below average (18.8) 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. Given analysts are expecting further growth, one I would have expected a higher P/E ratio. So this stock may well be worth further research. Given American River Bankshares’s P/E ratio has declined from 17.0 to 17.0 in the last month, we know for sure that the market is less confident about the business today, than it was back then. For those who prefer to invest with the flow of momentum, that might be a bad sign, but for a contrarian, it may signal opportunity.

Investors have an opportunity when market expectations about a stock are wrong. If the reality for a company is not as bad as the P/E ratio indicates, then the share price should increase as the market realizes this. So this free visualization of the analyst consensus on future earnings could help you make the right decision about whether to buy, sell, or hold.

You might be able to find a better buy than American River Bankshares. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.

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