In order to justify the effort of selecting individual stocks, it's worth striving to beat the returns from a market index fund. But the risk of stock picking is that you will likely buy under-performing companies. Unfortunately, that's been the case for longer term InvoCare Limited (ASX:IVC) shareholders, since the share price is down 24% in the last three years, falling well short of the market return of around 35%. There was little comfort for shareholders in the last week as the price declined a further 1.1%.
While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).
InvoCare saw its share price decline over the three years in which its EPS also dropped, falling to a loss. Extraordinary items contributed to this situation. Since the company has fallen to a loss making position, it's hard to compare the change in EPS with the share price change. But it's safe to say we'd generally expect the share price to be lower as a result!
The image below shows how EPS has tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
This free interactive report on InvoCare's earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of InvoCare, it has a TSR of -18% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
InvoCare shareholders are down 8.7% for the year (even including dividends), but the market itself is up 31%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Regrettably, last year's performance caps off a bad run, with the shareholders facing a total loss of 2% per year over five years. Generally speaking long term share price weakness can be a bad sign, though contrarian investors might want to research the stock in hope of a turnaround. 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. Like risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for InvoCare (of which 1 makes us a bit uncomfortable!) you should know about.
Of course InvoCare may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of growth stocks.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on AU exchanges.
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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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