Arcosa (NYSE:ACA) investors are up 5.2% in the past week, but earnings have declined over the last three years

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 05, 2022
NYSE:ACA
Source: Shutterstock

Investors can buy low cost index fund if they want to receive the average market return. But if you invest in individual stocks, some are likely to underperform. That's what has happened with the Arcosa, Inc. (NYSE:ACA) share price. It's up 82% over three years, but that is below the market return. At least the stock price is up over the last year, albeit only by 0.9%.

Since the stock has added US$131m to its market cap in the past week alone, let's see if underlying performance has been driving long-term returns.

View our latest analysis for Arcosa

To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.

During the three years of share price growth, Arcosa actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) drop 0.3% per year.

Based on these numbers, we think that the decline in earnings per share may not be a good representation of how the business has changed over the years. So other metrics may hold the key to understanding what is influencing investors.

The modest 0.4% dividend yield is unlikely to be propping up the share price. It could be that the revenue growth of 11% per year is viewed as evidence that Arcosa is growing. If the company is being managed for the long term good, today's shareholders might be right to hold on.

The graphic below depicts how earnings and revenue have changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
NYSE:ACA Earnings and Revenue Growth January 5th 2022

Balance sheet strength is crucial. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on how its financial position has changed over time.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Arcosa the TSR over the last 3 years was 84%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

Arcosa shareholders are up 1.2% for the year (even including dividends). Unfortunately this falls short of the market return of around 22%. At least the longer term returns (running at about 23% a year, are better. We prefer focus on longer term returns, as they are usually a more meaningful indication of the underlying business. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. For instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for Arcosa that you should be aware of.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies we expect will grow earnings.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

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