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Buying a low-cost index fund will get you the average market return. But across the board there are plenty of stocks that underperform the market. That’s what has happened with the Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS) share price. It’s up 53% over three years, but that is below the market return. Zooming in, the stock is actually down 8.9% in the last year.
There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed, is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.
Discover Financial Services was able to grow its EPS at 15% per year over three years, sending the share price higher. This EPS growth is remarkably close to the 15% average annual increase in the share price. That suggests that the market sentiment around the company hasn’t changed much over that time. Quite to the contrary, the share price has arguably reflected the EPS growth.
You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).
It’s good to see that there was some significant insider buying in the last three months. That’s a positive. That said, we think earnings and revenue growth trends are even more important factors to consider. Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here..
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). 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. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. We note that for Discover Financial Services the TSR over the last 3 years was 63%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
Discover Financial Services shareholders are down 7.0% for the year (even including dividends), but the market itself is up 4.2%. However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Longer term investors wouldn’t be so upset, since they would have made 6.8%, each year, over five years. If the fundamental data continues to indicate long term sustainable growth, the current sell-off could be an opportunity worth considering. The data on insider buying is an obvious place to start. You can click here to see who has been buying shares – and the price they paid.
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.
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. Thank you for reading.