Should We Worry About Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co.’s (NYSE:RS) P/E Ratio?

This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). We’ll apply a basic P/E ratio analysis to Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co.’s (NYSE:RS), to help you decide if the stock is worth further research. Based on the last twelve months, Reliance Steel & Aluminum’s P/E ratio is 13.21. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 7.6%.

See our latest analysis for Reliance Steel & Aluminum

How Do You Calculate A P/E Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

Price to Earnings Ratio = Price per Share ÷ Earnings per Share (EPS)

Or for Reliance Steel & Aluminum:

P/E of 13.21 = USD121.50 ÷ USD9.20 (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Is A High Price-to-Earnings Ratio Good?

A higher P/E ratio implies that investors pay a higher price for the earning power of the business. That isn’t a good or a bad thing on its own, but a high P/E means that buyers have a higher opinion of the business’s prospects, relative to stocks with a lower P/E.

Does Reliance Steel & Aluminum Have A Relatively High Or Low P/E For Its Industry?

One good way to get a quick read on what market participants expect of a company is to look at its P/E ratio. The image below shows that Reliance Steel & Aluminum has a higher P/E than the average (11.5) P/E for companies in the metals and mining industry.

NYSE:RS Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 21st 2020
NYSE:RS Price Estimation Relative to Market, January 21st 2020

That means that the market expects Reliance Steel & Aluminum will outperform other companies in its industry. The market is optimistic about the future, but that doesn’t guarantee future growth. So investors should always consider the P/E ratio alongside other factors, such as whether company directors have been buying shares.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. 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. Then, a lower P/E should attract more buyers, pushing the share price up.

Reliance Steel & Aluminum saw earnings per share decrease by 22% last year. But EPS is up 16% over the last 5 years.

Don’t Forget: The P/E Does Not Account For Debt or Bank Deposits

Don’t forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. The exact same company would hypothetically deserve a higher P/E ratio if it had a strong balance sheet, than if it had a weak one with lots of debt, because a cashed up company can spend on growth.

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).

Reliance Steel & Aluminum’s Balance Sheet

Net debt totals 18% of Reliance Steel & Aluminum’s market cap. This could bring some additional risk, and reduce the number of investment options for management; worth remembering if you compare its P/E to businesses without debt.

The Verdict On Reliance Steel & Aluminum’s P/E Ratio

Reliance Steel & Aluminum has a P/E of 13.2. That’s below the average in the US market, which is 19.0. Since it only carries a modest debt load, it’s likely the low expectations implied by the P/E ratio arise from the lack of recent earnings growth.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. If it is underestimating a company, investors can make money by buying and holding the shares until the market corrects itself. 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.

But note: Reliance Steel & Aluminum may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.