Why Nordstrom, Inc.’s (NYSE:JWN) High P/E Ratio Isn’t Necessarily A Bad Thing

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This article is written for those who want to get better at using price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios). To keep it practical, we’ll show how Nordstrom, Inc.’s (NYSE:JWN) P/E ratio could help you assess the value on offer. Nordstrom has a P/E ratio of 10.37, based on the last twelve months. That is equivalent to an earnings yield of about 9.6%.

See our latest analysis for Nordstrom

How Do I Calculate A Price To Earnings Ratio?

The formula for price to earnings is:

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

Or for Nordstrom:

P/E of 10.37 = $32.47 ÷ $3.13 (Based on the year to May 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.

How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios

P/E ratios primarily reflect market expectations around earnings growth rates. That’s because companies that grow earnings per share quickly will rapidly increase the ‘E’ in the equation. That means unless the share price increases, the P/E will reduce in a few years. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.

It’s great to see that Nordstrom grew EPS by 13% in the last year. And it has improved its earnings per share by 3.2% per year over the last three years. This could arguably justify a relatively high P/E ratio. In contrast, EPS has decreased by 3.7%, annually, over 5 years.

How Does Nordstrom’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?

The P/E ratio essentially measures market expectations of a company. As you can see below Nordstrom has a P/E ratio that is fairly close for the average for the multiline retail industry, which is 10.1.

NYSE:JWN Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 18th 2019
NYSE:JWN Price Estimation Relative to Market, June 18th 2019

Nordstrom’s P/E tells us that market participants think its prospects are roughly in line with its industry. The company could surprise by performing better than average, in the future. Checking factors such as the tenure of the board and management could help you form your own view on if that will happen.

A Limitation: P/E Ratios Ignore Debt and Cash In The Bank

Don’t forget that the P/E ratio considers market capitalization. That means it doesn’t take debt or cash into account. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.

Such spending might be good or bad, overall, but the key point here is that you need to look at debt to understand the P/E ratio in context.

How Does Nordstrom’s Debt Impact Its P/E Ratio?

Nordstrom has net debt equal to 44% of its market cap. While that’s enough to warrant consideration, it doesn’t really concern us.

The Verdict On Nordstrom’s P/E Ratio

Nordstrom trades on a P/E ratio of 10.4, which is below the US market average of 17.6. The company hasn’t stretched its balance sheet, and earnings growth was good last year. If the company can continue to grow earnings, then the current P/E may be unjustifiably low.

When the market is wrong about a stock, it gives savvy investors an opportunity. As value investor Benjamin Graham famously said, ‘In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.’ 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.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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 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. Thank you for reading.