This article is intended for those of you who are at the beginning of your investing journey and want to start learning about core concepts of fundamental analysis on practical examples from today’s market.
Echo Global Logistics Inc (NASDAQ:ECHO) trades with a trailing P/E of 26.7, which is higher than the industry average of 20. Although some investors may see this as unappealing, it is important to understand the assumptions behind the P/E ratio before making judgments. Today, I will explain what the P/E ratio is as well as what you should look out for when using it.
Demystifying the P/E ratio
The P/E ratio is a popular ratio used in relative valuation since earnings power is a key driver of investment value. It compares a stock’s price per share to the stock’s earnings per share. A more intuitive way of understanding the P/E ratio is to think of it as how much investors are paying for each dollar of the company’s earnings.
Price-Earnings Ratio = Price per share ÷ Earnings per share
P/E Calculation for ECHO
Price per share = $27.46
Earnings per share = $1.027
∴ Price-Earnings Ratio = $27.46 ÷ $1.027 = 26.7x
The P/E ratio isn’t a metric you view in isolation and only becomes useful when you compare it against other similar companies. Ultimately, our goal is to compare the stock’s P/E ratio to the average of companies that have similar attributes to ECHO, such as company lifetime and products sold. A common peer group is companies that exist in the same industry, which is what I use below. Since it is expected that similar companies have similar P/E ratios, we can come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios are different.
ECHO’s P/E of 26.7 is higher than its industry peers (20), which implies that each dollar of ECHO’s earnings is being overvalued by investors. This multiple is a median of profitable companies of 13 Logistics companies in US including Janel, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings and Hub Group. You could think of it like this: the market is pricing ECHO as if it is a stronger company than the average of its industry group.
A few caveats
However, you should be aware that this analysis makes certain assumptions. Firstly, that our peer group contains companies that are similar to ECHO. If this isn’t the case, the difference in P/E could be due to other factors. For example, if Echo Global Logistics Inc is growing faster than its peers, then it would deserve a higher P/E ratio. Of course, it is possible that the stocks we are comparing with ECHO are not fairly valued. So while we can reasonably surmise that it is optimistically valued relative to a peer group, it might be fairly valued, if the peer group is undervalued.
What this means for you:
Since you may have already conducted your due diligence on ECHO, the overvaluation of the stock may mean it is a good time to reduce your current holdings. But at the end of the day, keep in mind that relative valuation relies heavily on critical assumptions I’ve outlined above. Remember that basing your investment decision off one metric alone is certainly not sufficient. There are many things I have not taken into account in this article and the PE ratio is very one-dimensional. If you have not done so already, I highly recommend you to complete your research by taking a look at the following:
- Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for ECHO’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for ECHO’s outlook.
- Past Track Record: Has ECHO been consistently performing well irrespective of the ups and downs in the market? Go into more detail in the past performance analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of ECHO’s historicals for more clarity.
- Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.
To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.
The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at email@example.com.