While it may not be enough for some shareholders, we think it is good to see the Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) share price up 20% in a single quarter. But that doesn't help the fact that the three year return is less impressive. Truth be told the share price declined 31% in three years and that return, Dear Reader, falls short of what you could have got from passive investing with an index fund.
In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. 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.
Southwest Airlines saw its share price decline over the three years in which its EPS also dropped, falling to a loss. Due to the loss, it's not easy to use EPS as a reliable guide to the business. But it's safe to say we'd generally expect the share price to be lower as a result!
The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
Dive deeper into Southwest Airlines' key metrics by checking this interactive graph of Southwest Airlines's earnings, revenue and cash flow.
A Different Perspective
While the broader market gained around 23% in the last year, Southwest Airlines shareholders lost 17%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 1.8%, each year, over five years. It could be that the recent sell-off is an opportunity, so it may be worth checking the fundamental data for signs of a long term growth trend. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Southwest Airlines better, we need to consider many other factors. Like risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for Southwest Airlines (of which 1 is significant!) you should know about.
Of course Southwest Airlines may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of growth stocks.
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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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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