On average, over time, stock markets tend to rise higher. This makes investing attractive. But if when you choose to buy stocks, some of them will be below average performers. For example, the National Fuel Gas Company (NYSE:NFG), share price is up over the last year, but its gain of 23% trails the market return. Unfortunately the longer term returns are not so good, with the stock falling 6.1% in the last three years.
To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' 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.
National Fuel Gas went from making a loss to reporting a profit, in the last year.
When a company has just transitioned to profitability, earnings per share growth is not always the best way to look at the share price action.
Revenue was pretty flat year on year, but maybe a closer look at the data can explain the market optimism.
You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
If you are thinking of buying or selling National Fuel Gas stock, you should check out this FREE detailed report on its balance sheet.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. We note that for National Fuel Gas the TSR over the last year was 28%, 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
National Fuel Gas shareholders are up 28% for the year (even including dividends). Unfortunately this falls short of the market return. The silver lining is that the gain was actually better than the average annual return of 1.2% per year over five year. This could indicate that the company is winning over new investors, as it pursues its strategy. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. To that end, you should be aware of the 3 warning signs we've spotted with National Fuel Gas .
We will like National Fuel Gas better if we see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.
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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