While Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE:VLO) shareholders are probably generally happy, the stock hasn't had particularly good run recently, with the share price falling 18% in the last quarter. But over three years, the returns would have left most investors smiling After all, the share price is up a market-beating 53% in that time.
With that in mind, it's worth seeing if the company's underlying fundamentals have been the driver of long term performance, or if there are some discrepancies.
There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
During three years of share price growth, Valero Energy achieved compound earnings per share growth of 232% per year. This EPS growth is higher than the 15% average annual increase in the share price. So one could reasonably conclude that the market has cooled on the stock. This cautious sentiment is reflected in its (fairly low) P/E ratio of 2.90.
You can see how EPS has changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
It is of course excellent to see how Valero Energy has grown profits over the years, but the future is more important for shareholders. This free interactive report on Valero Energy's balance sheet strength is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of Valero Energy, it has a TSR of 77% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
While the broader market gained around 3.1% in the last year, Valero Energy shareholders lost 22% (even including dividends). 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. On the bright side, long term shareholders have made money, with a gain of 3% per year over half a decade. If the fundamental data continues to indicate long term sustainable growth, the current sell-off could be an opportunity worth considering. 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. Even so, be aware that Valero Energy is showing 1 warning sign in our investment analysis , you should know about...
If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on American exchanges.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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