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Positive earnings growth hasn't been enough to get Essent Group (NYSE:ESNT) shareholders a favorable return over the last three years

Essent Group Ltd. (NYSE:ESNT) shareholders should be happy to see the share price up 10% in the last month. But that cannot eclipse the less-than-impressive returns over the last three years. Truth be told the share price declined 13% in three years and that return, Dear Reader, falls short of what you could have got from passive investing with an index fund.

The recent uptick of 5.0% could be a positive sign of things to come, so let's take a look at historical fundamentals.

Check out our latest analysis for Essent Group

While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. 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.

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Although the share price is down over three years, Essent Group actually managed to grow EPS by 13% per year in that time. Given the share price reaction, one might suspect that EPS is not a good guide to the business performance during the period (perhaps due to a one-off loss or gain). Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past.

It is a little bizarre to see the share price down, despite a strong improvement to earnings per share. So we'll have to take a look at other metrics to try to understand the price action.

Revenue is actually up 7.3% over the three years, so the share price drop doesn't seem to hinge on revenue, either. This analysis is just perfunctory, but it might be worth researching Essent Group more closely, as sometimes stocks fall unfairly. This could present an opportunity.

You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
earnings-and-revenue-growth

We know that Essent Group has improved its bottom line lately, but what does the future have in store? So we recommend checking out this free report showing consensus forecasts

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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 Essent Group the TSR over the last 3 years was -8.7%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

While it's never nice to take a loss, Essent Group shareholders can take comfort that , including dividends,their trailing twelve month loss of 1.6% wasn't as bad as the market loss of around 7.7%. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it's worse than the annualised loss of 0.5% over the last half decade. While some investors do well specializing in buying companies that are struggling (but nonetheless undervalued), don't forget that Buffett said that 'turnarounds seldom turn'. 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. For instance, we've identified 3 warning signs for Essent Group (1 is potentially serious) that you should be aware of.

If you would prefer to check out another company -- one with potentially superior financials -- then do not miss this free list of companies that have proven they can grow earnings.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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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