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Here's What To Make Of Olympic Steel's (NASDAQ:ZEUS) Decelerating Rates Of Return

If we want to find a stock that could multiply over the long term, what are the underlying trends we should look for? One common approach is to try and find a company with returns on capital employed (ROCE) that are increasing, in conjunction with a growing amount of capital employed. Put simply, these types of businesses are compounding machines, meaning they are continually reinvesting their earnings at ever-higher rates of return. With that in mind, the ROCE of Olympic Steel (NASDAQ:ZEUS) looks decent, right now, so lets see what the trend of returns can tell us.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

For those that aren't sure what ROCE is, it measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. To calculate this metric for Olympic Steel, this is the formula:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

0.10 = US$83m ÷ (US$985m - US$180m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2023).

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So, Olympic Steel has an ROCE of 10%. By itself that's a normal return on capital and it's in line with the industry's average returns of 10%.

View our latest analysis for Olympic Steel

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In the above chart we have measured Olympic Steel's prior ROCE against its prior performance, but the future is arguably more important. If you're interested, you can view the analysts predictions in our free analyst report for Olympic Steel .

What Can We Tell From Olympic Steel's ROCE Trend?

While the returns on capital are good, they haven't moved much. The company has consistently earned 10% for the last five years, and the capital employed within the business has risen 27% in that time. 10% is a pretty standard return, and it provides some comfort knowing that Olympic Steel has consistently earned this amount. Over long periods of time, returns like these might not be too exciting, but with consistency they can pay off in terms of share price returns.

Our Take On Olympic Steel's ROCE

The main thing to remember is that Olympic Steel has proven its ability to continually reinvest at respectable rates of return. And the stock has done incredibly well with a 323% return over the last five years, so long term investors are no doubt ecstatic with that result. So while the positive underlying trends may be accounted for by investors, we still think this stock is worth looking into further.

Since virtually every company faces some risks, it's worth knowing what they are, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Olympic Steel (of which 1 can't be ignored!) that you should know about.

For those who like to invest in solid companies, check out this free list of companies with solid balance sheets and high returns on equity.

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.