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Should Lithia Motors (NYSE:LAD) Be Disappointed With Their 43% Profit?

Simply Wall St

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When you buy and hold a stock for the long term, you definitely want it to provide a positive return. But more than that, you probably want to see it rise more than the market average. But Lithia Motors, Inc. (NYSE:LAD) has fallen short of that second goal, with a share price rise of 43% over five years, which is below the market return. Unfortunately the share price is down 2.7% in the last year.

See our latest analysis for Lithia Motors

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

During five years of share price growth, Lithia Motors achieved compound earnings per share (EPS) growth of 22% per year. The EPS growth is more impressive than the yearly share price gain of 7.4% over the same period. So it seems the market isn't so enthusiastic about the stock these days. The reasonably low P/E ratio of 8.64 also suggests market apprehension.

The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

NYSE:LAD Past and Future Earnings, April 2nd 2019

We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on Lithia Motors's earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, Lithia Motors's TSR for the last 5 years was 51%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

Lithia Motors shareholders are down 1.4% for the year (even including dividends), but the market itself is up 12%. However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 8.5%, 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 is all well and good that insiders have been buying shares, but we suggest you check here to see what price insiders were buying at.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.