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The total return for American Express (NYSE:AXP) investors has risen faster than earnings growth over the last five years

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American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) shareholders might be concerned after seeing the share price drop 12% in the last month. But in stark contrast, the returns over the last half decade have impressed. In fact, the share price is 111% higher today. Generally speaking the long term returns will give you a better idea of business quality than short periods can. Ultimately business performance will determine whether the stock price continues the positive long term trend.

Since the long term performance has been good but there's been a recent pullback of 11%, let's check if the fundamentals match the share price.

View our latest analysis for American Express

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 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).

Over half a decade, American Express managed to grow its earnings per share at 12% a year. This EPS growth is slower than the share price growth of 16% per year, over the same period. So it's fair to assume the market has a higher opinion of the business than it did five years ago. And that's hardly shocking given the track record of growth.

The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

earnings-per-share-growth
earnings-per-share-growth

It is of course excellent to see how American Express has grown profits over the years, but the future is more important for shareholders. If you are thinking of buying or selling American Express 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. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, American Express' TSR for the last 5 years was 127%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

It's nice to see that American Express shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 28% over the last year. Of course, that includes the dividend. That's better than the annualised return of 18% over half a decade, implying that the company is doing better recently. Given the share price momentum remains strong, it might be worth taking a closer look at the stock, lest you miss an opportunity. 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 1 warning sign we've spotted with American Express .

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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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