In order to justify the effort of selecting individual stocks, it's worth striving to beat the returns from a market index fund. But in any portfolio, there are likely to be some stocks that fall short of that benchmark. Unfortunately, that's been the case for longer term Heartland Express, Inc. (NASDAQ:HTLD) shareholders, since the share price is down 11% in the last three years, falling well short of the market return of around 44%. It's down 1.8% in the last seven days.
While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. 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.
Although the share price is down over three years, Heartland Express actually managed to grow EPS by 7.2% 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). Or else the company was over-hyped in the past, and so its growth has disappointed.
It's strange to see such muted share price performance despite sustained growth. Perhaps a clue lies in other metrics. So we'll have to take a look at other metrics to try to understand the price action.
The modest 0.4% dividend yield is unlikely to be guiding the market view of the stock. The company has kept revenue pretty healthy over the last three years, so we doubt that explains the falling share price. We're not entirely sure why the share price is dropped, but it does seem likely investors have become less optimistic about the business.
The company's revenue and earnings (over time) are depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
It's probably worth noting that the CEO is paid less than the median at similar sized companies. But while CEO remuneration is always worth checking, the really important question is whether the company can grow earnings going forward. So it makes a lot of sense to check out what analysts think Heartland Express will earn in the future (free profit forecasts).
A Different Perspective
Investors in Heartland Express had a tough year, with a total loss of 8.1% (including dividends), against a market gain of about 19%. 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. Regrettably, last year's performance caps off a bad run, with the shareholders facing a total loss of 0.3% per year over five years. We realise that Baron Rothschild has said investors should "buy when there is blood on the streets", but we caution that investors should first be sure they are buying a high quality business. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Heartland Express better, we need to consider many other factors. For example, we've discovered 1 warning sign for Heartland Express that you should be aware of before investing here.
We will like Heartland Express better if we see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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. 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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