Investors can approximate the average market return by buying an index fund. When you buy individual stocks, you can make higher profits, but you also face the risk of under-performance. Unfortunately the Unitil Corporation (NYSE:UTL) share price slid 44% over twelve months. That's disappointing when you consider the market returned 21%. We note that it has not been easy for shareholders over three years, either; the share price is down 35% in that time. Shareholders have had an even rougher run lately, with the share price down 21% in the last 90 days. We note that the company has reported results fairly recently; and the market is hardly delighted. You can check out the latest numbers in our company report.
In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. 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.
Unhappily, Unitil had to report a 32% decline in EPS over the last year. This reduction in EPS is not as bad as the 44% share price fall. Unsurprisingly, given the lack of EPS growth, the market seems to be more cautious about the stock.
The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).
Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here.
A Different Perspective
Unitil shareholders are down 43% for the year (even including dividends), but the market itself is up 21%. 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. On the bright side, long term shareholders have made money, with a gain of 2% per year over half a decade. 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's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Unitil better, we need to consider many other factors. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Unitil (1 is potentially serious!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
We will like Unitil 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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