The simplest way to invest in stocks is to buy exchange traded funds. But in our experience, buying the right stocks can give your wealth a significant boost. For example, the United Fire Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:UFCS) share price is 60% higher than it was five years ago, which is more than the market average. In comparison, the share price is down 13% in a year.
To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.
United Fire Group's earnings per share are down 30% per year, despite strong share price performance over five years.
Essentially, it doesn't seem likely that investors are focused on EPS. Because earnings per share don't seem to match up with the share price, we'll take a look at other metrics instead.
On the other hand, United Fire Group's revenue is growing nicely, at a compound rate of 3.9% over the last five years. In that case, the company may be sacrificing current earnings per share to drive growth.
The image below shows how earnings and revenue have tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
Take a more thorough look at United Fire Group's financial health with this free 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). 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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. As it happens, United Fire Group's TSR for the last 5 years was 90%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
While the broader market gained around 26% in the last year, United Fire Group shareholders lost 11% (even including dividends) . 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 14% 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 United Fire Group better, we need to consider many other factors. Case in point: We've spotted 3 warning signs for United Fire Group you should be aware of, and 1 of them makes us a bit uncomfortable.
Of course United Fire Group may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of growth stocks.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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. Thank you for reading.