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Earnings Working Against 360 DigiTech, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:QFIN) Share Price

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360 DigiTech, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:QFIN) price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 4x might make it look like a strong buy right now compared to the market in the United States, where around half of the companies have P/E ratios above 18x and even P/E's above 38x are quite common. However, the P/E might be quite low for a reason and it requires further investigation to determine if it's justified.

With earnings growth that's superior to most other companies of late, 360 DigiTech has been doing relatively well. It might be that many expect the strong earnings performance to degrade substantially, which has repressed the P/E. If not, then existing shareholders have reason to be quite optimistic about the future direction of the share price.

See our latest analysis for 360 DigiTech

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Keen to find out how analysts think 360 DigiTech's future stacks up against the industry? In that case, our free report is a great place to start.

How Is 360 DigiTech's Growth Trending?

The only time you'd be truly comfortable seeing a P/E as depressed as 360 DigiTech's is when the company's growth is on track to lag the market decidedly.

Taking a look back first, we see that the company grew earnings per share by an impressive 101% last year. Although, its longer-term performance hasn't been as strong with three-year EPS growth being relatively non-existent overall. Therefore, it's fair to say that earnings growth has been inconsistent recently for the company.

Turning to the outlook, the next year should bring diminished returns, with earnings decreasing 5.2% as estimated by the seven analysts watching the company. With the market predicted to deliver 11% growth , that's a disappointing outcome.

With this information, we are not surprised that 360 DigiTech is trading at a P/E lower than the market. Nonetheless, there's no guarantee the P/E has reached a floor yet with earnings going in reverse. Even just maintaining these prices could be difficult to achieve as the weak outlook is weighing down the shares.

The Key Takeaway

Typically, we'd caution against reading too much into price-to-earnings ratios when settling on investment decisions, though it can reveal plenty about what other market participants think about the company.

As we suspected, our examination of 360 DigiTech's analyst forecasts revealed that its outlook for shrinking earnings is contributing to its low P/E. At this stage investors feel the potential for an improvement in earnings isn't great enough to justify a higher P/E ratio. Unless these conditions improve, they will continue to form a barrier for the share price around these levels.

There are also other vital risk factors to consider before investing and we've discovered 1 warning sign for 360 DigiTech that you should be aware of.

If you're unsure about the strength of 360 DigiTech's business, why not explore our interactive list of stocks with solid business fundamentals for some other companies you may have missed.

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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