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Investing in Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) three years ago would have delivered you a 45% gain

Thanks in no small measure to Vanguard founder Jack Bogle, it's easy buy a low cost index fund, which should provide the average market return. But you can make better returns by buying undervalued shares. To wit, Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) shares are up 27% in three years, besting the market return. It's nice to see the stock price has more recent momentum, too, with a rise of 22% in the last year.

So let's investigate and see if the longer term performance of the company has been in line with the underlying business' progress.

See our latest analysis for Gilead Sciences

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 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).

Gilead Sciences was able to grow its EPS at 8.0% per year over three years, sending the share price higher. This EPS growth is remarkably close to the 8% average annual increase in the share price. This suggests that sentiment and expectations have not changed drastically. Au contraire, the share price change has arguably mimicked the EPS growth.

The image below shows how EPS has tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).

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

Dive deeper into Gilead Sciences' key metrics by checking this interactive graph of Gilead Sciences's earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of Gilead Sciences, it has a TSR of 45% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

We're pleased to report that Gilead Sciences shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 28% over one year. Of course, that includes the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 7%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Gilead Sciences better, we need to consider many other factors. Consider risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 4 warning signs for Gilead Sciences you should know about.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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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