When close to half the companies in the United States have price-to-earnings ratios (or "P/E's") above 15x, you may consider Micron Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:MU) as a highly attractive investment with its 7.3x P/E ratio. However, the P/E might be quite low for a reason and it requires further investigation to determine if it's justified.
Micron Technology certainly has been doing a good job lately as it's been growing earnings more than most other companies. One possibility is that the P/E is low because investors think this strong earnings performance might be less impressive moving forward. If you like the company, you'd be hoping this isn't the case so that you could potentially pick up some stock while it's out of favour.
If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report on Micron Technology.
Does Growth Match The Low P/E?
Micron Technology's P/E ratio would be typical for a company that's expected to deliver very poor growth or even falling earnings, and importantly, perform much worse than the market.
If we review the last year of earnings growth, the company posted a terrific increase of 50%. The strong recent performance means it was also able to grow EPS by 41% in total over the last three years. So we can start by confirming that the company has done a great job of growing earnings over that time.
Turning to the outlook, the next three years should bring diminished returns, with earnings decreasing 9.5% per annum as estimated by the analysts watching the company. That's not great when the rest of the market is expected to grow by 9.0% per year.
In light of this, it's understandable that Micron Technology's P/E would sit below the majority of other companies. However, shrinking earnings are unlikely to lead to a stable P/E over the longer term. There's potential for the P/E to fall to even lower levels if the company doesn't improve its profitability.
The Key Takeaway
Using the price-to-earnings ratio alone to determine if you should sell your stock isn't sensible, however it can be a practical guide to the company's future prospects.
We've established that Micron Technology maintains its low P/E on the weakness of its forecast for sliding earnings, as expected. At this stage investors feel the potential for an improvement in earnings isn't great enough to justify a higher P/E ratio. It's hard to see the share price rising strongly in the near future under these circumstances.
You should always think about risks. Case in point, we've spotted 1 warning sign for Micron Technology you should be aware of.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with a strong growth track record, trading on a P/E below 20x.
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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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