With a median price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of close to 15x in the United States, you could be forgiven for feeling indifferent about United Parcel Service, Inc.'s (NYSE:UPS) P/E ratio of 14.6x. Although, it's not wise to simply ignore the P/E without explanation as investors may be disregarding a distinct opportunity or a costly mistake.
Recent times have been advantageous for United Parcel Service as its earnings have been rising faster than most other companies. It might be that many expect the strong earnings performance to wane, which has kept the P/E from rising. 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 not quite in favour.
Want the full picture on analyst estimates for the company? Then our free report on United Parcel Service will help you uncover what's on the horizon.
What Are Growth Metrics Telling Us About The P/E?
In order to justify its P/E ratio, United Parcel Service would need to produce growth that's similar to the market.
Retrospectively, the last year delivered an exceptional 73% gain to the company's bottom line. Pleasingly, EPS has also lifted 124% in aggregate from three years ago, thanks to the last 12 months of growth. Accordingly, shareholders would have probably welcomed those medium-term rates of earnings growth.
Shifting to the future, estimates from the analysts covering the company suggest earnings should grow by 1.1% per annum over the next three years. With the market predicted to deliver 9.1% growth per annum, the company is positioned for a weaker earnings result.
With this information, we find it interesting that United Parcel Service is trading at a fairly similar P/E to the market. Apparently many investors in the company are less bearish than analysts indicate and aren't willing to let go of their stock right now. Maintaining these prices will be difficult to achieve as this level of earnings growth is likely to weigh down the shares eventually.
The Final Word
Generally, our preference is to limit the use of the price-to-earnings ratio to establishing what the market thinks about the overall health of a company.
Our examination of United Parcel Service's analyst forecasts revealed that its inferior earnings outlook isn't impacting its P/E as much as we would have predicted. Right now we are uncomfortable with the P/E as the predicted future earnings aren't likely to support a more positive sentiment for long. This places shareholders' investments at risk and potential investors in danger of paying an unnecessary premium.
Having said that, be aware United Parcel Service is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis, and 1 of those is concerning.
Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than United Parcel Service. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that sit on P/E's below 20x and have grown earnings strongly.
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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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