Market is not liking Stewart Information Services' (NYSE:STC) earnings decline as stock retreats 5.7% this week

Investors can approximate the average market return by buying an index fund. Active investors aim to buy stocks that vastly outperform the market – but in the process, they risk under-performance. That downside risk was realized by Stewart Information Services Corporation (NYSE:STC) shareholders over the last year, as the share price declined 38%. That’s disappointing when you consider the market declined 6.9%. On the bright side, the stock is actually up 23% in the last three years. Unfortunately the share price momentum is still quite negative, with prices down 21% in thirty days. This could be related to the recent financial results – you can catch up on the most recent data by reading our company report.

Given the past week has been tough on shareholders, let’s investigate the fundamentals and see what we can learn.

Check out our latest analysis for Stewart Information Services

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.

Unhappily, Stewart Information Services had to report a 50% decline in EPS over the last year. The share price fall of 38% isn’t as bad as the reduction in earnings per share. It may have been that the weak EPS was not as bad as some had feared.

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

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

earnings-per-share-growth

We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here..

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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. It’s fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of Stewart Information Services, it has a TSR of -36% for the last 1 year. 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 regret to report that Stewart Information Services shareholders are down 36% for the year (even including dividends). Unfortunately, that’s worse than the broader market decline of 6.9%. Having said that, it’s inevitable that some stocks will be oversold in a falling market. The key is to keep your eyes on the fundamental developments. Longer term investors wouldn’t be so upset, since they would have made 2%, each year, over five years. If the fundamental data continues to indicate long term sustainable growth, the current sell-off could be an opportunity worth considering. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. Even so, be aware that Stewart Information Services is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those can’t be ignored…

Stewart Information Services is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.

Join A Paid User Research Session
You’ll receive a US$30 Amazon Gift card for 1 hour of your time while helping us build better investing tools for the individual investors like yourself. Sign up here