Buying a low-cost index fund will get you the average market return. But if you invest in individual stocks, some are likely to underperform. That’s what has happened with the The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE:HIG) share price. It’s up 62% over three years, but that is below the market return. Some buyers are laughing, though, with an increase of 44% in the last year.
After a strong gain in the past week, it’s worth seeing if longer term returns have been driven by improving fundamentals.
In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. 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.
During three years of share price growth, Hartford Financial Services Group achieved compound earnings per share growth of 46% per year. This EPS growth is higher than the 17% average annual increase in the share price. So it seems investors have become more cautious about the company, over time. This cautious sentiment is reflected in its (fairly low) P/E ratio of 11.40.
You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).
It is of course excellent to see how Hartford Financial Services Group has grown profits over the years, but the future is more important for shareholders. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on how its financial position has changed over time.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). 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. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of Hartford Financial Services Group, it has a TSR of 75% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
It’s good to see that Hartford Financial Services Group has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 48% in the last twelve months. That’s including the dividend. Since the one-year TSR is better than the five-year TSR (the latter coming in at 11% per year), it would seem that the stock’s performance has improved in recent times. Given the share price momentum remains strong, it might be worth taking a closer look at the stock, lest you miss an opportunity. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we’ve spotted with Hartford Financial Services Group .
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Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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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.