Alpha Pro Tech (NYSEMKT:APT) shares have continued recent momentum with a 33% gain in the last month alone. Zooming out, the annual gain of 286% knocks our socks off.
All else being equal, a sharp share price increase should make a stock less attractive to potential investors. While the market sentiment towards a stock is very changeable, in the long run, the share price will tend to move in the same direction as earnings per share. The implication here is that deep value investors might steer clear when expectations of a company are too high. Perhaps the simplest way to get a read on investors’ expectations of a business is to look at its Price to Earnings Ratio (PE Ratio). A high P/E implies that investors have high expectations of what a company can achieve compared to a company with a low P/E ratio.
How Does Alpha Pro Tech’s P/E Ratio Compare To Its Peers?
We can tell from its P/E ratio of 60.24 that there is some investor optimism about Alpha Pro Tech. The image below shows that Alpha Pro Tech has a significantly higher P/E than the average (15.2) P/E for companies in the building industry.
That means that the market expects Alpha Pro Tech will outperform other companies in its industry. Clearly the market expects growth, but it isn’t guaranteed. So further research is always essential. I often monitor director buying and selling.
How Growth Rates Impact P/E Ratios
Earnings growth rates have a big influence on P/E ratios. When earnings grow, the ‘E’ increases, over time. That means even if the current P/E is high, it will reduce over time if the share price stays flat. And as that P/E ratio drops, the company will look cheap, unless its share price increases.
Alpha Pro Tech saw earnings per share decrease by 12% last year. But EPS is up 8.9% over the last 5 years.
Remember: P/E Ratios Don’t Consider The Balance Sheet
The ‘Price’ in P/E reflects the market capitalization of the company. Thus, the metric does not reflect cash or debt held by the company. In theory, a company can lower its future P/E ratio by using cash or debt to invest in growth.
Such expenditure might be good or bad, in the long term, but the point here is that the balance sheet is not reflected by this ratio.
Is Debt Impacting Alpha Pro Tech’s P/E?
Alpha Pro Tech has net cash of US$6.9m. That should lead to a higher P/E than if it did have debt, because its strong balance sheets gives it more options.
The Verdict On Alpha Pro Tech’s P/E Ratio
Alpha Pro Tech’s P/E is 60.2 which suggests the market is more focussed on the future opportunity rather than the current level of earnings. The recent drop in earnings per share might keep value investors away, but the net cash position means the company has time to improve: and the high P/E suggests the market thinks it will. What is very clear is that the market has become significantly more optimistic about Alpha Pro Tech over the last month, with the P/E ratio rising from 45.1 back then to 60.2 today. If you like to buy stocks that have recently impressed the market, then this one might be a candidate; but if you prefer to invest when there is ‘blood in the streets’, then you may feel the opportunity has passed.
Investors should be looking to buy stocks that the market is wrong about. If the reality for a company is better than it expects, you can make money by buying and holding for the long term. We don’t have analyst forecasts, but you could get a better understanding of its growth by checking out this more detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
You might be able to find a better buy than Alpha Pro Tech. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.
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