P/E Ratio – 16 Steps to Master Price/Earnings Valuation

Most Investors use the P/E Ratio Incorrectly! Our P/E Ratio Guide Enables you to Compare Stocks Properly & Better Understand Value Investing

The price-earnings (P/E ratio) is a commonly used and oft-cited calculation for determining a company’s value, but it is mostly misunderstood. The P/E ratio is only useful for comparing similar companies in the same industry with similar business models. It should not be used to compare radically different businesses.

16 Steps to Master the P/E Ratio

  1. What is the P/E Ratio?
  2. How to Calculate P/E Ratio
  3. The P/E Ratio Formula
  4. What Does the P/E Ratio Mean?
  5. How to use Industry P/E Ratios
  6. What is a good P/E Ratio?
  7. Is a Company Cheap, Fairly Priced or Overpriced?
  8. Is a High P/E Ratio Good?
  9. What is an Average P/E Ratio?
  10. Is a Low P/E Ratio Good?
  11. When is a Low P/E Ratio Bad?
  12. Is there a Negative P/E Ratio?
  13. What is the P/E Ratio TTM?
  14. What is the Forward P/E Ratio Forward?
  15. Using a P/E Ratio to Compare Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix & Google
  16. How to use the S&P500 P/E Ratio – Shiller Formula

What is the P/E Ratio?

The P/E Ratio is a formula for performing a company valuation. It is calculated by dividing the current stock price by the previous 12 months earnings per share (EPS). A P/E Ratio of 12 means you would pay $12 for every $1 of earnings if you invested. It should only be used to compare companies in the same industry.

How to Calculate The P/E Ratio

The P/E Ratio has two parts.

Part 1. Calculate the Earnings per Share. EPS = (Earnings or Net Income for the previous 12 months) divided by (Number of Shares Outstanding)

Part 2. We can now calculate the P/E Ratio.  P/E Ratio = (Current Share Price) divided by (Earnings per Share EPS)

The P/E Ratio Formula

P/E Ratio Formula & Calculation
P/E Ratio Formula & Calculation

What Does the P/E Ratio Mean?

The P/E ratio enables you to understand how much it will cost you to buy a portion of the companies profit.  If a company has a P/E Ratio of 25, this means it will cost you $25 for each $1 of company profit.  This can be difficult to understand, so let me make it very simple.

Imagine you want to by an Icecream Stand.  The Owner wants to sell that stand to you for $10,000.  The Icecream Stand makes a yearly profit after tax of $2,000.  This means if I want to buy this profit of $2,000 it will cost me $10,000.  So the P/E Ratio is $10,000 / $2,000 = 5.  In other words, it would take me 5 years to make my money back on this investment.

This is what the P/E Ratio or the “Multiple” tells us.  In the example above I used the example of buying a whole business and we are considering all of the profits.  The P/E Ratio achieves this same goal by using the Individual Share Price / Earnings per Share as we are not buying the whole company just a portion of it.

The P/E Ratio can tell you what kind of premium investors are willing to pay to get a piece of this company.   P/E Ratios should always be considered in the context of the industry group.

Industry P/E Ratios – How to use them?

P/E Ratios are best deployed to compare companies within the same industry.  Some industries may have a very high average P/E Ratio and some a very low P/E Ratio, depending on where the industry is in its lifecycle.  If an industry is new, fast growing and requires a lot of investment the P/E ratio may well be high on average, such as the Big Data Analytics industry.  If an industry is stable and slow growing the average P/E ratio may be lower, think Utilities Industry.

This makes comparing companies in different industries with the P/E ratio not advisable.

What is a good P/E Ratio?

There is no such thing as a good P/E ratio for all companies, however, we can say that a P/E Ratio in general under 25 is ok and suggests the company is reasonably priced.  A P/E Ratio over 200 would success the company share price is way in excess of the companies ability to generate matching profits.

Is a Company Cheap, Fairly Priced or Overpriced?

P/E Ratio - How Strong is the Stock compared to the Competition
P/E Ratio – How Strong is the Stock compared to the Competition

The Price to Earnings ratio is a simple calculation that may take a little bit of time to understand.  But once you understand it, it can be very useful.

If you compare the P/E Ratio of companies in the same industry, this will tell you which companies are perceived to have the brightest future or the best products or services as the investors are willing to pay more for a share of one company as opposed to another company that is in the same line of business.

Is a High P/E Ratio Good?

A high P/E ratio is both good and bad, meaning it can indicate a company with a great future or indicate a company that is terribly overpriced.  It depends on what you believe the company’s future outlook to be.

For example, Company A has a  P/E Ratio of 100.  If 100 is the highest P/E in the industry then investors believe this company has the best profit growth potential in the future.  This means that the market participants are willing to buy the stock because it has very good growth prospects.

What is a High P/E Ratio?

Take a look at Amazon or Netflix P/E Ratios they regularly maintain a P/E ratio over 100.  This is because investors are willing to pay higher prices for the shares because of perceived future growth.  Amazon, for example, has razor-thin margins and invest so much of its revenue into penetrating new markets and building technology and logistics centers, that there is very little profit left over.  This means the High Share Price dividend by the Low Earnings equals a high P/E Ratio.  As investors are still willing to pay a lot for Amazon shares the P/E remains high.  If the investors lose confidence in the companies ability to continue growing at a fast pace, they would experience fear, sell the stock and the stock price would crash.  This means with a lower stock price the P/E Ratio would also drop to something more reasonable.

High P/E Ratios usually mean high growth potential, but if investors lose confidence the stock price can plummet.

What is an Average P/E Ratio?

Company B has a  P/E of 25, if 25 was the industry average then this company would be seen as a fair value for the industry.  This essentially means the investors think this company is neither a high-performance high growth stock nor an underperformer with fewer profits compared to the competition.

Is a Low P/E Ratio Good?

Again a low P/E Ratio can be good or bad based on the context.  A low P/E can be good if the company has growing profits in a growing market, it could indicate that the broader market participants have not realized that this company has a very low valuation compared to its peers.  This is what income investors or value investors like Warren Buffett look for when buying shares in a company.  A company with a low P/E and excellent growth and profitability.   As the profits grow other investors will see that this company is a bargain and the stock price due to the demand of the buyer will start to increase.

When is a Low P/E Ratio Bad?

A low P/E ratio can be bad when the company in question is in a declining market and the future prospects are bleak.  As profits decrease so does the stock price as the current investors are selling the stock and the demand for the stock is decreasing also.  This is why the earnings season is so important.

A Low P/E Ratio example

Company C has a low P/E of 5 compared to the industry average of 25.  This company would be seen as an underperformer / or a stock with potential value.  If the earnings suddenly jumped for this stock this could potentially be a good bargain.  However, negative earnings would adversely impact the P/E Ratio, meaning if the profits reduced the P/E ratio would increase, which means the stock price would need to fall to compensate for it.

The P/E Ratio needs to be combined with other fundamental measures to get a much better picture of the stock.

Is there a Negative P/E Ratio?

Answer:  Yes.  A company can have a negative P/E Ratio if it has not made any profit in the previous year.  But it is not possible to put a value or number on the ratio because the P/E ratio consists of Price divided by Earnings, and if there are no earnings the formula does not work.  You will often see the P/E ratio reported as N/A or simply blank.

What is the P/E Ratio TTM?

The P/E Ratio TTM refers to the P/E Ratio for the Trailing Twelve Months, this means the price divided by earnings is calculated based on the previous 12 months.

What is the Forward P/E Ratio?

The forward P/E Ratio is calculated based on the current stock price divided by the estimated earnings of the company for the next full financial year.  This is only an estimate and is calculated based on the average earnings expectations of either a group of analysts or the company’s earnings forecast for the next fiscal year.

Using a P/E Ratio to Compare Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix & Google
FAANG Stocks - Quotes - Sentiment - Analysis

Are FAANG Stocks Overpriced or Fair Value

  • Facebook P/E Ratio 28
  • Amazon P/E Ratio 143
  • Apple P/E Ratio 14.8
  • Netflix P/E Ratio 135
  • Google (Alphabet) P/E Ratio 26.5

The P/E Ratio is essentially measuring how many years it would take the company to buy all it’s stock back with its earnings.  The value of all the stock divided by the earnings of the company.  Depending on the particular industry a P/E Ratio may vary, but a normal valuation sought after by a value investor would be something below 20.  So compared to the that, the FANG’s could be considered overpriced.

But we do need to be clear that these are not normal companies they are still considered fast-growing technology stocks, with relatively low costs, high earnings, and still higher earnings potential.

While Facebook & Google have a reasonable P/E Ratio and Apple could almost be considered a bargain, both Amazon and Netflix seem to be extremely overpriced.  One of the reasons for this is they are plowing all revenue back into the business to fuel the fast growth.  This reduces the earnings (after expenses) and makes them look on the surface overpriced.

How to use the S&P500 P/E Ratio – Shiller Formula

You can also use the P/E ratio to assess if the market is good value, fairly priced or overpriced.  The chart below shows the Robert Schiller calculation for the P/E ratio of the S&P500 for the last 100 years.  You can see that a P/E around 20 is fair value, while very excessive P/E valuations have typically been following by crashes or readjustments.

What is the P/E Ratio of the S&P 500? Shiller Formula
What is the P/E Ratio of the S&P 500? Shiller Formula

Shiller P/E ratio for the S&P 500. Price-earnings ratio is based on average inflation-adjusted earnings from the previous 10 years, known as the Cyclically Adjusted P/E Ratio (CAP/E Ratio), Shiller P/E Ratio, or P/E 10 FAQ. Data courtesy of Robert Shiller from his book, Irrational Exuberance.

The Market (2018) is approaching a very high valuation historically, up there with the 1929 great depression and the Dotcom bust. Interestingly the Financial Crisis was not due to the overvaluation of the stock market but the integrity of the financial system itself. It is a good thing this was a great earnings season because if it was not there could be a serious pullback or re-adjustment

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P/E Ratio Summary

Having some knowledge that a company will not be declaring bankruptcy anytime soon is the minimum goal, however the more refined investor will be looking for stocks that are reasonably priced, have low amounts of debt or at least the ability to easily repay that debt, strong sales growth or revenue growth, a decent amount of cash in the bank, and solid earnings.

Also, if you are familiar with the company’s product and how important that product is to the business can give you an additional insight.

Learn More About the Price Earnings Ratio & All the Fundamental & Technical Analysis Theory

Stock Market Education Liberated Stock Trader PRO Training Course Overview

Watch The Video Overview

This is an excerpt from the Liberated Stock Trader Book and accompanying Training Course. Chapter 4 – Section 4 – The P/E Ratio

Other Chapters of the Liberated Stock Trader Book are listed below

Chapter 1 – Essential Stock Market Knowledge – Fundamentals

This chapter sets the stage for the two key areas of stock market technical analysis and the fundamental analysis of companies including macro and micro economics

Chapter 2 – What Really Moves Markets - Why do Booms and Busts Occur?

This chapter looks at what REALLY makes the markets move, what causes boom and bust cycles and how to spot them.

Chapter 3 – How do markets move ? - Stock Market Cycles – Business & Economic Cycles – Kondratieff to Kuznets

What are stock market cycles and the cycles of business and economies.  Important information that you need to appreciate as part of your core analysis.

Chapter 4 – Is the Company in great shape – P/E Ratio

Next we move into fundamental analysis and the financial fitness of a company.  All the major indicators and measures are covered.

Chapter 5 – How to find the best stocks

Stock screening means using criteria to short list the kind of stock that you want to purchase.  A vital part of any stock market training

Chapter 6 – Chart Reading made easy - Japanese Candlesticks – Bullish Reversal Patterns

Once you know the business climate, the state of the economy and you have shortlisted the stocks you want to buy.  The next thing to do is the technical analysis.  Even if the company looks great on paper, if the stock price is plummeting you do not want to buy it until it has bottomed out.  This is called catching a falling knife.  This is what chart patterns and technical analysis helps with.

Chapter 7 – Trend Lines and Price Patterns - How to draw trend lines

Here we get into the art of drawing on charts to help you visualize the Supply and Demand on the stock, the direction of the trend and estimate how long the trend will last.  Vital for you to establish buy and sell signals.

Chapter 8 – Chart Indicators are your friends ! – ROC Rate of Change Indicator

Which indicators should you use, there are literally hundreds of stock chart indicators.  Each have a specific use case and application, which should you use?

Chapter 9 – Chart Indicators Volume - The Price Volume Relationship

Volume is a vital indicator along with price.  Both of these you need to understand in granular detail, you will learn everything you need to know.

Chapter 10 - Advanced Stock Charting Techniques Parabolic SAR

Moving to advanced technical analysis we cover indicators such as parabolic SAR and point & figure charts.

Chapter 11 - Sentiment Indicators & Trading the News - How to trade the news

How are the market participants feeling?  Positive, Negative or indifferent.  Consider that 90% of people fail to beat the average market returns, sentiment indicators can be a great contrary indicator.  Lean how to use them to your advantage.

Chapter 12 - Trading Strategy - What type Of Investor are you?

Understanding how you want to invest, how much time you have and your time horizon.  These questions all help you to understand what type of investor you want to be, this then enables you to select the right strategy for you.  Then we move on to building your stock investing system, a critical element to your plan.

5 COMMENTS

  1. It is truly a great and helpful piece of information. I am happy that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  2. hiii i actually have one doubt that why does higher pe ratio means better option becoz for higher pe ratio company u have to pay more money for earning compare to lower pe ratio.
    eg. 1.i will earn 1 dollar behind every 10 dollar for company with pe 10
    2.i will earn 1 dollar behind every 25 dollar for company with pe 25
    whats better?
    plz explain

  3. Hi Punit

    Higher PE does not mean a better option it just means the investors have placed a higher valuation on the company and have a higher expectation on future earning and growth.

    Warren Buffets major holdings, COP, PSX, PKX, WFC etc all have a PE below 10.

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