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The simplest way to invest in stocks is to buy exchange traded funds. But if you pick the right individual stocks, you could make more than that. For example, the Escalade, Incorporated (NASDAQ:ESCA) share price is up 65% in the last year, clearly besting the market return of around 9.6% (not including dividends). If it can keep that out-performance up over the long term, investors will do very well! Also impressive, the stock is up 45% over three years, making long term shareholders happy, too.

Check out our latest analysis for Escalade

There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company’s share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

Escalade was able to grow EPS by 71% in the last twelve months. This EPS growth is reasonably close to the 65% increase in the share price. This makes us think the market hasn’t really changed its sentiment around the company, in the last year. We don’t think its coincidental that the share price is growing at a similar rate to the earnings per share.

You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-per-share-growth

We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. This free interactive report on Escalade’s earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.

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. As it happens, Escalade’s TSR for the last year was 73%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. And there’s no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

It’s good to see that Escalade has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 73% in the last twelve months. And that does include 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. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. 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. For instance, we’ve identified 1 warning sign for Escalade that you should be aware of.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

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. 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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