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While it may not be enough for some shareholders, we think it is good to see the MTS Systems Corporation (NASDAQ:MTSC) share price up 28% in a single quarter. But that doesn’t change the fact that the returns over the last half decade have been disappointing. In that time the share price has delivered a rude shock to holders, who find themselves down 64% after a long stretch. So we’re hesitant to put much weight behind the short term increase. Of course, this could be the start of a turnaround.

Check out our latest analysis for MTS Systems

There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.

Looking back five years, both MTS Systems’ share price and EPS declined; the latter at a rate of 26% per year. This fall in the EPS is worse than the 19% compound annual share price fall. So investors might expect EPS to bounce back — or they may have previously foreseen the EPS decline.

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

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. This free interactive report on MTS Systems’ earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.

What about the Total Shareholder Return (TSR)?

We’ve already covered MTS Systems’ share price action, but we should also mention its total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR attempts to capture the value of dividends (as if they were reinvested) as well as any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings offered to shareholders. Its history of dividend payouts mean that MTS Systems’ TSR, which was a 60% drop over the last 5 years, was not as bad as the share price return.

A Different Perspective

Investors in MTS Systems had a tough year, with a total loss of 57%, against a market gain of about 12%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Unfortunately, last year’s performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 10% over the last half decade. We realise that Baron Rothschild has said investors should “buy when there is blood on the streets”, but we caution that investors should first be sure they are buying a high quality business. 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. Take risks, for example – MTS Systems has 4 warning signs (and 1 which can’t be ignored) we think you should know about.

MTS Systems is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.

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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