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It has often been advocated to avoid any stocks with a high P/E. The common argument is that you would be overpaying for hype stocks.

However, overpaying or not depends on how the high P/E stocks behaves*in future*. For example, if high P/E stocks actually do grow at a rate that is significantly higher than low P/E stocks, then it is arguably justifiable to buy stocks with a high P/E. One real-life example for this is
Amazon. It has a notoriously high P/E for as long as the stocks exist, however, the stock price has also been growing exponentially.

Of course, this is only one counter example. In this article, I would demonstrate in general if a higher P/E means higher growth in the context of the Singapore stock market.

In particular, I am going to look at the following two dimensions:

1)**P/E vs Earnings Change**

Does a higher P/E lead to higher earnings change going forward (1 year and 3 years)? By paying for a high P/E, investors are betting that the earnings of the companies will grow significantly such that it is worth paying for the high P/E upfront.

Figure 1 - P/E vs Earnings Change (1 year)

Figure 2 - P/E vs Earnings Change (3 years)

Looking at the two graphs above, it is obvious that as the P/E (x-axis) increases, it does not influence earnings change.

2)**P/E vs Total Returns (Price Change + Dividends Gained)**

Does a higher P/E leads to higher total returns going forward (1 year and 3 years)? Ultimately, investors want to earn returns on investments. It is certainly worth paying for high P/E if it gives us higher total returns.

Figure 3 - P/E vs Total Returns Change (1 year)

Figure 4 - P/E vs Total Returns Change (3 years)

Similarly, Figures 3 and 4 above show that as the P/E (x-axis) increases, it also does not affect total returns.

To be more mathematically rigorous, I have computed the Spearman correlation for them as well.

P/E vs Earnings Spearman (1 year): -0.0085

P/E vs Earnings Spearman (3 years): -0.0580

P/E vs Total Returns Spearman (1 year): -0.1437

P/E vs Total Returns Spearman (3 years): -0.1871

What the Spearman correlation tells us is that**there is no correlation between P/E and Earnings**, and that there is a
**slight negative correlation between P/E and Total Returns**. Essentially, it is saying that the P/E does not influence Earnings, but a higher P/E causes slightly lower Total Returns.

The conclusion of the results is: although it is not worth paying for high P/E, it is not necessary to avoid them completely.

Happy investing!

---

**Methodology**

For those that are interested in the methodology on how the data points are generated.

1) P/E vs Earnings (1 year)

Taking all end of year P/E between 2010 and 2015, pair it with the change of earnings between then and one year later. Total data points available were 1,292.

2) P/E vs Earnings (3 years)

Taking all end of year P/E between 2010 and 2015, pair it the change of earnings between then and three years later. Total data points available were 410.

3) P/E vs Total Returns (1 year)

Randomly picking ten dates between 2010 and 2015, use the P/E and pair it with the change to total returns between then and one year later. Total data points available were 2,973. Note that total returns is computed by ("one year later close" + "dividends given out during this period") / "current close" - 1

4) P/E vs Total Returns (3 years)

Randomly picking ten dates between 2010 and 2015, use the P/E and pair it with the change to total returns between then and three years later. Total data points available were 3,430. Note that total returns is computed by ("one year later close" + "dividends given out during this period") / "current close" - 1

Note that I have also cut off the graph where the P/E is greater than 100 as they are sparse outliers which made the graph harder to view.

Like

4 likes

9 comments

bruce - hmm, i feel something is not exactly correct, but cannot tell precisely. something to do with sufficient condition, necessary condition.

1 Dec 2016 16:23:14

evankoh - Always happy to have my articles peer-reviewed. Let me know if you managed to pinpoint the weakness.

1 Dec 2016 16:55:27

seekingprivatereturn - The y-axis for P/E vs Earnings Change (1 year) really need some tinkering. Should have reduced the range, i think.

Actually I wasnt surprised by this fact - slight negative correlation between P/E and Total Returns. Really plays into the theme of value investing by the more traditional investors like Benjamin Graham.

1 Dec 2016 21:58:33

sggamelover - My view is, I will buy only if very very sure the company's earning growth rate will turn down the P/E below 15 after 2-3 years. If not I would rather choose other stock. There are so many company in market, we have enough choice to avoid this company.

2 Dec 2016 08:24:10

evankoh - @seekingprivatereturn, good point. Updated the graphs to more reduced range.

@sggamelover, I see. I guess what I learn from this is that P/E is just one dimension to consider but not necessary the condition that MUST be satisfy before proceeding (i.e. If current P/E >20, then throw company aside)

2 Dec 2016 09:44:37

sggamelover - @evankoh Warran Buffet once said

âFor the investor, a too-high purchase price for the stock of an excellent company can undo the effects of a subsequent decade of favorable business developments.â

We should always buy a wonderful company with fair price. If don't have this kind of company, we can just wait for them to appear. But the fact is, there are always have this kind of companies in all market around the world.

2 Dec 2016 19:52:24

evankoh - @sggamelover, I am not sure if you are implying that high P/E implies "too-high purchase price". If yes, I do not agree :)

Since P/E simply means price over earnings and earnings can be low for various reasons due to accounting styles which does not always mean a company is unhealthy.

2 Dec 2016 21:05:47

jarwey - how i interpret this scatter plot is that majority (it looks like to me anyway) have negative returns, regardless of their P/E... conclusion is P/E is not a useful indicator to determine returns.

7 Dec 2016 21:27:07

evankoh - @jarwey, maybe you are right :)

8 Dec 2016 07:11:02

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By evankoh posted on 30 Nov 2016 - 2,259 views

It has often been advocated to avoid any stocks with a high P/E. The common argument is that you would be overpaying for hype stocks.

However, overpaying or not depends on how the high P/E stocks behaves

Of course, this is only one counter example. In this article, I would demonstrate in general if a higher P/E means higher growth in the context of the Singapore stock market.

In particular, I am going to look at the following two dimensions:

1)

Does a higher P/E lead to higher earnings change going forward (1 year and 3 years)? By paying for a high P/E, investors are betting that the earnings of the companies will grow significantly such that it is worth paying for the high P/E upfront.

Figure 1 - P/E vs Earnings Change (1 year)

Figure 2 - P/E vs Earnings Change (3 years)

Looking at the two graphs above, it is obvious that as the P/E (x-axis) increases, it does not influence earnings change.

2)

Does a higher P/E leads to higher total returns going forward (1 year and 3 years)? Ultimately, investors want to earn returns on investments. It is certainly worth paying for high P/E if it gives us higher total returns.

Figure 3 - P/E vs Total Returns Change (1 year)

Figure 4 - P/E vs Total Returns Change (3 years)

Similarly, Figures 3 and 4 above show that as the P/E (x-axis) increases, it also does not affect total returns.

To be more mathematically rigorous, I have computed the Spearman correlation for them as well.

P/E vs Earnings Spearman (1 year): -0.0085

P/E vs Earnings Spearman (3 years): -0.0580

P/E vs Total Returns Spearman (1 year): -0.1437

P/E vs Total Returns Spearman (3 years): -0.1871

What the Spearman correlation tells us is that

The conclusion of the results is: although it is not worth paying for high P/E, it is not necessary to avoid them completely.

Happy investing!

---

For those that are interested in the methodology on how the data points are generated.

1) P/E vs Earnings (1 year)

Taking all end of year P/E between 2010 and 2015, pair it with the change of earnings between then and one year later. Total data points available were 1,292.

2) P/E vs Earnings (3 years)

Taking all end of year P/E between 2010 and 2015, pair it the change of earnings between then and three years later. Total data points available were 410.

3) P/E vs Total Returns (1 year)

Randomly picking ten dates between 2010 and 2015, use the P/E and pair it with the change to total returns between then and one year later. Total data points available were 2,973. Note that total returns is computed by ("one year later close" + "dividends given out during this period") / "current close" - 1

4) P/E vs Total Returns (3 years)

Randomly picking ten dates between 2010 and 2015, use the P/E and pair it with the change to total returns between then and three years later. Total data points available were 3,430. Note that total returns is computed by ("one year later close" + "dividends given out during this period") / "current close" - 1

Note that I have also cut off the graph where the P/E is greater than 100 as they are sparse outliers which made the graph harder to view.

Like

4 likes

9 comments

bruce - hmm, i feel something is not exactly correct, but cannot tell precisely. something to do with sufficient condition, necessary condition.

1 Dec 2016 16:23:14

evankoh - Always happy to have my articles peer-reviewed. Let me know if you managed to pinpoint the weakness.

1 Dec 2016 16:55:27

seekingprivatereturn - The y-axis for P/E vs Earnings Change (1 year) really need some tinkering. Should have reduced the range, i think.

Actually I wasnt surprised by this fact - slight negative correlation between P/E and Total Returns. Really plays into the theme of value investing by the more traditional investors like Benjamin Graham.

1 Dec 2016 21:58:33

sggamelover - My view is, I will buy only if very very sure the company's earning growth rate will turn down the P/E below 15 after 2-3 years. If not I would rather choose other stock. There are so many company in market, we have enough choice to avoid this company.

2 Dec 2016 08:24:10

evankoh - @seekingprivatereturn, good point. Updated the graphs to more reduced range.

@sggamelover, I see. I guess what I learn from this is that P/E is just one dimension to consider but not necessary the condition that MUST be satisfy before proceeding (i.e. If current P/E >20, then throw company aside)

2 Dec 2016 09:44:37

sggamelover - @evankoh Warran Buffet once said

âFor the investor, a too-high purchase price for the stock of an excellent company can undo the effects of a subsequent decade of favorable business developments.â

We should always buy a wonderful company with fair price. If don't have this kind of company, we can just wait for them to appear. But the fact is, there are always have this kind of companies in all market around the world.

2 Dec 2016 19:52:24

evankoh - @sggamelover, I am not sure if you are implying that high P/E implies "too-high purchase price". If yes, I do not agree :)

Since P/E simply means price over earnings and earnings can be low for various reasons due to accounting styles which does not always mean a company is unhealthy.

2 Dec 2016 21:05:47

jarwey - how i interpret this scatter plot is that majority (it looks like to me anyway) have negative returns, regardless of their P/E... conclusion is P/E is not a useful indicator to determine returns.

7 Dec 2016 21:27:07

evankoh - @jarwey, maybe you are right :)

8 Dec 2016 07:11:02

Next Article > < Previous Article

Invisible Updates Are You Using The New Stock Screener? ...

List All Articles

My investment strategy

I generally prefer a buy and hold approach. It is because I view shares of companies as entitlement to profits, and profits of good companies would only increase over time even if their short-term share price fluctuates. Also, capital gain is not recurring income whereas dividend gain is, and the latter is important to me since I am investing to retire. Of course, the question would be how to differentiate ...

Becoming an Angel Investor

Last week, when I shared my portfolio in another article. I received comments privately from several people such as "50 stocks in your portfolio?!?! I think 30 should provide more than enough diversification", "Have you heard of Warren Buffet's 20 slot rules?", "Why are you holding so many different stocks?" etc. Well, there are a few reasons to this. 1) I have yet to devise or find a sound approach ...

Introducing The New Stock Screener

Previously, I mostly viewed "What stocks to buy" as a ranking problem. What this means is that I would rank all the stocks available based on some criteria and pick the top few to purchase. Hence, tools that I built tend to generate a score and ranked accordingly. Examples are iAssist, Dividend Strength and Scorer (Scorer was previously known as Screener). However, after taking the eVIMC course and ...

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