Looking into the current session, Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) is trading at $201.12, after a 0.1% decrease. Over the past month, the stock fell by 2.03%, but over the past year, it actually went up by 12.12%. With questionable short-term performance like this, and great long-term performance, long-term shareholders might want to start looking into the company's price-to-earnings ratio.
Assuming that all other factors are held constant, this could present itself as an opportunity for shareholders trying to capitalize on the higher share price. The stock is currently below from its 52 week high by 18.47%.
The P/E ratio is used by long-term shareholders to assess the company's market performance against aggregate market data, historical earnings, and the industry at large. A lower P/E can either represent a company's poor future earnings potential or a buying opportunity relative to other stocks. It shows that shareholders are less than willing to pay a high share price, because they do not expect the company to exhibit growth, in terms of future earnings.
Depending on the particular phase of a business cycle, some industries will perform better than others.
Compared to the aggregate P/E ratio of the 26.24 in the Machinery industry, Caterpillar Inc. has a lower P/E ratio of 21.52. Shareholders might be inclined to think that the stock might perform worse than its industry peers. It's also possible that the stock is undervalued.
Price to earnings ratio is not always a great indicator of the company's performance. Depending on the earnings makeup of a company, investors can become unable to attain key insights from trailing earnings.