Southern Copper (NYSE:SCCO) jumps 13% this week, though earnings growth is still tracking behind three-year shareholder returns

By buying an index fund, investors can approximate the average market return. But if you pick the right individual stocks, you could make more than that. Just take a look at Southern Copper Corporation (NYSE:SCCO), which is up 69%, over three years, soundly beating the market return of 17% (not including dividends). On the other hand, the returns haven’t been quite so good recently, with shareholders up just 15% , including dividends .

Since the stock has added US$6.7b to its market cap in the past week alone, let’s see if underlying performance has been driving long-term returns.

View our latest analysis for Southern Copper

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.

During three years of share price growth, Southern Copper achieved compound earnings per share growth of 20% per year. We note that the 19% yearly (average) share price gain isn’t too far from the EPS growth rate. Coincidence? Probably not. This suggests that sentiment and expectations have not changed drastically. Quite to the contrary, the share price has arguably reflected the EPS growth.

The company’s earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

earnings-per-share-growth

It’s probably worth noting that the CEO is paid less than the median at similar sized companies. It’s always worth keeping an eye on CEO pay, but a more important question is whether the company will grow earnings throughout the years. Dive deeper into the earnings by checking this interactive graph of Southern Copper’s earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of Southern Copper, it has a TSR of 96% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

It’s nice to see that Southern Copper shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 15% over the last year. Of course, that includes the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 13%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We’ve identified 2 warning signs with Southern Copper (at least 1 which is a bit concerning) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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By Matt Earle

Matthew Earle is the Founder of MiningFeeds. In 2005, Matt founded MiningNerds.com to provide data and information to the mining investment community. This site was merged with Highgrade Review to form MiningFeeds. Matt has a B.Sc. degree with a minor in geology from the University of Toronto.

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