Unpleasant Surprises Could Be In Store For O'Reilly Automotive, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:ORLY) Shares

O'Reilly Automotive, Inc. +1.28%

O'Reilly Automotive, Inc.

ORLY

1056.65

+1.28%

O'Reilly Automotive, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:ORLY) price-to-earnings (or "P/E") ratio of 28.4x might make it look like a strong sell right now compared to the market in the United States, where around half of the companies have P/E ratios below 17x and even P/E's below 9x are quite common. However, the P/E might be quite high for a reason and it requires further investigation to determine if it's justified.

O'Reilly Automotive certainly has been doing a good job lately as its earnings growth has been positive while most other companies have been seeing their earnings go backwards. The P/E is probably high because investors think the company will continue to navigate the broader market headwinds better than most. If not, then existing shareholders might be a little nervous about the viability of the share price.

View our latest analysis for O'Reilly Automotive

pe-multiple-vs-industry
NasdaqGS:ORLY Price to Earnings Ratio vs Industry March 30th 2024
If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report on O'Reilly Automotive.

How Is O'Reilly Automotive's Growth Trending?

The only time you'd be truly comfortable seeing a P/E as steep as O'Reilly Automotive's is when the company's growth is on track to outshine the market decidedly.

Taking a look back first, we see that the company managed to grow earnings per share by a handy 15% last year. This was backed up an excellent period prior to see EPS up by 67% in total over the last three years. So we can start by confirming that the company has done a great job of growing earnings over that time.

Shifting to the future, estimates from the analysts covering the company suggest earnings should grow by 11% each year over the next three years. That's shaping up to be similar to the 10% per annum growth forecast for the broader market.

With this information, we find it interesting that O'Reilly Automotive is trading at a high P/E compared to the market. It seems most investors are ignoring the fairly average growth expectations and are willing to pay up for exposure to the stock. These shareholders may be setting themselves up for disappointment if the P/E falls to levels more in line with the growth outlook.

What We Can Learn From O'Reilly Automotive's P/E?

It's argued the price-to-earnings ratio is an inferior measure of value within certain industries, but it can be a powerful business sentiment indicator.

We've established that O'Reilly Automotive currently trades on a higher than expected P/E since its forecast growth is only in line with the wider market. When we see an average earnings outlook with market-like growth, we suspect the share price is at risk of declining, sending the high P/E lower. Unless these conditions improve, it's challenging to accept these prices as being reasonable.

Don't forget that there may be other risks. For instance, we've identified 3 warning signs for O'Reilly Automotive (1 is a bit unpleasant) you should be aware of.

It's important to make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a low P/E).

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