In financial markets, stock valuation is the method of calculating theoretical values of companies and their stocks. The main use of these methods is to predict future market prices, or more generally potential market prices, and thus to profit from price movement – stocks that are judged undervalued (with respect to their theoretical value) are bought, while stocks that are judgedovervalued are sold, in the expectation that undervalued stocks will, on the whole, rise in value, while overvalued stocks will, on the whole, fall.
In the view of fundamental analysis, stock valuation based on fundamentals aims to give an estimate of their intrinsic value of the stock, based on predictions of the future cash flows and profitability of the business. Fundamental analysis may be replaced or augmented by market criteria – what the market will pay for the stock, without any necessary notion of intrinsic value. These can be combined as “predictions of future cash flows/profits (fundamental)”, together with “what will the market pay for these profits?”. These can be seen as “supply and demand” sides – what underlies the supply (of stock), and what drives the (market) demand for stock?
In the view of others, such as John Maynard Keynes, stock valuation is not a prediction but a convention, which serves to facilitate investment and ensure that stocks are liquid, despite being underpinned by an illiquid business and its illiquid investments, such as factories.
The most theoretically sound stock valuation method, called income valuation or the discounted cash flow (DCF) method, involves discounting of the profits (dividends, earnings, or cash flows) the stock will bring to the stockholder in the foreseeable future, and a final value on disposal. The discounted rate normally includes a risk premium which is commonly based on the capital asset pricing model.
In July 2010, a Delaware court ruled on appropriate inputs to use in discounted cash flow analysis in a dispute between shareholders and a company over the proper fair value of the stock. In this case the shareholders’ model provided value of $139 per share and the company’s model provided $89 per share. Contested inputs included the terminal growth rate, the equity risk premium, and beta.
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Stock Valuation Methods
Stocks have two types of valuations. One is a value created using some type of cash flow, sales or fundamental earnings analysis. The other value is dictated by how much an investor is willing to pay for a particular share of stock and by how much other investors are willing to sell a stock for (in other words, by supply and demand). Both of these values change over time as investors change the way they analyze stocks and as they become more or less confident in the future of stocks.
The fundamental valuation is the valuation that people use to justify stock prices. The most common example of this type of valuation methodology is P/E ratio, which stands for Price to Earnings Ratio. This form of valuation is based on historic ratios and statistics and aims to assign value to a stock based on measurable attributes. This form of valuation is typically what drives long-term stock prices.
The other way stocks are valued is based on supply and demand. The more people that want to buy the stock, the higher its price will be. And conversely, the more people that want to sell the stock, the lower the price will be. This form of valuation is very hard to understand or predict, and it often drives the short-term stock market trends.
There are many different ways to value stocks. The key is to take each approach into account while formulating an overall opinion of the stock. If the valuation of a company is lower or higher than other similar stocks, then the next step would be to determine the reasons.
Earnings Per Share (EPS).
EPS is the total net income of the company divided by the number of shares outstanding. They usually have a GAAP EPS number (which means that it is computed using all of mutually agreed upon accounting rules) and a Pro Forma EPS figure (which means that they have adjusted the income to exclude any one time items as well as some non-cash items like amortization of goodwill or stock option expenses). The most important thing to look for in the EPS figure is the overall quality of earnings. Make sure the company is not trying to manipulate their EPS numbers to make it look like they are more profitable. Also, look at the growth in EPS over the past several quarters / years to understand how volatile their EPS is, and to see if they are an underachiever or an overachiever. In other words, have they consistently beaten expectations or are they constantly restating and lowering their forecasts?
The EPS number that most analysts use is the pro forma EPS. To compute this number, use the net income that excludes any one-time gains or losses and excludes any non-cash expenses like stock options or amortization of goodwill. Then divide this number by the number of fully diluted shares outstanding. Historical EPS figures and forecasts for the next 1–2 years can be found by visiting free financial sites such as Yahoo Finance (enter the ticker and then click on “estimates”).
Through fundamental investment research, one can determine their own EPS forecasts and apply other valuation techniques below.