A:

When it comes to valuing stocks, the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is one of the oldest and most frequently used metrics. It is calculated by taking a company's share price and dividing this by its earnings per share. This provides a measure of the price being paid for the earnings - the higher the P/E, the more expensive the earnings. However, a company's standalone P/E doesn't give us a full picture of how expensive a stock is unless we look at it relative to the company's industry or a broad market index such as the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA).

You can find an industry's P/E by analyzing industry statistics through finance websites such as Yahoo! Finance. If your company's P/E differs greatly from the industry's, you should investigate why there is a difference. If a company's P/E is twice as large as the industry's, this means investors should proceed cautiously, because no company can grow faster than the overall industry forever.

The P/E of an index - the total price of the index divided by its total earnings - is a little more difficult to come upon. Many financial websites have P/Es for individual companies, but not for indexes like the DJIA or S&P 500. To get this information, you have to go straight to the source - the index's publishers. For example, you can find the P/E for the S&P 500 on the Standard & Poor's website and for the DJIA on the Dow Jones website.

Another way to get an estimate of the P/E ratio is to look at the P/E ratio of an exchange-traded fund (ETF), which closely follows the index in question. While this measure is not as exact as the index's own measure, the information is a lot easier to find. For example, the P/E for the Wilshire 5000 can be obtained through VIPERS or the Nasdaq 100. This will work with the DJIA and the S&P 500 as well.

etf.gif

Again, the P/E found on an ETF will not be exactly the same as the P/E of the index. This discrepancy is due to the fees charged on an ETF, along with the fact that ETFs are traded on the stock market. Fluctuations in the price of the ETF are affected by both the underlying index and the regular price movement of the ETF, which acts like a stock. However, the return on an ETF is often very close to the index's return.

(For further reading, see Understanding the P/E Ratio and Introduction To Exchange-Traded Funds.)

RELATED FAQS
  1. What does a high turnover ratio signify for an investment fund?

    If an investment fund has a high turnover ratio, it indicates it replaces most or all of its holdings over a one-year period. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Does index trading increase market vulnerability?

    The rise of index trading may increase the overall vulnerability of the stock market due to increased correlations between ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the difference between passive and active asset management?

    Asset management utilizes two main investment strategies that can be used to generate returns: active asset management and ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How can EV/EBITDA be used in conjunction with the P/E ratio?

    Because they provide different perspectives of analysis, the EV/EBITDA multiple and the P/E ratio can be used together to ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Is there a situation in which wash trading is legal?

    Wash trading, the intentional practice of manipulating a stock's activity level to deceive other investors, is not a legal ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the average price-to-earnings ratio in the retail sector?

    According to NYU's Stern School of Business, as of January 2015, using trailing 12-month data, the average price-to-earnings ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: PowerShares FTSE RAFI Emerging Mkts

    Learn more about the PowerShares FTSE RAFI Emerging Markets ETF, a fundamentally weighted fund that tracks emerging market equities.
  2. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares Cali AMT-Free Muni Bond

    Learn more about the iShares California AMT-Free Municipal Bond exchange-traded fund, a popular tax-advantaged ETF that dominates its category.
  3. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: SPDR S&P Emerging Markets Dividend

    Learn more about the SDPR S&P Emerging Markets Dividend Fund, a yield-focused exchange-traded fund tracking global emerging economies.
  4. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: First Trust Dow Jones Global Sel Div

    Find out about the First Trust Dow Jones Global Select Dividend Index Fund, and learn detailed information about characteristics and suitability of the fund.
  5. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: U.S 12 Month Natural Gas

    Learn about the United States 12 Month Natural Gas Fund, an exchange-traded fund that invests in 12-month futures contracts for natural gas.
  6. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares Floating Rate Bond

    Explore detailed analysis and information of the iShares Floating Rate Bond ETF, and learn how to use this ETF as a defense against rising interest rates.
  7. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: ProShares UltraPro Short S&P500

    Find out information about the ProShares UltraPro Short S&P 500 exchange-traded fund, and learn detailed analysis of its characteristics and suitability.
  8. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: SPDR Barclays Investment Grd Fl Rt

    Learn more about the SPDR Barclays Investment Grade Floating Rate Fund, which tracks an index of highly rated floating debt securities.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: ALPS Medical Breakthroughs

    Learn more about a unique and innovative exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the biotechnology industry: the ALPS Medical Breakthroughs Fund.
  10. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares US Healthcare

    Learn about the iShares U.S. Healthcare exchange-traded fund, which invests in a wide range of health care providers, hospitals and home care facilities.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF)

    A security that tracks an index, a commodity or a basket of assets ...
  2. Price-Earnings Ratio - P/E Ratio

    The Price-to-Earnings Ratio or P/E ratio is a ratio for valuing ...
  3. Exchange-Traded Mutual Funds (ETMF)

    Investopedia explains the definition of exchange-traded mutual ...
  4. Lion economies

    A nickname given to Africa's growing economies.
  5. S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats

    Companies that have had an increase in dividends for 25 consecutive ...
  6. Factor Investing

    An investment strategy in which securities are chosen based on ...

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!