Investing isn't easy. Even Warren Buffett counsels that most investors should invest in a low-cost index like the S&P 500. That way, "you'll be buying into a wonderful industry, which in effect is all of American industry," he says.
But there are, of course, companies whose long-term fortunes differ substantially from the index. In this series, we look at how individual stocks have performed against the broad S&P 500.
Step on up, Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI).
Baker Hughes shares have underperformed the S&P 500 over the past quarter-century:
Since 1987, shares have returned an average of 6.7% a year, compared with 9.7% a year for the S&P (both include dividends). That difference adds up fast. One thousand dollars invested in the S&P in 1987 would be worth $19,200 today. In Baker Hughes, it'd be worth just $7,900.
Dividends accounted for a lot of those gains. Compounded since 1987, dividends have made up about 50% of Baker Hughes' total returns. For the S&P, dividends account for 39% of total returns.
Now have a look at how Baker Hughes' earnings compare with S&P 500 earnings:
Some outperformance here. Since 1995, Baker Hughes earnings per share have increased by an average of 9% a year, compared with 6% a year for the broader index.
What's that meant for valuations? Baker Hughes has traded for an average of 34 times earnings since 1987 -- well above the 24 times earnings of the broader S&P 500. It's far different today, however. Baker Hughes currently trades for about 11 times next year's expected earnings.
Through it all, shares have been disappointments over the past quarter-century.
Of course, the important question is whether that will continue. That's where you come in. Our CAPS community currently ranks Baker Hughes with a four-star rating (out of five). Care to disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, or add Baker Hughes to My Watchlist.
Fool contributor Morgan Housel and The Motley Fool have no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.