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Why You Should Ignore Apple's Earnings-Per-Share Number

By Motley Fool Staff - May 5, 2016 at 8:00AM

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Following earnings, top- and bottom-line numbers dominate headlines, but do they really matter? The Motley Fool’s Nathan Hamilton explains why he doesn’t pay them much attention.

It's easy to get suckered in by commonly reported numbers, but not all of them are as important as you might think.

In this segment from the Industry Focus: Tech podcast, Dylan Lewis and Nathan Hamilton explain why earnings per share (EPS),  an ever-popular number for the headlines, is essentially a useless metric for long-term investors who want to know about a company's health and potential.

A transcript follows the video.

This podcast was recorded on April 29, 2016. 

Dylan Lewis: The one thing you said to ignore when you did the show was EPS in Apple's (AAPL -2.98%) report. You said, the$2.59 EPS estimate doesn't tell you anything about where the company is going to be in the next five years. This quarter, I think they delivered $1.90 in share, diluted per-share earnings was within guidance, but off analyst expectations. So, I'll pose to you again, is this something we should ignore?

Nathan Hamilton: This is my personal opinion. It's not a one-size-fits-all for everyone. I, honestly, over the past year, even the most recent quarter, I could not tell you what Apple's EPS numbers were. I could tell you everything else about the business and discuss it. But it's not anything I focus on, because, for the way I invest, it just doesn't have any relevance. 

Some people out there, maybe it does make sense. Maybe they do need to focus on EPS. And maybe I'm backtracking on my staunch stance before. But I think for the type of investing we look at in The Motley Fool, and maybe you do with your Apple shares, and the way I do with mine, it just doesn't matter at all. It's a headline number that people focus on for a week after earnings, then completely forget about and remember a week before earnings are in the next quarter.

For me, it just doesn't give any sort of indication of the business. For example, I believe their revenues were down 13% when accounting for currency fluctuations. Don't quote me on that exactly, but I believe it was right around that number. That's uncontrollable.

Lewis: Yeah, that's a macro factor you can't do anything about.

 Yeah. Does it tell you anything about the business? No, not necessarily. Does it tell that Apple is no longer innovative? No. Does it tell you that Apple is managing its expenses well as that currency flows down to net income? No. It doesn't tell you all the important stuff.

Taking that into account, for my purposes, I just don't focus on it. But, hey, if there are people out there who do, I'd love to hear your opinions. Send me an email. I'll look it over.

Lewis: Yeah, I'm a firm believer in checking out the underlying business segments and using them as my guide. So, the second half of the show, we'll get into that a little bit.

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