Q: Where can I look up historical price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios online?
A:The ycharts.com website will give you several years’ worth of P/E numbers.
At Morningstar.com, enter the ticker symbol to get to a company’s page, and then click on the “Valuation” tab.
You’ll get the current P/E, the average for the industry, the S&P 500’s current P/E and the company’s five-year average. There’s even a “forward” P/E based on expected earnings over the coming year.
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Q: Is it better for a company’s projected price-to-earnings ratio (PPE) to be higher or lower than the current price-to-earnings ratio (P/E)?
A: The P/E is simply a company’s current stock price divided by its earnings per share (EPS) for the trailing 12 months. The projected, or forward, P/E divides the stock price by next year’s estimated EPS.
Investors like to see a forward P/E lower than the current P/E because it means earnings are expected to rise. Imagine a company trading at $48 per share with EPS over the past year of $2.
Its P/E would be 48 divided by 2, or 24. If it is expected to rake in EPS of $3 next year, its PPE would be 48 divided by 3, or 16. The lower number is due to the company’s expected growth.