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, Southwest Gas .
Southwest Gas shares have underperformed the S&P 500 over the past quarter-century:
Source: S&P Capital IQ.
Since 1987, shares have returned an average of 8.2% a year, compared with 9.7% a year for the S&P (both include dividends). One thousand dollars invested in the S&P in 1987 would be worth $19,200 today. In Southwest Gas, it'd be worth $12,600.
Dividends accounted for a lot of those gains. Compounded since 1987, dividends have made up 79% all of Southwest Gas' returns. For the S&P, dividends account for 39% of total returns.
Now have a look at how Southwest Gas earnings compare with S&P 500 earnings:
Source: S&P Capital IQ.
Decent outperformance here. Since 1995, Southwest Gas' earnings per share have increased by an average of 10.4% per year, compared with 6% a year for the broader index.
What's that meant for valuations? Southwest Gas has traded for an average of 22 times earnings since 1987 -- just below the 24 times earnings for the broader S&P 500.
Through it all, shares have been slight 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 Southwest Gas with a five-star rating (out of five). Care to disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, or add Southwest Gas to My Watchlist.
Profiting from our increasingly global economy can be as easy as investing in your own backyard. Our free report "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World" shows you how. Click here to get your free copy before it's gone.
The article Stocks for the Long Run: Southwest Gas vs. the S&P 500 originally appeared on Fool.com.
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.