Is Wal-Mart Undervalued Today?

The market is supposed to be a hyper-efficient weighing machine in the long run, but that's not always the case. Those mismatches between market value and business performance often create outsize investing opportunities.

For an example of this, take a look at retail giant Wal-Mart Stores . The stock price is struggling to keep up with Wal-Mart's peers on the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the last decade, even if you reinvested every dividend check along the way:

WMT Chart

WMT data by YCharts.

But you can't blame Wal-Mart's business for any of this market lag. Over this period, the store chain has doubled revenue while nearly tripling cash flow and earnings. Keep in mind that the Waltons have been battling the law of large numbers throughout this decade. It's not easy to double a $230 billion top line, you know. Investors should expect more than a 56% total return for this fantastic performance.

WMT EPS Diluted TTM Chart

WMT EPS Diluted TTM data by YCharts.

The master of low costs and high efficiency thrives in challenging markets, as you can see in the cash flow spike during the 2008 recession. Free cash flow keeps growing at a double-digit clip every year, so you can't even claim that Wal-Mart shares should be cheap due to dying growth.

WMT PE Ratio TTM Chart

WMT P/E Ratio TTM data by YCharts.

All things considered, Wal-Mart shares look spring-loaded at current prices.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any company mentioned. Check out Anders' bio and holdings or follow him on Twitter and Google+.The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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