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Being able to track a declining margin can give you a heads-up that you must adjust your prices or your costs. In the worst cases your gross profit and profit margin disappear altogether. At that point, you’ll be like the fellow who lost money on every sale but figured he could make it up in volume. Don’t do it.

Once you know the ratio, compare it for parallels with the other companies in the industries and for the market as a whole. Never forget, stocks with a very high p/e ratio can fall dramatically when even the littlest thing goes sour.

A company’s stock price is driven by earnings growth over the length of time. Occasionally earnings can occur when cuts are made, but in the end, increased revenues have to increase if earnings are to keep escalating. A good sign of a company is when they are increasing their revenues. When a company has ‘flagging sales’, it could be a sign of trouble for the future. Earnings growth says the company is making more than enough to combat their cost of operation. Well established companies need to show consistent results. Younger companies tend to display strong revenue growth with little or no earnings.