The analysis of a business' health starts with financial statement analysis that includes ratios. It looks at dividends paid, operating cash flow, new equity issues and capital financing. The earnings estimates and growth rate projections published widely by Thomson Reuters and others can be considered either 'fundamental' (they are facts) or 'technical' (they are investor sentiment) based on your perception of their validity.
The determined growth rates (of income and cash) and risk levels (to determine the discount rate) are used in various valuation models. The foremost is the discounted cash flow model, which calculates the present value of the future
- dividends received by the investor, along with the eventual sale price. (Gordon model)
- earnings of the company, or
- cash flows of the company.
The amount of debt is also a major consideration in determining a company's health. It can be quickly assessed using the debt to equity ratio and the current ratio (current assets/current liabilities).
The simple model commonly used is the Price/Earnings ratio. Implicit in this model of a perpetual annuity (Time value of money) is that the 'flip' of the P/E is the discount rate appropriate to the risk of the business. The multiple accepted is adjusted for expected growth (that is not built into the model).
Computer modelling of stock prices has now replaced much of the subjective interpretation of fundamental data (along with technical data) in the industry. Since about year 2000, with the power of computers to crunch vast quantities of data, a new career has been invented. At some funds (called Quant Funds) the manager's decisions have been replaced by proprietary mathematical models.[