Every investor would love to stumble upon the perfect stock. But will you ever really find a stock that provides everything you could possibly want?

One thing's for sure: You'll never discover truly great investments unless you actively look for them. Let's discuss the ideal qualities of a perfect stock, then decide if Pan American Silver fits the bill.

The quest for perfection
Stocks that look great based on one factor may prove horrible elsewhere, making due diligence a crucial part of your investing research. The best stocks excel in many different areas, including these important factors:

  • Growth. Expanding businesses show healthy revenue growth. While past growth is no guarantee that revenue will keep rising, it's certainly a better sign than a stagnant top line.
  • Margins. Higher sales mean nothing if a company can't produce profits from them. Strong margins ensure that company can turn revenue into profit.
  • Balance sheet. At debt-laden companies, banks and bondholders compete with shareholders for management's attention. Companies with strong balance sheets don't have to worry about the distraction of debt.
  • Money-making opportunities. Return on equity helps measure how well a company is finding opportunities to turn its resources into profitable business endeavors.
  • Valuation. You can't afford to pay too much for even the best companies. By using normalized figures, you can see how a stock's simple earnings multiple fits into a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. For tangible proof of profits, a check to shareholders every three months can't be beat. Companies with solid dividends and strong commitments to increasing payouts treat shareholders well.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Pan American Silver.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Growth

5-year annual revenue growth > 15%

25.3%

Pass

 

1-year revenue growth > 12%

8.6%

Fail

Margins

Gross margin > 35%

45.2%

Pass

 

Net margin > 15%

9.4%

Fail

Balance sheet

Debt to equity < 50%

2.9%

Pass

 

Current ratio > 1.3

4.96

Pass

Opportunities

Return on equity > 15%

4%

Fail

Valuation

Normalized P/E < 20

20.99

Fail

Dividends

Current yield > 2%

3%

Pass

 

5-year dividend growth > 10%

NM

NM

       
 

Total score

 

5 out of 9

Source: S&P Capital IQ. NM = not meaningful; Pan American Silver paid its first dividend in 2010. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at Pan American Silver last year, the company has dropped three full points, as margins, revenue growth, return on equity, and valuations have all gotten worse even as the dividend yield has risen. The stock has also struggled, falling 25% over the past year.

The entire mining industry has run into troubles recently, underperforming the price of gold and silver bullion as high production costs and other headwinds have hurt their results. The iShares Silver Trust has fallen more than 10% over the past year as the metal has taken a break from its long bull market, and Hecla Mining has also seen declines as its Lucky Friday mine remained shuttered for more than a year until it reopened last month.

Pan American in particular has had a hard time getting approval for its flagship Navidad mine in Argentina. In a difficult political environment within the South American nation, Pan American had to fight against draft legislation last summer that would have approved the mine but only with higher royalties and other concessions that would have made the mine uneconomical. As a result, the company has chosen to defer plans to develop Navidad as well as having walked away from its La Preciosa venture with Orko Silver.

Unfortunately, La Preciosa has become a lightning rod for buyout activity, as both First Majestic Silver and Coeur d'Alene have bid for the mine. That indicates that Pan American left money on the table by not focusing more attention to the joint venture.

For Pan American to improve, it either needs the Argentine government to make major concessions or for its other mining properties to perform well. Otherwise, Pan American could languish for a long time.

Keep searching
No stock is a sure thing, but some stocks are a lot closer to perfect than others. By looking for the perfect stock, you'll go a long way toward improving your investing prowess and learning how to separate out the best investments from the rest.

Looking for more commodities-based ideas? Download the free report, "The Tiny Gold Stock Digging Up Massive Profits." The Motley Fool's analysts have uncovered a little-known gold miner they believe is poised for greatness; find out which company it is and why its future looks bright -- for free!

Click here to add Pan American Silver to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

The article Has Pan American Silver Become the Perfect Stock? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.

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