A low P/E does not necessarily mean higher risk, though the company should be studied with that possibility in mind.
- The low P/E stock may be selected anyway if, for example, it is a cyclical stock at a low in its cycle. Cyclical stocks - automobile manufacturers are the most notorious among them - periodically develop fire-sale P/E ratios.
- Other out-of-favour stocks also can drop to surprisingly low P/Es.
On the other hand, if a stock is cheap in terms of its multiple for a troubling reason (or permanent deterioration of business fundamentals), such as pending depletion of oil or mineral reserves or a patent expiration, the value investor may want to shop elsewhere.
Often the low P/E is appropriate for the stock as it is perceived to have poor potential for growth or its earnings are poor, volatile and less stable.