Whole Foods' shares are up nearly 60% since the start of last year and trade at 54 times estimates of their per-share earnings for this fiscal year, according to Thomson Financial. That is about three times the valuation of its peers and for the average stock in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock Index, to which the stock was added this year.
Pricey stocks can remain aloft for a long time, but Whole Foods' price/earnings ratio has analysts worried because they see possible banana peels. Other grocers are beginning to copy the Whole Foods approach and could undercut the company. Despite store openings in Canada and the United Kingdom, the company eventually will run out of consumers willing to shop at high-end stores that some jokingly call "Whole Paycheck," the bears argue.
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