What is Earnings Season?

What is Earnings Season?

Earnings season describes not one, but four times in a year, when corporations release their quarterly earnings reports.

Investors look forward to this time because they are able to get an update about how the year is going, compared to projections. After each fiscal quarter ends, there are a few weeks in which companies file their quarterly reports with the SEC and announce their current earnings and sales numbers. Each of these periods is known as earnings season.

For most companies, earnings season will start about two weeks after the quarters end in March, June, September, and December. Some businesses, such as some retail companies, have a schedule shifted a month in one direction or the other. Earnings can be reported via press releases or in the form of SEC filings.

Press releases typically come with commentary from the company management, and they often give guidance for earnings estimates going forward. They are often stated as earnings per share (EPS). The public is typically invited to join an Earnings Call, which might be broadcast using online software or on a conference call 800-number.

The calls feature commentary from the leaders of the company on how things went for them in the last quarter and what they expect from the future. Companies also sometimes give what’s called “guidance” for what investors can expect from the company and the share price, but it is usually better to rely on third-party analysis for that.

Analysts will issue earnings forecasts for companies in the months leading up to the announcements. If the earnings ends up being better than expected, it’s sometimes called a positive surprise, and a negative surprise if the earnings are not as high as expected.

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