What It Is:
How It Works/Example:
The net (after-tax) earnings of a company are calculated by deducting such factors as operating expenses, cost of sales, taxes, and the like. Company earnings figures are usually released on a quarterly basis, but may also refer to annual earnings.
Earnings are, in many cases, the most important factor determining stock prices for a company. For example, company ABC releases information that earnings for the third quarter (Q3) have risen from $10,000,000 to $20,000,000. At the same time, company XYZ releases figures showing a drop in earnings for the same period from $900,000 to $750,000.
Why It Matters:
Earnings are probably the single most important indicator of a company's financial strength and growth potential. Earnings figures are used by investment analysts to provide estimates of a company's growth potential and offer target price estimates for investors interested in purchasing shares. Many new companies may report low, or even negative, earnings whilst attempting to find market potential for a particular good or service, and yet receive positive estimates from investment analysts for the simple reason that investors believe the company will grow in the near future.