It’s earnings season again, and that means hundreds of publicly traded companies are getting ready to report their second-quarter financial results.

And if you’ve invested in the stock market, or are thinking about it, it’s important to pay attention. Publicly traded companies are required to file something called an earnings report every quarter. Earnings season is one of the best ways to get current information about companies whose stock you own, or are thinking of purchasing.

Although key indexes such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 are at or near record levels, experts are concerned that the trade war with China, as well as slowing economic growth nationally and globally, could result in lower earnings this quarter.  In fact, two-thirds of companies that issue earnings estimates have reportedly issued negative forecasts—meaning their revenue and earnings growth are likely to be lower than they expected.

Who is reporting?

More than a thousand companies are reporting—including in the financial services, health care, real estate, and technology sectors. Already,  big banks including Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, U.S. Bancorp, and Wells Fargo have filed earnings reports. A number of consumer companies, including Alkaline Water Co., Domino’s, Johnson & Johnson, and Levi Strauss, as well as some of the largest U.S. airlines, have also reported their most recent financial results.

What’s a quarter?

Simply put, a quarter is a way to divide up the year, most often for financial accounting purposes.

A quarter happens every three months. According to a standard calendar year—one that begins on January 1 and ends December 31—the first quarter ends on March 31. The second quarter ends on June 30. The third quarter ends on September 30, and the fourth quarter ends on December 31. But companies can, and often do, divide up their years into quarters that follow something called a fiscal year, for accounting or other purposes. In that case, they can structure their quarters to end in any three month period.

What are earnings again?

Earnings are an accounting of how much a company has made or lost during a quarter, or for the year. Plenty of things go into an earnings report. Among them are an accounting of sales, revenue, earnings per share, losses, acquisitions of other companies, and other critical financial information. You can learn more about earnings reports here.

How can I find out more about company earnings?

Earnings are public, and companies file their reports every quarter with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC even has a website called EDGAR,  where you can search on any publicly traded company and read its quarterly earnings reports. Quarterly earnings reports are called 10-Qs.

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