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Earnings season is the term used to identify various times of the calendar year when publicly traded corporations release information about their earnings to the general public. Seasons of this type normally follow immediately after quarterly earnings meetings are held with investors. Traditionally, there are short seasons throughout the calendar year when most corporations make financial information of this type widely available via written documents, press releases, and the posting of information on corporate web sites.
While there are some exceptions, earnings season for many corporations begins the month after each business quarter ends. This means that once the final quarter of the year is completed as of 31 December, earnings season will commence by the end of January. This short time between the close of a business quarter and the release of financial information to the general public allows the company time to compile the data in formats that are easy to read and understand. The interim period also provides time for the date to be presented to shareholders before releasing the information to various public outlets.
The length of a given earnings season will vary, depending on the number of companies that choose to release information that particular season. Some companies release data of this type each quarter, while others provide semi-annual financial data to the general public. In most cases, a particular earnings season is not likely to last more than six weeks, and may be as short as four weeks.
Regardless of the length of the earnings season, these periods are usually extremely busy times for industry analysts, brokerage houses, and investors. The data released can have a profound impact on the shares of stock issued by a particular company, as well as on the industry associated with the company. Analysts and brokers will seek to utilize the data to determine if stocks will rise, fall, or remain at their current levels. These projections make it possible for investors to decide whether to hold on to current shares in their possession, acquire additional shares, or to sell off their shares of a given stock.
At one time, earnings season saw the mass distribution of paper documents to various news agencies, brokerage houses, and other interested parties. Since the advent of the Internet, many companies have opted to make this type of information available on corporate web sites, making it possible for anyone to access the data with ease. Some companies also release audio and web conference recordings of the investor earnings meetings held with shareholders concurrently or just prior to the release of the earnings information to the general public.