Financial Statements for Fundamental Stock Analysis

If you are serious on getting to the bottom of the stock investment success through Fundamental Stock Analysis, your first step would be to understand how you can use the financial statements disclosed by the companies. While these financial documents look confusing at the first glance, when you get the basic understanding, what the numbers mean, you will get a nice impression on the real company standing, expressed in monetary terms. While the numbers might be slightly tweaked by the professional accountants, the corporate reporting guidelines and independent financial audits limit the company’s abilities for the major public deception.

Financial statements are the medium by which a company discloses information concerning its financial performance. Followers of fundamental analysis use the quantitative information gleaned from financial statements to make investment decisions. The financial statements of a company are the most useful tools in analyzing the potential of a stock. Companies publish numerous financial statements, and they can vary from company to company depending on the sector. The most important ones to look at, however, are the income statement, balance sheet, and the cash flow statement.

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The Major Statements

The Balance Sheet

The balance sheet represents a record of a company's assets, liabilities and equity at a particular point in time. The balance sheet is named by the fact that a business's financial structure balances in the following manner:

Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders' Equity

Assets are things that a company owns that have value. This typically means they can either be sold or used by the company to make products or provide services that can be sold. Assets include physical property, such as plants, trucks, equipment and inventory. It also includes things that can’t be touched but nevertheless exist and have value, such as trademarks and patents. And cash itself is an asset. So are investments a company makes.

Assets are generally listed based on how quickly they will be converted into cash. Current assets are things a company expects to convert to cash within one year. A good example is inventory. Most companies expect to sell their inventory for cash within one year. Noncurrent assets are things a company does not expect to convert to cash within one year or that would take longer than one year to sell. Noncurrent assets include fixed assets. Fixed assets are those assets used to operate the business but that are not available for sale, such as trucks, office furniture and other property.

Liabilities are amounts of money that a company owes to others. This can include all kinds of obligations, like money borrowed from a bank to launch a new product, rent for use of a building, money owed to suppliers for materials, payroll a company owes to its employees, environmental cleanup costs, or taxes owed to the government. Liabilities also include obligations to provide goods or services to customers in the future.

Liabilities are generally listed based on their due dates. Liabilities are said to be either current or long-term. Current liabilities are obligations a company expects to pay off within the year. Long-term liabilities are obligations due more than one year away.

Shareholders’ equity is sometimes called capital or net worth. It’s the money that would be left if a company sold all of its assets and paid off all of its liabilities. This leftover money belongs to the shareholders, or the owners, of the company.

Shareholders’ equity is the amount owners invested in the company’s stock plus or minus the company’s earnings or losses since inception. Sometimes companies distribute earnings, instead of retaining them. These distributions are called dividends.

A balance sheet shows a snapshot of a company’s assets, liabilities and shareholders’ equity at the end of the reporting period. It does not show the flows into and out of the accounts during the period.

The Income Statement

An income statement is a report that shows how much revenue a company earned over a specific time period (usually for a year or some portion of a year). An income statement also shows the costs and expenses associated with earning that revenue. The literal “bottom line” of the statement usually shows the company’s net earnings or losses. This tells you how much the company earned or lost over the period.

Income statements also report earnings per share (or “EPS”). This calculation tells you how much money shareholders would receive if the company decided to distribute all of the net earnings for the period.

To understand how income statements are set up, think of them as a set of stairs. You start at the top with the total amount of sales made during the accounting period. Then you go down, one step at a time. At each step, you make a deduction for certain costs or other operating expenses associated with earning the revenue. At the bottom of the stairs, after deducting all of the expenses, you learn how much the company actually earned or lost during the accounting period. People often call this “the bottom line.”

At the top of the income statement is the total amount of money brought in from sales of products or services. This top line is often referred to as gross revenues or sales. It’s called “gross” because expenses have not been deducted from it yet. So the number is “gross” or unrefined.

The next line is money the company doesn’t expect to collect on certain sales. This could be due, for example, to sales discounts or merchandise returns.

When you subtract the returns and allowances from the gross revenues, you arrive at the company’s net revenues. It’s called “net” because, if you can imagine a net, these revenues are left in the net after the deductions for returns and allowances have come out.

Moving down the stairs from the net revenue line, there are several lines that represent various kinds of operating expenses. Although these lines can be reported in various orders, the next line after net revenues typically shows the costs of the sales. This number tells you the amount of money the company spent to produce the goods or services it sold during the accounting period.

The next line subtracts the costs of sales from the net revenues to arrive at a subtotal called “gross profit” or sometimes “gross margin.” It’s considered “gross” because there are certain expenses that haven’t been deducted from it yet.

The next section deals with operating expenses. These are expenses that go toward supporting a company’s operations for a given period – for example, salaries of administrative personnel and costs of researching new products. Marketing expenses are another example. Operating expenses are different from “costs of sales,” which were deducted above, because operating expenses cannot be linked directly to the production of the products or services being sold.

Depreciation is also deducted from gross profit. Depreciation takes into account the wear and tear on some assets, such as machinery, tools and furniture, which are used over the long term. Companies spread the cost of these assets over the periods they are used. This process of spreading these costs is called depreciation or amortization. The “charge” for using these assets during the period is a fraction of the original cost of the assets.

After all operating expenses are deducted from gross profit, you arrive at operating profit before interest and income tax expenses. This is often called “income from operations.”

Next companies must account for interest income and interest expense. Interest income is the money companies make from keeping their cash in interest-bearing savings accounts, money market funds and the like. On the other hand, interest expense is the money companies paid in interest for money they borrow. Some income statements show interest income and interest expense separately. Some income statements combine the two numbers. The interest income and expense are then added or subtracted from the operating profits to arrive at operating profit before income tax.

Finally, income tax is deducted and you arrive at the bottom line: net profit or net losses. (Net profit is also called net income or net earnings.) This tells you how much the company actually earned or lost during the accounting period. Did the company make a profit or did it lose money?

Statement of Cash Flows

The statement of cash flows represents a record of a business' cash inflows and outflows over a period of time. Typically, a statement of cash flows focuses on the following cash-related activities:

  •  Operating Cash Flow (OCF): Cash generated from day-to-day business operations
  •  Cash from investing (CFI): Cash used for investing in assets, as well as the proceeds from the sale of other businesses, equipment or long-term assets
  •  Cash from financing (CFF): Cash paid or received from the issuing and borrowing of funds
The cash flow statement is important because it's very difficult for a business to manipulate its cash situation. There is plenty that aggressive accountants can do to manipulate earnings, but it's tough to fake cash in the bank. For this reason some investors use the cash flow statement as a more conservative measure of a company's performance.

10-K and 10-Q

Now that you have an understanding of what the three financial statements represent, let's discuss where an investor can go about finding them. In the United States, the Securities And Exchange Commission (SEC) requires all companies that are publicly traded on a major exchange to submit periodic filings detailing their financial activities, including the financial statements mentioned above.

Some other pieces of information that are also required are an auditor's report, management discussion and analysis (MD&A) and a relatively detailed description of the company's operations and prospects for the upcoming year.

All of this information can be found in the business' annual 10-K and quarterly 10-Q filings, which are released by the company's management and can be found on the internet or in physical form.

The 10-K is an annual filing that discloses a business's performance over the course of the fiscal year. In addition to finding a business's financial statements for the most recent year, investors also have access to the business's historical financial measures, along with information detailing the operations of the business. This includes a lot of information, such as the number of employees, biographies of upper management, risks, future plans for growth, etc.

Businesses also release an annual report, which some people also refer to as the 10-K. The annual report is essentially the 10-K released in a fancier marketing format. It will include much of the same information, but not all, that you can find in the 10-K. The 10-K really is boring - it's just pages and pages of numbers, text and legalese. But just because it's boring doesn't mean it isn't useful. There is a lot of good information in a 10-K, and it's required reading for any serious investor.

You can think of the 10-Q filing as a smaller version of a 10-K. It reports the company's performance after each fiscal quarter. Each year three 10-Q filings are released - one for each of the first three quarters. (Note: There is no 10-Q for the fourth quarter, because the 10-K filing is released during that time). Unlike the 10-K filing, 10-Q filings are not required to be audited. Here's a tip if you have trouble remembering which is which: think "Q" for quarter.


The data collected from the financial statements can be used to calculate some more useful measures, like:
• Debt / Asset ratio
A high ratio means a highly leveraged company.
• Current ratio = current assets / total current liabilities
A value of less than 1 shows liquidity problems.
• Working Capital = current assets - current liabilities
The Working Capital is a measure of a company’s liquidity.
• Turnover Ratio = Goods sold / inventory
An indication of how quickly a company can sell its inventory. A higher number among similar industry companies is favorable.
• Margins
Margins are generally earnings as % of sales. A useful measure is the Net Margins which is net income divided by net sales, and a low value is a sign of a struggling company.
• EPS (Earnings per share) = Profit / number of shares
It is a rather straightforward calculation. However, the more useful prospective EPS growth rate is calculated through the consensus forecast earnings for the following year.
• P/E ratio (Price to earnings)
More useful than EPS to compare companies, it is the price per share divided by EPS and makes sense only for a company that has (positive) earnings. For a company with loss there is the PSR (price to sales ratio).
• PEG ratio (Prospective earnings growth)
PEG is calculated by dividing a company’s expected annual percentage earnings growth taking by it’s stock’s P/E ratio.
• P/B ratio (Price to book) = market cap / book value.
Shows how much more than the book value of the company the market is willing to pay.
• ROE (Return on Equity) / ROA (Return on Assets)
ROE is an indication of a company’s efficiency. It is calculated by taking a company's after-tax income and dividing by its book value (or the Total Assets in the case of the ROA).
• Dividend Yield & Dividend payout ratio
These measures show how much pay in dividends an investor can expect from his stock and the percentage of company earnings given as dividends respectively.

Sources and Additional Information:

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