A fiscal quarter is a consecutive three-month period within a fiscal year for which a business reports its results. The fiscal quarter concept is of particular importance to publicly-held entities, since they are required to file a set of quarterly financial statements on the Form 10-Q with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for each of the first three quarters of the year. The financial results for the fourth quarter are encompassed by the annual Form 10-K, which is also filed with the SEC. Privately-held organizations may completely ignore the fiscal quarter concept, since they do not have an obligation to file a Form 10-Q or 10-K with the SEC. For example, if the fiscal year of a business matches its calendar year, the associated fiscal quarters will be as follows:
Quarter 1 = January through March
Quarter 2 = April through June
Quarter 3 = July through September
Quarter 4 = October through December
If a company has a different fiscal year-end, then these quarters will span different periods. For example, if a business has a fiscal year that begins on July 1, then its first quarter covers July through September.
Within the accounting area, these four quarters are frequently referred to in an abbreviated form, which is:
Quarter 1 = Q1
Quarter 2 = Q2
Quarter 3 = Q3
Quarter 4 = Q4
Quarterly information is examined by the investment community to spot trends in performance, liquidity, and cash flows, which can impact the price of a company's stock. When a business has a seasonal sales model, this analysis most commonly compares the results for a fiscal quarter to the results for the same quarter in the preceding year.