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What is an 'Annual Report'

1. An annual publication that public corporations must provide to shareholders to describe their operations and financial conditions. The front part of the report often contains an impressive combination of graphics, photos and an accompanying narrative, all of which chronicle the company's activities over the past year. The back part of the report contains detailed financial and operational information.

2. In the case of mutual funds, an annual report is a required document that is made available to fund shareholders on a fiscal year basis. It discloses certain aspects of a fund's operations and financial condition. In contrast to corporate annual reports, mutual fund annual reports are best described as "plain vanilla" in terms of their presentation.

BREAKING DOWN 'Annual Report'

1. It was not until legislation was enacted after the stock market crash in 1929 that the annual report became a regular component of corporate financial reporting. Typically, an annual report will contain the following sections:

-Financial Highlights
-Letter to the Shareholders
-Narrative Text, Graphics and Photos
-Management's Discussion and Analysis
-Financial Statements
-Notes to Financial Statements
-Auditor's Report
-Summary Financial Data
-Corporate Information

2. A mutual fund annual report, along with a fund's prospectus and statement of additional information, is a source of multi-year fund data and performance, which is made available to fund shareholders as well as to prospective fund investors. Unfortunately, most of the information is quantitative rather than qualitative, which addresses the mandatory accounting disclosures required of mutual funds.

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