Quarter - Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4

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DEFINITION of 'Quarter - Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4'

A three-month period on a financial calendar that acts as a basis for the reporting of earnings and the paying of dividends. A quarter refers to one-fourth of a year and is typically expressed as "Q." The four quarters that make up the year are: January, February and March (Q1); April, May and June (Q2); July, August and September (Q3); and October, November and December (Q4). A quarter is often shown with its relevant year, as in Q1 2012 or Q1/12, which represents the first quarter of the year 2012.

INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS 'Quarter - Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4'

All public companies in the United States must file quarterly reports (known as 10-Qs) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Each 10-Q contains the public company's unaudited financial statements and company operations information for the previous three months (quarter). 10-Qs are required for the first three quarters of the year. Each publicly traded company must also file an annual report, known as a 10-K, which includes all of the quarters.

Companies, investors and analysts use data from different quarters to make comparisons and evaluate trends. For instance, a retailer may compare this year's Q2 sales over last year's Q2 sales, or an analyst may evaluate a firm's earnings by reviewing data from the same quarter over several years.

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