What is an 'Analyst Expectation'

An analyst expectation is a report issued by an individual analyst, investment bank or financial services company indicating how a particular company's stock will perform in the coming quarter. Analysts provide guidance as to how they expect a company to perform. This is typically a range of values that a particular variable is expected to fall between. If a stock performs better than what analysts expected, it is considered to have beaten expectations or delivered stronger-than-expected results; the stock may also have been said to have beat the street. However, if a stock doesn’t perform as well as analysts expected, it is said to have missed estimates. If the stock’s performance varies significantly from most analysts’ expectations, it can be called an earnings surprise, regardless of whether the stock beat or missed estimates.

BREAKING DOWN 'Analyst Expectation'

Publicly traded companies also issue their own guidance outlining expected future profits or losses. This forecast helps financial analysts set expectations, and can be compared to get a better idea of potential company performance in the upcoming quarter.

How Analysts Create Expectation Reports

In order to create an accurate forecast of how a specific company’s stock will perform, an analyst must gather information from several sources. He or she needs to speak with the company’s management, visit that company, study its products and closely watch the industry in which it operates. Then, the analyst will create a mathematical model that incorporates what the analyst has learned and reflects his or her judgment or expectation of that company’s earnings for the forthcoming quarter. The expectations may be published by the company on its website, and will be distributed to the analyst’s clients.

Often, companies want to collaborate with analysts to some extent to help them fine-tune their expectations in order to make them more accurate. Accurate expectations benefit the company, because when a stock misses expectations, share prices can fall. It can benefit the company even more, however, if the analyst’s expectation is low and the company beats it, because this can raise the price of shares. However, sometimes companies might try to use high expectations to drive a stock price up by giving investors the impression that analysts think well of the company.

Consensus Expectation

Usually, multiple analysts will follow the same company and issue their own expectations of that company’s performance in the coming quarter. For this reason, most people don’t base their securities purchasing decisions on the expectation of a single analyst, but consider the average of all the expectations issued by the analysts who follow that stock. This average is known as the consensus expectation.

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