What Is Quarter-To-Date (QTD)?
Quarter-to-date (QTD) is a time interval that captures all relevant company activity that occurred between the beginning of the current quarter and the point at which the data was gathered later in the quarter. Quarter-to-date information is typically gathered in situations when the entire quarterly period has not yet ended, and it can allow management to see how the quarter is shaping up.
- Quarter-to-date (QTD) is a time interval that captures a company's financial information from the start of a quarter to a point later in the quarter.
- The information for a quarter-to-date analysis is requested before a quarter has ended in order to gauge if a company is on track to meet quarterly results.
- Quarter-to-date information allows management to correct course if they are not on track to meet financial targets.
- A quarter-to-date analysis is most useful later in the quarter when there has been enough time to collect meaningful data.
- Needed changes based on quarter-to-date data, however, are more impactful earlier on in the quarter.
- Quarter-to-date information is primarily for internal use rather than external use.
Understanding Quarter-To-Date (QTD)
In financial parlance, a quarter refers to a three-month period during a fiscal year. Because there are 12 months in a year, there are four quarters: first quarter (Q1), second quarter (Q2), third quarter (Q3), and fourth quarter (Q4).
To determine how a company is performing during a given quarter, management may want to pull up data from the beginning of the quarter for a certain area to gauge how it has performed thus far.
For example, a company may have a target revenue of $5 million for the quarter. The end of the quarter is still one month away and management would like to see the quarter-to-date revenue to determine if they are on track to meet the $5 million target.
Depending on the result, the QTD information helps management make a decision to either stay on course, as the company is on track, or to adjust course because they are going to miss their target number.
QTD information allows management to investigate why a certain metric is not on target and to correct the issue. This is particularly useful when comparing the same periods to prior fiscal years or to other quarters.
Quarter-To-Date Data Analysis
Many companies spend a great deal of time preparing their quarter-to-date reports. All information must be clean and free of errors. Appropriately used, accurate, and timely QTD reporting can help a company take action on improving its performance.
A QTD analysis is most effective towards the end of the quarter, as there is more meaningful data available to assess the quality of results. That being said, needed changes are more impactful earlier in the quarter as there is more time to effect change. Management must find a balance between the two.
A QTD analysis is typically only for internal use rather than for external use because the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) does not require companies to report information before a quarter has ended. QTD information is a tool for management to determine the progress of the business.
As such, there are not many QTD comparisons between companies because management may pull information at different times within a quarter. That being said, final quarterly results are very much comparable between companies.
When comparing quarterly results, it's important to note that not all company's use the calendar year as their fiscal year. Ensuring that you are comparing the exact same time period between companies, and therefore avoiding seasonal factors, will allow for an apples to apples comparison.