What Is Quarter Over Quarter? – Q/Q

Quarter over quarter (Q/Q) is a measure of an investment or a company's growth from one quarter to the next. Q/Q growth is most commonly used to compare a company's growth in profits or revenue although it can also be used to describe changes in money supply, gross domestic product (GDP), or other economic measurements.

Q/Q for Analysis

Investors and analysts examine financial statements, which are released either yearly or quarterly, to assess the financial health of a company. The quarterly statements are publicly available through the EDGAR database and are called 10-Q statements. Analysts look at Q/Q performance when reviewing a company’s performance over multiple quarterly periods.

Q/Q is a rate of change in performance between one fiscal quarter and the previous quarter. A quarter is generally three months or 90 days. Q/Q measures changes in the growth rate or earnings of a company in one quarter over previous quarters. Typically, the comparison is between reports from one quarter of the company's fiscal year with the reports from the previous quarter. Q/Q is calculated as follows:

  • (Current quarter - previous quarter) / previous quarter

For example, the table below shows the Q1 and Q2 earnings of Intel Corporation and IBM Corporation for 2017.

 

(in millions)

 

Intel

 

IBM

 

Q1 Earnings

 

$4,500

 

$1,700

 

Q2 Earnings

 

$5,000

 

$2,400

 

Q/Q change

 

($5,000 - $4,500) / $4,500

 

($2,400 - $1,700) / $1,700

 

 

 

= 11%

 

= 41%

Source: IBM.com, 2018; Intel 2018

While Intel’s earnings grew by 11% from the first to the second quarter in 2018, IBM’s earnings grew by an impressive 41% Q/Q. However, note that only two consecutive quarters have been examined. An investor would examine several other quarters to see if these changes are a trend or just seasonal or temporary adjustments. Comparing Q/Q information among companies with different quarter start dates can distort an analysis—the time included may vary, and seasonal factors may become skewed.

An investor would consider several quarters over a period to determine whether changes reflect an ongoing trend or are skewed by seasonal or temporary environmental factors.

Other variations of the Q/Q are the month over month (M/M) and year-over-year (YOY). The month over month measures growth over previous months but tends to be more volatile than Q/Q as the rate of change is affected by one-time events, such as natural disasters. The YOY reports changes in performance in one year over the previous year. YOY incorporates more data and thus provides a better long-term picture of the underlying report figure. Q/Q rate of change is typically more volatile than the YOY measurement but less volatile than the M/M figure.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, growth in 2018 was 2.6%, which they calculate by averaging growth in each quarter; however, economists on Wall Street who use Q/Q for the fourth quarter found growth in 2018 to be 3.1%, up from 2.5% for 2017, according to CNBC.com.

Some economic reports are released quarterly and compared to previous quarters to indicate economic growth. For example, the GDP report, released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), is released on a quarterly basis and influences the decisions of the government, businesses, and individuals.

Key Takeaways

  • Q/Q measures the growth of an investment or a company from one quarter to the next.
  • Analysts consider Q/Q when reviewing a company’s performance over multiple quarterly periods.
  • Comparing Q/Q information among companies with different quarter start dates can distort an analysis due to seasonal factors or temporary environmental conditions.