Friday, February 17, 2017

Calcbench often talks about the diversity of data we collect. Today, as more and more 2016 annual reports arrive, we want to talk about the speed with which all that data gets here—and give a few early glimpses into what we’re seeing for 2016 reports so far.

We’ll spare you the complete technical details. Suffice to say that we use eXtensible Business Markup Language (XBRL), a technology that lets computers interpret data quickly without the need for human eyes to pore over every data point. Companies file their financial statements “tagged” in XBRL to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and our technology then reads those XBRL-based filings to parse the data and upload them to our databases immediately.

That’s the beauty of “machine-readable” data: machines can read it much faster than humans. Rather than you visiting the SEC’s EDGAR database, searching for a specific company filing, reading the document for the exact data point you want, entering that data point into some other IT system you have—we automate all those chores out of existence. Just tell our databases what you want to find, and we pull up the data. There is no Step 3.

And because XBRL-tagged filings are available immediately, Calcbench can read and upload all that data immediately—usually within a few minutes of the company sending its latest document off to EDGAR.

Which brings us to Corporate America’s 2016 annual reports.

Show Me the Numbers

For large accelerated filers with fiscal years that end on Dec. 31, the deadline to file their Form 10-K was Feb. 14. So we peeked at companies within the S&P 500 to see how many have now filed their 2016 reports, to see what the big picture looks like.

The short answer: low single-digit growth across revenue, operating income, operating cash flow, assets, and liabilities.

We found 143 companies in the S&P 500 that filed their 2016 reports as of mid-morning Feb. 17, from 3M Co. to Whole Foods. The rest haven’t filed yet because their fiscal years don’t end on Dec. 31. Walmart’s fiscal year, for example, ends on Jan. 31 to accommodate post-Christmas holiday product returns.

In other words, we know this dataset isn’t comprehensive. We’re just demonstrating speed and ease of research today. You can see the year-over-year change for our sample population below.

Using our Multi-Company Page, you can do more sophisticated analyses of this data. For example, you could look further back into prior years’ numbers, to chart changes over a longer period of time. You could compare other items in the financial statements; we just use revenue, operating income, operating cash flow, and assets as the default headline numbers to present.

As more 2016 reports come in, the Calcbench research squad will start churning out more substantive reports. (As always, if you have an idea for what we should examine, drop us a line at For now, just know that our databases are on the case, and when you need a piece of information fast, it’s probably in our databases somewhere.

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