6 Basic Financial Ratios and What They Reveal (2023)

Ratio. The term conjures up complex and frustrating high school math problems. When it comes to investing, though, that need not be the case. In fact, there are ratios that, properly understood and applied, can help make you a more informed investor.

Key Takeaways

  • Fundamental analysis relies on data from corporate financial statements to compute various ratios.
  • Fundamental analysis is used to determine a security's intrinsic, or true, value so it can be compared with the security's market value.
  • There are six basic ratios that are often used to pick stocks for investment portfolios.
  • These include the working capital ratio, the quick ratio, earnings per share (EPS), price-earnings (P/E), debt-to-equity, and return on equity (ROE).
  • Most ratios are best used in combination with others, rather than singly, for a comprehensive picture of company financial health.

1. Working Capital Ratio

Assessing the health of a company in which you want to invest involves measuring its liquidity. Liquidity refers to how easily a company can turn assets into cash to pay short-term obligations. The working capital ratio can be useful in helping you measure liquidity.

Working capitalis the difference between a firm’s current assets and current liabilities. It represents a company'sability to payits current liabilities with its current assets.

The working capital ratio, like working capital, compares current assets to current liabilities and is a metric used to measure liquidity. The working capital ratio is calculated by dividing current assets by current liabilities.

Say that XYZ company has current assets of $8 million and current liabilities of $4 million. The working capital ratio is 2 ($8 million/$4 million). That's an indication of healthy short-term liquidity. However, if two similar companies each had ratios of 2, but one had more cash among its current assets, that firm would be able to pay off its debts more quickly than the other.

A working capital ratio of 1 can imply that a company may have liquidity troubles and not be able to pay its short-term liabilities. However, the trouble could be temporary and later improve.

(Video) 6 Basic Financial Ratios and What They Reveal

A working capital ratio of 2 or higher can indicate healthy liquidity and the ability to pay short-term liabilities. On the other hand, it could also point to a company that has too much in short-term assets (e.g., cash), some of which could be better used to invest in the company or pay shareholder dividends.

It can be a challenge to determine the proper category for the vast array of assets and liabilities on a corporatebalance sheetin order to decipher the overall ability of a firm to meet its short-term commitments.

2. Quick Ratio

Also called the acid test, the quick ratio is another measure of liquidity. It represents a company's ability to pay current liabilities with assets that can be converted to cash quickly.

The calculation for the quick ratio is current assets minus inventory minus prepaid expenses divided by current liabilities. The formula removes inventory because it can take time to sell and convert inventory into liquid assets.

XYZ company has $8 million in current assets, $2 million in inventory and prepaid expenses, and $4 million in current liabilities. That means the quick ratio is 1.5 ($8 million - $2 million/$4 million). It indicates that the company has enough to money to pay its bills and continue operating.

A quick ratio of less than 1 can indicate that there isn't enough in liquid assets to pay short-term liabilities. The company may have to raise capital or take other actions. On the other hand, it may be a temporary situation.

3. Earnings per Share (EPS)

When buying a stock, you participate in the future earnings (or risk of loss) of the company. Earnings per share (EPS) is a measure of the profitability of a company. Investors use it to gain an understanding of company value.

(Video) Financial ratio analysis

The company's analysts calculate EPS by dividing net income by the weighted average number of common shares outstanding during the year.

If a company has zero or negative earnings (i.e., a loss), then earnings per share will also be zero or negative. A higher EPS indicates greater value.

4. Price-Earnings Ratio (P/E)

Called P/E for short, this ratio is used by investors to determine a stock's potential for growth. It reflects how much they would pay to receive $1 of earnings. It's often used to compare the potential value of a selection of stocks.

To calculate the P/E ratio, divide a company's current stock price by earnings-per-share.

If, for example, a company closed trading at $46.51 a share and the EPS for the past 12 months averaged $4.90, then the P/E ratio would be 9.49 ($46.51/$4.90). Investors would spend $9.49 for every generated dollar of annual earnings. Investors have been willing to pay more than 20 times the EPS for certain stocks when they've felt that a future growth in earnings will give them an adequate return on their investment.

If a company has zero or negative earnings, the P/E ratio will no longer make sense. It will appear as N/A for not applicable.

When ratios are properly understood and applied, they can help improve your investing results.

(Video) FINANCIAL RATIOS: How to Analyze Financial Statements

5. Debt-to-Equity Ratio

What if your prospective investment target is borrowing too much? This can increase fixed charges, reduce earnings available for dividends, and pose a risk to shareholders.

The debt-to-equity (D/E) ratio measures how much a company is funding its operations using borrowed money. It can indicate whether shareholder equity can cover all debts, if needed. Investors often use it to compare the leverage used by different companies in the same industry. This can help them to determine which might be a lower risk investment.

To calculate the debt-to-equity ratio, divide total liabilities by total shareholders' equity. Let's say company XYZ has $3.1 million worth of loans and shareholders' equity of $13.3 million. That works out to a modest ratio of 0.23, which is acceptable under most circumstances.

However, like all other ratios, the metric has to be analyzed in terms of industry norms and company-specific requirements.

6. Return on Equity(ROE)

Return on equity (ROE) measures profitability and how effectively a company uses shareholder money to make a profit. For common stock shareholders, ROE (which is expressed as a percentage) is calculated by taking net income (income less expenses and taxes) figured before paying common share dividends and after paying preferred share dividends, and dividing the result by total shareholders' equity.

Let's say XYZ company's net income is $1.3 million. Its shareholder equity is $8 million. ROE then is 16.25%. The higher the ROE, the better the company is at generating profits using shareholder equity.

What's a Good ROE?

Return-on-equity, or ROE, is a metric used to analyze investment returns. It's a measure of how effectively a company uses shareholder equity to generate income. You might consider a good ROE one that increases steadily over time. That could indicate a company does a good job using shareholder funds to increase profits. In turn, that can increase shareholder value.

What Is Fundamental Analysis?

Fundamental analysis is the analysis of a security to discover its true (or intrinsic) value. It involves the study of economic, industry, and company information. Fundamental analysis can be useful because by comparing a security's true value to its market value, an investor can determine if the security is fairly priced, overvalued, or undervalued.

Fundamental analysis contrasts with technical analysis, which focuses on determining price action and uses different tools, such as chart patterns and price trends, to do so.

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Is a Higher or Lower P/E Ratio Better?

That depends on what you're looking for in an investment. A P/E ratio measures the relationship of a stock's price to earnings per share. A lower P/E ratio can indicate that a stock is undervalued and perhaps worth buying. However, it could be low because the company isn't financially healthy.

A higher P/E can indicate that a stock is expensive, but that could be because the company is doing well and could continue to do so.

Often, the best way to use P/E is as a relative value comparison tool for stocks you're interested in. Or, you might want to compare the P/E of one or more stocks to an industry average.

The Bottom Line

Financial ratios can help you pick the best stocks for your portfolio and build your wealth. Dozens of financial ratios are used in fundamental analysis. We've briefly highlighted six of the most common and easiest to calculate.

(Video) Stock Market for Beginners: Must know Financial Ratios Before Investing in a Stock | CA Aleena Rais

Remember that a company cannot be properly evaluated using one ratio in isolation. So be sure to put a variety of ratios to use for more confident investment decision-making.


6 Basic Financial Ratios and What They Reveal? ›

There are six basic ratios that are often used to pick stocks for investment portfolios. These include the working capital ratio, the quick ratio, earnings per share (EPS), price-earnings (P/E), debt-to-equity, and return on equity (ROE).

What are the six 6 basic financial ratios and what do they reveal? ›

There are six basic ratios that are often used to pick stocks for investment portfolios. These include the working capital ratio, the quick ratio, earnings per share (EPS), price-earnings (P/E), debt-to-equity, and return on equity (ROE).

What are financial ratios and what do they reveal? ›

Financial ratios offer entrepreneurs a way to evaluate their company's performance and compare it other similar businesses in their industry. Ratios measure the relationship between two or more components of financial statements. They are used most effectively when results over several periods are compared.

What are 5 financial ratios and what are they used for? ›

Common financial ratios come from a company's balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement. Businesses use financial ratios to determine liquidity, debt concentration, growth, profitability, and market value.

What do financial ratios reveal how a business is doing? ›

Ratio analysis compares line-item data from a company's financial statements to reveal insights regarding profitability, liquidity, operational efficiency, and solvency. Ratio analysis can mark how a company is performing over time, while comparing a company to another within the same industry or sector.

What are the six 6 stages in the process that makes up the flow of accounting? ›

The steps in the accounting cycle are identifying transactions, recording transactions in a journal, posting the transactions, preparing the unadjusted trial balance, analyzing the worksheet, adjusting journal entry discrepancies, preparing a financial statement, and closing the books.

What are the basic types of financial ratios? ›

What are the four types of financial ratios?
  • Liquidity ratios.
  • Activity ratios (also called efficiency ratios)
  • Profitability ratios.
  • Leverage ratios.

What are the key financial ratios and why are they important? ›

Key ratios are the primary financial ratios used to illustrate and summarize the current financial condition of a company. They are produced by comparing different line items from the subject's financial statements. Analysts and investors use key ratios to see how companies stack up against their peers.

What are the most important financial ratios? ›

7 important financial ratios
  • Quick ratio.
  • Debt to equity ratio.
  • Working capital ratio.
  • Price to earnings ratio.
  • Earnings per share.
  • Return on equity ratio.
  • Profit margin.

How do you summarize financial ratios? ›

  1. Uses and Users of Financial Ratio Analysis. ...
  2. Current ratio = Current assets / Current liabilities. ...
  3. Acid-test ratio = Current assets – Inventories / Current liabilities. ...
  4. Cash ratio = Cash and Cash equivalents / Current Liabilities. ...
  5. Operating cash flow ratio = Operating cash flow / Current liabilities.
Mar 13, 2023

What are the 5 basic financial statements? ›

5 Types of Financial Reports and Their Benefits for Business
  • Balance Sheet.
  • Income Statement.
  • Cash Flow Statement.
  • Statement of Changes in Capital.
  • Notes to Financial Statements.
Dec 28, 2022

What are the five types of ratios explain? ›

Ratio Analysis is done to analyze the Company's financial and trend of the company's results over years where there are mainly five broad categories of ratios like liquidity ratios, solvency ratios, profitability ratios, efficiency ratio, coverage ratio which indicates the company's performance and various examples of ...

What is the rule of thumb for financial ratios? ›

A general rule of thumb is to have a current ratio of 2.0. Although this will vary by business and industry, a number above two may indicate a poor use of capital. A current ratio under two may indicate an inability to pay current financial obligations with a measure of safety.

What financial ratios show profitability? ›

Some common examples of the two types of profitability ratios are:
  • Gross margin.
  • Operating margin.
  • Pretax margin.
  • Net profit margin.
  • Cash flow margin.
  • Return on assets (ROA)
  • Return on equity (ROE)
  • Return on invested capital (ROIC)

What financial ratios show risk? ›

The most common ratios used by investors to measure a company's level of risk are the interest coverage ratio, the degree of combined leverage, the debt-to-capital ratio, and the debt-to-equity ratio.

What are the golden rules of accounting? ›

Take a look at the three main rules of accounting: Debit the receiver and credit the giver. Debit what comes in and credit what goes out. Debit expenses and losses, credit income and gains.

What are the 6 components of accounting in? ›

Accounting information systems generally consist of six primary components: people, procedures and instructions, data, software, information technology infrastructure, and internal controls.

What are the 6 elements of accounting? ›

Accounting Elements. The accounting elements are Assets, Liabilities, Owners Equity, Capital Introduced, Drawings, Revenue and Expenses.

What is 6 the statement that shows the financial condition of the business as of a certain date? ›

The balance sheet shows the financial position of a business on a specific date in terms of assets, liabilities and shareholders' equity.

What are the 4 basic financial statements 6 briefly describe them? ›

They are: (1) balance sheets; (2) income statements; (3) cash flow statements; and (4) statements of shareholders' equity. Balance sheets show what a company owns and what it owes at a fixed point in time. Income statements show how much money a company made and spent over a period of time.

What is Step 6 preparation of the financial statements? ›

There are generally six steps to developing an effective analysis of financial statements.
  • Identify the industry economic characteristics. ...
  • Identify company strategies. ...
  • Assess the quality of the firm's financial statements. ...
  • Analyze current profitability and risk. ...
  • Prepare forecasted financial statements. ...
  • Value the firm.
Mar 9, 2018

What is 6 the accounting equation? ›

Also known as the balance sheet equation, the accounting equation formula is Assets = Liabilities + Equity.

What are the 6 characteristics of financial statements? ›

What makes a financial statement useful? FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) lists six qualitative characteristics that determine the quality of financial information: Relevance, Faithful Representation, Comparability, Verifiability, Timeliness, and Understandability.

What are the 6 components of a successful financial plan for business? ›

A business financial plan typically has six parts: sales forecasting, expense outlay, a statement of financial position, a cash flow projection, a break-even analysis and an operations plan.

What are the basic assumptions of accounting 6 describe? ›

There are four basic assumptions of financial accounting: (1) economic entity, (2) fiscal period, (3) going concern, and (4) stable dollar. These assumptions are important because they form the building blocks on which financial accounting measurement is based.

What are the 5 basics of financial statements? ›

5 Types of Financial Reports and Their Benefits for Business
  • Balance Sheet.
  • Income Statement.
  • Cash Flow Statement.
  • Statement of Changes in Capital.
  • Notes to Financial Statements.
Dec 28, 2022

What are the five key financial statements? ›

The five key documents include your profit and loss statement, balance sheet, cash-flow statement, tax return, and aging reports.

What are the four financial statements required by GAAP? ›

The four main financial statements include: balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements and statements of shareholders' equity. These four financial statements are considered common accounting principles as outlined by GAAP.

What are the six 6 basic elements in a standard auditors report on financial statement? ›

The audit report template includes 7 parts of elements these are: report title, introductory Paragraph, scope paragraph, executive summary, opinion paragraph, auditor's name, and auditor's signature.

What 6 branch of accounting is primarily concerned with the preparation of general purpose financial statements? ›

Financial accounting

Financial accounting involves recording and clarifying business transactions along with preparation and presentation of financial statements. Financial accounting follows GAAP principles and focuses on historical data.

What are the six major steps of the accounting process quizlet? ›

The steps of the accounting process are analyzing, recording, classifying, summarizing, reporting, and interpreting. Computers are often used in the recording, classifying, summarizing, and reporting.

What is the 6.01 basic accounting equation? ›

The basic accounting equation formula is Assets = Liabilities + Equity. This equation states that the total value of an entity's assets must equal the total value of its liabilities plus its equity. It is this simple equation that forms the foundation for all financial statements.

What are the three golden rules of accounting? ›

Take a look at the three main rules of accounting: Debit the receiver and credit the giver. Debit what comes in and credit what goes out. Debit expenses and losses, credit income and gains.

What is Accounting Standard 6 meant for *? ›

Accounting Standard - 6 relating to depreciation is recommended for use companies.


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