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Horizontal Analysis Formula & Methods What is Horizontal Analysis? Video & Lesson Transcript

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For example, MT saw a 50% accounts receivable increase from the prior year to the current year. If they were only expecting a 20% increase, they may need to explore this line item further to determine what caused this difference and how to correct it going forward. It could possibly be that they are extending credit to customers more readily than anticipated or not collecting as rapidly on outstanding accounts receivable.

This type of analysis is mostly used by investors, financial analysts, and business managers. However, anyone who is interested in the future of a company will be interested in conducting a trend analysis to determine its likely trajectory. This may include creditors, regulatory authorities, and industry observers like business journalists, among others.

Definition of Vertical Analysis

You need at least two chart of accounts example periods for a valid comparison, but if you want to really spot trends, you should have at least three, if not more accounting periods of data available for calculating horizontal analysis. Another problem with horizontal analysis is that some companies change the way they present information in their financial statements. This can create difficulties in detecting troublesome areas, making it hard to spot changes in trends. A company’s financial performance over the years is assessed and changes in different line items and ratios are analyzed. Horizontal analysis of the balance sheet is also usually in a two-year format, such as the one shown below, with a variance showing the difference between the two years for each line item. An alternative format is to add as many years as will fit on the page, without showing a variance, so that you can see general changes by account over multiple years.

  • A business owner whose company misses targets might, for example, pivot strategy to improve in the next quarter.
  • Later, this data could be used to conduct a more in-depth examination of financial performance.
  • This can happen when the analyst modifies the number of comparison periods used to make the results appear unusually good or bad.
  • By conducting a horizontal analysis, you can tell what’s been driving an organization’s financial performance over the years and spot trends and growth patterns, line item by line item.

Horizontal analysis allows financial statement users to easily spot trends and growth patterns. Also, any changes in the comparison periods should be reported when an analysis is presented on a repeating basis over numerous reporting periods so that readers are aware of the difference. Financial analysis is used for evaluating economic trends, creating financial policy, formulating long-term company goals, and designating projects or firms for investment. For example, if management expects a 30% increase in sales revenue but actual increase is only 10%, it needs to be investigated. Horizontal analysis is performed by comparing financial data from a past statement, such as the income statement.

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By comparing prior-period financial results with more current financial results, a company is better able to spot the direction of change in account balances and the magnitude in which that change has occurred. Investors can use horizontal analysis to determine the trends in a company’s financial position and performance over time to determine whether they want to invest in that company. However, investors should combine horizontal analysis with vertical analysis and other techniques to get a true picture of a company’s financial health and trajectory. All of the amounts on the balance sheets and the income statements for analysis will be expressed as a percentage of the base year amounts.

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Through horizontal analysis of financial statements, you would be able to see two actual data for consecutive years and would be able to compare every item. Horizontal analysis is an approach used to analyze financial statements by comparing specific financial information for a certain accounting period with information from other periods. Horizontal analysis typically shows the changes from the base period in dollar and percentage. For example, a statement that says revenues have increased by 10% this past quarter is based on horizontal analysis.

Vertical Analysis refers to the analysis of the financial statement in which each item of the statement of a particular financial year is analysed, by comparing it with a common item. Horizontal Analysis is that type of financial statement analysis in which an item of financial statement of a particular year is analysed and interpreted after making its comparison with that of another year’s corresponding item. The ideal number is 1 or higher, where a company can completely meet its current liabilities with its current assets, but, depending on the industry, a lower number might be the norm.

What is Vertical Analysis?

Since cost of goods sold increased by a much smaller amount (USD 117.6 million), gross profit increased by USD 351.4, or 7.3 per cent. The USD 552.6 million expense in 2009 was the result of a provision for restructured operations. Although this is not a recurring expense, it does not classify as an extraordinary expense and is treated as part of income from continuing operations. Next, study Column , which expresses as a percentage the dollar change in Column .

type of analysis

Evaluation of an organization’s financial performance over many reporting periods. When proportionate changes in the same figure over a given time period expressed as a percentage is known as horizontal analysis. Total liabilities have decreased USD 114.1 million, while total assets increased by USD 311.0 million. Learning how to read and understand an income statement can enable you to make more informed decisions about a company, whether it’s your own, your employer, or a potential investment. A total of $560 million in selling and operating expenses, and $293 million in general and administrative expenses, were subtracted from that profit, leaving an operating income of $765 million.

For example, a $1 million increase in General Motors’ cash balance is likely to represent a much smaller percentage increase than a corresponding $1 million increase in American Motors’ cash balance. The period prior to the current period, i.e. year-over-year growth analysis. Per usual, the importance of completing sufficient industry research cannot be overstated here.

Professional financial statement analysts use several tools and techniques to determine the solvency and profitability of companies. Cash in the current year is $110,000 and total assets equal $250,000, giving a common-size percentage of 44%. If the company had an expected cash balance of 40% of total assets, they would be exceeding expectations. This may not be enough of a difference to make a change, but if they notice this deviates from industry standards, they may need to make adjustments, such as reducing the amount of cash on hand to reinvest in the business.


Horizontal analysis is used to improve and enhance these constraints during financial reporting. Last, a horizontal analysis can encompass calculating percentage changes from one period to the next. As a company grows, it often becomes more difficult to sustain the same rate of growth, even if the company grows in pure dollar size. This percentage method is most useful when identifying changes over a longer period of time where there may be significant deviations from the base period to the current period. enables investors, analysts, and other stakeholders in the company to see how well the company is performing financially. In this discussion and analysis of operations, Safeway’s management noted that the increase was due to a growing trend toward mortgage financing. In percentage comparison, the increase or decrease in amounts is expressed as a percentage of the amount in the base year. Either the data of the rest of the years is expressed as a percentage of the base year or an absolute comparison is performed.

If you have both, investors won’t be concerned that you’ll go bankrupt at any moment. Now we are going to explain what Financial Analysis is in general, so we can understand more about this specific type of analysis. We accept payments via credit card, wire transfer, Western Union, and bank loan.

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Regardless, accounting changes and one-off events can be used to correct such an anomaly and enhance horizontal analysis accuracy. Consistency constraint here means that the same accounting methods and principles must be used each year since they remain constant over the years. Horizontal analysis is a financial analysis technique used to evaluate a company’s performance over time.

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In the first situation, the increase would be 50% that is undoubtedly a significant increase for any firm. In the second situation, the increase would be 5% that is just a reflection of normal progress. One of the major criticisms of horizontal analysis is that it can at times produce biased results. This is because the beginning period will determine how the growth and trajectory appear. By selecting a beginning period with particularly inferior performance, analysts can sometimes create the impression that the business is doing better than it is. Since horizontal analysis is expressed in percentage change over time, it is often confused with vertical analysis.

  • Horizontal analysis is the comparison of historical financial information over various reporting periods.
  • It’s best to do so for all of the financial statements at once so you can understand the full influence of operational outcomes on a company’s financial situation across the review period.
  • A total of $560 million in selling and operating expenses, and $293 million in general and administrative expenses, were subtracted from that profit, leaving an operating income of $765 million.
  • With different bits of calculated information now embedded into the financial statements, it’s time to analyze the results.
  • Since cost of goods sold increased by a much smaller amount (USD 117.6 million), gross profit increased by USD 351.4, or 7.3 per cent.

An income statement tallies income and expenses; a balance sheet, on the other hand, records assets, liabilities, and equity. An income statement is one of the most common, and critical, of the financial statements you’re likely to encounter. If you are studying finance, business, or anything related to microeconomics then this article is for you.