Financial analysis and forecasting are basically a course intended to give the necessary knowledge needed to individuals who are looking to obtain a thorough understanding of the various topics of financial analysis and forecasting. Financial forecasting, unlike other forms of economic analysis, is more speculative in nature. Financial forecasting refers to allocating resources of any sort according to a set of assumptions. One such assumption may be the assumption that the growth rate of the economy is likely to be one percentage point above what it is currently doing. In this particular example the course will examine all the different scenarios that could occur either way. Financial analysts study all kinds of financial data as well as the many complex factors that affect it such as interest rates, inflation, business cycles, political events and even how the world’s most important currency, the U.S. dollar, actually performs.
Financial modeling is an area of specialized study that can be done through the use of financial analysis and forecasting. Financial modeling is an attempt at a precise prediction of all the variables that would potentially affect a company such as its assets, liabilities, revenues and expenditures over a period of time. While there are a number of methods for performing the statistical analysis involved in the forecasting process, three financial statements that are often used are the current, mid-range and long-term periods. The current period is considered to be the most practical example since it is the closest to real-time and is often the basis for most financial modeling attempts. The mid-range period covers the range right between the current and mid-range estimates.
The long-term period covers a much larger interval and is the standard statistical approach. Financial analysts who specialize in forecasting assume that the trends that they observe over a longer period of time are more accurate than those that they observe over a shorter period. If a company follows a well-established trend, then it may be a good idea to model the market using a longer historical data set. However, it should be noted that there is significant disagreement among professional forecasters about which economic indicators are the best to use.
A good way to understand the relationship between an analyst’s model and the historical data is to imagine a triangle. The left side represents the starting point of the trend, which is represented by the current estimate; the middle section of the triangle represents the end point of the trend, which is estimated using the long-term historical data; and the right side represents the deviation of the predicted value from the real-time actual value. When an analyst is predicting the current value of the stock or index and the long-term value of the same stock or index, then he or she is basing his or her estimate on the deviation of the actual value from the predicted value. Therefore, if the actual value turns out to be much higher or lower than the predicted value, then the value of the forecasted stock or index will be affected by the deviation.
Financial modeling is usually done in tandem with a financial statement analysis, which examines the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement to determine the operating cash flow and other important financial statements. In the context of financial modeling, an income statement refers to the income account that captures all of the business’s activity. A balance sheet is used to show the difference between assets and liabilities. And a cash flow statement documents the movement of funds within the firm that is necessary for the analysis of the enterprise’s revenue and expenses.
To forecast future results based on past performance, analysts often apply financial modeling techniques to the balance sheet, income statement, and other relevant financial statements. Financial forecasting is done by a wide range of professionals, including bankers, accountants, and private-equity investors. Although it is relatively easy to come up with an accurate forecast of the short-term operating or sales results, doing so for the long-term can prove to be more complicated. Therefore, it is crucial that the analyst fully understands the format of the financial statements he is presenting and uses them in conjunction with the other data that they need in order to generate reliable forecasts.