Research Sources: What They Are, Where to Find Them, Why They're Important

I've received a couple questions on where I got the data included in my models. The data is all public, but it comes from a variety of different places. I'll detail the main sources of info and what they're used for in this article. I'll use Home Depot as an example again, as I did in the forecasting article.

Earnings Press Releases

What it is: A press release from the company detailing their earnings results for the quarter.

Where: Company website within their investor relations page. For Home Depot, you can find it here.

What it's used for: This is the primary source document that comes out when a company reports earnings, so the model will need to be updated off of the info available here. Usually you'll get the three main financial statements, a reconciliation to any adjusted number that they might report, some company-specific data, and some management commentary. Models are largely built off of the earnings press release, and because models are trying to adjust for the company results on a normalized basis, they'll also include adjustments. Detailed models will also have the company-specific data, which is extremely useful in providing additional detail and color on the results.

 Earnings Conference Call Transcripts

What it is: A transcript of what was said during the earnings conference call. These conference calls follow the earnings press release and include management discussion of results and a Q&A section.

Where: You can find listen to live webcasts shortly after an earnings release on the company website, or you can find transcripts on SeekingAlpha. Some companies also provide transcripts on their website. For Home Depot, you can find their latest transcripts on their site.

What it's used for: As I discussed in the forecasting article, the conference call is where a lot of important discussions happen. In the first half of the call, management will discuss the results in the quarter and what factors drove those results. Often times they'll end their prepared remarks with a discussion on their outlook for the year, which is used heavily in forecasting. The Q&A portion is where equity research analysts ask questions that help them forecast the company's earnings and get a sense on how management views their business. These transcripts are closely read by Wall Street analysts, and you can get a lot of in-depth insight from them. When I do research on a company, I always make sure to read the transcripts from the last several years to get a sense of what investors and management are focused on.

Investor Conference Transcripts

What it is: A transcript of what was said during investor conferences. Equity research teams at investment banks will often host an annual investor conference where they have senior management discuss their business to a group of investors. 

Where: Sometimes you can listen live via an online webcast on the company's website. You can also access archived webcasts of the discussion. Home Depot's archived audio from their discussion at the Raymond James conference can be found here. Transcripts are also (sometimes) available on SeekingAlpha.

What it's used for: These discussions vary widely in how they're used. Sometimes, management will give a basic 15-30 minute overview of what the company does, what their long-term initiatives are, and why investors should invest in them. Other times, they'll jump right into Q&A and discuss the most relevant topics for investors. Either way, definitely worth a read if you're just trying to get more familiar with the company, if you're looking for an up-to-date discussion of the most relevant topics, or if you're just looking to learn more details about some of the company's long-term initiatives.

Investor Conference Presentations

What it is: A presentation that management will give to investors at the investor conferences.

Where: Sometimes, companies will make these presentations available on their site. If not, it'll be pretty hard to hunt it down unless you have access to some of the investor tools out there (FactSet, Capital IQ, etc.). You can access Home Depot's presentation from the Raymond James conference here.

What it's used for: These are usually quick presentations that highlight a couple of the key metrics and takeaways from the investor conferences. They're great to get a quick overview of the business if you can get your hands on one.

10-Qs and 10-Ks

What it is: Documents submitted to the SEC that detail the quarterly and annual results.

Where: You can find them on the SEC's website.

What it's used for: People often talk about these two documents as good sources for info. They both break out more detail on some of the numbers, and the 10-K has a more basic description of how the company makes money, the industry they operate in, and the risks involved. While they're definitely good sources for more information, I would say that the importance of the documents are slightly overrated; I tend to spend more time reading transcripts than I do reading 10-Ks.

Company-Hosted Analyst Days

What it is: Some companies host an Investor (or Analyst) Day where they give a long presentation on the company's business and initiatives. Think of it as an extended and more formal version of the presentation that they might give at investor conferences. 

Where: Companies will usually have a live webcast and the presentation on their website. Transcripts are sometimes available on SeekingAlpha or the company website. Home Depot's 2014 Analyst Day materials are available on their site.

What it's used for: This is a great way to get the most detailed presentation from the company on what they're currently doing and how it's going to drive results going forward. They're a great way to get familiar with the company and their initiatives, but they are not done very frequently (and some companies don't have Analyst Days at all). 


What it is: Filing submitted to the SEC when going public that details the amount of money they are raising, the use of the cash, a description of the business, and recent financial results.

Where: You can find them on the SEC. Home Depot went public a long time ago, so it's not that relevant for them. With that said, you can probably find it somewhere on the SEC's website.

What it's used for: S-1's are kind of like more detailed 10-Ks. It's another decent source for information about the business model or more financial data. They should be relied upon as the primary source for information if the company recently went public/is going public. The main issue is that they're filed for new offerings, so you won't see these very frequently.

Industry-Specific Data

What it is: This is data on the industry that the company operates in. 

Where: This really depends on the industry that the company operates in. For Home Depot, there is a ton of housing data out there, with some of it behind paid firewalls (like CoreLogic), and some of it from free sources (like NAR data on housing , or government data on retail sales). You may also be able to find some industry data from some of the sources mentioned above (like investor day presentations). Finally, you can maybe try searching for free consulting research reports from any of the major consulting firms that cover the industry.

What it's used for: This data could be used for a number of reasons. They might help you size up the industry opportunity. They might give you a sense of how fast the industry is growing (and therefore potentially give you more accurate forecasts for the company). They might give you a sense of how certain drivers are growing (like home prices), which might also help your forecasts. It really depends on the company and the industry that they operate in. Always check government sources, and obviously try googling industry resources out there as well.