What Is Quarter Over Quarter?

Quarter-over-quarter data compares performance in successive quarters

Accountant using a computer next to stacks of bound paperwork in an office
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When investors speak about quarter-over-quarter (QOQ) numbers, they are usually referring to the increase or decrease in a company’s revenue or profit in one three-month quarter compared with the previous quarter. The term also may be used to compare changes in gross domestic product (GDP) or other economic measurements during the same time period.

Investors want to assess the financial health of a company to determine if it is a good investment. Short-term trends in sales and profits can be gauged using QOQ data. A year-over-year (YOY) comparison contrasts the financial data from one period (for example, a quarter) with the data from the same period in the prior year.

Definition and Examples of Quarter Over Quarter

Investors use financial reports filed quarterly and annually by public companies to assess the companies’ financial health and spot trends in overall performance.

Public companies’ financial reports are available from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) through its EDGAR database.

Quarterly reports filed with the SEC after each of the first three quarters of the year are called 10-Q reports. The annual report filed with the SEC that includes the full year’s financial information is called a 10-K. The two types of reports provide similar information, although a 10-K is typically more detailed and comprehensive.

  • Alternate names: Quarter on quarter, quarter to quarter, or one-quarter growth rates
  • Acronym: QOQ or Q/Q
  • Alternate definition: Quarter over quarter also can refer to larger-scale economic performance such as the GDP report that is released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The formula for determining quarter-over-quarter performance is:

(current quarter number - previous quarter number) / previous quarter

The chart below looks at the real-world example of lodging company Airbnb, comparing the company’s second-quarter revenue for 2021 with the previous quarter as well as the second quarter of 2020.

Airbnb Earnings Results
Q2 2021 Revenue $1.34 billion
Q1 2021 Revenue $886.1 million
Q2 2020 Revenue $334.8 million

Plugging the numbers above into the formula for determining QOQ or YOY change, Airbnb revenue in Q2 this year grew 50% from Q1 this year and 300% from the second quarter of 2020. Of course, in the second quarter of that year, travel for Airbnb users was mostly suspended as the world went into lockdown. Travel has increased significantly since then.

How Quarter Over Quarter Works

To continue our example, investors who are considering purchasing shares of Airbnb stock can review the company’s revenue growth from one quarter to the next as well as year over year to help determine whether business is rebounding sufficiently from the drop-off that occurred during 2020.

Other data besides earnings figures from the company’s 10-Q and 10-K reports is also important when analyzing Airbnb, including marketing costs, total nights booked and gross booking value (a number that tracks host earnings, service fees, cleaning fees, and taxes). These totals also can be compared quarter over quarter or year over year.

No matter how a stock is analyzed, quarter-over-quarter performance—or more accurately, a number of quarter-over-quarter assessments—is often vital information for investors.

What It Means for Investors

There are different ways to determine whether a stock is a wise and timely investment. Some investors like to ride a company stock as its quarterly performance crests, while others may aim to jump in when a stock price is dropping in a quarter-on-quarter comparison but has the potential to rebound.

Key Takeaways

  • Quarter over quarter (QOQ) measures the change in a key metric such as revenue or profit in one quarter from the previous one.
  • Investors typically review and compare performance from several quarters to assess the proper value of a company.
  • Year-over-year (YOY) data measures the quarterly performance of a company in the current year from the same quarter in the previous year.
  • Quarterly numbers are available in a company’s 10-Q report, which must be filed with the SEC after each of the first three quarters of the year, or in the 10-K report filed at the end of a year.
  • It is important to factor in seasonal changes and other impacts when comparing quarter-over-quarter figures.