Reporting season shows happy returns for investors
To get a handle of what shape the Australian economy is in and where it is going, economists, investors and business people alike track the myriad of statistics and survey information released on a regular basis.
There are also the reports and commentaries provided by the Reserve Bank.
And overseas economic data is tracked closely to determine what it means for our economy.
However, the information is only so useful.
Much of the data is incomplete, it can be volatile and it may be less timely than preferred, particularly if you are investor or key business person faced with key decisions.
But there are two periods in the year when decision-makers receive information from a different source to guide them to what is really happening at the coalface.
That is earnings season, or the time when listed companies release their latest financial accounts and provide commentaries on how the business is tracking, what challenges are being faced and - importantly - where they see things going over the next six to 12 months.
The "interim" reporting season concluded at the end of February.
That is the time when most companies report earnings for the six months to December, although a significant number report full-year earnings for calendar 2014 then.
Now, the perception from economic data and surveys is that businesses have found it tougher over the past six months and, while balance sheets are in good shape, the environment has reinforced a mood of caution and conservatism.