UK Accounting Glossary
Occurring in cycles; recurrent.
Recurring at regular intervals.
When entire industries and the companies within them are characterized as cyclical or non-cyclical it is typically, but not always, with respect to the overall business cycle. (A cyclical pattern is one that has wave-like trends or cycles.) Demand for industrial products like heavy machinery and consumer durables are affected by macro-economic conditions, making companies in these sectors cyclical. In contrast, basic consumer necessities such as food and pharmaceuticals are non-cyclical. Mature companies and industries tend to be more cyclical than young ones. Debt causes earnings for the cyclical company to be even more volatile than the cyclical demand for the company’s products because debt service increases fixed cost structure. Because cyclical companies tend to be mature and mature companies tend to keep at least some debt on their balance sheet, the earnings pattern of a cyclical company will often be the most cyclical characteristic of that company.
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This glossary post was last updated: 4th February 2020.