In the complex and often confusing investing world, investors seek reference tools to guide them as to what to buy and when to buy it.

Consider the price-earnings ratio, which is simply the price of a stock or the level of the overall market divided by its earnings. The price-earnings ratio becomes a little more complex when you consider what the earnings are. Are they what was earned in some prior period, often referred to as trailing earnings, or is the earnings divisor based on projections of future earnings?

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