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Every three months, the markets are gripped by a kind of madness, otherwise known as quarterly earnings season. It lasts about 10 days or so, but the impact can unravel investment strategies and alter lives.

Most eyes focus on a single number – earnings per share. Everything from the careers of executives to the fortunes of big fund managers and the hopes of small investors ride on whether companies make, exceed or fail to reach analysts’ estimates. Which may explain why this has also become prime alibi season, when the misses prompt some remarkable responses.

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