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In financial statements numbers are sometimes given with parentheses around them, while other numbers appear without parentheses. What does it mean if a number is enclosed by parentheses?

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It means the number is negative. It's an alternate way of showing negative numbers versus prefacing with a negative sign (-)

In some cases, a negative value also has a different name. For example you'll often see

Net Profit (Loss) :   (10,000)

Where the parentheses means that it was a loss and not a profit. Mathematically it's the same as a "negative profit" but it is used to keep headings consistent (it would be harder to analyze than if you used a different heading to indicate a profit or a loss).

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    And as info: the reason this is done is because "()" is WAY better to see - particualrly historically when print quality may be dubious at times - than a "-" before the number. Less possibility for mistakes. – TomTom Feb 13 at 18:11

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