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"How can I compare the performance of companies within an industry?"

answer: 

Financial databases such as CapitalIQ, Mergent Online, and Thomson One Banker allow you to create a list of companies within an industry and then build a comparison report based on selected criteria, including financials, corporate information, and ratios. Bloomberg's Relative Value (RV) shortcut performs the same function, but with more variables to choose from.

"Where can I find a current overview of an industry?"

answer: 
Trade associations are great sources of information on industries. In addition, Cornell subscribes to a number of resources that provide in-depth reports on industries.
  • Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys, available via NetAdvantage, provide extensive reports on major U.S. industries. These reports are written by S&P analysts and are updated quarterly.
  • IBISworld has more than 700 reports on U.S. industries.
  • Business & Company Resource Center provides electronic access to the Encyclopedia of American Industries, Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries, and Encyclopedia of Global Industries.
  • ProQuest has access to First Research reports which cover hundreds of industries.
  • Thomson One Banker provides full-text analyst reports for industries.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau publishes Industry Series, a collection of statistical reports on selected industries, as part of their Economic Census.