A large gain or loss in a company's earnings due to a non-recurring event that is out of the company's control. For example, a water distribution company may have unusually high earnings from sales because a natural disaster required relief organizations to purchase large quantities of clean water. On the other hand, it may have low earnings from sales because all the relief organizations had previously stocked up on water and did not need to buy any more. Extraordinary items are reported separately from the company's other financial statements so as to give a clearer picture of how the company is actually performing. Publicly-traded companies must report extraordinary items to shareholders in quarterly and annual reports and explain why they do not constitute a substantial increase or decrease in the company's health.