As of November 4, 2009, Microsoft retired the MSN Money Investment Toolbox at the MSN Money Web site. The Toolbox included “deluxe” portfolio tracking, stock charting, and stock and mutual fund screening. Their retirement sparked one of the largest reader responses in recent memory. Here is a sampling of what you had to say.
Why did Microsoft stop supporting their MSN Money Deluxe Screener? I really liked this screener and used it often. It was comprehensive and free. Can you recommend any alternatives?
—C.W. via Web inquiry
I am using the new version of the MSN portfolio tracker and have used this site for many years. I am very surprised you dropped covering it. I am a moderately active trader and look at the site at least daily. It seems fine to me and is free. Are you sure you didn’t miss something?
—J.S. via E-mail
CI Editor Responds: The MSN Money Investment Toolbox’s portfolio tracker and stock screener were unrivaled in their capabilities when compared to other free on-line services. The MSN Money Web site offers some explanations as to why they discontinued the Investment Toolbox at: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/common/pmquestions.aspx. Sadly, the article also provides a long list of features that have been lost now that the Toolbox is no more. While companies rarely like to admit it, I think the decision was based on economics. There has been a trend in recent years for free sites to scale back on the services they provide, and I think Microsoft is following suit. For those looking for an alternative on-line portfolio tracker, you may wish to review Cara Scatizzi’s latest comparison article from the July/August 2008 issue of Computerized Investing. This is available on-line at ComputerizedInvesting.com. The latest comparison of Web-based stock screening services can be found in the May/June 2008 issue and is also available on-line. Look for updates to both articles in 2010.
In the March/April 2008 issue of Computerized Investing you suggested the Dividend Achievers Web site as a potential source of information on foreign dividend-paying stocks [Messages page]. At the time, I was able to access the site and get a list of companies in the index; however, it appears that the Web site is no longer in operation. Can you tell me if this information is available from an alternative source?
—H.T. via E-mail
CI Editor Responds: Dividend Achievers are stocks identified by Mergent, Inc. that have increased annual regular dividends at a minimum for each of the last 10 years, as well as meet specific liquidity criteria. These companies are tracked in indexes maintained by Indxis, the Index Services unit of Mergent. The Dividend Achievers list is reconstituted each January and the current listing is available at the Indxis Web site (www.indxis.com/2009DividendAchievers.html). There you will find the Dividend Achievers broken down by region—U.S., Canada, and international—as well as by Russell Indxis index constituency.
I read with interest Cara Scatizzi’s review of portfolio management programs in the Fourth Quarter 2009 issue, but want to point out something that is missing. I downloaded trial versions of Fund Manager and Investment Account Manager. I attempted to use both programs to track my accounts, which consist of about 300 different individual bonds and CDs. One of my big requirements for a portfolio program is to be able to automatically download buys, sells, and interest payments by CUSIP number. Otherwise, all of these must be manually entered. It turns out that neither of these programs has the ability to automatically do this for my bond portfolio. I exchanged E-mails with the Quant IX team (the makers of Investment Account Manager) and they said they understood the issue and would look into it. However, I never heard back from them. I also found that Investment Account Manager would not properly track master limited partnershipsso, again, these transactions would also have to be entered manually.
—M.B. via E-mail
CI Editor Responds: Thank you for conveying your experience with these programs. I am sorry they did not offer the level of functionality you were looking for. When we are reviewing programs and Web sites, especially for comparison articles, we make every attempt to make our analysis as broad-based as possible. Typically, the real-world portfolios we use to test portfolio management software lack individual bond holdings or more specialized investments such as MLPs. As a result, we rely on the information provided by the respective software companies. In light of your E-mail, we will make more of an effort going forward to ascertain the exact level of bond tracking these programs offer. Likewise, it is always a good idea to contact the software company directly to make sure they offer the features you are looking for.
If other readers would like to tell us about their experiences—good or bad—with a program or Web site we have covered in CI, feel free to contact us at CI@aaii.com.