Comprehensive Web Sites
While all of the sites offer a wide range of data and tools, some have a greater emphasis in one area such as mutual funds or market news and analysis. Individual needs and preferences will dictate which sites are best for you.
|SERVICES OFFERED BY THE SITE|
The comparison grid covers five basic areas—portfolio monitoring, fundamental stock analysis, technical analysis, mutual fund analysis, and other site offerings. The top section of the grid lists the Web site name, the firm producing the site, the Web site’s URL address, and basic subscription information. The majority of these sites are free, but some are fee-based or have a multi-tiered pricing structure. Monthly fees are indicated in the comparison grid.
Monitoring Your Portfolio
Web-based portfolio managers range from simple pages that track the market value of your holdings to sophisticated systems that analyze your holdings and alert you to unbalanced portfolios. Most investors desire an on-line portfolio manager that extends beyond just obtaining the latest quote and calculating the market value of their holdings. The more advanced systems display current news on the securities in your portfolio, follow the activity of the financial markets, and analyze your holdings based on factors such as asset allocation, industry concentration, and company market capitalization breakdown.
The portfolio monitoring segment of the comparison grid helps to quantify the key elements involved in tracking a portfolio.
The majority of services provide a price snapshot, which is updated by refreshing your Web browser. Some sites offer streaming quotes on either a delayed or real-time basis, which updates price data automatically throughout the course of the day. These quote services often require a subscription. The current quotes line of the comparison grid details the types of securities for which quotes are provided.
All of the sites feature portfolio tracking, enabling you to get quotes not only on individual stocks, but also on all of your securities with a single request. Typically, these services will also allow you to enter the purchase price so that the portfolio value and gain or loss can be tracked. Some also send portfolio price updates via E-mail.
In addition to tracking security prices and the current value of your portfolio, it is important to be up to date on news affecting your investments and the market as a whole. Staying current on sector, industry, economic and individual company news is vital for an investor to participate actively in the market.
To avoid an overload of news stories, look for a site providing timely data that can be filtered to match your investment decision processes. Check out the news sources and make sure the data service uses a reliable industry standard for news. Some of the better-known newswires include Reuters, Bloomberg, and Dow Jones. With newswires, more is not necessarily better. One of the national news sources above should be adequate when paired with a press release newswire such as Market Wire or BusinessWire. Additional news services can result in duplication of information.
However, different sites may offer newswires at different subscription rates and various levels of detail and frequency. Investors must manage these news services according to their trading style. Active investors may want an alarm when news appears on a stock in their watch list. This requires a constant log-on to see if any relevant news items crossed the wire. The long-term, buy-and-hold investor may prefer an electronic clipping service, which collects news stories that can be read at leisure. To set up these clipping files, you must establish filters that indicate which topics and newswires interest you. Some services require you to log onto the service to see the filtered articles, while other services such as MarketWatch will deliver the news stories to you via E-mail. MarketWatch also allows users to determine which news services should trigger an E-mail alert and whether individual E-mails should be sent out for each alert or collected into a composite alert released at given time of day. Most services also allow you to check for news on a specific company when examining your portfolio on-line. The differences lie in which specific newswire is searched and the storage depth of that service.
Message areas are a good place to learn about related resources available through the Internet. Discussions range from news alerts or chart-pattern dissections supporting a poster’s long or short perspective for a given company to emotional attacks on the character of company management or other posters. Yahoo! Finance has an investment message board for every U.S. publicly traded company. Message boards can be a good resource for identifying some of the factors driving a company’s current stock price. Message boards, however, often contain advertisements and you can never be sure of the motivation driving a particular posting. Read any post on a message board with skepticism. The ability to reach a large audience at a relatively low cost is both an advantage and a burden for the Internet.
Researching a company’s fundamentals is becoming much easier, cheaper and more powerful through many Web sites. Most of the on-line services offer financial statements, earnings estimates, company and industry analysis, and even education on stock valuation techniques.
The comparison grid indicates the various sources of financial data provided by the sites along with any additional charges beyond the standard subscription fees. The depth and breadth of the financial data provided by each service is summarized through information on the number of companies followed and the amount and type of data provided for each company.
If a service offers screening, the number of data fields available for screening is reported. Screening consists of sifting through a large universe of securities to locate a handful that possess one or more desirable characteristics.
Technical analysis attempts to forecast price movement in a security by examining how the market price and volume of market activity behave over time. Technical analysis is dependent upon large quantities of historical price and volume data. Technicians normally use charts to plot price and volume data along with any derived indicators.
More Web sites are using licensed modules to supply on-line, interactive charts. These services offer users a basic set of technical indicators and data that typically covers at least a five-year period, as well as intraday charts.
The comparison grid indicates if charting is available, any additional costs required to use the module and the charting source.
Securities covered, time period charted, and availability of technical indicators are details that help to measure the functionality of the site’s charting module. The sites that allow you to download historical data into an Excel spreadsheet or a technical analysis software program are noted.
Mutual Fund Analysis
All of the profiled Web sites provide mutual fund data. The comparison grid notes the source of the data along with any subscription charges.
The data source often determines the presentation and depth of available information. Most of the sites with mutual fund data provide basic performance data, benchmark data for comparison, and cost data.
Screening modules and the ability to rank funds are useful tools and noted in the comparison grid.
In addition to stock and mutual fund data, portfolio monitoring tools and up-to-date news stories, some sites offer data on exchange-traded funds (ETFs), initial public offerings (IPOs) and stock options. An ETF is a mutual fund that is traded like a stock, while an IPO is the first offering of a company’s stock in the marketplace.
As ETFs have gained popularity, Web sites have begun to add tracking programs, statistics and analysis on these unique securities. Although IPOs and stock options are not a new phenomenon, for some investors, they make up a good portion of their portfolios. While many of these sites do not offer IPO data, a few, such as Yahoo! Finance, have sections devoted to these offerings.
Analyzing Your Goals
All of these options require you to balance your needs, wants, time constraints, and budget. It is important to be realistic about what you are trying to accomplish with your investing.
If you have a large portfolio that you actively trade and require timely data for a wide range of securities, then a subscription to several data sources may be needed to aid in the decision-making process. If you need a data service to update the pricing in your portfolio once a week, you have no need for real-time data feeds. However, you may still need the same amount of data depending on the size of your portfolio. Another investor may want all of this data, but the size of his investment portfolio and respective time horizon simply do not match—the cost of this mismatch will eat up profits.
|THE COMPREHENSIVE SITES|
Business Week Online
Business Week’s Web site is mainly free and provides news articles and commentary from its magazines and market data from Standard & Poor’s and Telescan. Subscribers to Business Week magazine have additional access to enhanced reports and news articles. The site offers up-to-date commentary on technology, global, small business and political news as well as how each sector is impacting the market. The site does not have any information on IPOs or ETFs.
Business Week offers stock and mutual fund screeners. The most advanced of the three stock screeners has over 75 criteria for screening and includes financial ratios, earnings estimates, insider activity and industry comparisons. The quick search screener has only 20 data fields, but is useful for quick, basic stock screening. A BW 50/S&P 500 Screener gives users access to the magazine’s annual ranking of the S&P 500 stocks.
The mutual fund screener has a database of only 5,400 funds but offers 50 criteria for screening. The screener has an “Add a Row” feature that allows you to specify multiple criteria for one data field type. If the screen produces a large number of results, users are asked to narrow the search. Standard & Poor’s provides the fund data, but only about 20 statistics are supplied on each fund.
Portfolio tracking is made simple and quick on this site. After searching for a stock, you can easily add it to your portfolio with one click. Securities in the portfolio can be viewed in one of eight ways: a summary, current quotes, analyst ratings, valuations and ratios, insider trading, news, price breakouts and rankings. Alerts can be sent when stocks reach a certain price and news on portfolio holdings can be sent via E-mail. Users must manually refresh their Web browsers to update price data.
Business Week subscribers get free premium on-line access, three free S&P reports each month, up to 75 S&P STARS Rankings for stocks in your portfolio and additional interactive investing tools.
CNN and Money Magazine team up to offer up-to-date news stories, on-line portfolio tracking and analysis tools. In addition to CNN and Money Magazine news stories, users can read news from Reuters, Dow Jones, Market Edge, and Fortune Magazine. While the portfolio tracker is basic—offering the latest stock price, the day’s percentage change, current market values and 52-week highs and lows—it is adequate for simply following a portfolio’s movements. All data is delayed by at least 15 minutes. Real-time data is available by subscription only and costs $14.95 per month. Investors can receive E-mail alerts with important news stories on the stocks in their portfolios.
CNN/Money offers a free, yet simplistic mutual fund screener. With 17 data fields for screening and ranking and about 7,500 funds in its database, it can be useful for initial fund screening. Morningstar provides supplemental fund data that covers valuations, ratings and risk, portfolio information and comparison charts.
The site does not have a stock screener. However, a list of hot stocks, earnings reports and IPO data can be found. Over 500 statistics on individual stocks and their respective companies are given, including financial statements, risk measures, graphs, price history, stock options, and earnings estimates.
A personal finance section offers tools, articles and advice on topics such as retirement planning, saving for college, tax preparation and much more.
Forbes offers free access to basic portfolio management tools including a mutual fund screener, a portfolio tracker and news articles. Premium members have access to a stock screener, a more advanced portfolio tracking module and more in-depth data on securities. The free fund screener has only 22 data fields for screening and ranking. One criterion unique to this screener is the fund’s Forbes rating. Sample screens help beginning investors understand the screening process and build their own screens.
The portfolio manager offers current market values and links to news and company summaries. Stock information for premium members is as detailed as other sites. For $15 a month premium members get real-time portfolio quotes, more financial ratios and statements, advanced charting capabilities and a stock screener, although fairly basic. The screener has only six criteria for screening and the results are displayed in an easy-to-read table format. The site also offers current news articles from Forbes magazine and various Web sites.
Kiplinger.com is a free site that offers portfolio management, quotes, news, stock and mutual fund data, screening tools and investment education. The site’s portfolio tracker can be used to track stocks, mutual funds and options. Shares are automatically adjusted for splits and dividends. No real-time data is offered, however, and quotes are delayed by 20 minutes.
In addition to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine articles, the site offers links to news stories from various sources including Business Wire, PR News and Canada Newswire.
Six years of financial data and ratios, SEC filings, earnings estimates and industry comparisons are all found on individual stocks. The stock screener allows for 27 criteria to be entered, but is fairly simplistic. Users can also read news articles and commentary about the stock market.
The mutual fund screener provides 16 fields for screening and is fairly simplistic as well. Fund investors have access to a wealth of articles and commentary on mutual fund investing as well as over 50 data fields on each fund.
Kiplinger’s also offers financial tools and articles in the areas of retirement planning, saving for college and tax preparation.
MarketWatch is a good site to find news on individual stocks and the market as a whole as well as track your stock and mutual fund portfolios.E-mail alerts regarding portfolio news, price targets and volume information make tracking a portfolio easier. Portfolios are automatically updated every three minutes and real-time quotes are available for $14.95 per month.
The site provides investors with news from multiple sources such as the Motley Fool, TheStreet.com, the Wall Street Journal Online, Business Wire, and PR News. Users can see over 200 statistics on each stock with free charts, earnings estimates, insider information, stock option data, and financial statements. IPO and ETF sections offer valuable data on investing in these securities, pricing information and market news.
The stock and mutual fund screeners are free, but lack sophistication, with only 12 criteria for stocks and three for mutual funds. You cannot rank the outcomes. Lists of top- and bottom-performing funds, a fund compare tool, Lipper ratings and over 50 fund statistics add to the site’s mutual fund offerings.
Morningstar.com offers investors a wealth of financial data and tools for free, including portfolio tracking, stock and fund screening, market research, message boards and news articles. Additional analysis, screening and research are available to premium members for $13.95 per month.
The portfolio tool allows investors to track stocks, mutual funds, bonds and cash. Portfolios can be imported from or exported to any desktop software or spreadsheet program. The X-Ray Overview tab gives information on the portfolio’s asset allocation, diversification, interest rate sensitivity, and portfolio ratios such as the price-earnings ratio, price-to-book ratio, return on assets and return on equity. The site also analyzes asset allocation and compares it to the overall market. Advice is given on how to better balance the portfolio with a projection on how the new allocation might fare in current market conditions.
The premium stock screener is highly sophisticated and offers over 500 criteria for screening. The basic screener has 19 data fields for screening. Criteria can be set to user-defined numbers as well as benchmarks and industry averages. The free fund screener has 19 criteria for screening and users can view over 150 statistics on each fund while the premium screener has over 150 data fields for screening and over 350 data points on each fund. Both the stock and fund premium screeners allow results to be saved.
Stock research includes Morningstar research reports (free for premium users; basic members can print 50 free reports). With over 800 data fields on each stock, the site offers a comprehensive look at the stock market. Valuation and other ratios, financial statements, charts, performance, SEC filings and insider ownership are all tracked. Current news stories from multiple sources are given for each stock. Mutual fund data includes performance data for the past seven years, comparisons to benchmarks and other funds, risk measures and Morningstar ratings. Sections devoted to ETFs and to teaching the basics of investing round out the offerings of the site.
Microsoft and CNBC team up to give investors a comprehensive site that fulfills all of their investing needs. The site offers news stories from multiple sources including CNBC, Forbes, AP and Briefing.com. Charts, educational articles, stock and mutual fund research and portfolio tracking are free to all users.
A sophisticated portfolio tracking program compatible with Windows operating systems must actually be downloaded and installed the first time the site is visited. The program can track stocks, bonds, funds, options and futures and can monitor cash balances. Displays can be refreshed manually at any time or automatically every five minutes. Customizable displays and a multitude of sorting techniques help each investor tailor the tracking program to fit their needs.
The mutual fund and stock screening tools are also downloaded and installed with the portfolio tool. With over 12,500 funds in its database, the deluxe fund screener offers over 80 screening criteria and over 200 data points on individual funds. The stock screener has over 200 criteria for screening including earnings estimates, insider holdings, financial data and risk measures. Over 1,000 statistics on individual stocks makes researching your investments easy and thorough. Both programs are highly flexible and easy to navigate.
Interactive technical charts allow users to customize the timeframe, type of chart and indicators shown as well as compare to other securities and indexes. Chart data, stock and fund screening results and portfolio tracking data can all be exported to an Excel spreadsheet. A research wizard helps investors learn how to analyze securities, while a help function makes finding answers to questions quick and simple.
Reuters offers free portfolio tracking and mutual fund screening as well as a wide array of stock data. Although the portfolio section of the site is more primitive than at other sites, it works for basic portfolio management. The site does not automatically update price information but 25 securities can be included in one portfolio. You can see the portfolio’s percentage change for the day and the total portfolio value, which can be compared to a benchmark. Portfolios can also be exported. The portfolio manager has the ability to show security prices and portfolio values in currencies other than U.S. dollars.
The free mutual fund screener has 17 fields for screening and five for ranking. The site also lacks in-depth fund data and statistics. The site’s stock section, however, offers over 400 data points on each stock including ratios, financial statements dating back five years, interactive technical charts and earnings estimates. The stock screener provides 80 criteria for screening and 19 predefined screens for use.
Sections devoted to ETFs, currencies, commodities and screening ideas can all be found in Reuter’s investing area.
SmartMoney.com provides access to its magazine’s articles and helpful investment tools such as stock and mutual fund screeners and a portfolio tracker. There are three levels of membership: free, $5.95 per month, and $10.95 per month. Basic access to the site is free and includes the portfolio tracker, stock and mutual fund data and articles and commentary on the market.
The portfolio tracker can hold up to 100 securities and users can create up to 50 different portfolios. Data can be imported to and exported from Excel, Money and Quicken. Pricing and performance data can be updated as often as every minute and real-time quotes are available with a premium membership. Stock splits and dividends are automatically accounted for. Asset allocation tools help balance your portfolio. Premium members can also receive E-mail alerts with price and volume data and portfolio updates.
The site contains over 9,000 stocks and 12,000 mutual funds in its database with plenty of statistical information on individual securities. Financial data on stocks goes back 10 years. Interactive technical charts go back five years and allow for multiple technical indicators to be charted and compared to other securities or an index.
Stock and fund screeners are available to premium members. The stock screener offers over 150 criteria for screening and the fund screener offers 60. Both screeners allow for comparison against other securities, indexes, benchmarks and industry averages. Screens can be saved and exported.
Additional content includes an ETF center, advice on college planning, debt management, insurance and real estate and access to Smart Money magazine articles.
Although the site is not free, for a reasonable price ($9.95 per month; $4.95 per month for print WSJ subscribers) investors can access Wall Street Journal and Barron’s articles, stock and mutual fund data and a portfolio tracker. You can create up to five portfolios with up to 30 securities in each with the site’s basic portfolio tracking program. The site compares your portfolio performance to the Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ composite. You can view the percentage change for the day, the total gain in dollars and the total value of all of your holdings. The site has no mutual fund or stock screening tools.
An adequate amount of data on individual stocks and funds can be found including financial statements and ratios, earnings data and recent news. Unique to this site is a section listing company executives and information about salaries, bonuses and backgrounds. Historical prices and charts show data dating back to 1970. Fifty free real-time quotes can be downloaded each day. The overall research materials and tools are basic; the rich editorial and news content is the site’s major draw.
As a member you have access to an archive of old WSJ articles as well as the current day’s edition (fee for articles older than 90 days). A custom news retrieval option allows users to sift through the large catalogue of articles quickly and find the most relevant articles. Stories can be sent to you via E-mail from the WSJ and Barron’s.
Although Yahoo! Finance offers an unsophisticated set of financial tools, it is a good site for portfolio tracking, fund and stock screening and reading current market news. Yahoo! Finance includes news stories from EDGAR Online, the Motley Fool, Reuters, MarketWatch, Fortune and TheStreet.com. Once users register, the tools are easy to use and will prove valuable for most analysis.
The portfolio tracker allows for an unlimited number of portfolios with up to 200 securities in any one. Stocks, funds, indexes and options can all be tracked. Although price information is not automatically updated, users can receive real-time quotes for $10.95 per month. E-mail alerts can be sent when securities change in price and at the end of the trading day with an overall summary of your portfolio’s performance.
The site offers over 200 data fields on individual stocks and over 125 for funds. Stock data includes earnings information, ratios, financial statements, insider activity and current news stories. The stock screener is free and offers over 150 criteria for screening. It is very intuitive to use and screens can be saved, E-mailed and exported. The program must be downloaded using Windows and a Java platform.
Also free is the relatively basic mutual fund screening tool which offers 25 criteria for screening. Related news headlines, historical prices, charts, risk measures, manager information and portfolio holdings are given for each fund.
The site has sections devoted to financial planning, ETFs and IPOs. Educational tools for beginning investors include message boards, a glossary, quizzes an d a bookstore. Overall, Yahoo! Finance brings all the elements of a comprehensive investing Web site together, although in a simplistic manner.
As a data provider for other companies, Zacks.com offers a wide range of investment resources including free portfolio tracking and stock and fund screening. The portfolio manager is free to all registered members, and registration is free. You can create up to five different portfolios and track up to 45 securities in each. Alerts regarding changes in your portfolio’s value can be sent to you via E-mail. Real-time quotes are tied to the portfolio tracker and cost $9.95 per month.
Individual stock and fund research is broad and deep—over 200 fields for stocks and over 150 for funds. Stock data includes ratios, financial statements dating back five years and industry comparisons. The free stock screener has 96 criteria for screening, while the mutual fund screener has 50. Both programs offer multiple predefined screens. The programs are not as intuitive as others, but Zacks offers plenty of help and guidance through the process of creating custom screens. Both screeners also show how many securities pass each criterion, making it easy to adjust when too many or too few pass.
In addition, Zacks.com offers interactive charting, current news articles and market commentary, and data on bonds, international securities and options. The site also offers a free trading simulator that allows users to get the hang of trading without taking any risk.