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Computerized Investing > May/June 2004

Web-Based Stock Screening Services

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by John Bajkowski

Jumping in and out of investments without any overall game plan or rules to help guide your decisions is a practice likely to lead to disappointing results. We have studied the investing processes of many investment gurus and, while they use different rules in selecting their stocks, they are consistent in employing a disciplined system to guide them along the way. Whether you are a short-term trader or a long-term buy and hold investor, a system to help overcome emotions and provide a consistent framework for making investment decisions is critical. Stock screening programs can be a very effective tool in a disciplined approach to investing by allowing you to quickly sort through thousands of stocks and identify a few that possess some qualities indicating that they merit further study.

The particular characteristics that investors seek out vary depending upon individual investment philosophy and even timeframe. A value investor may look for financially sound, large-cap stocks with a price-earnings ratio below 70% of all other stocks exhibiting a solid expected growth rate that has been revised upward recently. On the other hand, a growth investor may seek out smaller stocks with strong earnings growth and increasing price momentum.

Beyond identifying stock ideas, fundamental screening systems are also surrounded by company and industry data that serve as a framework to investigate any investment tips or ideas that come your way in an organized, consistent fashion.

In this issue’s product comparison, we examine a wide range of free and fee-based Web stock screening and analysis tools. The comparison grid lists information about subscription costs, program features, and basic database content. Table 1 details the financial statement elements—provided from the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows—that are found on each service. Individual ratings and system strengths and weaknesses are disclosed in Table 2. Individual program and Web reviews begin on the next page.

COMPARING SCREENING SERVICES

The number of stand-alone stock screening programs geared toward individual investors and run on personal computers continues to wane. While these disk-based programs are more flexible and powerful than their Internet counterparts, Web-based tools have matured to the point that a number of systems offer a strong combination of screening features.

Before considering a screening system, it is important to be comfortable with your investment approach and fully understand its risk level and its required time commitment. For example, growth-oriented approaches are more aggressive and require current data with frequent and close monitoring. The screening systems assembled for this comparison vary widely in their emphasis. When comparing stock screening services, consider the following critical factors:

  • the price of the service,
  • the universe of stocks supported by the database,
  • the depth of stock information,
  • the flexibility of the screening tool,
  • ease of use, and
  • computer system support.
Price

Most of the services reviewed here are still free, although there is a trend toward instituting fee-based options. The fee-based services typically offer a unique element to justify the cost and attract subscribers. For example, MarketScreen emphasizes intraday screening on technical factors, while WallStreetCity.com offers pre-tested strategies and displays of historical performance of custom screens.

Company Universe

Screening dictates that the search process start with a broad universe of companies. Better screening systems cover a wide range of companies. Some offer substantial coverage that includes Nasdaq National Market and Small Cap companies. Some services also cover Nasdaq Bulletin Board companies, which may be an important consideration if you follow micro-cap companies.

Screening systems offer one of the easiest ways to gather data on smaller firms. Information on the number of companies tracked by each service is provided in the comparison grid starting on page 10.

Depth of Company Information

Screening services vary in the depth of information provided. Some services, such as Investors.com by Investor’s Business Daily, provide fewer data items for each company and instead depend on summary statistics such as ratings and rankings when providing background data. Other services, such as Reuters Investor and CNBC on MSN Money, provide both summary statistics and the raw data behind these numbers.

In considering a data service, look not only at the number of variables but also specifically at which statistics are provided. Investors.com, Morningstar and Value Line have proprietary ratings for company growth, profitability, financial health, and valuation, which may be more important for some investors than the completeness of the database. Wall Street City combines extensive technical and fundamental factors for screening, while MarketScreen.com is primarily focussed on intraday technical factors.

An examination of both Table 1 and the comparison grid helps to give you a complete picture of the data emphasis of each service.

Custom Data Fields

Custom data fields are ratios and figures you create on your own. Custom fields allow you to create ratios omitted by the program developers or even enter valuation models that attempt to determine a fair market price of a stock.

Once a user-defined variable is created, you can employ it in screening. This feature is more critical if your analysis tends to be specialized and specific.

Company Information

Company information consists of basic data such as the firm’s Web address and phone number, so you can request financial statements or speak to the investor relations department for clarification. Basic company descriptions are also common.

Other elements covered under company information include dividend reinvestment (DRP) plan information, and industry grouping.

Estimates & Recommendations

The market is driven by expectations. Display of consensus earnings estimates and buy/hold/sell recommendations are now common, while some services are trying to differentiate themselves with proprietary ratings and valuations. Consensus estimates are calculated by polling thousands of analysts for earnings estimates of the companies they cover. Services also poll analysts to report their ratings on the overall attractiveness of stocks in an attempt to derive uniform consensus recommendations. These estimates and recommendations allow investors to directly gauge the expectations built into the stock price.

While the objectivity of sell-side analysts has come into question, changes to recommendations and earnings estimates continue to move stock prices. Look for an indication of recent revisions or surprises.

Valuation

Valuations try to measure the price attractiveness of a given stock. Some services provide numerical valuation ratings, while others provide price targets. When using valuations, it is important to look beyond the actual valuation and determine the assumptions, rationale, and reasonableness behind each company’s rating. Some systems are qualitative, while others are quantitative in their approach. When available, the source of the valuation is listed. The comparison grid indicates if a service provides a fundamental or technical valuation or rating. Since risk works hand-in-hand with return, the valuation segment of the comparison grid also indicates if a risk rating or ranking measure is provided.

Financial Ratios

Ratios help you summarize financial statement data into a format that can be easily manipulated to compare year-to-year changes for a company or to compare one company against another.

Leverage ratios examine the company’s use of debt in its financial structure. Effective use of debt can enhance shareholder profitability at the risk of saddling the company with an interest payment that must be made in good times and bad. Common leverage ratios include debt to equity, liabilities as a percentage of assets, and long-term debt as a percentage of capital.

Liquidity ratios try to gauge a firm’s ability to meet its short-term obligations. While liquidity measures are of greater interest to creditors than equity investors, you may want to glance at these ratios if you are looking for high-yielding stocks. Typical liquidity ratios include the quick ratio and current ratio.

Profitability ratios benchmark company performance and highlight trends when examined over time, as well as indicate strong and weak performance when compared to other firms. Common profitability ratios include return on assets (ROA), return on equity (ROE), gross margins, operating margins, and net profit margins.

Multiples are the core variables of many fundamental screens. They relate the current stock price to a tangible company item such as earnings per share or book value per share. Multiples provide an indication of how the market values the company’s future prospects. Companies with brighter futures typically trade with higher multiples, but it is important to perform a complete company analysis.

Look for a broad range of multiples covering items such as earnings, book value, cash flow, and dividends. Historical ratios help indicate normal trading ranges and provide a base against which to compare current multiples. Therefore, historical average multiples are a key element when choosing a service.

Historical Growth Rates

Growth rates paint a picture of past company performance and provide an easy way to compare companies. Investors seek out quickly growing firms with the hope that growth will continue to drive the stock price up. Five-year growth rates are normally presented for sales, earnings, and dividends. The more powerful sites have a wider range of growth rates for various time periods.

The comparison grid indicates which growth rates are provided by each Web site along with the time periods covered and their presentation format. The grid also details if benchmarks are provided to help form reasonable comparisons and screens.

Price — Share Data

The price and share data describe various market-related aspects of the company’s common stock. The extent and detail of historical price data as well as volume data is listed in the comparison grid. Other measures such as MPT statistics (modern portfolio theory measures—beta, alpha, etc.), relative strength and market capitalization are also detailed. If you focus on price momentum, look for enough price data to examine price movement or summary statistics such as relative strength.

Holdings and actions by insiders and institutions are also noted in the comparison grid.

Industry comparisons are useful in identifying stand-out firms. Multiples, growth rates and ratios give you an added measure of information when analyzed in the context of industry norms. Look for programs that provide industry statistics or at least allow you to screen for companies in a similar industry and then analyze those firms as a group. Some systems even allow you to screen for companies outperforming industry norms.

Financial Statement Data

The raw data serves as the basis for the calculation of ratios, growth rates, and multiples. Financial statement data is useful for analyzing a single firm, but is more difficult to use directly in screening and ranking. Nevertheless, the better sites include enough information from the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement to judge whether the ratios and growth rates properly reflect the company’s prospects. Some sites offer practically no raw data, while others provide a rich history. Table 1 details the financial statement information provided by each site. For example, by examining the year-by-year earnings of a firm you can gain a feel for performance consistency and earnings trends (which growth rates often mask).

Table 1 also indicates if the site provides direct access to company SEC (EDGAR) filings.

Screening Power & Flexibility

The core feature of any screening system is its set of screening capabilities. The comparison grid includes several categories that describe the screening features provided by the services. When designing screening criteria, the system should allow you to screen against a constant value or another field. Some services even allow you to compare a value against industry norms. Services such as Yahoo’s Java-based screening tool provide benchmark figures for each field to help you construct reasonable screening criteria.

The screening system should also keep track of the number of companies passing each filter.

Most simple Web-based screening tools do not allow you to save a set of screening criteria for use in a later session. This will force you to reconstruct the entire screen every time you wish to apply it. The comparison grid also indicates the number of predefined screens supplied by each service.

Ease of Use

Typically, the more feature-rich the program is, the more difficult it is to learn how to operate the system. The pure HTML-based systems often offer little else than boxes to input minimum and maximum values for a given criterion. While these systems are easy to use once, repeated screening and fine-tuning may be arduous. The individual program reviews and ratings in Table 1 address this issue.

Viewing Results

Most of the services list the companies passing a given screen in a table with links to additional data. A single company report will typically detail all of the information provided by the database for a company. Tabular reports allow you to compare specific data items for a group of companies. Less common, but still useful, is an industry report that lists the statistics for a particular industry.

Screening Is a First Step

Remember when working with fundamental screening programs that data errors will exist. The wider the usage of the data, the more likely it is that data errors will be found quickly and corrected. Screening is merely the first step in the security analysis process. After screening, further in-depth analysis is required. However, a good screening system should help point you in the right direction.

STOCK SCREENING SERVICES

Business Week Online
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Business Week Online
Comparison Grid

Business Week Online combines elements of the Business Week publication, Standard & Poor’s data and analysis, and financial data and tools from Telescan and Zacks. Business Week Online is primarily a free site that also provides enhanced reports for subscribers to Business Week magazine.

Business Week Online provides three Telescan-based stock screening tools within the Tools & Scoreboards segment of the site. The BW 50/S&P 500 Screener provides access to annual magazine rankings of the S&P 500 stocks. The quick stock search and advanced stock search share a similar interface but vary in the number of screening fields supported—20 versus 75.

Users can establish minimum or maximum values for a given criterion or specify that the passing value be as high or low as possible. Criteria cannot be compared against another field, industry norm or database as a whole.

Screening results can be displayed in a table or spreadsheet file. Spreadsheet results are displayed in the Web browser with a comma-separated format limited to a few fields that must be copied manually into a spreadsheet program. Screening results feature a backtested performance chart of the strategy. The chart shows the cumulative monthly performance of the screen over the last 12 months. The screening editor is basic, but covers the major elements used for screening with a stronger emphasis on technical factors than is found with most screening tools. Screens cannot be saved for later use. We even had to reselect all the criteria switching between screen construction and results mode, a processtypically necessary when fine-tuning criteria.

The site has two primary news sections—a daily briefing devoted to current market, economic, and political news as well as a similar section focused on news affecting the global business marketplace. A technology section provides news and special reports on the tech sector and technology-driven issues involving the markets. Within this section there are additional news stories on science & technology and biotech developments.

Subscribers to Business Week magazine gain access to magazine content on-line and receive three free S&P reports each month. Site-only users who register for free have access to all areas—including the investing tools—except those tied to current and archived magazine content.

CBS MarketWatch
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CBS MarketWatch
Comparison Grid

CBS MarketWatch tries to set itself apart from other information services with its staff of reporters who provide headlines, stories, and analysis throughout the trading day. Regular columns cover topics such as IPOs, earnings surprises, and technology stocks. Tables provide details on events such as stock splits, volume alerts, insider stock sales, and share buybacks.

Beyond news, the service offers free multiple portfolios, market and basic company research, stock screening, charting, and mutual fund data. The stock screener is very basic, with support for only 12 criteria geared toward identifying stocks with recent price and volume action. Criteria are restricted to price action (level, change, or hitting new highs or lows), volume (overall level and block trades), fundamentals (price-earnings ratio and market capitalization) technicals (moving average and relative strength) and industry and exchange membership. Detailed financial statements and news assist in researching stocks that pass filters. The news and research elements of the site are reasonable, but investors seeking a screening tool should look elsewhere.

CNBC on
MSN Money
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CNBC on MSN Money
Comparison Grid

Microsoft and CNBC offer a complete personal finance and investing resource through their free Web site. The investing section offers portfolio tracking, charts, news, and stock and mutual fund research. Access to articles, news, screens, company and mutual fund data, and portfolio tracking is free to all Internet users.

The research and screening module on the site is still the benchmark to beat. As revealed in the comparison grid, the company coverage is both broad and deep. The site pulls together the content of Camelback Research, Media General, Reuters, Thomson and Zacks into a comprehensive company report. Navigation between the various modules is seamless and well planned.

The screening flexibility is well above average among Internet services. The screening editor is a program that we are able to run on Windows-based systems using either Internet Explorer or Netscape browsers. On Mac systems, however, MSN displays a more basic Web-based screening module.

Screening is interactive with passing companies displayed as criteria are added. The criteria encompass a full spectrum of elements ranging from basic company information, such as market capitalization, to changes in analyst recommendations. Criteria can be compared to constants, other fields or even another company. It is even possible to create custom fields in the screening editor.

A research wizard walks an investor through the factors to consider when examining a stock, including its fundamentals, price history, valuations, catalysts, and competition. StockScouter ratings provide risk/reward recommendations for stocks. This quantitatively determined system provides fundamental, ownership, valuation, and technical grades. A separate graph displays the projected risk versus return profile of a given stock.

MSN continues to be one of the strongest stock research and screening services on the Web.

Investors.com
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Investors.com
Comparison Grid

The Investors.com Web site is run by Investor’s Business Daily and offers screening and research tools focused on the CAN SLIM system of investing in common stocks. CAN SLIM is an acronym for seven common characteristics of winning stocks that William O’Neil identified prior to their big market moves.

Investors.com offers a number of subscription-based tools including a custom screen wizard, premium stock graphs, industry groups, and daily graphs for funds and options.

The custom stock wizard offers access to 70 screening criteria strongly geared to the CAN SLIM system. The screening tool uses eight categories of fields to filter its 7,000-stock database including: IBD SmartSelect ratings; earnings; sales; industry and sector; shares and holdings; price and volume; margins and ratios; and general. SmartSelect ratings represent the custom IBD ratings for items such as earnings per share, relative price strength, profitability, accumulation/distribution, and industry strength. Additional unique criteria include a sponsorship rating filter that looks for companies that are owned by the better-performing mutual funds and considers if more mutual funds have bought the stock recently. Most of the criteria are geared to seeking out growth-oriented stocks, but screens can also consider price-earnings ratios, price-to-book-value ratios, and dividend yield as well. Suggested values for screening comparisons are available wherever a light bulb icon is displayed. Clicking the light bulb once will add a suggested value that follows the CAN SLIM method.

Screening results are displayed in a table with a fixed set of columns. Users may save up to 10 screens for future use and the screening results can be exported to Excel. Links are provided to additional stock research through the daily graphs on-line module, which is available at an additional cost. We would like to see additional company research available to subscribers of the custom screen wizard directly, without the need to also subscribe to the daily graphs module.

The custom screening wizard is a good filtering tool for avid IBD readers or followers of earnings and price momentum strategies such as CAN SLIM.

Kiplinger.com
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Kiplinger.com
Comparison Grid

Kiplinger.com combines the editorial content of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and investment research tools from Thomson Finance. Kiplinger.com is a comprehensive investment Web site providing portfolio management, quotes, news, stock and mutual fund data, screening tools, and investment education.

The screening available on the site is a little weaker than average. Users can construct a screen consisting of up to 10 variables from a group of 28 variables. The individual factors cover a broad spectrum of well-chosen value, growth, and price factors. Results are presented in a table that automatically includes all of the variables used in the screen. The table can be ranked by clicking on any of the column headers.

Separately, Kiplinger.com provides results of six basic screens such as high-dividend-paying growth stocks with expanding dividends. As revealed in the comparison grid and table, the site is above average in terms of the data available for researching companies—exceeding company information found in most free Web sites. The site is best suited for investors looking for individual company research tools, but who don’t need strong screening capabilities.

MarketScreen
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MarketScreen
Comparison Grid

MarketScreen separates itself from the crowd by offering real-time screening of price, volume, and news. The site allows its subscribers to seek out companies with price gaps or volume spikes, or even those suffering from a “dead cat bounce.” Over 80 predefined intraday screens are available, divided into categories such as market overall performance (e.g., gap up stocks), bearish or bullish reversals (e.g., down slam), “tag and bag” (e.g., cheap and on the move) and big winning or losing stocks (e.g., 20% losers). Tables are available indicating the number of passing stocks by exchange and market capitalization. Users can further limit the presentation of screens to bullish or bearish patterns.

The screening system also covers more traditional elements such as price-earnings ratios and market capitalization. Charts, news, and company snapshots help when examining companies that pass filters, but the fundamental data offered is weak for a subscription-based service.

MarketScreen offers the day trader and active investor unique and helpful real-time tools. Its offerings are not as broad as some of the general-purpose investment sites, but it meets the needs of its targeted audience.

Morningstar.com -
Premium Screener
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Morningstar.com
Comparison Grid

Morningstar.com is a full-featured investment Web site providing portfolio tracking, market monitoring, stock and fund screening and research, educational articles, and message boards. Much of the site is free, with additional portfolio analysis, research and screening available through the premium service for $12.95 per month.

Research on the site consists of stock screening coupled with research reports. Morningstar provides ratings and analyst reports on 3,000 stocks. These reports are restricted to premium subscribers, but all users can screen for stocks with high grades. Free screening covers 19 basic elements, while the premium screening module covers 500 criteria. Free screening is limited to performing comparisons against pre-set constant values, and the screens cannot be saved for use at a later time. The premium screening tool is much more flexible, covering 500 data variables. Screening criteria can be compared against constants, over fields, or to benchmarks. Premium screens can be saved for use at a later time.

Comprehensive stock reports start with an overview snapshot and lead to a detailed company profile; financial statements and ratios; charting; stock price performance statistics; stock, industry and market multiples; earnings estimates and analyst opinions; industry snapshot; insider and institutional shareholder activity; SEC filings; and news. The financial statements provide 10 years of income statement, cash flow, and balance sheet data. The premium reports add details including Morningstar ratings and analyst research.

Articles with a focus on current market issues, interviews and detailed educational features are located throughout the site. Message boards provide a forum for discussion of the many issues brought up in the articles.

Morningstar.com is a well-organized Web site that provides a diverse and useful set of tools for the stock investor. Its premium screening module is very powerful and its company reports nicely detailed.

Nasdaq
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Nasdaq
Comparison Grid

Nasdaq offers a comprehensive investment site that contains a wide variety of investment news and tools. Comprehensive company information is collected from a number of sources, which sometimes leads to duplicated company data from different suppliers. InfoQuote provides the starting point for collecting company and industry data with links to news, fundamentals, charts, analyst information, insider holdings, stock reports, SEC filings, “guru analysis,” and StockConsultant reports.

Validea.com supplies the guru analysis, which attempts to measure how a stock rates using Validea’s interpretations of the strategies of noted investment managers such as Peter Lynch, Benjamin Graham, Martin Zwieg, and Kenneth Fisher. The guru analysis module also serves as the screening engine, allowing investors to identify companies passing a given number of guru screens with either strong or some interest.

StockConsultant offers both free and fee-based screening and analysis. StockConsultant provides technical evaluation of a stock along with a screening tool based on technical factors.

The Nasdaq site offers in-depth company information, but investors seeking stock screening can find better options elsewhere.

Quicken.com
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Quicken.com
Comparison Grid

Quicken.com is a free site offering investors a central place to manage many aspects of personal finance, including banking, insurance, retirement planning, and investing. Quicken.com offers six predefined screens covering basic growth, value, momentum, and market-capitalization approaches. Results are displayed in a standard table view, but Quicken has a nice feature that allows users to switch between different views, such as financials or growth rates.

The Full Search screening module allows users to construct custom screens using any of 41 well-chosen elements. Users can select predefined ranges for each element or specify a minimum and maximum range.

The site includes all the basic tools required to research those companies passing screens, including quotes, news, portfolio tracking, company fundamentals, links to full SEC filings, insider transactions, and analyst ratings and earnings estimates. Unique features include a stock evaluator that highlights elements affecting a company’s stock price. The “one-click scorecard” analyzes how a company rates using the investment philosophy of Warren Buffett, the NAIC, Geraldine Weiss, or the Motley Fool.

The site is well-organized and presents available information for each stock clearly. Quicken.com offers adequate stock research, but its screening engine lags those found in some of the top sites.

Reuters Investor
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Reuters Investor
Comparison Grid

Reuters Investor offers a full range of free stock data including company snapshots, fundamental data, earnings estimates, charts, and analyst recommendations. Registered users gain access to the free, Java-based screening tool called PowerScreener.

PowerScreener is a strong tool that provides access to over 80 data items. Users can even create their own custom fields, a rare feature among Web-based tools. While more cumbersome than most systems, PowerScreener allows for the creation of fairly complex screening criteria. A single line in a filter can include mathematical and logical manipulation. Screening results are displayed in a table that includes the variables used in the filter and links to company reports on the passing companies. The results table can even be saved as a spreadsheet file. Screens can be saved for use at a later time.

Company research steals the show on the Web site, as it provides free reports covering earnings estimates, ratio comparisons, insider trading, institutional ownership, company financials, and dividend reinvestment plan details. The Hot Lists segment of the Web site is also worthy of mention. It provides daily rankings of the best- and worst-performing stocks, industries and sectors. Links are provided to the stocks within a given industry or sector for additional research.

The detailed company and industry data coupled with the free PowerScreener offering makes the Reuters Investor Web site worth checking out.

SmartMoney.com Select
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SmartMoney.com Select
Comparison Grid

SmartMoney combines the editorial content of its magazine with a rich array of useful investment tools and research. The free site covers all of the bases—portfolio management, market news and updates, charting, company and mutual fund research, mutual fund screening, as well as educational articles on financial planning and investment analysis. Stepping up to the SmartMoney.com Select subscription gives users access to stock screening.

The site features a unique set of analytical tools that goes beyond the standard set of repackaged data found at most investment Web sites. For example, the charting module covers a wide range of technical and fundamental factors. The SmartMoney Stock Screener has a database of over 9,000 NYSE, Nasdaq, and Amex stocks. Its screener is interactive and provides access to 140 data variables. Screening criteria can be compared against fixed variables, other fields, and industry and index benchmarks. Custom screens can be saved for future use. Once you run a screen, you can create a spreadsheet and download a report on the passing companies.

With the Market Map 1000, you can view 1,000 U.S. and international stocks all at the same time. The map is color-coded to show those companies whose price is up or down and the magnitude of the move. With the map’s new screening feature, you can search these 1,000 companies using seven criteria. From the map, you can also link to charts, financial data, and news for each company. A new Fund Map 1000 covers mutual funds in the same fashion. SmartMoney’s company reports are not as detailed as some of the other sites. Instead it focuses on factors its operators feel are key elements and then provides tools to compare companies against competitors and plot figures. SmartMoney’s unique but useful collection of investment tools makes this site worth checking out.

Value Line
Investment Survey
Online
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Value Line Investment Survey Online
Comparison Grid

Value Line Investment Survey Online provides screening and data access to Value Line’s in-depth reports of common stocks. The service gives you access to the 1,700 companies tracked in the paper-based Value Line Investment Survey. As the comparison grid reveals, the Investment Survey provides a rich database including proprietary Value Line rankings. On-line screening provides access to a series of predefined screens and a wide range of data fields; however, the interface is not as easy to use or as interactive as some of the other Web sites. Comparisons can only be constructed using lower or upper limits.

As a research tool, the program is above average when judged on the depth of its database; however, it only covers 1,700 stocks. The ability to access and print the paper-based Value Line reports is a valuable option. The screening tool is a slight disappointment, but overall the system remains a good general-purpose screening and research tool.

Wall Street City
Comparison Grid

Wall Street City is a comprehensive investment Web site providing a wide range of data and services: everything from free portfolio tracking, news, market updates and basic search tools to a rich array of charting, screening and company research tools.

The site offers a diverse set of screening tools. You can opt for a rich collection of predefined screens using both fundamental and technical approaches, or you can create and test your own screens.

Wall Street City includes a flexible and powerful Java-based screening module that covers a wide range of fundamental and technical factors. Up to 40 criteria can be combined at one time from the 700 technical and fundamental screening criteria. Criteria can be weighted to create custom company scores.

Wall Street City includes a unique backtesting feature that analyzes the historical success of a screen using various holding periods and market capitalization concentrations. Telescan tracks its predefined screens and reports on the performance of these strategies. What’s Working Now identifies the best- and worst-performing stock group and predefined stock screens.

The predefined screens cover a wide range of fundamental and technical screening strategies. You can also view the filters that make up the screen, a list of passing companies, historical performance charts, and statistics for the strategy. Overall, Wall Street City is a feature- and data-rich site of interest to a wide range of investors.

Yahoo! Finance
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Yahoo! Finance
Comparison Grid

Yahoo! Finance brings together a growing set of free tools for the investor. The site is able to leverage its linking expertise to bring together a reasonable collection of news and research data.

Yahoo! Finance leverages its linking expertise to bring together news from sources such as Reuters, S&P, the Associated Press, CNN, CBS MarketWatch, PR News, and Business Wire. Market and stock commentary from popular Web sites such as the Motley Fool and TheStreet.com help round out the offerings. Fundamental stock data comes from EDGAR Online and Market Guide, while Thomson provides earnings estimates and brokerage recommendations. Even insider transactions from CDA Investment Technologies are available for free.

Yahoo! Finance has recently upgraded its stock screening tool to offer an interactive Java-based tool that allows users to construct screens from a list of 150 data variables. Notably, the list is geared more to price activity than fundamentals, but it is a welcome change over the prior simple screening tool.

Beyond offering screening, comprehensive investment news and data, Yahoo! Finance also offers some of the most popular message boards on the Internet. Not only does this site have boards for over 9,000 stocks, but it also boasts boards devoted to brokerage firms, IPOs, options, and short-term trading. The message boards in the stock area are divided into industry groups such as basic materials, energy, financial, and utilities. You can also perform a search for message boards based on keywords.

Zacks.com
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Zacks.com
Comparison Grid

Zacks.com offers a wide range of investment information and screening options. Users have access to daily E-mail alerts covering items such as analysts’ changes, detailed company financials, brokerage research reports, predefined screens, and custom screening. Zacks offers 13 predefined screens that can be further broken down into market-cap ranges. Custom screening offers control over 100 variables covering the usual range of screening options, along with earnings estimates and brokerage recommendation figures that are not available through most services. Zacks also allows users to save custom screens for later use.

Zacks provides detailed reports on a company’s financials, ratios, industry comparisons, consensus earnings estimates, and analyst recommendations. Detailed analyst estimate reports go so far as to list a record of each estimate and recommendation for a given company.

Overall, Zacks offers a wide range of useful tools for those with a stock portfolio. Screening and research is above average. The basic tools necessary to construct a stock portfolio are provided, while the portfolio management module helps investors keep abreast of their holdings. The site is especially strong in screening involving earnings estimates and analyst recommendations.


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