Comparison: Technical Analysis & Charting Web Sites
As the number of sites offering charting and technical analysis grows, individuals must confront a diverse collection of choices; knowing what is available and what each site offers becomes an increasingly difficult task. This article will focus on 12 Web-based technical analysis and charting services and the features each has to offer. Some of you may notice that this is a decline from the 19 Web sites covered in our last comparison in the March/April 2005 issue. Based on the suggestions of our readers, we are focusing on the “best of the best” instead of trying to offer comprehensive coverage of this topic area. The sites we will discuss range from those offering basic charting and technical analysis as part of a collection of investment analysis tools to those exclusively devoted to technical analysis and charting.
Web Versus Software
Web-based services, in general, are not as powerful as are their software-based counterparts. Therefore, the first question to answer is whether your needs require you to take the software or on-line route for technical analysis and charting tools. For Mac users, there is the oft-voiced frustration of not having the same level of choice of investment analysis software due to the smaller market. The Web alleviates much, but not all, of the frustration because for the most part the Internet is platform-neutral—meaning both Mac and Windows users alike can use the modules available via the Web with the same level of functionality. This holds true for most of the services examined here, with some exceptions—for example, the MSN Money site offers several modules that make use of technology that will only run on the Windows operating system. Similarly, BarchartX and FutureSource Xtra are Web-based “applets” that will only run on the Windows operating system.
The most striking difference in the features and functionality found with Web sites and software is in the level of features each has to offer: Software-based technical analysis applications largely dwarf the Web-based services. Most of the services discussed in this comparison offer the basic technical analysis features—mainly, charting and the ability to overlay technical indicators and drawing tools. However, you will find the libraries of technical indicators often less robust than what you would find with technical analysis software, although there has been marked improvement in recent years. Table 1 lists some of the more commonly used technical indicators offered by the services covered here. On a median basis, these sites offer 39 technical indicators and line studies. In comparison, the end-of-day technical analysis software packages (as reported in the March/April 2006 issue of Computerized Investing), provide a median number of 45 indicators.
Beyond offering a larger array of technical indicators, some of the more advanced technical analysis programs on the market today allow users to create and save their own technical indicators. The BarchartX service, however, has broken software’s exclusivity in this area: With its Design Studio, subscribers can create and save their own technical indicators.
Technical analysis programs, at least those at the higher end, also surpass Web-based services in their trading system offerings. A trading system is an indicator or set of indicators used to identify buy and sell points for a security—users can also backtest these systems to gauge their historical profitability. Furthermore, most of these same programs allow you to create and backtest your own technical trading systems. In the Web realm, only Barchart.com offers anything remotely similar to trading systems. Its opinions, based on a variety of technical indicators, provide buy and sell signals on stocks and futures contracts. In addition, with the Design Studio in BarchartX, subscribers can set up buy and sell “signals” based on the levels of various technical indicators. Do not let the differences between technical analysis software and their Web-based counterparts lead you to believe that software rules supreme. Web-based services do hold some distinct advantages over software, mainly in the area of the delivery and pricing of data.
When looking for a technical analysis program, there are typically two decisions to make—a fact lost on many. The first, and most obvious, is choosing the program itself; the second, and often overlooked, is selecting a data vendor. On-line services usually offer end-of-day data at no cost. Therefore, you can begin your analysis without having to download data or subscribe to a historical data service.
Software-based technical analysis can carry price tags ranging from $100 for a “low-end” end-of-day program to over $1,500 for a high-end, real-time program. However, there is often the additional cost of data, which can range from $15 per month for historical end-of-day data to $85 per month and higher for real-time data delivery (excluding exchange fees). In comparison, eight of the 12 Web-based services discussed here are either entirely free or offer some level of free service. The question then becomes, which to use?
If you are new to technical analysis, or are only looking for simple charting and analysis on an end-of-day basis, a Web-based service is probably your best choice. For technical analysis neophytes, there are enough good-quality Web-based services available to avoid making a financial commitment to software and data. In addition, a few sites—such as StockCharts.com—offer an extensive collection of educational content to expand your knowledge of technical analysis. In the end, if you have no desire to create your own indicators or create and backtest technical trading systems, a Web-based service should offer everything you need. On the other hand, if you want robust technical analysis capabilities, including custom indicators and trading systems, chances are only a software-based application would satisfy your needs.
The comparison grid beginning on page 12 examines the standard features and functions that many of the Web-based technical analysis services have in common. Additionally, as mentioned, Table 1 outlines some of the more popular technical indicators and charting features each site has to offer. Keep in mind that this list is not intended to be all-inclusive. In addition, Web sites are frequently changing, so it is always a good idea to confirm pricing and functionality before subscribing.
The first consideration is the markets you intend to track—such as stocks, mutual funds, indexes, foreign exchange (forex), options, or futures. Most of the services included in this comparison deal with stocks, mutual funds, and indexes. One—FutureSource—deals exclusively with futures analysis. Sites that offer futures and/or options only with their premium subscriptions are Prophet.Net and Dorsey, Wright & Associates. BigCharts.com offers free foreign exchange charting and BarChart.com offers free charting of futures contracts.
Data Types and Frequency
Practitioners of technical analysis use end-of-day, intraday delayed, or (intraday) real-time data. End-of-day charts require, at most, five pieces of data for each trading day—the opening, high, low, and closing price for the data along with the total trading volume for the day. End-of-day charts typically plot data on a daily, monthly, or annual basis. All of the services listed here offer data on an end-of-day basis.
Intraday delayed charts plot data during the course of the trading day using time increments such as one minute, five minutes, 15 minutes or longer, but the most recent price information is delayed (usually by 15 or 20 minutes). Only those securities priced throughout the trading day have intraday data available (mutual funds are typically priced once a day after the market closes and, therefore, do not have intraday pricing). This delay allows the site to offer the data without having to pay the respective exchange(s) for real-time access to their data or passing the cost on to the end-user. Dorsey, Wright & Associates, which offers point & figure charting, only makes use of end-of-day data.
Real-time data is the timeliest data available and represents an attempt to capture the latest price at which a security has traded. Services chart real-time data in two ways. The first is “static” real-time data, meaning you must manually refresh the chart to capture the latest price. The other is streaming charts, which automatically update as new price data becomes available. Six of the 12 services highlighted here offer real-time charting, but only one—MSN Money—offers it for free. This site is able to offer free real-time charting because the charts are not streaming, meaning users have to refresh a chart themselves in order to view the most current data. One glaring drawback, however, is that you are not able to plot technical indicators on an intraday basis with this service.
Note that even with real-time data feeds, some delays will exist as exchanges execute and process trade data and transmit the data to the respective data providers. Periods of heavy trading can also cause delays. However, with a real-time feed, neither the exchanges nor the data vendors introduce artificial delays into the feed. Lastly, be aware that exchanges charge the end-user for real-time access to their data feeds, beyond what the Web site or software maker is charging. For non-professionals, these monthly exchange fees range from $2 for New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), American Stock Exchange (Amex), and NASDAQ Level I stock data and $3 for Options Price Reporting Authority (OPRA) options data to as much as $97 for real-time data from the New York Board of Trade (NYBOT).
Historical Data Availability
One advantage Web-based technical analysis and charting services have over software is that there is no need to accumulate a historical database in order to plot securities. However, this does put you at the mercy of the individual service as to how much historical data they choose to offer. The amount of historical data provided by the services discussed in this article varies greatly. Users of StockCharts.com free charts have access to only three years of data while BigCharts.com, MSN Money, Prophet.net, and Yahoo! Finance provide over 30 years of data on their charts (provided the security has been traded that long).
More and more, people are looking for free sources of price and volume data for use in spreadsheets and other programs. One way to obtain this data is by exporting it from an on-line source. The variety of exporting formats includes Excel spreadsheet, ASCII text format, and XML (Extensible Markup Language). Seven of the Web-based technical analysis services offer some type of data exporting.
The services here offer a wide range of charting options. Technical analysis is primarily the graphical representation of price and volume data, so most of your analysis will revolve around a price chart. The most common types of charts are line and bar charts; all but one of the 12 services listed here provide both (Dorsey, Wright & Associates is devoted exclusively to point & figure charting). Line charts normally plot closing prices over time, while bar charts show the opening, high, low, and closing prices for a given period. Tick charts are a type of line chart used with real-time data. They show the price of each of the trades during the course of the trading day; five of the services listed here offer tick data. Candlestick charts, another popular chart type, are available with 11 of the services.
For those interested in point & figure charts, a type of charting based solely on price movement that does not take time into consideration, five sites offer these unique charts—BarChart.com, BarchartX, Dorsey, Wright & Associates, MarketScreen.com, and StockCharts.com.
Depending on the service, you may choose among a variety of time periods to chart a security or you may be able to specify the exact period you want charted, which offers the greatest level of flexibility. Of the 12 services listed here, nine allow users to specify the charted time period.
Linear and Log Scaling
When viewing price data, there are two general scales used—linear and log. Most of the charts you see are probably on a linear scale, where there is an equal distance between price points—the space between $1 and $2 is the same as the space between $100 and $101.
With log scaling, there is an equal amount of space between equal percent changes in price. In other words, the space between $0.50 and $1.00 is the same as the distance between $100 and $200, since in both cases the percentage change is 100%. Log scales are most useful when viewing data over a long historical period and among a number of securities. Eight of 12 services offer log scaling for their charts.
User-Defined Chart Settings
The ability to specify and save certain settings is an extremely useful feature found with more and more Web sites. Ten of the services compared here allow users to specify such information as the time period, periodicity (daily, weekly, etc.), chart type, as well as any applied indicators. The service saves your choices so you can view charts with the same settings on subsequent visits. All you need to do is choose the security, and the “template” automatically displays it in the desired manner.
A technical indicator is the mathematical manipulation of price or volume displayed in a graphical manner, such as stochastics and moving average convergence/divergence (MACD).
The number and type of indicators provided are important factors to consider when deciding upon a Web-based service. However, you should mainly concern yourself with whether any service you are considering includes the indicators important to your analysis. Taking a moment to consider your needs will be helpful in assessing the number of indicators you will require from a service.
Beyond a set of predefined indicators, the ability to modify indicators to fit your individual trading needs is a useful feature. Modifications allow you to adjust factors, such as the number of time periods used in a calculation. For example, 50-day and 200-day moving averages are some of the most commonly used indicators. However, depending on your trading style, the behavior of the underlying security you are analyzing or market conditions, you may want to vary the period length. Nine of the services here allow you to modify all of the indicators in their respective libraries. BigCharts.com only allows users to modify the time periods of moving averages, while MSN Money does not let you modify the lengths of moving averages.
Finally, many users of technical analysis follow more than one indicator. They track the behavior of multiple indicators in conjunction with one another to make buy and sell decisions. For this reason, it is convenient to have the ability to plot multiple indicators on the same screen. This may entail either plotting indicators on the same price chart, or having them plotted in their own “window” below the primary price chart. All but one of the technical analysis services included here allow you to plot multiple indicators. The Dorsey, Wright & Associates site does not offer technical indicators because the unique nature of point & figure charting does not allow for the plotting of indicators on those charts.
Table 1 details the “mainstream” indicators each service offers as well as the overall number of indicators they provide.
One of the main functions of technical analysis is to identify trends in price and volume in the hopes of forecasting future price movement. Trendlines, which are lines used to connect two or more points on a chart, are a useful tool to this end.
Many sites go beyond static Web display pages to load actual programs within your browser that can manipulate data. Sun’s Java and Microsoft’s ActiveX are the two most popular Web-distributed programming languages. Java and ActiveX technology have enabled charts to become more interactive by, for example, allowing users to draw their own trendlines on charts. Eight of the sites discussed in this comparison offer interactive chart features.
While technologies such as Java and ActiveX have expanded the capabilities of many Web sites, ActiveX is not compatible with the Mac OS. If you are a Mac user, keep this in mind when visiting sites that make use of these programming languages. Depending on the Web browser you are using, you may also have problems viewing the charting modules of some Web sites. When discussing the individual services later on, we try to alert you to any of these potential pitfalls. However, it is a good idea to verify the system requirements of any site, especially before subscribing to it.
Some investors seek out securities exhibiting specific technical behavior—price above or below a 50- or 200-day moving average, overbought or oversold price in terms of various indicator values, or a price chart that exhibits some pattern such as a double-bottom. In this comparison, 10 of the 12 services offer predefined or “canned” or custom scanning or screening based on price movement, indicator values, and/or chart patterns. They range from basic predefined scans looking for stocks reaching new highs or new lows or those making the largest percentage moves for the day, to stocks with charts exhibiting common candlestick or point & figure patterns, to advanced custom searches or screens with backtested performance results, such as with MarketScreen.com.
To keep you from constantly having to monitor your positions or favorite securities, some services provide alerts and charts via E-mail.
MSN Money and Yahoo! Finance, for example, allow users to specify price targets and will then send out an instant message alert via their respective messenger services when the price reaches the target. Likewise, BigCharts.com can E-mail charts, complete with technical indicators, on an end-of-day basis. In all, eight of the services offer E-mail alerts and six either deliver charts via E-mail or allow users to E-mail charts.
Technical Analysis Education
The biggest mistake an individual can make is to try to use technical analysis to make investment decisions without fully understanding it. The quality and amount of technical analysis educational material available at these Web sites varies greatly. Some merely pay it lip service while others provide a wealth of material. Sites worth mentioning for their commitment to technical analysis education include Dorsey, Wright & Associates and StockCharts.com.
The Barchart.com Web site caters to stock and commodity traders. Visitors have free access to a variety of data and information as well as educational materials.
For charting purposes, the free portion of the site offers intraday delayed and end-of-day charts for stocks and futures. Users can choose from line, open-high-low-close bar charts, candlestick charts and even point & figure charts. There is also a more-than-respectable library of 39 technical indicators from which to choose.
One of the unique features of the Barchart Web site is the opinions offered on stocks and commodities that have at least six months of trading activity. The site bases the opinions on short-, intermediate-, and long-term indicators (13 in all). Buy, sell, or hold opinions are offered for each of the indicators, which include moving averages, MACD, and Bollinger bands, as well as an additional composite indicator—The Trend Spotter—that offers an overall opinion of the stock or commodity. There is also the Signals area of the site, which is based on the opinion readings. There are listings of the top and bottom 100 stocks and top and bottom 1% stocks based on their percentage buy and sell opinions, respectively. There are also listings of the 100 stocks with the biggest increase and decrease in their overall opinion reading over the last trading day.
Subscription-based Advanced Equities and Advanced Commodities services are offered, which each cost $20 per month. The Advanced Equities site has roughly the same look and feel as the free Barchart.com site. While you can also save chart settings, the service lacks the ability to plot custom trendlines. The Technical Search module allows you to select from nearly 30 different technical-related search criteria and then save your searches for isolating stocks, commodities or mutual funds. The Signals area offers links to the stocks generating current buy, hold, and sell signals based on overall opinion as well as the composite, short-term, medium-term, and long-term indicators. Subscribers can also download historical data for individual stocks as well as daily price files for exchange-traded stocks, over-the-counter (OTC) stocks, and mutual funds.
The Advanced Commodities site takes some time to figure out, as its layout is nowhere near as organized or as intuitive as the Advanced Equities area or even the free sections of Barchart.com. It does offer similar charting capabilities as the free Barchart site, with the added benefit of being able to draw custom trendlines and save chart settings for future visits. Subscribers can also download or E-mail futures, options, and implied volatility data files covering the last two years.
BarchartX is Barchart.com’s Web-based, real-time streaming charting and analysis product. While there are three subscription levels, most of our readers would probably be satisfied with the E-Mini Edition ($29 per month), which offers real-time streaming quotes for futures and stocks. The service is a Web-based “applet,” which means a small program is downloaded and installed to your system that operates via a Web browser. Mac-based systems cannot run the executable file that installs the applet, so Mac users are not able to use this product.
Creating and manipulating charts with BarchartX is very much like using a more sophisticated disc-based application. Once you have created a chart, you can right click on the chart to change chart-type and time increment; add, modify, and remove indicators and line studies; and draw custom technical indicators.
The BarchartX service is the only one highlighted here that allows subscribers to create and save their own indicators. Those familiar with creating indicators with programs such as MetaStock probably will not have any problem navigating the Design Studio module. The Support Center and Information Library can also walk you through the steps of creating your own technical indicator. From within BarchartX you can still access the Barchart.com signals and search for stocks based on 13 different Barchart opinion ratings. Unfortunately, you cannot save your searches, nor can you export the results of your searches.
BigCharts is consistently rated among the most popular on-line charting services. This comes as no surprise, since the site offers an attractive blend of charting options and technical indicators, all for free. The site offers users one of the largest databases of securities—over 50,000 securities—along with interactive charts, Java charting, market and company news, historical quotes, and industry analysis.
BigCharts offers users several charting options—Java charts, quick charts, and interactive charts. With quick charts, you enter a ticker symbol, specify the timeframe, and the site presents the chart. Quick charts do not support the plotting of multiple securities simultaneously, and the indicators and studies automatically drawn with the chart are those saved in the chart settings.
The interactive charts provide additional features. You have the option of selecting a predefined time period or specifying a custom time period. Intraday data—one-, five-, 15-, and 60-minute—as well as daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly frequencies are available. With each chart, you can select from a library of nearly 40 technical indicators and studies—including stochastics, relative strength index (RSI), Bollinger bands, and the MACD. Perhaps the only negative with the entire site is the inability to modify the parameters of technical indicators. Users can only alter the time periods of moving averages displayed on their charts.
There are also nine chart-type options including open, high, low, close; high, low, close; candlesticks; and bar charts. Depending on the security or index you choose, data is available going back to 1970. Once you have made your setting choices, you can save them for future use.
With the site’s Java charts, you can plot a variety of timeframes, although you do not have the ability to plot a custom timeframe as with the interactive charts. You have the same collection of indicators from which to choose and, again, you are only able to modify the moving averages. The most useful feature of the Java charts is the ability to draw custom trendlines.
For historical quotes, you specify a ticker and date, and BigCharts provides the open, high, low, and closing price, as well as the volume for that date. However, you cannot view data for a range of dates or export historical data.
Those looking to perform “top-down” analysis by first looking for top-performing industries may find the site’s Industries area of use. There you can isolate the top- and worst-performing industries, based on the Dow Jones industry indexes, over a variety of periods up to the last five years. You then view the best- and worst-performing stocks in those industries over varying time periods, accompanied by thumbnail charts for all of the stocks (which you can sort alphabetically, by market cap, price-earnings ratio, or price performance).
BigCharts has the ability to deliver custom charts to users via E-mail on a daily or weekly basis, or when viewing a chart through your browser. Both options require that the recipient of the charts have HTML-enabled E-mail software.
The site also offers 13 BigReport “scans” that identify U.S. and Canadian stocks with the largest percentage changes in price or volume, as well as the most active stocks and those reaching 52-week highs or lows.
Dorsey, Wright & Associates
Many in the area of chart analysis consider Tom Dorsey the modern-day father of point & figure charting and, for many years, the Dorsey, Wright & Associates (DWA) Web site was the only site offering point & figure charts. While several other sites now offer this unique form of charting, the DWA site continues to be the sole site devoted exclusively to the discipline of point & figure and is an excellent resource for those looking to learn about the art of point & figure. The site is primarily fee-based, with individual subscriptions ranging from $25 to $50 a month. A free three-week trial is available.
Upon entering the site, there is a summary of the last completed trading day—including the point & figure chart activity of key market indexes and sectors, as well as a calendar of recent and pending economic releases. If you have created any portfolios, you can access them from this page as well. The DWA site offers some basic screening capabilities. For Chart Plus subscribers, the on-line query allows users to choose from over 15 different criteria—including relative strength, percent oversold/overbought, market cap—as well as 17 chart patterns. You can also save these queries for future use. With the site’s pattern reports, you can view securities forming both bullish and bearish point & figure patterns. From the home page, you can click on links to lists of optionable stocks as well as those on the NASDAQ Stock Market and NYSE that exhibit buy and sell signals, up or down trends, or up and down reversals.
For point & figure charting, the site uses the high/low price and allows users to specify the box size and reversal amount. Users can also specify the number of years they want charted, with data going back to 1985 when available.
Beyond the point & figure chart, the site provides information regarding weekly momentum, sector status, and the latest chart pattern. Once you have created a chart, you can export a PDF document to print or save to your computer. Users can also make and save notations for the charts they create as well as set action price alerts. If the action price you specify is between the high and low price for the day, you will receive a notification via E-mail.
Each stock tracked by the DWA database has a daily commentary report as well as an evaluation that rates the technical attributes of the stock.
Mutual fund subscribers have access to DWA’s summary report for the last trading day with current trend information and reversal signals for U.S. and global equity and fixed-income fund classes. There is a group average return table covering all U.S. and global equity and fixed-income categories that offers return data for a variety of time periods, from the last seven days to the last year. Mutual fund point & figure charts go back to 1995. There is a mutual fund query with seven different relative strength, trend, and momentum criteria as well as the ability to isolate mutual funds exhibiting one of 17 different chart patterns. Lastly, there are 19 mutual fund reports highlighting those funds exhibiting certain trend or chart qualities.
The site’s Point & Figure University is free to all registered users and currently offers six lessons ranging from the basics of point & figure charting to its use in market and sector timing. At the end of each lesson, tests allow you to determine your areas of weakness. A reference manual is available that touches upon point & figure chart patterns, trendlines, relative strength charts, and bullish percentage. In addition, there are eight videos that you can view directly from the DWA site covering point & figure charting.
Along with Barchart.com, FutureSource is the only other service here that offers in-depth coverage of futures and commodities as well as foreign exchange. Here you will find free commodity and single stock futures quotes, charts, and news for a variety of markets—indexes and mini contracts, currencies/forex, softs (food and fiber goods such as cocoa, orange juice, and cotton), energy, grains, financials, metals, and meats. The site offers links to free stock charts fromQuote.com, all of which are operated by eSignal.com, but the charting capabilities there are lacking when compared to services such as BigCharts.com andStockCharts.com (which is whyQuote.com is not included in this comparison).
FutureSource offers two different levels of free charting—premium and basic. While premium charts require you to register, they are vastly superior to the basic charts. When creating a chart at FutureSource, you either specify the contract explicitly or select the commodity symbol, month, and year from the menus. You dictate the chart type and the time increments in which data is displayed (tick, intraday, daily, weekly, or monthly). There are also 26 different technical studies (for premium charts) and indicators from which to choose, all of which are fully customizable. Users of the free premium charts can save chart settings for future use.
The FutureSource Web site also offers visitors a free Market Recap report via E-mail, delayed market news, and links to sites offering free articles and Web seminars that cover a variety of topics—including commodities trading and technical analysis.
Given the complexities of commodities trading, it is disappointing that the FutureSource site does not devote more space to providing educational materials to would-be traders. The site’s “education” section consists mainly of links to third-party services, some of which offer free trials.
FutureSource Xtra is eSignal’s Web-based platform for real-time data and analysis of the commodities, financial futures, and foreign exchange markets. The service is for serious traders, however, given its $90 per month price tag.
Xtra offers many of the same charting options and features asFutureSource.com. However, it does have a slightly more robust indicator library with 37 choices. Subscribers can also access real-time, streaming news from Dow Jones Commodity News and Dow Jones Energy News, as well as proprietary editorial analysis. Xtra subscribers can also download historical futures data in a variety of formats, including ASCII text, Excel and XML. Lastly, Xtra offers options coverage, with users having the ability to open options windows using side-by-side, stacked, or Greeks format. Greeks include delta, gamma, theta, and vega.
In addition, Xtra is similar to BarchartX in that it requires an applet to run. Again, this applet is only Windows compatible, which means Mac users cannot run it.
MarketScreen.com is the premier on-line resource for screening based on technical indicators and chart patterns. While the site does offer free charting from PCQuote.com, which also operates both sites, MarketScreen.com is first-and-foremost a screening resource, which will cost you $59.95 a month.
The cornerstone of the site, as its name indicates, is the collection of predefined intraday screens that cover a variety of technical and fundamental conditions as well as chart patterns. The site generates updated screening results every hour of every trading day and divides them into several categories: market overview, price/volume, moving averages, chart patterns, trend indicators, oscillators, support & resistance, technicals, fundamentals, and industries/sectors. MarketScreen then breaks each of these sub-categories into report groups, which you can select from a pull-down menu. Report groups consist of separate screens for specific price-, volume-, indicator-, or chart pattern-related conditions, with links to those large, mid, small, and micro companies trading on the NASDAQ, NYSE, or Amex that meet the condition (in all there are over 1,500 predefined technical screens for you to use). These links will display the stock screen report listing the companies that pass the screen, along with various data elements. Users can modify and save screen reports, the results of which can be displayed in printer-friendly format or exported in CSV format.
Five of the 10 predefined intraday screening categories—moving averages, chart patterns, oscillators, support-resistance, and technicals—also offer backtested results of the underlying screens in each category. When backtesting of a screen is available, you can view the trading results for the stocks passing the screen. For each stock, the backtesting analysis includes the strategy performance based on several optimization strategies, best overall signals, best recent signals, best stocks, and best opportunities. In addition, there are detailed trading reports, providing the number of transactions, the percentage of trades that were winners and losers, the number of days you were in the position, and the net and annual gain on the trades.
Subscribers to MarketScreen.com can access custom screens, which allow users to create their own screens based upon fundamental or technical criteria and save them for future use. With quick screens, you can choose from predefined screening criteria, while power screens give you additional flexibility in selecting the values of the screening elements you choose. You can also receive reports generated from a saved screen by E-mail at the close of each trading day.
The quick picks report lists the stocks that have passed MarketScreen’s predefined screens with the highest profits. The backtesting engine tests each trading signal among various optimization strategies and then displays the stock with the largest profit, based on the backtesting and optimization results. For each stock, you can see the details of the simulation.
The tools area of the MarketScreen Web site offers the market scan, which allows subscribers to scan the entire market for current price and volume activity. You can screen for percentage and dollar gainers or losers, as well as breakouts and highs and lows. The trendline scan helps in identifying those stocks that are touching or breaking through levels of support or resistance. Correlation scans allow you to identify stocks that are trading in a manner similar (high correlation) or dissimilar (low correlation) to a specific stock. Subscribers can perform correlation scans over a variety of periods, from 50 to 250 days. With trade alerts, you can set and receive E-mail alerts for specific stocks based on price changes. Lastly, with risk keeper, users can track the progress of their trades and manage their risk exposure. Risk keeper uses predefined account settings for balance, margin, and risk limit, along with specific trade parameters—initial protective stop, daily stop adjustment, target profit—to generate daily stop-loss and stop-profit values for a given stock.
Given its potential, navigating the wealth of tools MarketScreen.com offers can be frustrating at times, especially when your research is hindered by the error messages that appear a little too frequently. There are times when backtesting results will not display and tools such as the correlation scan are completely nonfunctioning. According to Money.net’s director of operations, the site is going through a complete reprogramming, designed to bring much-needed stability to the site. Given the cost of the site, these problems prevent us from awarding MarketScreen.com a higher overall rating.
The MSN Money site is one of the most complete investment sites around, offering portfolio tracking, market news and data, extensive stock and mutual fund research, investment education, and charting. The charting module is a Windows-based applet using ActiveX technology, which automatically downloads and installs within your Web browser the first time you attempt to access a chart. Once downloaded, you are ready to begin plotting stocks, funds, and indexes. Mac users can create charts, but are limited to plotting 50- and 200-day moving averages. The charting module supports multiple time periods, including intraday (both delayed and real-time), monthly, and yearly. You can select a specific timeframe as well. If you take advantage of the site’s free registration, you can access up to 50 free real-time charts per day. However, these charts are not streaming and you are not able to plot technical indicators in real-time.
Beyond plotting daily, weekly, and monthly price history, you are also able to plot price performance and investment growth of a given security or index. You have a decent selection of technical studies and overlays from which to choose, 11 in all. You can also opt to display corporate events such as dividends and splits. MSN Money allows you to save multiple chart styles that you can apply during future visits. This site also allows Windows users to export data into spreadsheet format. After specifying the security and the time period you wish chart, you are able to export the high, low, and closing prices as well as volume.
Another useful feature available is a stock screening function. Beyond being able to screen for stocks that meet various fundamental criteria, you can locate those exhibiting certain trading volume behavior—trading above or below 50-day and 200-day moving averages, for example. In all, there are approximately 20 technical, price, or volume criteria available for screening.
Prophet.Net, which is now part of the INVESTools family of investing services, is among the top sites for Web-based charting. The site offers an assortment of free and fee-based tools, with subscriptions costing $19.95 per month (Bronze), $29.95 per month (Silver), or $49.95 per month (Gold).
Prophet.Net offers four charting options depending on your needs—SnapCharts, JavaCharts, ChartScope and ChartStream. The first three offer static charts of either intraday delayed or end-of-day data, while ChartStream provides streaming intraday delayed or real-time charts, depending on your subscription level. In addition, while Basic (free), Bronze, and Silver subscription packages can handle stock, mutual funds, and indexes, Gold subscribers can also chart options and futures on either a delayed or real-time basis.
JavaCharts, as implied by the name, require a Java-enabled browser. The system charts stocks, mutual funds, and indexes on an end-of-day basis at no cost, while real-time futures and options charting is available with the Gold subscription. With the free service, you can add any of 28 technical indicators to a JavaChart, while Bronze and Silver subscribers have access to an impressive 165 indicators and studies (168 for Gold service subscribers). Users are also able to draw custom trendlines on their JavaChart. Other features include the ability to chart specific time periods and a zoom function that users activate by dragging the cursor over a section of the chart.
SnapCharts offer many of the same features and functionality found with JavaCharts. However, you are limited to plotting five indicators per chart and cannot draw trendlines as you can with JavaCharts. Users of the free SnapCharts service do have a larger library of 60 indicators to choose from as compared to the free JavaCharts. With the new Global SnapCharts, you can also chart trading on exchanges in Canada, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.
With both JavaCharts and SnapCharts, you can save your chart settings. In addition, users of the free service as well as subscribers can plot nearly 40 years of stock data and over 15 years of mutual fund data. The site also offers free users up to 20 days of intraday day and up to 120 days for subscribers, depending on the level of service.
ChartScope is a unique feature of the Prophet.Net Web site, in that it offers eight charts for a single security covering various time periods—including one day, five days, one month, three and six months, one year, five years, and all available data. This allows users to gain a better understanding of a stock’s behavior.
ChartStream delivers live, streaming equity charts with a Silver membership and streaming, real-time options and futures charts with the Gold membership. For all other subscribers, as well as free users, ChartStream offers streaming intraday data on a delayed basis.
The “explore” section of Prophet.Net allows users to search for potential investment opportunities. The site’s Chart Toppers scans for the day’s biggest gainers, losers, and most active stocks as well as those reaching new 52-week highs and lows. Depending on the level of service you choose, you can view between 30 (Basic) and 250 (Gold) results for each Chart Topper scan. ProphetScan is a real-time market scanning system that allows users to search a universe of over 14,000 stocks. Users can base screens on exchanges, sectors/industries, optionable stocks, liquidity, fundamental and technical criteria, and intraday price and volume movements. In all, there are over 30 technical criteria from which to choose when creating your own scans, and the option to save them. Basic users can only save two, and premium subscribers can save up to 20. In addition, Basic users can only view 10 results per scan.
Prophet Signals are predefined market scans that actively search over 15,000 North American stocks for various “technical” conditions, including moving averages, chart pattern tops and bottoms, and intraday price and volume activity.
We voiced some reservations when INVESTools acquired Prophet.Net and, given our negative experiences with the former Wall Street City Web site following its acquisition by INVESTools, wonder what the future may hold for Prophet.Net. Prophet Patterns, an interesting pattern recognition service formerly available at the site, is now accessible only to graduates of the INVESTools Active Investing course. We watch and wait anxiously to see if more of the site’s features take the same path in the coming years.
Over the years, the StockCharts.com Web site has established itself as one of the most well-rounded sites of its type, offering robust charting and scanning capabilities, as well as a rich collection of technical analysis educational content.
For charting, StockCharts.com offers one of the best collections of charts available on the Internet. The site features line and candlestick charting, as well as three options for point & figure charting. For point & figure charts, the site automatically displays pattern alerts on all of the charts. The site offers over 40 technical indicators and line studies, and non-subscribers can plot up to seven indicators on a single chart (17 to 51 for paid subscribers). Subscribers and non-subscribers alike can modify the parameters of the technical indicators as well as dictate the timeframe charted. Subscribers can save charts to a favorites list for future analysis and save their chart settings. The site’s free charting service displays data on either a daily or a weekly basis. However, it only offers three years of historical data to non-subscribers. A subscription is required to chart intraday data; and real-time charting, albeit not streaming, is available for $29.90 per month.
StockCharts.com offers a collection of stock scans that allows users to apply technical formulas to a stock universe to receive a listing of stocks that meet those criteria. Non-subscribers can run predefined scans on an end-of-day basis based upon technical indicators as well as candlestick and point & figure patterns. The site screens stocks traded on the NASDAQ, NYSE, Amex, and Canadian exchanges, as well as mutual funds.
For $9.95 per month, Basic subscribers have the limited ability to create but not save their own screens, and are only able to view up to 10 results per scan. Both Basic and Extra! members have over 130 technical fields at their disposal when creating their own scans. Basic members use a watered-down screening module, which allows for scanning on up to four predefined chart patterns and technical indicators at a time. With an Extra! Membership ($19.95/mo.), subscribers can scan on an intraday basis and have access to an advanced user interface where you can enter in your own scanning expressions. Extra! subscribers can also create custom scans and view all the results of a scan (up to 1,000 symbols).
For those looking to learn more about technical analysis, there is extensive educational content available in the Chart School section of the Web site. Articles cover the basics of investing and technical analysis, as well as trading strategies and how to use technical indicators. There is also a discussion of charts, explaining the common patterns that appear on charts and how to interpret them.
StockCharts has also teamed up with famed technician John Murphy. For $16.95 per month (less when combined with either Basic or Extra! subscription packages), you have access to commentary and market analysis from John Murphy, audio updates from Murphy announcing key events and developments, and Murphy’s on-line chart book.
Yahoo! Finance brings together a basic, but reasonable set of free charting and technical analysis tools for the investor. The site’s new “beta” charting module (the old technical analysis charts are also still available) offers the standard array of charts—line, bar, and candlestick—on an end-of-day or intraday delayed basis. As before, the site also has some of the deepest charting data available, with historical data going back to 1962, when available. Users are also able to export data in Excel spreadsheet format. Users of the free charts have a library of 13 indicators and studies. A new feature is the ability to modify the parameters of the indicators. Other new features worth mentioning are the ability to specify the time period that you wish to chart, a printer-friendly option for the charts, and the ability to E-mail chart links.
Yahoo! now offers real-time quotes and charting for $13.95 per month. Real-time charts are streaming, but do not offer tick-by-tick data. Instead, data frequencies range from one minute up to 90 minutes. There are not as many indicators from which to choose as compared to the free charts (10 versus 13), but the indicators are displayed with the intraday data.
Yahoo! Finance also offers stock screening and option-trading strategy searches (from Optionetics). The Java Yahoo! Finance Stock Screener offers over 150 screening criteria, over 80 of which are price- and/or volume-related. Registered users can create their own stock screens and save them for future use. The Option Trade Finder allows you to choose the sentiment of the stock—bullish, bearish, or neutral—the implied volatility (high or low), and the desired option strategy (such as long call or short put). Based on the information you provide, the trade finder will offer a list of trades that you can sort based on a variety of data elements. For individual trades, you can view the profit-loss characteristics as a function of the underlying stock price. Unfortunately, you are not able to save the option trade searches you create, nor can you chart options at the site.