Editors' Top Picks in Investing Products
by CI Staff
We are frequently asked for software and Web recommendations by new and old members alike. This annual review allows us to present our personal favorites with the typical member in mind.
While we rate and compare a wide range of programs and Web sites on an ongoing basis, once a year we present our top picks for the most common areas of investment analysis and management: portfolio management, mutual fund screening and analysis, stock screening and analysis, and technical analysis and charting. These categories cover the needs of most of our members.
We present our top picks by highlighting selections for both Macintosh and Windows systems, as well as top Web offerings.
We have not limited our selections to the boundaries of software that needs to be purchased and installed on your computer (disk-based programs); traditional and Web-based tools were eligible for the top-pick slots in each area. This issue is of special importance for Mac users who often find that Web-based tools for screening and analysis exceed the usefulness and functionality found in the best Mac-based software programs.
The Selection Process
The top picks represent the personal favorites of the editors of Computerized Investing. They are top-rated software programs and Web sites that we use ourselves on a day-to-day basis and can recommend to our members without hesitation. We have rated all our picks using our standard scoring system and have tried to select products that meet the needs of the typical investor.
The software programs and services were judged in each of the following categories: performance, documentation, and ease of use. Performance rates how well the program or service accomplishes its stated objectives. Adjustments are made for specific areas such as fundamental screening, where the performance of the screening process is graded separately from the depth and quality of the data provided by the application. Documentation rates the quality of the printed materials, on-line help, and manufacturer support. Ease of use rates how simple the core application is to install, learn, and operate. Criteria are rated on a scale of one to five, with five denoting the best score possible. While all the factors are important, the greatest emphasis was placed on performance.
We have eliminated several software applications that are simply not geared toward the individual investor market. These products, which we consider professional software, go beyond the scope of the research and analysis conducted by the individual investor and, therefore, become quite expensive.
The top picks presented here are not simply the most expensive products, or those with the most complex set of features. Rather, they represent what we feel are the best products suited for the typical individual investor. Some of the programs are general purpose in nature, while others are more advanced applications. Most on-line tools pale in comparison to the sophistication and capabilities of software, but on-line selections here are quite sophisticated Web tools.
No matter what techniques you use to select your investments, you must have a system in place to track your holdings. Portfolio management systems help investors by tracking the performance of individual investments, the interaction of the investments in your portfolio, the allocation and classification of your assets, and the performance of your overall portfolio. They also function as important accounting systems that track the income and gains or losses on your transactions to help calculate the tax liability of your portfolio activities.
The ability to specify security lot assignments for any given transaction is an important feature found in the top programs. If you reinvest dividends from your mutual funds and stocks, you will find yourself tracking numerous lots (units traded) over a long period of time. Top packages automatically match buy and sell lots for different accounting strategies for the purpose of reducing tax exposure. Portfolio return reports paint the clearest picture of how well your investment holdings have performed. The top programs should help you analyze the performance of individual securities, asset groups, and your portfolio as a whole.
Captool Individual Investor
By Captools Co.
$249; $60 for annual support license after first 12 months
If you are looking to analyze the performance of your securities and portfolio groups while maintaining accurate tax records, then Captool should fit the bill. Captool offers a number of versions of the program, ranging from the Individual Investor version priced at $249 to a Professional release that sells for $5,000. Captool Individual Investor comes with 12 months of support and program updates. Support and updates cost $60 annually after the first year.
Captool features just about everything an individual investor could ever want or need when tracking and evaluating a portfolio or group of portfolios. The coverage of securities handled is complete: stocks, mutual funds, annuities, bonds (fixed, zero-coupon, variable, Treasuries, munis), cash, GNMAs, CMOs, real estate, partnerships, options, and user-defined securities.
Transactions handled by the program are extensive. A partial list includes buy/sell, short/cover, margin purchase, return of capital, cash and stock dividends, interest, phantom interest, capital gains distributions, reinvestments, splits, reverse splits, premium and discount bond amortizations, fees, commissions, spin-offs and mergers. Most programs rely on a series of questions to record transactions, but Captool relies on a transaction ledger that can be intimidating for first-time users. Experienced users will find the transaction ledger to be an efficient data-entry tool once the data-entry codes are mastered. Captool provides complete tracking and computation of cost basis. Users can assign the lots manually or have the program automate the process to minimize taxes or maximize gains. Taxes are estimated based upon customizable tax rate tables. Securities can be marked as tax-exempt on federal or local levels.
Report capabilities are extensive and flexible. Captool ships with over 60 report templates that draw from a wide range of data fields and portfolio statistics. Captool reports also provide you with the option to incorporate pie charts and valuation growth charts.
The program can examine the performance of individual securities, security groups, and the overall portfolio for user-designated time periods. The performance report can present the internal rate of return, time-weighted rate of return, or simple profit on an annualized or total return basis. Users have the option of examining returns on both an aftertax and pretax basis and even specifying the fees or commissions paid over the reporting period.
Captool provides integrated Internet data downloads from many popular Web sites, but does not offer the ability to download transactions from brokers.
The program is optimized for quick data entry, so it is not as prompt-driven as some of its competitors. It takes some time to get acquainted with a powerful program such as Captool. The program ships with a thick manual, but novice investors may still be overwhelmed by the program’s many features.
Quicken 2006 for Mac
By Intuit, Inc.
Quicken is the classic personal finance program that handles all aspects of financial planning and tracking from checkbook management to portfolio management. Quicken is the only true portfolio management software option on the Mac platform, as it has been for some time now. Quicken software is also available for Windows.
Intuit updates the program on an annual basis, and the Mac updates over the last year have focused on automating the payment and tracking of expenses and deposits, tracking multiple family accounts, and providing secure data backups.
When the program is first installed, Quicken prompts the user to answer a series of personal questions. The first questions deal with how you intend to use Quicken—to save more money, get out of debt, manage your checkbook and bills, track investments, see where your money is going, or to ease tax preparation. After completing these questions, Quicken asks for financial information. For instance, if you choose to use Quicken to manage your checkbook and bills, the program will ask which institution you bank with and what your current account balance is.
Quicken also provides advice on how to achieve any goals you establish, including long-term goals such as building a house, taking a vacation, or buying a car.
Quicken will automatically update investments such as mutual funds and 401(k) plans, as well as taxes. Quicken does this in the same way that it monitors bills and checking accounts—by continually downloading investment information from brokerages. Intuit indicates that downloads are available from over 1,600 participating financial institutions.
Quicken’s investment management module enables you to compare your performance versus market benchmarks. Morningstar ratings are incorporated into the program. News alerts keep you up-to-date on stories regarding your holdings. A capital gains estimator shows you the potential tax impact of selling your stocks and mutual funds before you make a trade.
By Morningstar, Inc.
Free with Internet access; Premium Service, $13.95/mo. or $125/yr.
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. Basic analysis is free, with additional portfolio analysis, research and screening available through the premium service for $13.95 per month.
Morningstar.com has the capability to track 50 portfolios—each holding 50 stocks or mutual funds, 10 bonds, and 10 cash securities. The on-line manager can also keep a cash balance. Users can import data from a number of popular software programs and Web sites including: Intuit Quicken software, Microsoft Money software, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Money Investment Toolbox, Quicken.com, and Yahoo! Finance.
Portfolios are updated by Morningstar on a delayed basis. After each market close, free daily E-mail updates are available that present the market value of each of your portfolio holdings as well as links to related news stories. Users can also elect to receive E-mail notification of stock and fund news as complex as a heavy volume price movement or as simple as the change of a ticker symbol or fund manager. Premium subscribers can also receive notification of changes to the allocation or makeup of a given portfolio.
Morningstar.com offers a solid list of report capabilities. Performance numbers can be compared among individual securities, as well as by asset class and investment style. Performance reports can also be generated for single and multiple portfolios. Other portfolio interface views include intraday, fundamental, and gain/loss—which employs the specific-lot method for handling cost basis. Customized data views can be created using 150 different data elements.
Morningstar.com also features a unique function for examining your portfolios called an X-Ray. X-Rays are slightly different from standard tracking views in that they can break down your portfolio and present your holdings in different formats. Ten different premium service X-Rays can be displayed, including Asset Allocation, Style Box Diversification, Stock Sector, Stock Type, World Regions, and Fees & Expenses. Another premium X-Ray is the unique Stock Overlap X-Ray, which analyzes the diversification of your portfolios across mutual funds and among individual security holdings.
Morningstar.com’s portfolio tools offer useful alerts and helpful portfolio views.
|Fund Screening & Analysis|
Investing in mutual funds can be a cost-effective way to own a more diversified portfolio. However, currently over 18,000 different funds are in existence. Mutual fund screening can lessen the burden by providing the necessary tools to pick the best funds to suit your needs. Screening involves choosing a set of criteria to find a group of funds with similar characteristics. While a basic screening process can be done using a financial newspaper, magazine or book, the screening process is most easily and thoroughly accomplished using a computer.
Software programs often have high-powered and highly flexible screening capabilities. Subscribers receive periodic data updates without which a software program is of no value. Web-based screening tools are either downloaded to your computer or the screening criteria are established through forms on your Web browser.
With a mutual fund screening system, investors can find multiple funds that meet personal risk, return and management style requirements quickly and easily. For example, if you determine that your portfolio is lacking international equity diversification, a screening service can provide you with a list of no-load, internationally oriented mutual funds with consistent performance above the average for international equity funds, acceptable risk and below-average expenses.
Steele Mutual Fund Expert
By Steele Systems, Inc.
Mutual Fund Expert from Steele Systems offers three versions: a Personal version, a Professional version, and a Pro-Plus version. Each version has a database of over 18,000 funds. Both quarterly and monthly updates are available for download from the company’s Web site or can be mailed on a CD-ROM disk. The main difference between the three versions is in the amount of data available for screening and analyzing.
All three versions offer user-friendly navigation tools to make the screening process relatively straightforward. Data and charts are prominently displayed in a multi-tab worksheet format and are easy to read. All reports can be customized on your screen as well as printed and exported to other programs such as Microsoft Excel and Word. Predefined screens are available as well.
The quick reference bar adds to the ease of creating new screens and accessing other program features. All of the screening criteria can be compared to user-defined values or any fund or index in the database. The multi-step process for creating new screens may be slightly confusing at first, but a detailed help section can assist with sorting out problems.
The Personal version has 92 data fields per mutual fund, all of which can also be used for screening, including performance returns for the last 12 months, four quarters and 10 years, risk measures and necessary portfolio information.
The more advanced Professional and Pro-Plus versions offer 228 and 701 data fields for screening and analysis, respectively. Additionally, the Professional version offers more risk-related statistics—the Sharpe and Treynor ratios and annualized standard deviations—as well as calendar-year and monthly returns for the past 10 years. The Pro-Plus version has calendar-year and monthly returns from 1962 to the present as well as more in-depth risk measures and comparison charts.
Overall, the Mutual Fund Expert programs are excellent mutual fund screening tools. The various subscription and program types allow investors with varying goals, ideas and investment strategies to improve their mutual fund knowledge and investing skills.
By Morningstar, Inc.
Free with Internet access; Premium service, $13.95/mo. or $125/yr.
Morningstar provides both Mac and Windows users with free access to news, data, reports and simple but helpful investment tools. The site has two fund screeners: a free basic screener with 18 data fields; and a subscription-based screener, called Premium Fund Screener, with over 100 data fields. Both screening services provide access to Morningstar’s set of predefined screens.
The free screener displays criteria on a separate page from the results. The Premium screener produces results on the same page, after each criteria is entered, making it easier to read and adjust. The Premium screener not only has more criteria for searching, but you can screen for desired results based on user-defined numbers and category and index averages. A great feature available when choosing your own comparison numbers is a chart of quartile ranges and averages to help pick meaningful values. All screens created with the Premium version can be saved for later use. Also available to Premium users are analyst reports and a weekly newsletter with “Picks and Pans” of the market. This more advanced screening tool costs $125 annually; a free trial is available.
Other useful screening tools are Fund Quick Rank and Similar Funds. The Quick Rank ranks all funds in a user-defined category by certain criteria including volatility and total return. As the name would suggest, Similar Funds finds mutual funds that have comparable characteristics and then ranks them from the most similar (10) to the least similar (one) based on portfolio make-up and performance. This service is available only to Premium members.
For investors wishing to perform basic mutual fund screening, the free screener may suit your needs. If you are looking for a more advanced tool, but not as intricate or costly as a software program, the Premium screener offers numerous screening criteria at a reasonable cost.
|Stock Screening & Analysis|
Screening programs help you sort through thousands of stocks to find a few that warrant further study. The top packages examine a wide universe of stocks, supply a deep set of information for examination and screening, and provide a great deal of flexibility to match the screening parameters to your personal investment philosophy. The packages should also have a wide range of pre-programmed filters to illustrate the screening process and help users get started more quickly.
Many investors use fundamental screening systems as a framework in which to investigate investment tips in an organized, consistent fashion. Company and industry data within a stock screening system can provide an initial impression of a company and its prospects.
Stock Investor Pro
By the American Association of Individual Investors
$247/yr. ($198/yr. for AAII members)
[Note: Stock Investor Pro is published by the American Association of Individual Investors.]
Stock Investor Pro is a Windows-based program that offers monthly CD updates as well as complete weekly on-line updates. The program provides the most powerful screening tools of the top three choices coupled with a deep set of data and a wide range of built-in screens. Stock Investor contains fundamental data on 8,600 companies. Comparison information on 12 sectors and 100 industry groups is included. The program allows you to look up, analyze, and screen for companies meeting specific criteria on over 2,000 variables. Consensus earnings estimates are provided by I/B/E/S and fundamental data is provided by Reuters.
The program includes detailed income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements for seven years and eight quarters. Financial statements can be viewed as reported or on a per share basis, a period-by-period percent change basis, or a common size basis. Stock Investor Pro provides over 300 ratios and growth rates and allows the creation of 250 custom variables. These variables can be viewed, exported, or used in stock filters.
The screening function enables screening for companies meeting criteria using any data field in the program, along with comparisons to database or industry norms. The program includes over 50 predefined screens that follow the techniques of well-known investors.
Users can track lists of stocks over time and run filters to see which stocks in a given portfolio pass a specified stock screen. The program comes with a wide array of predefined reports and users can create customized reports that can be viewed onscreen, printed, or exported. Data can be exported into a number of text, spreadsheet, and database formats.
By Morningstar, Inc.
Free with Internet access; Premium Service, $13.95/mo. or $125/yr.
Mac users do not have any software options for fundamental stock screening and analysis, so investors must turn to the Web. The top-rated free Web site, MSN Money, presents a more basic version for the Mac, making Morningstar.com the best choice for Mac users. 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 $13.95 per month.
Research on the site consists of stock screening coupled with research reports. Morningstar provides ratings and analyst reports on 1,500 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 offers 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: 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 are nicely detailed.
By CNBC and Microsoft, Inc. moneycentral.msn.com/investor
Free with Internet access
Microsoft and CNBC offer a complete personal finance and investing site through their free Web offering. The investing section offers portfolio tracking, charts, news, educational articles, stock and mutual fund research, and brokerage services. Access to articles, news, screens, company and mutual fund data, and portfolio tracking is free to all Internet users. Navigation between the various modules is easy and logical. The stock research and screening module on the site is top-notch. Over 30 predefined screens are available and users can construct their own screens. The screening module is a very flexible ActiveX program that we were able to run on Windows-based systems using either Internet Explorer or Netscape browser. On Mac systems and Windows systems running Mozilla Firefox, however, MSN Money displays a more basic Web-based screening module and portfolio module.
Within the deluxe screener, the company coverage is both broad and deep. Over 200 well-chosen fields are available for screening. Users can compare company values against constants, other data fields, or even another company or industry benchmark. Screens can be saved for later use.
MSN Money has pulled together the content of Camelback Research, Media General, Reuters, Thomson, and Zacks into a comprehensive company report. The research wizard walks an investor through the factors to consider when looking at a stock, including its fundamentals, price history, valuations, catalysts, and competition.StockScouter ratings provide risk/reward recommendations for stocks. Another unique feature is the Advisor FYI Alerts, which alert users to factors that may influence a stock’s price—such as an earnings estimate revision, a price-earnings ratio in the bottom 25% of the industry, or increasing relative price strength. The Insight segment of the site provides a wide range of articles that discuss stock-picking techniques and current market events. News articles are posted daily, with historical articles archived by topic.
MSN Money offers most investors a very good base to perform screening, company research, and portfolio management.
|Technical Analysis & Charting|
Investors interested in technical analysis are in the enviable position of having a varied selection of software and Web sites from which to choose. There are literally hundreds of technical analysis programs on the market today, ranging from simple charting software to trading platforms that generate buy and sell signals based on technical indicators, chart patterns, and even astrological cycles. Our top software picks excel in plotting charts and indicators, developing and testing a trading system, and screening on technical factors. Our top charting Web site offers a solid collection of charting choices and technical indicators as well as technical screening and in-depth technical analysis education.
These top programs plot a wide range of charts and indicators. The most common chart types are bar and line. Line charts normally plot the closing price over time, while bar charts typically show the open, high, low, and closing prices for a given period. Other chart types include candlestick, equivolume, and point & figure. A technical indicator, such as a moving average, is the mathematical manipulation of price and/or volume displayed in a graphical manner.
Ultimately, most investors will use technical analysis to aid in timing buy and sell decisions. Trading systems apply a set of buy and sell rules—usually based on technical indicators or chart patterns—and automatically indicate when these rules have been triggered. The trading rules can be a single indicator or groups of indicators matched to specific conditions. Backtesting a trading system involves applying it to a set of historical data in order to test its performance, measuring factors such as the rate of return and identifying each buy and sell. This allows you to see which transactions would have been made based upon the signals generated by the system as well as how successful and risky the strategy would have been over a given timeframe. Taking the process one step further, some of the higher-end technical analysis programs allow you to optimize trading systems, which generates the optimum (most profitable) parameters for a given trading system. However, backtesting only provides a glimpse of how the system would have performed over the specified testing period. There is no guarantee that the trading system can duplicate this performance going forward.
Technical screening involves locating securities that exhibit certain technical properties, such as price and volume behavior, moving-average breakouts, chart patterns, or overbought/oversold conditions based on indicators. Users specify the universe of stocks to screen and the criteria they wish to include in the screen to obtain the list of securities. Coupled with screening is the ability to receive alerts when certain “technical” events occur.
Technical analysis Web sites tend not to offer the same level of power and flexibility as their software-based cousins. While they usually offer adequate charting and technical analysis indicators, they typically do not offer features found in high-end technical analysis software—namely system development, testing and optimization, and technical screening. However, they serve as an excellent stepping-off point for someone new to the field of technical analysis.
By Equis International www.metastock.com
$499, end-of-day software only;
end-of-day software & Reuters DataLink, $59/mo. or $599/yr.
MetaStock has long been one of the industry leaders in technical analysis software. Its powerful mix of charting capabilities, technical indicators, system development and backtesting, market screening, and ease of use has made it a top choice among trade publications, seasoned technicians, and novices alike for many years.
MetaStock offers flexible and powerful charting options. Users have nine chart types at their disposal such as line, candlestick, point & figure, and equivolume. The charts offer unique flexibility due to MetaStock’s Object Oriented Interface, which means that every onscreen item you click on has a menu for customization. Users can easily manipulate and customize charts using the program’s drag-and-drop features. Price plots, indicators, and charts can be moved within chart windows by simply clicking on the elements and dragging them into another chart or window. The program also automatically saves the details of your charts in its SmartCharts feature so your chart and any analysis items you add are available for future use. With MetaStock you can also set up and save a chart template—a collection of indicators and line studies—and then apply it to various securities for viewing.
For those interested in point & figure charting, the new point & figure toolbox offers four explorations, four experts, eight indicators, and two system tests based on point & figure charting. The system tests generate buy and sell signals based on chart patterns like triple tops and bottoms, triangles, and more. The explorations search for patterns and help you make a watch list.
The program offers over 150 technical indicators, all of which are fully customizable to fit your trading style. The program’s on-line help system allows you to learn about the indicators that you are unfamiliar with. The Equis Web site, www.equis.com, has an extensive library of custom indicators to add to the software. MetaStock also offers a variety of line studies, such as trend lines, Fibonacci lines, and regression channels. The program also helps identify true support and resistance levels on your charts by drawing automatic support, resistance, and trend lines on charts.
Beyond charting and technical overlays, MetaStock offers scanning capabilities with The Explorer module. Using The Explorer, you can identify securities generating buy and sell signals, those crossing above or below moving averages, which securities rank highest by indicator value, and more. The program can also run additional explorations on the results of a previous exploration, run explorations on a single security, or use separate security lists for each exploration. MetaStock contains 45 predefined explorations and offers the ability to generate custom explorations.
MetaStock provides users with educational content as well. The Expert Advisor helps users interpret technical analysis signals. There are over 60 built-in “experts,” each including an overview of the trading style and rules from trading experts.
For more advanced users, Meta-Stock’s Enhanced System Tester allows you to create, backtest, compare, and optimize your trading strategies, without having to risk actual dollars. The system tester allows you to test one system on one security, test multiple systems on one security, test one system on multiple systems, or test multiple systems on multiple securities. The system tester can plot buy and sell lines on individual security charts as well as equity lines, and generate detailed system reports. The system test allows users to specify various elements to simulate “real world” conditions, including entry, exit, expended stops, order sizes, and commissions.
MetaStock can be used for sector and market analysis as well. Using the program’s Power Tools you can identify which sector is moving and then identify stocks in that sector with large volatility. To help gauge the direction of the overall market, MetaStock has over 80 broad market indicators—11 monetary indicators, 36 momentum indicators for NASDAQ, and 36 momentum indicators for NYSE. The Equis Web site provides a collection of on-line resources to help users maximize their MetaStock experience. There are links to U.S. and international user groups, a formula primer, tips and strategies from popular technical analysis magazines, and an on-line MetaStock forum.
On the Mac side of technical analysis, ProTA Gold offers flexibility and power comparable to that of Meta-Stock, but it has not garnered the same level of attention and accolades. The program has quietly established itself as one of the most complete technical analysis packages available for Mac users, in addition to being the most reasonably priced for the features it provides.
For data handling, ProTA Gold allows for direct data downloading from Dial/Data. The program also comes with a universal text importer that can recognize and import data files in a number of different formats—including MetaStock, Excel, and ASCII text. With this utility, users simply drag a data file onto the ProTA icon and it is converted for use within the program. The only major data issues to keep in mind are that neither ProTA Gold nor the text importer automatically handles stock splits, mutual fund distributions, or futures contract rollovers. ProTA Gold offers all of the popular chart types—line, bar, candlestick, and point & figure. In addition, the program comes with over 50 fully customizable technical indicators and line studies. With its object-oriented interface, ProTA Gold allows users to click on an item and modify it to fit their needs.
With the portfolio tracker module, users can enter buy or sell trades and display, analyze, and rank them in a number of ways. The program generates such statistics as cost basis, return on investment, profit/loss, and more. Users can track technical information such as moving-average values and volume activity, as well as post trade entries and exits and track overall portfolio performance.
ProTA Gold also offers advanced features that are usually exclusive to high-end technical analysis packages with much higher price tags. If you are not satisfied with the existing library of technical indicators, ProTA Gold gives you the added flexibility of creating an unlimited number of custom indicators. The BeeSoft Web site also provides a library of custom indicators for use with the software.
ProTA Gold offers trading system functionality as well. Users can specify trading rules for entering long and short transactions. Once a trading system has been developed, users can plot buy and sell points on a chart, generate trade lists and performance summary reports, and optimize the trading system.
ProTA Gold will scan for securities meeting specified criteria. Users may specify one or several technical or performance-based variables and the program scans the database or a portfolio to find those securities that fit the parameters. The securities that pass the scan are then placed in a portfolio sheet where the results can be viewed and ranked.
Free with Internet access
Basic Charting, $9.95/mo.; Extra! Charting, $19.95/mo., $9.95/mo. additional fee for real-time
Many individual investors who wish to make use of technical analysis, but are new to its concepts, are in need of a service that allows them to get their feet wet without being washed away by the costs of software-based applications and data. Furthermore, such investors need quality educational materials to learn the basics of charting and technical analysis.StockCharts.com—an Internet-based technical analysis service—is our top Web pick in this area.
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, pattern alerts are automatically displayed on all charts (both free and subscription). The site offers a collection of over 20 technical indicators and line studies; users of the free service can plot up to two price overlays and two technical indicators per chart, while subscribers can plot up to eight price overlays per chart and up to 24 technical indicators per chart. Users can create charts with up to three years of daily data using the free service, or go back to 1990 with the subscription-based services. Subscribers to the site can save charts to a favorites list for future analysis (one for Basic service and up to 100 for Extra!).
StockCharts.com offers a collection of stock scans that allows users to apply various technical formulas to a stock universe to produce a listing of stocks meeting those criteria. Non-subscribers can run predefined scans based upon technical indicators as well as candlestick and point & figure patterns. Subscribers can create custom scans; however, only Extra! subscribers may save these custom scans and view the results of custom scans in their entirety. All scans screen stocks traded on the NASDAQ, NYSE, Amex, and Canadian exchanges as well as mutual funds.
For those looking to learn more about technical analysis, the site hosts extensive educational content at its Chart School. Articles cover the basics of technical analysis, as well as trading strategies and technical indicators and how to use them. There is also a discussion of charts, the common patterns that appear, and how to interpret them. A recent addition to the site is John Murphy’s Market Message. Murphy, a well-known technical analyst, offers his market observations at the site for $16.95 per month.