Technical analysis is a type of market analysis that studies the supply and demand for securities—stocks, mutual funds, futures, options, etc.—based on price activity and trading volume. The hope is that the analysis of past behavior may uncover patterns that point to future price movements.
In years past, technical analysis was performed using high-end software packages utilizing data typically purchased from third-party data providers. Furthermore, such analysis was left to institutional shops with the resources to afford the software and data.
Today, however, many individual investors employ some form of technical analysis. Whether it be in the form of simple chart analysis or utilizing multiple technical indicators—mathematical manipulations of price or volume data—the masses can perform technical analysis through a variety of Web-based services.
As the number of sites offering charting and technical analysis capabilities continues to grow, it can be difficult to know what is available and which sites are worthwhile. This article focuses on the 10 sites we consider to be to the “best of the best” [note that some sites offer multiple levels of service]. These sites range from comprehensive financial Web sites offering charting capabilities to full-featured technical analysis sites with in-depth educational resources.
When dealing with computer-based investment analysis tools, Web-based services, in general, do not offer the power or flexibility that you find with their software-based counterparts. Therefore, one of the first questions to ask is whether your analysis needs will take you along a software or on-line route for technical analysis and charting tools.
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 on-line 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.
Beyond carrying 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. This is a feature lacking in the on-line services highlighted here.
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. Again, none of these Web-based charting and technical analysis sites offer trading system development or backtesting.
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 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, often overlooked, is selecting a data vendor. On-line services, on the other hand, 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.
Technical analysis software can carry a price tag 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 over $100 per month and higher for real-time data delivery (excluding exchange fees). In this comparison, only two of the sites require a subscription to access their charts.
The question then becomes, which route should you go?
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, some 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. To learn more about software-based technical analysis tools, the comparison in the March/April 2008 issue of Computerized Investing is available in the archives at www.computerizedinvesting.com.
When it comes to software, your choice of either the Windows or Mac operating system (OS) will impact the options available to you. For the most part, Web sites are “OS neutral,” meaning you can access and use a site whether you are using Windows or the Mac OS. There are, however, a few exceptions. For example, the MSN Money Web site offers several modules in its Investment Toolbox, including its charts, that utilize technology requiring the Windows operating system to function. Luckily, Microsoft has re-programmed the Web site to offer similar capabilities for non-Windows users. We visited each site in this comparison using Windows XP, Vista Ultimate, and Mac OS X 10.5.6 and found no significant differences in functionality between these operating systems.
Your choice of Web browser can also affect your ability to get the most from certain Web sites. Many Web sites are optimized for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser. While other browsers will allow you to view most of these Web sites, there are some exceptions. Again, the MSN Money Web site requires Internet Explorer to use the full-featured charting module within the Investment Toolbox. However, while the viewing experience is different, the site does offer similar functionality for those using an alternate browser.
We visited each of the sites in this comparison using some of today’s more popular Web browsers—Internet Explorer 7, Mozilla FireFox 3.0.6, Opera 9.63, and Safari Beta 4. Within the individual write-ups of each service we noted any differences in the experiences.
Some sites have come and gone since the last comparison of technical analysis and charting Web sites, which ran in the March/April 2007 issue of Computerized Investing. Specifically, three sites were dropped and two were added.
MarketScreen.com recently was re-launched as a purely fundamental on-line screening resource. Since it no longer offers its extensive collection of technical screens, it is not appropriate for this comparison.
It appears that eSignal dropped FutureSource Xtra in favor of the FutureSource Work Station, which is not an on-line-based product. Also, BarchartX appears to have been replaced by WebStation, which is positioned for professional traders, brokers, and market participants.
New to this year’s comparison are BestFreeCharts.com and eSignal’s LiveCharts. More in-depth discussions of these services appear later in this article.
The comparison grid beginning on page 14 examines the features and functions found with a typical Web-based technical analysis service. Additionally, as mentioned, Table 1 outlines the more popular technical indicators and charting functionality each site offers. Just keep in mind that this list is not intended to be all-inclusive. Furthermore, Web sites frequently undergo changes, so it is always a good idea to confirm pricing and functionality before subscribing.
|Barchart.com Advanced||BestFreeCharts.com||BigCharts.com||Dorsey Wright & Associates||FutureSource.com Premium||LiveCharts||MSN Money||Prophet.Net Basic||Prophet.Net Bronze & Silver||Prophet.Net Gold||StockCharts.com||Yahoo! Finance|
|Charting & Drawing Tools|
|Moving Average Bands/Envelopes||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Parabolic Time/Price (SAR)||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Average True Range||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Arms Index (TRIN)||x||x||x||x|
|Commodity Channel Index (CCI)||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Directional Movement Index (DMI)/ADX||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Ease of Movement||x||x||x|
|On-Balance Volume (OBV)||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Price/Volume Rate of Change (ROC)||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Welles Wilder Volatility||x||x||x||x|
|Williams' Accumulation Distribution||x||x||x||x||x|
|Total Number of Indicators/Studies||43||57||33||0||26||37||11||60||162||166||43||13|
Most of our readers track indexes, stocks, mutual funds, or exchange-traded funds ETFs; all but one of these sites offers coverage of each of these areas. The exception, FutureSource, deals exclusively with futures analysis. LiveCharts provides foreign exchange coverage while LiveCharts Ag adds futures. In addition, Prophet.Net and Dorsey, Wright & Associates offer futures and/or options coverage only with their premium subscriptions.
Technical analysis can be performed on an end-of-day, intraday delayed, or real-time basis.
End-of-day charts require, at most, five pieces of data for each trading day—the opening, high, low, and closing price of the security or index for the day along with the total trading volume for the day. This data can also be used to plot charts covering long periods, such as weeks, months, or years. 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 or indexes 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). The delay allows the site to avoid paying exchange fees for real-time data. Given the unique nature of point & figure charting, the Dorsey, Wright & Associates Web site is the only service that does not plot charts on an intraday basis.
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 (data can also be streamed on a delayed basis). Six of the 11 services highlighted here offer real-time charting, but only two—BestFreeCharts.com and MSN Money—offer it for free. The MSN Money 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.
BestFreeCharts.com does offer streaming real-time charts. However, the real-time quotes are based on trades placed through BATS, an exchange founded in 2005 that currently does about 12% of the trading volume in the U.S. (ranking it third behind the NYSE and NASDAQ). The data in BestFreeCharts.com that is less than 15 minutes old only consists of the trades reported by BATS Trading. All data more than 15 minutes old is complete data from all the exchanges.
This allows BestFreeCharts.com to offer real-time streaming charts without paying exchange fees. For non-professionals, exchange fees for real-time data can range from $2 per month for NYSE and NASDAQ Level I stock data and $3 per month for Options Price Reporting Authority OPRA options data to as much as $97 per month for real-time ICE Futures US data.
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 index and stock data on their charts (provided the security has been trading 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). Five of these Web-based technical analysis services offer some type of data exporting.
Technical analysis primarily deals with 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 services listed here provide both, since Dorsey, Wright & Associates is devoted exclusively to point & figure charting. Candlestick charts are also available with all of the services except Dorsey, Wright.
Point & figure charts are based solely on price movement that does not take time into consideration. Three sites offer these unique charts: Barchart.com, Dorsey, Wright & Associates, and StockCharts.com. For an explanation of how to use point and figure charts, see the Feature article in the July/August 2003 Computerized Investing, available in the archives at www.computerizedinvesting.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 a period you want charted—for example, one year, five years, 10 years, etc. For an even greater level of flexibility, you may also be able to specify the exact period you wish to appear on a chart. Of the 11 services listed in the comparison grid, seven allow users to specify the charted time period.
When viewing price data, there are two general scales used—linear and log. Most of the charts you see probably use 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 $5.00 and $10.00 is the same as the distance between $100 and $200, since in both cases the percentage change is 100%. Log scales are especially useful when viewing data over a long historical period. Eight of the 11 services offer log scaling for their charts.
The ability to specify and save certain settings is an extremely useful feature found with more and more Web sites. Nine 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 for you in the desired manner.
A technical indicator is the mathematical manipulation of price or volume displayed in a graphical manner, such as a 50-day moving average or stochastics.
The number and type of indicators provided are important factors to consider when deciding upon a Web-based service. Beyond merely the number of indicators a site provides, you should make sure that any service you are considering includes the type of 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 two 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. Eight of the services here allow you to modify all of the indicators in their respective libraries. For example, BigCharts.com only allows users to modify the time periods of moving averages, while MSN Money does not let you modify the number of periods for 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. Six of the sites discussed in this comparison offer interactive chart features that include user-drawn trendlines.
|Performance||Documentation||Ease of Use||Price||Pros|
|Charting||Indicators/ Drawing Tools||Screening/ Scanning||Cons|
|Barchart.com||4||3||2||4||4||free;||+Buy, hold, and sell for stocks||–Lacking original educational content,|
|www.barchart.com||Adv Eq,||and commodities||especially for futures and options|
|$20/mo.;||+Point & figure charting||–Adv Commodities site not as user-|
|Adv Com,||+Stock & futures screening||friendly|
|BestFreeCharts.com||4||5||na||4||4||free||+Free real-time streaming charts||–Difficult to tell whether site is merely|
|www.bestfreecharts.com||+Largest Free indicator library||promotional or a going concern|
|+Watchlists for indexes & industry||–Not compatible with Opera browser|
|BigCharts.com||2||3||1||2||5||free||+User-drawn trendlines||–Can only modify moving averages|
|www.bigcharts.com||w/JavaCharts||–No technical analysis education|
|+Over 30 years of data for charting||for such a robust site|
|+End-of-day charts via E-mail|
|Dorsey, Wright, & Assoc.||1||na||4||4||3||Basic Charts, $25/mo.;||+One of the most complete||–Only useful for those wanting to use|
|www.dorseywright.com||Charts+, $35/mo.;||point & figure sites||point & figure charts|
|MF, $25/mo.;||+Extensive Point & figure|
|Charts+ & MF,||education & tutorials|
|$50/mo.||+Bullish & bearish pattern scans|
|FutureSource.com||2||2||na||2||4||basic||+Commodities trading & technical||–Cannot chart specific date ranges|
|www.futuresource.com||charts, free;||analysis educational materials||–Charting in log scale not available|
|prem charts,||+Up to 20 years of continuous|
|free||futures contract data|
|LiveCharts||3||4||2||3||3||LiveCharts,||+Composite forex feed covering||–Configuring workspace is cumbersome|
|www.livecharts.com||$19.95/mo.;||over 200 financial institutions||–No technical analysis educational|
|LiveCharts Ag,||+real-time news feed||resources|
|$21.95/mo.||+Price/volume data exportable|
|in ASCII text and Excel formats|
|MSN Money||2||2||2||4||5||free;||+Can save custom screens||–Cannot plot indicators on|
|moneycentral.msn.com||real-time||+Can export historical price/||real-time charts|
|data, free||volume data||–No technical analysis education|
|w/reg||+Free real-time charting||for such a robust site|
|–Real-time charts not streaming|
|Prophet.Net||5||5||3||4||4||Basic, free||+Up to 50 years of data||–Lacking in-depth indicator/technical|
|www.prophet.net||w/reg;||for charting||analysis education for such a robust site|
|Bronze||+Subscribers Can create||–Significant price increase since last|
|$34.95/mo.;||& save custom scans||comparison|
|Silver,||+real-time intraday scanning|
|$44.95/mo.;||of over 14,000 stocks|
|StockCharts.com||4||4||5||5||5||free; basic,||+Extensive tech analysis/charting||–Only three years of data for charting|
|www.stockcharts.com||$14.95/mo.;||educational content||with free service|
|Extra!,||+Free Point & figure charting||–Custom scanner, albeit powerful, is|
|$24.95/mo.||+Broad collection of scans for||difficult to use|
|ExtraRT!,||technical conditions &|
|$34.90/mo.||candlestick/point & figure patterns|
|Yahoo! Finance||4||2||2||3||5||free;||+Over 40 years of data||–No technical analysis education|
|finance.yahoo.com||real-time||for charting||for such a robust site|
|$13.95/mo.||data in Excel format|
Some investors seek out securities exhibiting specific technical behavior—price above or below a 50-day 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, nine of the 11 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, and advanced custom searches or screens.
In order to allow you to share your charts with others, some services allow you to E-mail charts or links to charts. BigCharts.com can E-mail charts, complete with technical indicators, on an end-of-day basis. In all, six of the services deliver charts via E-mail or allow you to E-mail links to a given chart.
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. There are also premium subscriptions for those interested in equities or commodities.
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. An additional composite indicator—The Trend Spotter—is used to give an overall opinion of the stock or commodity. The Signals area of the site is devoted to the opinion readings. There are listings of the top and bottom 100 stocks and top and bottom 1% of 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.
The Sectors section of the site provides groupings and lists of the stocks underlying each sector. You can also rank sectors based on year-to-date performance as well as performance over the last three, six, nine and 12 months.
Subscription-based services are Advanced Equities ($20 per month) and Advanced Commodities ($29.95 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 19 different technical-related search criteria and then save your searches for isolating stocks, commodities or mutual funds. 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.
The BestFreeCharts Web site is one of the newcomers to this year’s comparison and makes an immediate splash. The site is unique in that it offers totally free streaming “real-time” charts of indexes, stocks, and ETFs, without exchange fees. It does this by providing real-time data from the BATS exchange, the apparent sponsor of the site. Any data that is less than 15 minutes old comes from BATS, while data older than 15 minutes is filled in using complete exchange data. It is worth noting that the “real-time” data being displayed on the charts may differ from what you would see elsewhere, especially for stocks that are not actively traded. Furthermore, you may choose to either display volume activity only for trades placed with BATS or display an approximate total volume.
For charting purposes, BestFreeCharts.com offers line, bar, and candlestick charts. You can plot charts on an intraday basis as well as on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis. The site also boasts one of the larger indicator libraries among the services in this comparison with 57, all of which you can modify to your needs. You can also draw your own trendlines.
Registered users can create chart layouts and save them for future use. A layout consists of the underlying symbol and any desired indicators. Once you save a layout you can access your pre-configured charts from any computer.
There are also built-in watchlists covering indexes, industries, and ETFs. For example, you can click on the NASDAQ 100 Component Stock watchlist to see all of the stocks that make up the QQQQ. Users can also create and save their own watchlists.
Finally, the site offers streaming, real-time news items.
The only real problem we encountered was that with the Opera Web browser we could not get anything to load. Keep this in mind if you use the Opera browser and wish to visit this site.
While offering free streaming real-time charts is an attractive feature, the impressive collection of technical indicators, watchlists, and real-time news make BestFreeCharts.com a CI Editor’s Choice.
BigCharts has been a long-time stalwart of this comparison, consistently ranking among the most popular on-line charting services. This free site blends together free charting, a library of key technical indicators, 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 over 30 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 options for chart type 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 you do 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, after specifying a ticker and date, 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.
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.
Tom Dorsey is one of the foremost experts 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, and 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 charts, 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 of the last trading day with current trend information and reversal signals for U.S. and global equity and fixed-income fund classes. A group average return table covers all U.S. and global equity and fixed-income categories and 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 1994. A mutual fund query offers nine different relative strength, trend, and momentum criteria as well as the ability to isolate mutual funds exhibiting one of 17 different chart patterns. Lastly, 19 mutual fund reports highlight those funds exhibiting certain trend or chart qualities.
The site’s Point & Figure University is free to all registered users and currently offers 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 videos that you can view directly from the DWA site covering point & figure charting.
Along with Barchart.com and Prophet.net’s Gold service, FutureSource is the only other service here that offers in-depth coverage of futures and commodities as well as foreign exchange securities. 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 (foodstuffs and fiber goods such as cocoa, orange juice, and cotton), energy, grains, financials, metals, and meats. (The site offers links to free stock charts from Quote.com but the charting capabilities there are lacking when compared to other free services such as BigCharts.com, which is why Quote.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. By comparison, the free “basic” charts only offer seven indicators. Users of the free premium charts can save chart settings for future use.
The FutureSource Web site also offers visitors a free daily Market Recap report via E-mail with closing market values, a technical outlook for the market and discussion on where the market is heading; 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.
Since the last comparison, the FutureSource Web site has taken steps to address one of its biggest shortcomings—its lack of educational content. While the site’s “education” link only takes you to third-party providers, FutureSource also links to its sister site, Raging Bull, and its BullsEye trading education center. Here you will find articles on how to use technical analysis for trading, discussions of individual stocks, and the “GET Trading Blog.” Given the complexities and risks involved with derivatives trading, we would like to see more educational content in the future. However, this is a marked improvement since the last comparison.
LiveCharts is a Web-based charting service from eSignal/Interactive Data Corp. offering streaming intraday delayed or real-time quotes, depending on the subscription level. It stands as a reasonable solution for those looking for no-frills, real-time charting.
The service covers indexes, stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, and foreign currencies, while the separate LiveCharts Ag subscription adds futures coverage. Stock and index data goes back to 1990 while mutual fund data goes back to 1994. Bar, line, and candlestick charts are available. However, LiveCharts is one of the few services in this comparison that does not allow you to select a custom timeframe for your charts. Users can choose from almost 40 technical indicators and line studies, all of which are fully customizable.
With the LiveCharts HotLists you can see the biggest market movers. In all there are over 20 different trends for all U.S. stocks as well as for the NYSE, Amex, and NASDAQ. These trends include biggest percentage gainers and losers, heavy call and put options activity, and unusually high trading volume.
Other features include the ability to create up to 15 portfolios with streaming real-time data; real-time news headlines from a variety of financial news services, including RealTimeTradersPro; and the ability to export chart data in ASCII text and Excel formats.
LiveCharts Ag gives you access to delayed or real-time streaming data for North American and global futures markets. You’ll find a variety of weather maps covering the globe, including U.S. agriculture, U.S. and European energy, and the world coffee crop. Lastly, agricultural news comes from Dow Jones Ag Market—covering corn, wheat and soy, and cash grains—and other Dow Jones Commodity News Services.
The MSN Money Web site is one of two comprehensive financial Web sites offering charting included in this comparison (the other is Yahoo! Finance). This site has long served as a benchmark for us when examining other financial Web sites. It 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 site offers several interactive modules through its Investment Toolbox. These modules utilize ActiveX technology, which is only compatible with the Windows operating system. If you are using Windows and Internet Explorer (IE), you have the option of downloading the toolbox when you first visit the site.
Otherwise, you will have a different viewing experience if are not using the Investment Toolbox. However, to Microsoft’s credit, they have redesigned the site to offer non-Windows and non-IE users a comparable experience.
The charting module supports multiple time periods, including intraday (both delayed and real-time), weekly, monthly, and yearly. You can select a specific timeframe as well. If you take advantage of the site’s free registration, you can access free static real-time charts. 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 the price performance and investment growth of a given security or index. There is 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, which 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 to chart, you are able to export the high, low, and closing prices as well as volume.
Another useful feature 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 over 20 technical, price, or volume criteria available for screening.
Prophet.Net, which is part of the Investools family of investing services, is another one of our top-rated sites for Web-based charting. The site offers an assortment of free and fee-based tools, with subscriptions costing $34.95 per month (Bronze), $44.95 per month (Silver), or $64.95 per month Gold. Unfortunately, these prices represent a 30% to 75% increase since our last comparison in 2007.
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, 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 162 indicators and studies (166 for Gold service subscribers). Users are also able to draw custom trendlines on their JavaCharts. 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 both JavaCharts and SnapCharts, you can save your chart settings. In addition, users of the free service as well as subscribers can plot over 40 years of stock data and over 20 years of mutual fund data. The site also offers intraday data ranging from 20 days for free users 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 by examining the trends within the trends.
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 U.S. and Canadian 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 scans can be saved. Basic users can only save two scans, 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 14,000 North American stocks for various “technical” conditions, including moving averages, chart pattern tops and bottoms, and intraday price and volume activity.
Finally, Prophet Patterns have been re-introduced since the last comparison. This feature allows you to scan charts on either an intraday or end-of-day basis for bullish and bearish continuation or reversal patterns or breakouts.
Stocks that pass any of the site’s scanning or screening modules can then be added to a watchlist so you can track them going forward.
With its broad coverage of North American and international stocks, deep historical database, impressive indicator library, and variety of scanning and screening tools, it is not surprising that Prophet.Net rates among the very best technical analysis and charting sites. For some, however, the monthly price tag for Prophet’s premium services may be a pill too bitter to swallow.
StockCharts.com is another Editor’s Choice in this comparison. It is 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. The site offers free content as well as fee-based subscriptions ranging from $14.95 to $34.90 per month. Prices have increased 17% to 50% since the last comparison.
For charting, StockCharts.com offers one of the best collections of charts available on the Internet. The site features line, bar, equivolume 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 (unlimited 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; real-time charting, albeit not streaming, is available for $34.90 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 $14.95 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 ($24.95/mo.), you 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, extensive educational content is 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. A discussion of charts explains the common patterns that appear on charts and how to interpret them.
StockCharts has also teamed up with famed technician John Murphy. For $21.95 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.
While StockCharts.com offers some of the more robust collections of charts types, indicators, and technical screening and scanning capabilities, what really sets it apart from the other sites here is its collection of free educational content. Anyone looking to learn more about charting and technical analysis would be well served to visit this site.
Yahoo! Finance is another comprehensive financial Web site that includes charting and technical analysis. It offers a basic, but reasonable set of free charting and technical analysis tools for the investor. The site’s new “beta” interactive 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 always, the site also has some of the deepest charting data available, with historical stock data going back to 1962 and index data from as far back as 1928. You can export data in Excel spreadsheet format. Users of the free charts can access a library of 13 indicators and studies, all of which are customizable. You can also specify the time period that you wish to chart, create printer-friendly charts, and E-mail chart links.
Yahoo! also 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.
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.