The Top Comprehensive Websites
by Joe Lan, CFA
The Internet has revolutionized the way information is distributed. There are thousands of financial websites offering education, data and tips on stocks, bonds, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. This comparison focuses on the best comprehensive financial websites for data coverage, investment research and global news. These sites also offer useful tools such as stock and fund screeners and portfolio trackers, and provide valuable data for fundamental and technical analysis. Using these areas in conjunction will help you to analyze and select appropriate investments.
Most of the sites in this comparison offer an abundance of information and data free of charge. Some sites also offer additional tools and research for a fee.
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What’s New This Year?
In the December 2009 Online Exclusive, we narrowed our focus from the top 10 comprehensive sites to four sites, giving more attention to each. This year, we take the idea one step further and provide an in-depth analysis of our top three picks: Morningstar.com, SmartMoney.com and Yahoo! Finance. While we still believe investment sites such as CNN Money, MarketWatch.com, WSJ.com and Forbes.com each have their advantages and provide quality information, we are highlighting websites here that can be considered a “one-stop shop” for fundamental and technical analysis; stock, mutual funds and ETF data; screening; and portfolio tracking.
AOL Money & Finance, now known as DailyFinance, was the one website removed from last year’s list of top comprehensive sites. Accompanying the recent name change is the website’s increased focus on providing financial news articles. Although we believe this to be an area of strength for DailyFinance, the site no longer provides the comprehensive financial data and information we seek in our top comprehensive sites. Furthermore, navigation of the site has become more difficult, as there are no longer prominent links to tools such as the stock screener. For these reasons, DailyFinance is no longer listed as one of our top comprehensive websites.
Our comparison grid covers six basic areas vital to investment research—fundamental analysis, technical analysis, portfolio monitoring, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and media—and a section for other that includes important subjects that do not fall cleanly into any specific category. The top of the grid provides the websites’ URLs and pricing information.
Fundamental analysis is used to estimate the fair value of a stock and is an integral part of most investors’ research. Websites now offer financial statements, historical prices, key multiples, earnings estimates, analysts’ opinions and competitor and industry data at little or no cost.
In addition, each of these sites provides stock screeners that you can use to narrow a universe of stocks to a more manageable group for further analysis. The screeners include several ubiquitous data fields such as growth rate and price-earnings ratio, but each also offers data fields that are unique to their stock screener. The choice of which to use depends on the data fields that you deem most important.
Technical analysis focuses on price and volume data and is used by numerous investors both in tandem with fundamental analysis and by itself. Each of these top comprehensive websites provides charts and technical indicator overlays that show general trends. Our comparison grid gives an overview of the technical analysis tools offered by each site. Most charts are interactive and allow the user to overlay technical indicators. These sites are not as thorough as sites that cater exclusively to technicians, but the charts and information provided on each is by and large sufficient for most investors.
Portfolio monitoring is arguably the tool most sought after by individual investors. Although there are numerous sites that offer basic portfolio tracking, most investors are now looking for more powerful systems that allow you to analyze your entire portfolio of holdings. The top portfolio management tools automatically update market values and provide interactive charting. The comprehensive websites reviewed in this article all provide portfolio tracking services for free, with additional portfolio monitoring tools and features available for a fee.
The websites listed have a maximum number of portfolios that can be tracked, but most individual investors will not find the maximum restrictive. Generally, the types of securities included in online portfolio trackers include cash, stocks, mutual funds and ETFs, which are sufficient for most investors. However, if you have a significant portion of your portfolio in bonds, options, futures or real estate, a software-based portfolio manager is a better option.
Most online portfolio trackers offer similar features, but there are still tools that are unique to each website. Portfolio trackers are only able to set themselves apart by providing advanced portfolio analysis and reporting capabilities, which are covered in detail here in the reviews of each site.
Mutual funds provide an easy way to increase portfolio diversification, but the difference between average and superior mutual fund managers is immeasurable. Comprehensive websites provide abundant mutual fund data to aid in your comparison, including key figures such as returns, portfolio allocation and expenses. Pay especially close attention to the fees and load charges of mutual funds, as they tend to eat into returns significantly.
|Financial Information Service||
Basic, free; Premium, $179/year
free to $108/year
|Fee for Unlimited Access|
free; additional data & screening
free to $108/yr. (Interactive Data,
free (Capital IQ)
|Number of Companies||10,000+||8,600+||10,000+|
|Number of Data Fields||800+||800+||200+|
|Financials||Yes (10 fiscal years, 10 fiscal quarters)||Yes (10 fiscal years, 15 fiscal quarters)||Yes (3 fiscal years, 4 fiscal quarters)|
|EPS Estimates/Ratings||Yes (FactSet)||Yes (Zacks)||Yes (Thomson)|
|Screening (Number of Data Fields)||Yes (Basic, 18; Premium, 600+)||Yes (premium, 150)||Yes (150+)|
|Technical Analysis/Charting||Pricing (Source)||free (Morningstar)||free to $108/year (Interactive Data,||free (Commodity Systems Inc.)|
|Securities Covered||stocks, funds, ETFs||stocks, funds, ETFs, indexes||stocks, funds, ETFs, indexes|
|Charts||Yes (1972+)||Yes (10 years)||Yes (1962+)|
|Technical Indicators||Yes (stocks only)||Yes||Yes|
|Historical Prices||No||No||Yes (1962+)|
|Downloadable Historical Prices||No||No||Yes|
|Portfolio Monitoring||Pricing||free/additional premium features||free/additional premium features||free|
|Current Quotes||stocks, funds, ETFs, bonds||stocks, funds, ETFs||stocks, funds, ETFs|
|Automatic Portfolio Updates||Yes||Yes||No|
|Real-Time Quotes (Fee)||Yes (free)||Yes ($108/year)||Yes ($13.95/mo.)|
|Automatic Brokerage Updates||No||No||No|
|Compatible With Software||Yes (Quicken)||No||No|
|Maximum Portfolios/Securities||Basic, 25/140; Premium, 50/280||50/50||unlimited/200|
|Alerts (News, Price, Vol, Rating)||Yes (news, price, vol, rating)||Yes (price)||Yes (price, news)|
|E-Mail (Market Summary, Portfolio)||Yes (portfolio)||Yes||Yes (market summary, portfolio)|
|News Search (Primary Newswires)||Yes (Dow Jones, Financial Times,||Yes ( Barron's, Dow Jones,||Yes (AP, Barron's Online, EDGAR|
|MarketWatch, Topix)||SmartMoney,WSJ)||Online, TheStreet)|
|Mutual Funds||Pricing (Source)||free; additional data & screening||free to $108/year (Lipper)||free (Morningstar)|
|Number of Funds Followed||24,000+||21,000+||20,000+|
|Number of Data Fields||200+||200+||100+|
|Screening (Number of Data Fields)||Yes (Basic, 18; Premium, 300+)||Yes (premium, 50+)||Yes -17|
|Ranking (Number of Data Fields)||Yes (Basic, 18; Premium, 300+)||Yes (premium, 50+)||Yes -17|
|Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)||Pricing (Source)||free (Morningstar)||free (ComStock)||free (ComStock)|
|Number of ETFs Followed||800+||1,000+||800+|
|Number of Data Fields||50+||60||25+|
|Screening (Number of Data Fields)||Yes (50+)||Yes -60||No|
|Ranking (Number of Data Fields)||Yes (50+)||Yes -60||No|
|Other||IPO Data||Yes (premium)||No||Yes|
|Options Data||Yes (premium)||Yes||Yes|
|RSS Feed||Yes (premium)||Yes||Yes|
The comparison grid outlines the mutual fund research offered by each site for you to identify the one that fits your personal preferences.
Much like mutual funds, exchange-traded funds can provide diversification to a portfolio. Unlike mutual funds, however, exchange-traded funds are typically not actively managed and they generally track an index. Exchange-traded funds tend to have much lower expense ratios, making them a prudent choice for select investors.
ETFs can be used to provide exposure to certain industries or geographic regions that are lacking in your portfolio. Yahoo! Finance offers an education center on ETFs that can help you get started.
Each comprehensive website discussed here covers ETFs and provides data such as returns, expense ratio, risk statistics, and price and volume. Superior sites provide additional analysis and screening tools to help investors select ETFs that are appropriate for their specific portfolios.
Comprehensive websites all include abundant news articles on subjects ranging from personal finance to the economy, and some sites offer transcripts of earnings conference calls as well. In addition, videos have become a large part of the media included on comprehensive websites and provide a new, efficient method of consuming data. Forums are also an established feature offered by most comprehensive financial websites and can provide new insights. Just keep in mind that information on even well-respected forums should not be regarded as professional advice.
|Portfolio Management||Stock Analysis||Fund Analysis||Media & News||Ease of Use||Price||Pros||Cons|
|5||5||5||4||5||free to $179/yr.||+Leader in mutual fund and ETF research||–Many advanced tools are not free|
|+Many interactive tools available|
|4||5||5||4||5||free to $108/yr.||+Powerful free ETF screener||–No historical price data|
|+Numerous advanced & interactive Java-based tools||–No industry comparison data|
|–No free stock or fund screener|
|4||4||4||5||5||free||+ETF education center||–No ETF screener|
|+Entire area devoted to IPOs||–No automatic portfolio updates|
|+Leader in news coverage|
|Criteria are rated on a scale of one to five, with five denoting the best score.|
Finally, these websites may offer exclusive features that set them apart, such as data on initial public offerings), data on options, or RSS feeds. An IPO is a company’s first offering of common stock to the general public, effectively making the firm a public entity. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is a Web-content syndication format used to deliver constantly updated headline feeds to readers. Most feeds deliver headlines with links to current stories on the website, providing an efficient way to alert readers when content of interest appears. The site review section below provides more information on features unique to each website.
The Comprehensive Sites
Morningstar is a leading provider of independent investment research offering data on approximately 360,000 investment offerings. Most of Morningstar.com’s features are provided free of charge, but a premium subscription with more robust data and tools is offered for $179 per year.
Fundamental data is presented as soon as you enter the ticker symbol on the site’s main page. Morningstar.com provides thorough figures, including current price, 52-week range, and volume, as well as forward price-earnings, price-to-book, price-to-sales and price-to-cash-flow ratios, all on the summary chart. Furthermore, financial statements are provided along with competitors, ownership information, and Wall Street recommendations. Investors searching for more figures in their fundamental analysis can make use of the performance history and key ratios provided through links on the summary page. Morningstar.com also presents a page of valuation numbers that compares vital company statistics to industry and market averages. For those who subscribe to the premium service, the site provides in-depth analyst reports that cover valuation, risks and management.
Charting services are offered free and, where data is available, provide price and volume back to 1972. You are also able to compare the charts of different companies or compare a company to a benchmark. Morningstar.com allows you to overlay technical indicators and offers line, open-high-low-close and candlestick charts.
The basic stock screener provided free of charge offers 18 data fields, including basics, Morningstar stock grades, performance and valuation. The premium stock screener requires a paid membership but is much more powerful: Hundreds of data points are available, making the screens almost fully customizable. In addition, Morningstar provides benchmark rates for the data points so that you can easily come up with meaningful numbers to use in your screens. The screener shows the number of passing companies, making it simple to tighten or loosen parameters. The premium screener comes with 10 preloaded screens. The results can be sorted by various criteria, such as price, yield and market capitalization, depending on your preferred fundamental data point.
In addition to fundamental and technical analysis capabilities, individual investors desire a powerful portfolio monitoring program that can help them track and analyze their assets. While the bulk of Morningstar.com’s portfolio tracker is available for free, in-depth analysis tools require a premium subscription.
The free portfolio tracker allows you to create 25 portfolios and watchlists with 140 holdings (100 stock or fund, 20 cash and 20 bond), enough for most investors. The premium subscription allows 280 holdings (200 stock or fund, 40 cash and 40 bond). The site allows data to be imported from Microsoft Money, Excel and Quicken, but it is likely that you will still need to do some manual data entry. In addition to the portfolio views offered by Morningstar.com, users can create four custom views that can be saved and referenced. The Intraday tab provides “real-time” quotes that are updated throughout the day.
Along with the usual portfolio monitoring features, several unique tools are available. The most useful one is the X-Ray function, which breaks down your portfolio to provide asset allocation, stock style diversification, stock sectors and types, fees incurred, geographic regions, stock stats and top holdings. Furthermore, the tool will bring to light whether you hold stocks that overlap with other holdings in your portfolio, such as mutual funds or ETFs, a useful feature that can help with your overall portfolio diversification.
Mutual fund data presented by the site is some of the most comprehensive on the Web. Individual pages provide detailed quarterly and annual returns, risk-adjusted returns, Morningstar ratings, risk measures, expense data, portfolio breakdown, and management and purchase information. The main page gives a summary of these statistics, along with a growth chart. Detailed analyst ratings and analysis are available to premium subscribers.
Basic and premium mutual fund screeners are available in much the same fashion as the stock screeners. The basic mutual fund screener features 18 data points covering areas such as fund type, cost, rating, risk, returns and portfolio makeup. The premium fund screener offers a few hundred data points, and, like the premium stock screener, a definition and benchmark are presented for each data point. Ten preloaded screeners are provided to help you get started. You are able to save your own screens for future reference.
Morningstar is also one of the leading providers of ETF data. After entering in a ticker, the main page presents data similar to the mutual fund summary, and individual tabs report in-depth return, rating, risk and fee data and portfolio breakdown information. As with stocks and mutual funds, analyst recommendations for ETFs are available only to premium subscribers.
A free beta ETF screener is available; it includes approximately 75 data points, including returns over various time periods, growth statistics, fundamental ratios and valuation models, index correlations, sector weightings and regional exposure, and fees and expenses. A graph illustrating the distribution of all ETFs for each data point is provided, so users are able to identify where most ETFs fall for a given parameter. Although the screener is in beta, it is one of the best available for ETF searches.
Due to the increased demand for video content, Morningstar has recently increased their video library substantially. It now includes videos on stocks, funds, ETFs, options and bonds. Furthermore, Morningstar offers extensive forums and blogs where users can discuss their thoughts and ideas.
The website also now provides transcripts of conference calls for free. These are accessed in the Stocks area by clicking on Call Transcripts under Corporate Earnings in the left-hand menu.
Premium subscribers can access data on both IPO and options and subscribe to RSS feeds.
Lastly, Morningstar provides a wealth of tools to help with the arduous investment process and to aid in organizing your personal finances. Several useful tools worth mentioning are Quickrank, Similar Funds and Compare. Quickrank ranks stocks, mutual funds, or ETFs based on a sector—such as large-cap growth—and a field—such as return on equity. Similar Funds allows you to quickly target funds that are like one you are interested in or dissatisfied with. Compare lets you evaluate stocks and mutual funds against others based on specific data points. Quickrank for stocks and mutual funds and Compare are free tools, while Similar Funds requires a premium subscription.
SmartMoney.com, part of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, offers comprehensive investment analysis, personal financial planning, and portfolio monitoring capabilities free of charge. More powerful tools are included in SmartMoney Select, a fee-based subscription to SmartMoney that costs $10.95 per month ($108 per year).
Much like Morningstar.com, SmartMoney.com provides relevant fundamental data on over 10,000 stocks. Simply enter a ticker into the main page, and you will be taken to an overview page that includes current data such as price, volume, price-earnings ratio and yield, as well as news, earnings and key stats. Detail pages provide more in-depth information, including a company profile, financial statement data, earnings forecasts and analyst recommendations, insider trades, and funds and ETFs that hold the stock. Most of these pages include compare tools that allow you to see the statistics side by side with those of other stocks. A distinctive feature of the overview page is the “last 10 quotes” bar. This shows the last 10 quotes received and allows the user to see whether the stock had an upward or downward price change. Quotes for heavily traded securities are shown in real time, so for a stock such as Apple, the “last 10 quotes” bar updates more than once a second.
For technical analysis, SmartMoney.com’s charts section offers price, volume, on-balance volume and relative strength index along with several other key technical indicators. Charts of competitors and indexes can be overlaid, giving investors an idea as to how their company of interest fared on a relative basis.
The stock screener is only available to SmartMoney Select subscribers. It has a database of over 8,300 stocks and offers 24 preloaded screens. There are approximately 150 data fields from which to choose and the number of passing companies is shown, making it easy to tighten or loosen criteria depending on how many passing stocks you prefer. Upon choosing a data field, the averages for major indexes and a brief description of the data point are shown. All screens can be saved for future use.
A portfolio tracker is available for free; it allows you to create 50 portfolios with 50 securities in each. The site handles stock, mutual fund, ETF, preferred and option transactions. You can create a portfolio by manually entering transactions or by importing data from Microsoft Money or Quicken.
The portfolio tracker’s summary page shows all the general fundamental data. A portfolio “heat” map organizes the portfolio into a graphic display of rectangles, their size and color directly related to the size and price movement of the holding (bold red meaning a large price depreciation, light green meaning a small price appreciation, etc). The allocation page shows your portfolio broken down either by asset type or sector, allowing to you visually and numerically see how well your assets are diversified. SmartMoney.com’s analysis page allows you to see how well your holdings have performed against each other or against other investable assets based on various fundamental and technical factors such as total return, earnings growth, forward price-earnings ratio and return on equity.
Intraday e-mails and text alerts can be set based on custom price targets, volume, dollar or percentage price changes, and new 52-week highs and lows. SmartMoney Select subscribers receive real-time quotes and e-mail alerts within three minutes of the trigger, whereas free users receive 20-minute delayed quotes and e-mail alerts within 23 minutes of the trigger.
Mutual fund data provided by SmartMoney.com includes an extensive overview and individual pages with return, risk, portfolio, expense and purchase information. The site also provides the Lipper ratings for total return, consistent return, preservation, tax efficiency and expense for each fund, a unique feature not available on other sites in this comparison.
SmartMoney.com’s fund screener looks and works the same way as the stock screener, and is also only available to SmartMoney Select subscribers. It covers more than 21,000 mutual funds, with 50 data points from which to choose. You are able to customize the view by choosing “Make Report,” where you will be brought to another window.
Although the ETF data available at SmartMoney.com is very standard, the site has one of the best ETF screeners available. The ETF screener looks and feels just like the stock and mutual fund screeners, but unlike those two, the ETF screener is available free of charge. It covers a universe of over 1,000 ETFs and provides 60 data points for screening, more than either Morningstar.com or Yahoo! Finance. The fields include historical growth, profitability, valuation and expense data and, once again, averages and descriptions are available for each field.
SmartMoney.com provides an exhaustive video collection with expert commentary on markets, investing, spending and “how to.” The site has a presence on Facebook and Twitter but does not provide message boards or forums. SmartMoney.com offers no IPO data but does provide RSS feeds and options data for free.
Overall, some of the most powerful tools are available at SmartMoney.com, but many of them are only available to Select subscribers. Map of the Market is a free tool similar to the portfolio map mentioned earlier, providing a graphical display in rectangles of varying sizes and colors depicting the size and daily performance for different sectors and industries. Another useful free tool is the Stock Price Valuation Calculator, which estimates the fair price of a security based on discounted future free cash flows. The Correlation Tracker finds correlations in stocks, mutual funds and ETFs, which is invaluable when creating a portfolio, but this service is only for fee-based subscribers.
Yahoo! Finance has been a top comprehensive financial website for a number of years. It provides data and tools for investment analysis and offers extensive and up-to-date news articles. The site also offers separate sections for investing, news and opinions, personal finance, portfolio tracking, and technology.
Much like the other top comprehensive sites, Yahoo! Finance presents all the basic current data such as price-earnings ratio, volume, yield and earnings per share when you enter a stock’s ticker. The site also makes historical prices available in chart format; in most cases, data goes back to a company’s IPO. Key statistics provided include valuation measures, financial highlights, price history, share statistics, and dividends and splits. Yahoo! Finance not only lists the competitors’ fundamentals, but also ranks the companies in their respective industries according to sales. The website also offers analyst opinions and estimates free of charge. In-depth research reports can be purchased online. Information on major shareholders and insider transactions are also presented, as well as full financial statements.
In addition to full fundamental data, Yahoo! Finance also offers technical analysis tools comparable to those found at Morningstar.com and SmartMoney.com. Charts are interactive, and numerous technical indicators such as Bollinger bands and parabolic SAR (stop and reverse) are available. Price and volume data are available going back to most companys’ IPOs.
Yahoo! Finance offers two screeners for free: a basic HTML version and an advanced Java version. The basic HTML screener allows you to manipulate 16 data points by choosing the minimum and maximum values and includes categories such as industry, valuation and analyst estimates. The advanced screener requires the Windows operating system along with Java version 1.4.1. There are over 150 screening criteria from which to choose. Yahoo! Finance provides averages and definitions for the criteria, making it simple to choose relevant numbers. A table showing key fundamental data is available, along with a histogram allowing you to see a graphical representation of the resulting companies grouped by market capitalization, return on equity, return on assets, forward price-earnings ratio or beta. You may save, e-mail and export your results.
The portfolio tracker at Yahoo! Finance is available for free; real-time quotes are offered for $10.95 per month (billed annually) or $13.95 per month (billed monthly). You can create an unlimited number of portfolios with 200 stocks, mutual funds and ETFs in each. Alerts are available for portfolio and individual company price movements and news of individual holdings. Standard portfolio tracking views are available but, unfortunately, Yahoo! Finance lacks the portfolio analysis tools expected from a superior comprehensive financial website.
Mutual fund data at Yahoo! Finance comes straight from Morningstar. In addition to the fundamental data, interactive charts and technical indicator overlays are also offered. Headlines and message boards are linked directly from the main page, and a wealth of information and user opinions are available for most major mutual funds. Detailed research reports are available for purchase. Yahoo! Finance’s mutual fund screener is set up in the same way as their basic stock screener. There are 16 data points that cover ratings, performance and fees. The results can be ranked based on your screening criteria.
The ETF center on the Yahoo! Finance site has expanded over the years and now includes an education center providing basic ETF investing information. ETFs can be viewed by performance, size, and volume or separated by fund family. The site also provides ETF news, commentary and annual reports. However, there is no ETF screener.
Yahoo! Finance is one of the leading providers of financial news coverage on the Internet. Furthermore, a section is devoted to expert advice, and regular contributors include Jeremy Siegel (Russell E. Palmer Professor of Finance at Wharton School), Jack Guttentag (former Jaboc Safra Professor of International Banking at the Wharton School) and Mick Weinstein (former editor-in-chief of Seeking Alpha). Although it was just recently added, the video section of Yahoo! Finance is one of the broadest on the web.
The message boards here also serve as a valuable source of investor information and opinion. Although not professional advice, productive discussions can be found on a wide range of financial topics.
Yahoo! Finance also provides a section on IPO data. You may sign up for RSS feeds to keep abreast of news topics that are of interest.
In conclusion, Yahoo! Finance is still one of the top entirely free (except for real-time quotes) comprehensive websites available. It is a superb source of news and provides a great section on ETF education to help beginning investors.