Web-Based Technical Analysis & Charting Services
As the number of sites offering charting and technical analysis grows, individuals are confronted with a diverse collection of choices; knowing what is available and what each site offers becomes an increasingly difficult task. To help educate our readers on the various services—and the features they provide—19 Web-based technical analysis and charting services are highlighted here—an increase of four since our last review in the March/April 2003 issue of Computerized Investing. The sites range from those offering basic charting and technical analysis as part of a collection of investment analysis tools to those exclusively devoted to technical analysis and charting.
Web-based services, in general, are not as powerful as their software-based counterparts. Therefore, the first question to answer is whether you should go the software or on-line route for technical analysis and charting tools. For Mac users, there is the oft-voiced frustration of not having the same level of choice of investment analysis software due to the smaller market. The Web alleviates much, but not all, of the frustration because for the most part the Internet is platform-neutral—meaning both Mac and Windows users alike can use the modules available via the Web with the same level of functionality. This holds true for most of the services examined here, with some exceptions—for example, CNBC at MSN Money makes use of technology that will only run on the Windows operating system.
The most striking difference in the features and functionality found with Web sites and software is in the level of features each has to offer. Again, the functionality of Web-based services is largely dwarfed by that of software-based technical analysis applications. Most of the services discussed in this comparison offer the basic technical analysis features—mainly, charting and the ability to overlay technical indicators and drawing tools. However, you will find the libraries of technical indicators often less robust than what you would find with technical analysis software. Table 1 lists some of the technical indicators offered by the services covered here. On average, these sites provide 35 technical indicators and drawing tools. However, compare this to the number found in end-of-day technical analysis software packages (as reported in the March/April 2004 issue of Computerized Investing), which is an average of 70—double the indicators of the Web-based services in this comparison. In general, software-based programs offer a more in-depth collection of technical indicators at this point and time.
Beyond offering a larger array of technical indicators, some of the more advanced technical analysis programs on the market today allow users to create and save their own technical indicators. This level of functionality has yet to make its way to any of the Web-based technical analysis services.
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. Only the BarChart.com Web site offers anything remotely similar to trading systems. Its opinions, based on a variety of technical indicators, provide buy and sell signals on stocks and futures contracts. However, don’t let the differences between technical analysis software and their Web-based counterparts lead you to believe that software rules supreme. Web-based services do hold some distinct advantages over software, mainly in the area of the delivery and pricing of data.
When looking for a technical analysis program, there are typically two decisions to make—a fact lost on many. The first, and most obvious, is choosing the program itself; the second, and often overlooked, is selecting a data vendor. With on-line services, end-of-day data is usually offered at no cost. Therefore, you can begin your analysis without having to download data or subscribe to a historical data service.
Most technical analysis software carries a cost that can range from $300 for even a mid-range end-of-day program to over $1,500 for a high-end, real-time program. However, there is also the additional cost of data, which can range from $15 per month for historical end-of-day data to $75 per month and higher for real-time data delivery. In comparison, 15 of the 19 Web-based services discussed here are either entirely free or offer some level of free service.
The question then becomes, which to use?
If you are new to technical analysis, or are only looking for simple charting and analysis on an end-of-day basis, a Web-based service is probably your best choice. For technical analysis neophytes, there are enough good-quality Web-based services available to avoid making a financial commitment to software and data. In addition, a few sites—such as StockCharts.com—offer an extensive collection of educational content to expand your knowledge of technical analysis. In the end, if you have no desire to create your own indicators or create and backtest technical trading systems, a Web-based service should offer everything you need. On the other hand, if you want robust technical analysis capabilities, including custom indicators and trading systems, your needs would only be satisfied by a software-based application.
The Comparison Grid examines the standard features and functions that many of the Web-based technical analysis services have in common. Additionally, as mentioned, Table 1 outlines some of the more popular technical indicators and charting features each site has to offer. Keep in mind that this list is not intended to be all-inclusive. Web sites are frequently changing, so it is always a good idea to confirm pricing and functionality before subscribing.
The first consideration is the markets you intend to track—such as stocks, mutual funds, indexes, options, or futures. Most of the services included in this comparison deal with stocks, mutual funds, and indexes. One—FutureSource—deals exclusively with futures analysis. Sites that offer futures and/or options only with their premium subscriptions are Prophet.net; Dorsey, Wright & Associates; MarketClub; and Quote.com Live Charts. BigCharts.com offers free foreign exchange charting and BarChart.com, TradeSignals.com, and TradingCharts.com offer free charting of futures contracts.
Data Types and Frequency
Technical analysis can be conducted using end-of-day, intraday delayed, or (intraday) real-time data. End-of-day charts are updated once the data has been collected for the completed trading day. End-of-day data is typically plotted on a daily, monthly, or annual basis. All of the services listed here offer data on an end-of-day basis.
With intraday delayed data, charts can 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 that are priced throughout the day have intraday data available (mutual funds, which are typically priced once a day after the market closes do not have intraday pricing). This delay allows the site to offer the data without having to pay the respective exchange(s) for real-time access to their data. Dorsey, Wright & Associates, which offers point & figure charting, only makes use of end-of-day data while FutureSource Xtra!, a fee-based service, only offers real-time intraday data. Real-time data is the timeliest data available and represents an attempt to capture the latest price at which a security has traded. There are actually two types of real-time data offered by Web sites such as these. The first is “static” real-time data, meaning you must manually refresh the chart to capture the latest price. The other is streaming charts, which automatically update as new price data becomes available. Six of the 19 services highlighted here offer real-time charting and all but one—CNBC at MSN Money—charge a fee for this. This site is able to offer free real-time charting because the charts are not streaming, meaning users have to refresh a chart themselves in order to view the most current data; furthermore, technical indicators cannot be plotted in real-time.
Note that even with real-time data feeds, some delays will exist as trades are executed and flow from the exchange to your computer. Periods of heavy trading can also cause delays. However, with a real-time feed, no artificial delay is introduced into the feed. Lastly, be aware that exchanges also charge the end-user for real-time access to their data feeds, above and beyond what is being charged by the charting service. For non-professionals, these exchange fees, charged monthly, can range from $1 for U.S. stock exchanges (New York, Amex, and Nasdaq) and OPRA (options data) to $15 per month to $60 per month for real-time futures data.
Historical Data Availability
One advantage Web-based technical analysis and charting services have over software is that there is no need to accumulate a historical database in order to plot securities. The amount of historical data these services provide, however, varies greatly. Several services—ASK Research, MarketClub, MarketScreen.com, Optionetics.com, and Quote.com—offer five years of data. On the other hand, BigCharts.com, CBNC on MSN Money, Prophet.net, and Yahoo! Finance provide over 30 years of data on their charts (provided the security has been traded that long).
More and more, people are looking for free sources of price and volume data for use in spreadsheets and other programs. One way to obtain this data is by exporting it from an on-line source in a variety of formats, including Excel spreadsheet and ASCII text format. Eight of the Web-based technical analysis services offer some type of data exporting.
The services here offer a wide range of charting options. Technical analysis, for the most part, is 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, and all but one of the 19 services listed here provide both (Dorsey, Wright & Associates is devoted exclusively to point & figure charting). Line charts normally plot the close over time, while bar charts show the open, high, low, and closing prices for a given period. Tick charts are a type of line chart used with real-time data. They show the price of each of the trades during the course of the trading day and are offered by four of the services listed here. Candlestick charts, another popular chart type, are available with 17 of the services.
For those interested in point & figure charts, four sites offer these unique charts—BarCharts.com, Dorsey, Wright & Associates, MarketScreen.com, and StockCharts.com.
Depending on the service, you will be given a variety of time periods to chart a security or you may be able to specify the exact period you want charted, which offers the greatest level of flexibility. Of the 19 services listed here, only eight allow users to specify the charted time period.
Linear and Log Scaling
When viewing price data, there are two general scales used—linear and log. Most of the charts you see are probably on a linear scale, where there is an equal distance between price points—the space between $1 and $2 is the same as the space between $100 and $101.
With log scaling, an equal amount of space is found between equal percent changes in price. In other words, the space between $1 and $2 is the same as the distance between $100 and $200, since in both cases the percentage change is 100%. Log scales are most useful when viewing data over a long historical period and among a number of securities. Twelve of the 19 services offer log scaling for their charts.
User-Defined Chart Settings
The ability to specify and save certain settings is an extremely useful feature found with more and more Web sites. Fourteen 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; and the service saves your choices so you can view charts with the same settings on subsequent visits. All you need to do is choose the security, and the “template” automatically displays it in the desired manner.
A technical indicator is the mathematical manipulation of price or volume displayed in a graphical manner, such as stochastics and moving average convergence/divergence (MACD).
The number and type of indicators provided are important factors to consider when deciding upon a Web-based service. You should make sure that any service you are considering includes the indicators important to your analysis. Taking a moment to consider your needs will be helpful in assessing the number of indicators you will require from a service.
Beyond a set of predefined indicators, the ability to modify indicators to fit your individual trading needs is a useful feature. Modifications allow you to adjust factors such as the number of time periods used in a calculation. For example, the Wilder’s RSI (relative strength index) is usually constructed using 14 periods, but you may want to vary the period depending on the security or market conditions.
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. Eighteen 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. The MarketClub site only allows you to plot one non-moving average indicator per chart. 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, such as by allowing users to draw their own trendlines on charts. Eleven of the sites discussed in this comparison offer interactive chart features.
While Java and ActiveX technology have expanded the capabilities of many Web sites, they also exclude many Mac users. As a Mac user, keep this in mind when visiting sites that make use of these programming languages.
Some investors seek out securities exhibiting specific technical behavior—their price may be above or below a 50- or 200-day moving average, the price is overbought or oversold in terms of various indicator values, or the price chart is exhibiting some pattern such as a double-bottom. In this comparison, nine of the 19 services offer some level of scanning or screening based on price movement, indicator values, and/or chart patterns. They range from basic predefined scans looking for stocks reaching new highs or new lows or those making the largest percentage moves for the day, to stocks with charts exhibiting common candlestick or point & figure patterns, to advanced custom searches or screens with backtested performance results, such as MarketScreen.com.
To keep you from constantly having to monitor your positions or favorite securities, some services provide alerts and charts via E-mail.
CNBC at MSN Money, for example, allows users to specify price targets and will send out an instant message alert through the MSN messenger service when the price target is reached. Likewise, the BigCharts site can E-mail charts, complete with technical indicators, on an end-of-day basis. In all, nine of the services offer E-mail alerts and four either deliver charts via E-mail or allow users to E-mail charts.
Technical Analysis Education
The biggest mistake an individual can make is to try to use technical analysis to make investment decisions without fully understanding it. The quality and amount of technical analysis educational material available at these Web sites varies greatly. Some merely pay it lip service while others provide a wealth of material. Sites worth mentioning for their commitment to technical analysis education include Dorsey, Wright & Associates; MarketClub; and StockCharts.com.
TECHNICAL ANALYSIS WEB SITES
The ASK Research Web site is devoted to technical analysis and market data covering over 18,000 U.S. and Canadian stocks and indexes. The site promotes three types of charts: daily, intraday, and live, although the “live” charts are really delayed, streaming charts. Access to all the site’s charting services is free.
The daily charts allow you to plot stock and index data over one-, three-, and six-month periods, as well as one- to five-year periods. You can choose from bar, line, or candlestick charts and overlay exponential moving averages (up to three) or any of 11 other technical indicators including volume, Williams’ %R, price rate of change, and money flow index (all of which can be customized when using any of the site’s chart types). Intraday trading charts offer the same charting and indicator options as the daily charts, but the charts use delayed data in intervals ranging from one to 60 minutes. In addition, you can have the charts refresh automatically over varying intervals.
Lastly, the ASK Live module is Java-based and allows users to access streaming, intraday chart data and portfolio quotes on a delayed basis. You have the same set of indicators to choose from and also have the ability to draw your own trendlines on these Java charts. You can also save chart settings with the Live module and view delayed time and sales data for stocks.
The BarChart.com Web site is devoted to offering data and research on stocks and futures. The site features an abundance of free information and offers more in-depth information with its Advanced Equities and Commodities subscriptions.
The site offers bar, line, candlestick and point & figure charts for stocks, mutual funds, indexes, and futures. Users can choose from 40 different technical indicators and line studies, all of which can be modified. The free service allows for charting of end-of-day and intraday delayed data, while the real-time service offers streaming real-time data and charts for $29 per month.
One of the more unique features of the BarChart Web site is opinions on traded securities. Users can call up a stock or futures contract and get a short-, medium- and long-term “reading” (buy or sell) based on a variety of technical indicators, such as Bollinger bands, parabolics and MACD. In addition, the site offers a history of buy and sell signals generated and the performance of trades made based on the signals.
Subscribers to the Advanced Equities and Commodities services (each $20 per month) can download up to two years of daily stock and futures contract price data in a variety of formats, including Excel spreadsheets. Other features available to subscribers include a signals guide, which provides a listing of all stocks or futures with a 100% buy or sell rating, and the ability to save chart templates. The signals search is a screening service whereby subscribers can search for stocks or futures based on 13 different technical criteria and BarChart opinion ratings. While you do not have the ability to save the signal search you create, you can export the results of a search in Excel spreadsheet format.
BigCharts, which is owned by MarketWatch, is a well-established presence in the realm of on-line charting services. This free service offers users one of the largest databases of securities—over 50,000—along with interactive charts, Java charting, market and company news, historical quotes, and industry analysis.
BigCharts offers a collection of charts—Java charts, quick charts, and interactive charts. With quick charts you enter a ticker symbol, specify the timeframe, and are presented with the chart. Quick charts do not support the plotting of multiple securities simultaneously, and the indicators and studies that are 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 overlay up to five indicators from a library of over 30 of the most popular—including stochastics, relative strength index (RSI), Bollinger bands, and the MACD. Unfortunately, you are only able to modify the calculation parameters for moving averages. There are also nine display options including: open, high, low, close; high, low, close; candlesticks; and bar charts. Depending on the security or index you choose, data is available going back to 1970. Once you have made your setting choices, you can save them for future use.
With the site’s Java charts, you can plot a variety of timeframes, although you do not have the ability to plot a custom timeframe as with the interactive charts. You have the same collection of indicators from which to choose and, again, you are only able to modify the moving averages. The most useful feature of the Java charts is the ability to draw custom trendlines.
For historical quotes, specify a ticker and date, and BigCharts provides the open, high, low, and closing price, as well as the volume for that date. However, you cannot view data for a range of dates or export historical data.
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 12 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.
ClearStation, a wholly owned subsidiary of E*Trade Group, advocates what they call a three-point investment approach built upon fundamental analysis, technical analysis, and community. On the technical analysis end, ClearStation offers daily graphs and an interactive graphing tool. The daily graph is a template showing up to one year of daily prices for a stock along with volume, MACD, MACD histogram, and stochastics. Users can customize the daily graph page to specify the size (one, six, nine, or 12 months) and indicators (MACD, MACD histogram, and/or stochastics). At the daily graph page, you are also given key technical and fundamental information on the plotted stock, such as the percentage above or below the 13- and 50-day exponential moving average, date of next earnings announcement, and latest analyst rating. Clicking on a chart on the daily graph page will provide you with a table of daily high/low/close prices and daily volume for up to one year. The site’s interactive graphing tool provides greater flexibility. Users can specify the time period of the graph—covering days, months, and years—overlay up to eight technical indicators and moving averages, as well as plot up to five different stocks or indexes on a single chart for easy comparison. Data is available going back 10 years. However, one drawback to the site is that you are not able to customize the technical indicators and overlays to your specifications.
A unique section of the ClearStation Web site is the “Tag & Bag” area. Here users will find lists of stocks, updated throughout the day, that are entering price action trends or experiencing fundamental events such as earnings surprises. A complement to this area is the “A-List,” which lists the top-performing Tag & Bag stocks.
In the Recommend area, users can monitor the portfolios and buying and selling activities of other members. An extensive collection of educational articles discussing technical analysis, trading strategies, and portfolio and risk management is also available.
CNBC at MSN Money
The CNBC at MSN Money site is one of the most complete investment sites around, offering portfolio tracking, market news and data, extensive stock and mutual fund research, investment education, and charting.
The charting module is a Windows-based applet that is automatically downloaded into your Web browser the first time you try to access charts. Once downloaded, you are ready to begin plotting stocks, funds, and indexes. Mac users can create charts, but are limited to plotting 50- and 200-day moving averages. The charting module supports multiple time periods including intraday (both delayed and real-time), monthly, and yearly. You can select a specific timeframe as well. If you take advantage of the site’s free registration, you can access up to 50 free real-time charts per day. However, these charts are not streaming and you are not able to plot technical indicators in real-time. Beyond plotting daily, weekly, and monthly price history, you are also able to plot price performance and investment growth of a given security or index. You have a decent selection of technical studies and overlays from which to choose—over 10 in all. You can also opt to display corporate events such as dividends and splits. CNBC at MSN Money allows you to save multiple chart styles that you can apply during future visits. This site also allows Windows users to export data into spreadsheet format. After specifying the security and the time period you wish to have charted, you are able to export the high, low, and closing prices as well as volume.
Another useful feature available is a stock screening function. Beyond being able to screen for stocks that meet various fundamental criteria, you can locate those exhibiting certain trading volume behavior—trading above or below 50-day and 200-day moving averages, for example. In all, there are over 40 technical, price, or volume criteria available for screening.
Dorsey, Wright & Associates
For many years, the Dorsey Wright & Associates (DWA) Web site was the only site offering point & figure charts, and it continues to be the sole site devoted exclusively to the discipline 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, subscribers are presented with a summary of the last completed trading day—including the point & figure chart activity of key market indexes and sectors, as well as a calendar of recent and pending economic releases. If you have created any portfolios, you can access them from this page as well.
The DWA site offers some basic screening capabilities. The on-line query allows users to choose from a number of criteria—including relative strength, percent oversold/overbought, market cap—and view stocks and mutual funds that match their criteria. These queries can then be saved for future use. With the site’s pattern reports, you can view securities forming both bullish and bearish point & figure patterns.
For point & figure charting, the site uses the high/low price and allows users to specify the box size and reversal amount. Users can also specify the number of years they want charted, with data going back to 1985 when available.
Beyond the point & figure chart, the site provides information regarding weekly momentum, sector status, and the latest chart pattern. Once you have created a chart, you can export a PDF document to print or save to your computer. Users can also make and save notations for the charts they create as well as set action price alerts. If the action price you specify is between the high and low price for the day, you will receive a notification via E-mail.
Each stock tracked by the DWA database has a daily commentary report as well as an evaluation that rates the technical attributes of the stock.
The site’s Point & Figure University is free to all registered users and currently offers six lessons ranging from the basics of point & figure charting to its use in market and sector timing. At the end of each lesson there is a test that allows you to determine your areas of weakness.
FutureSource.com & FutureSource Xtra!
FutureSource is one of the few Web sites here catering to futures and commodities traders. Here you will find free commodity and single stock futures quotes, charts, and news. Windows users interested in real-time futures data can subscribe to the Xtra! real-time service starting at $90 per month.
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 and indicators from which to choose (subscribers to the Xtra! Service have 40 indicators to select from), all of which are fully customizable. Registered users are also able to overlay up to 26 indicators per chart (registration is free). Chart settings can be saved for future use.
The FutureSource Web site also offers visitors a free Market Recap report that they can receive via E-mail, delayed market news, and links to sites offering free articles and Web seminars covering a variety of topics, including commodities trading and technical analysis.
For those who want real-time futures quotes and charts as well as market news, there is FutureSource Xtra!. For $90 or $175 per month, subscribers can create real-time, streaming futures charts, plot indicators in real-time, and save chart settings for future use. Subscribers can access real-time, streaming news from Dow Jones Commodity News and Dow Jones Energy News, as well as proprietary editorial analysis. Subscribers can also download historical futures data in a variety of formats, including Excel and XML. Xtra! also offers options tracking.
MarketClub is predominantly a subscription-based service offering Web-based charting, analysis, and data for stocks, mutual funds, futures, and indexes; scanning for stocks and futures; a trade school with educational content on stock, futures, and options trading; and downloadable historical data on over 100,000 symbols (mainly North American quotations).
The service offers intraday delayed, daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly line, bar, and candlestick charting for free and real-time data for foreign exchange and precious metals for $347 per year, with a 90-day trial period. Users have 20 technical indicators and studies at their disposal, including Bollinger Bands and Fibonacci retracements, and can modify their parameters. Subscribers can also draw their own trendlines.
MarketClub’s most interesting feature is its Smart Scan technology, which scans markets for individual stock, futures, foreign exchange and precious metals securities that are either in a strong uptrend or downtrend. When you enter an individual ticker symbol, you are given a price chart as well as a breakdown of the elements used in deriving its Smart Scan “score”: last-hour close versus five-hour moving average, new high/low within last three days, last price relative to the 20-day moving average, recent three-week high or low, and recent three-month high. The cumulative score is between –100 (strong sell) and +100 (strong buy); a score closer to +100 indicates a strong positive long-term trend and a score closer to –100 correlates to a strong negative long-term trend. There are also 10 predefined scans available.
MarketClub members also enjoy unlimited access to historical intraday and end-of-day data. Simply enter a ticker at the Data Central area of the MarketClub Web site, specify the data interval (one, five, 15, and 60 minutes and daily) and you are given comma-delimited, tab-delimited, or MetaStock formatted open, high, low, close, volume, and open interest data. Intraday data is available for the last seven trading days and daily data is available going back five years.
MarketClub’s Trade School is a collection of multi-media “seminars” and downloadable materials covering a variety of trading topics such as stocks, futures, options trading, money management, mutual fund timing, and psychology of trading. All of the material in this area is free; however, you will need Real Audio Player to listen to the presentations and Adobe Acrobat to print or read the workbooks for the presentations.
The MarketScreen Web site has both free and fee-based services and offers a mix of stock charting, comprehensive screening and backtesting, market alerts and education.
The cornerstone of the site, as its name indicates, is a collection of screens for a variety of technical and fundamental conditions as well as chart patterns. These screens are broken down into intraday, custom, quick picks, and backtested—the results of which can be downloaded in CSV format or displayed in a printer-friendly format. Intraday screens are generated every hour of each trading day and encompass price and volume action, moving averages, chart patterns, trend indicators, oscillators, support and resistance, technicals, fundamentals, and industries/sectors. Each of these sub-categories is further divided into report groups, which you can select from a pull-down menu. In all there are over 200 screens for you to use.
Once you have selected a report group for a screen, you are presented with a table listing the scans that are run for that particular report and the number of large-, mid-, and small-cap stocks passing that screen for the NASDAQ, New York Stock Exchange, and American Stock Exchange. Clicking on a number in this table delivers you to the actual listing of stocks with quote data as well as links to charts, company profiles, news, and SEC filings. Depending on the screen, you may also be able to access backtested trading results for a specific security. The site provides the number of transactions, the percentage of trades that were winners and losers, the number of days you were in the position, and the net and annual gain on the trades.
Subscribers to MarketScreen can access custom screens, which allow users to create their own screens based upon fundamental or technical criteria and save them for future use. With quick screens, you can choose from predefined screening criteria, while power screens give you additional flexibility in selecting the values of the screening elements you choose. You can also receive reports generated from a saved screen by E-mail at the close of each trading day.
The quick picks report lists top-performing stocks for specific technical events. Using MarketScreen’s backtesting technology, these events are backtested and their results are shown on the report. Each trading signal is tested among various optimization strategies and the stock with the largest profit is displayed. For each stock, you can see the details of the simulation.
The other members-only area of MarketScreen is the Tools area. Tools available include the market scan, which allows subscribers to scan the entire market for current price and volume activity. You can screen for percentage and dollar gainers or losers, as well as breakouts and highs and lows. The trendline scan helps in identifying those stocks that are touching or breaking through levels of support of resistance. Correlation scans allow you to identify stocks that are trading in a manner similar (high correlation) or dissimilar (low correlation) to a specific stock. Correlation scans can be performed over a variety of periods, from 50 to 250 days. With trade alerts you can set and receive E-mail alerts for specific stocks based on price changes. Lastly, with risk keeper, users can track the progress of their trades and manage their risk exposure. Risk keeper uses predefined account settings for balance, margin, and risk limit, along with specific trade parameters—initial protective stop, daily stop adjustment, target profit—to generate daily stop-loss and stop-profit values for a given stock.
MarketScreen provides bar, line, candlestick, equivolume, and point & figure charts, the most comprehensive collection available among the sites in this comparison. Charts are accessible to both members and non-members. Data is charted on an end-of-day or intraday delayed basis only (not real-time) and can be shown over a variety of intervals, from one minute to daily. MarketScreen offers one of the most extensive collections of technical indicators and studies on the Internet, tallying in at 63—all of which can be modified by the user.
The goal of the Optionetics Web site is to educate novice and seasoned traders about the interactive nature of stocks and options. This free site offers stock and options data (but only stock charting), message boards on specific stocks, options strategies, market commentary, and educational articles.
For those new to options trading and looking to learn more, the Daily Need To Know section is a good place to start. This section contains a wealth of articles on technical analysis, trading strategies, and questions posed by members of the Optionetics community. The Trading Education area offers articles on trading options. These cover basic options concepts, advanced options concepts, and bullish and bearish strategies. Other tools at the site include stock charts and volatility rankings. Line, bar, and candlestick charts can be customized with your choice of 11 indicators and overlays. Users can save their chart settings for future use and export chart data in CSV format. The volatility rankings use the following categories: expensive, cheap, explosive, quiet, breakout high, breakout low, highest volume, highest open, call top price percent increase, call bottom price percent decrease, put top percent price increase, and put bottom price percent decrease.
The Prophet.Net Web site has established itself as a strong contender in the Web-based charting realm. However, it was recently acquired by INVESTools, and it will be interesting to see whether the site will continue in its current form or whether it will be folded into the suite of INVESTools services, as was the case with the Wall Street City Web site, which is no longer in existence.
Prophet.Net offers three charting options depending on your needs—SnapCharts, Java charts, and streaming charts. All three choices offer free end-of-day charting, while streaming charts also provides free streaming intraday delayed charts. In addition, while stock, mutual funds, and indexes can be charted with the Basic, Bronze, and Silver subscription packages, only Gold subscribers can chart options and futures on either a delayed or real-time basis.
Java charts, 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 for $39.95 a month. With the free service, you can add any of 28 technical indicators to a Java chart, while subscribers have access to an impressive 165 indicators and studies (168 for Gold service subscribers). Users are able to draw custom trendlines by either clicking on two points on the chart or selecting the Add Trendline function from the Tools menu and clicking and dragging to draw the trendline. Other features include the ability to chart specific time periods and a zoom function that is activated by dragging the cursor over a section of the chart.
SnapCharts is Prophet’s most flexible offering, with many of the same features and functionality found with Java charts. However, you are limited to plotting five indicators per chart and cannot draw trendlines as you can with the Java charts. Users of the free SnapCharts service do have a larger library of 60 indicators to choose from as compared to the free Java charts. With both Java charts and SnapCharts, you can save your chart settings.
ChartStream delivers live, streaming equity charts with a Silver membership for $24.95 and also streaming, real-time options and futures charts with the Gold membership.
The “explore” section of Prophet.Net allows users to search for potential investment opportunities. The site’s Chart Toppers scans for the day’s biggest gainers, losers, and most active stocks as well as those reaching new 52-week highs and lows. Depending on the level of service you choose, you can view between 30 (Basic) and 250 (Gold) results for each Chart Topper scan. ProphetScan is a real-time market scanning system that allows users to search a universe of over 14,000 stocks. Screens can be based on exchanges, sectors/industries, optionable stocks, liquidity, fundamental and technical criteria, and intraday price and volume movements. Custom screens can be saved: Basic users can only save two, and premium subscribers can save up to 20. In addition, Basic users can only view 10 results per scan. Finally, Prophet Patterns uses pattern recognition technology to identify stocks poised for potential price movements. Prophet Patterns ST is designed for intraday trading while DX finds patterns using daily prices. These services are each an additional $29.95 per month.
Quote.com Interactive Charting & Quote.com Live Charts
Quote.com, which is part of the Lycos family, offers multiple levels of charting service—interactive charts, which are free, and LiveCharts, which offer streaming intraday delayed charts and streaming real-time charts for $9.95 or $19.95 per month.
The interactive charts offer both intraday and end-of day charting, with data going back five years on an end-of-day basis. Users can choose from line, bar, or candlestick charts as well as 20 technical indicators and line studies. Once you have set up a chart, you can also save it for future use.
The LiveCharts applet provides streaming, intraday delayed charting for stocks and indexes at no cost. Beginning at $9.95 a month, subscribers can access streaming real-time LiveCharts. The LiveCharts applet allows users to plot a single security and technical indicator per chart. All of the 18 indicators and studies available are charted intraday and are fully customizable. Data can be displayed on a one-, five-, 10-, 15-, 30-, and 60-minute basis as well as daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly. Users are also given streaming time and sales data for the security being charted on either an intraday delayed or real-time basis, depending on membership status. LiveCharts also offers data export in ACSII text, Excel spreadsheet, and HTML formats.
For $19.95 per month, subscribers can access streaming news, a streaming portfolio tracker for up to 25 portfolios with 75 tickers per portfolio, and Dow Jones Equity News, a premium source of real-time news. Other features of Quote.com include quotes and news, portfolio tracking, company profiles, analyst projections, insider and institutional trading data, and SEC filings.
While a relative newcomer to the Web-based technical analysis and charting scene, the StockCharts.com Web site has established itself as one of the most well-rounded, offering robust charting and scanning capabilities, as well as a rich collection of technical analysis educational content.
For charting, StockCharts.com offers one of the best collections of charts available on the Internet. The site features line and candlestick charting, as well as three options for point & figure charting. For point & figure charts, pattern alerts are automatically displayed on all of the charts. The site offers over 30 technical indicators and line studies, and up to four indicators can be plotted per chart for non-subscribers (16 to 48 for paying users). Subscribers and non-subscribers alike can modify the parameters of the technical indicators, but only paid subscribers can dictate the timeframe charted. Users can save charts to a favorites list for future analysis and subscribers can save their chart settings. With the site’s free charting service, data can be displayed on a daily or weekly basis going back a relatively paltry three years. A subscription is required to chart on intraday data; and real-time charting, albeit not streaming, is available for an extra $9.95 per month. StockCharts.com offers a collection of stock scans that allows users to apply technical formulas to a stock universe to receive a listing of stocks that meet those criteria. Non-subscribers can run predefined scans on an end-of-day basis based upon technical indicators as well as candlestick and point & figure patterns. The site screens stocks traded on the NASDAQ, NYSE, Amex, and Canadian exchanges, as well as mutual funds. For $9.95 per month, 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. With an Extra! Membership ($19.95/mo.), subscribers have greater flexibility in creating custom scans, can save custom scans, and can view all the results of a scan. Neither service, however, offers intraday scanning.
For those looking to learn more about technical analysis, there is extensive educational content available in the Chart School section of the Web site. Articles cover the basics of investing and technical analysis, as well as trading strategies and technical indicators and how to use them. There is also a discussion of charts, the common patterns that appear on them, and how to interpret them.
StockCharts has also teamed up with famed technician John Murphy. For $16.95 per month (less when combined with either basic or Extra! subscription package), 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 chartbook.
TradeSignals.com is another site discussed here offering futures charts along with stocks. Visitors to the site have free access to intraday and end-of-day Java charting as well as “standard” charts. The Java charts allow you to plot stocks and futures contracts on a one-, five-, 15-, 30-, and 60-minute basis, as well as daily going back 20 years (also offered with the standard charts). There are 28 fully customizable technical indicators and studies available. With the Java charts, three indicators can be plotted on a chart at one time, while six at a time can be plotted with the standard charts. The Java charts also offer the ability to manually draw in your own trendlines.
TradingCharts.com is a no-frills site devoted to providing free quotes and charts for over 30,000 stocks and futures contracts. Java charts cover prices on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis with up to 23 years of data available (on a monthly basis) for stocks and 22 years for futures. Users can plot end-of-day data using line, bar, or candlestick charts and can select from 29 customizable technical studies and indicators.
Yahoo! Finance brings together a basic, but reasonable set of free tools for the investor. From a charting standpoint, the site offers the standard array of charts—line, bar, and candlestick—on an end-of-day or intraday delayed basis. The site also has some of the deepest charting data available, with historical data going back to 1962, when available. Users are also able to export data in Excel spreadsheet format. There is a respectable number of indicators to choose from, 22, but users cannot modify their settings.
Yahoo! Finance also offers stock screening and option trading strategy searches (from Optionetics). The Java Yahoo! Finance Stock Screener offers over 150 screening criteria, 74 of which are price- and/or volume-related. Registered users can create their own stock screens and save them for future use. The Option Trade Finder allows you to choose the sentiment of the stock—bullish, bearish, or neutral, the implied volatility (high or low), and the desired option strategy (such as long call or short put). Based on the information you provide, the trade finder will offer a list of trades that can be sorted based on variety of data elements. Unfortunately, you are not able to save the option trade searches you create.