AAII’s Best of the Net: 2012 Guide to the Top Investment Websites, 16th Edition
Our simple measure for evaluating websites is: Does it provide value? With the ongoing proliferation of smartphones, tablet computers and social networking, good content still matters more than anything else. All the sparkle and flash in the world is not worth much if what you really need is useful information.
In putting together our 16th annual Best of the Net guide, we sought out websites to help you invest better. We wanted websites that are easy to navigate, provide accurate information and are focused on conveying good content. In most cases, the websites we have featured in past years made the cut again this year. This was not universally the case, however, as we replaced some of the websites we previously featured with new ones. For every category, we looked at many websites to ensure we included only the best ones.
Many websites automatically adapt to the device you are accessing it on, whether it is a PC, an iPad or a smartphone. Some websites also offer apps for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems. But the quality of these apps varies widely. For instance, The Wall Street Journal iPad app gives you access to the entire newspaper, while Yahoo! Finance’s iPad app merely gives you quotes and news. Some apps are worth downloading, however, and we’ve expanded our coverage of apps in this year’s guide. (See CI in the Journal in this issue.)
We also list the Internet resources we personally use. Throughout the guide you will see boxes that list the favorite websites of AAII staff, along with site addresses and a brief explanation of why we like them. These are not all “Best of the Web” resources, but they are ones we personally like.
You can find information about Twitter as well. The social networking service continues to evolve and there is much useful information for investors. Rather than suggesting Twitter streams of individual personalities, we direct you to those that provide updated news and financial information.
Finally, we list our favorite features of AAII.com. With so much great content and tools on our website, it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few key features, but we think you will enjoy the sections we highlight. The first section of the guide presents a categorical listing of our picks for Best of the Net. The second section provides an alphabetical listing of individual websites, with information about the features we find particularly useful and how to find the content and tools within each site. The online version of this guide includes hyperlinks to all of the top sites.
The Best of the Net Ratings
AAII awards a Best of the Net rating to sites that provide investment information or service that, in our view, is both useful and substantial to individual investors and available either for free or for a reasonable price. Most sites provide the information or service that we are reviewing free of charge. Some offer basic information for free and charge various rates for more in-depth data or expanded services. In the alphabetical listings, we show the lowest and highest rates to give you an idea of the range; visit the sites for complete details on pricing.
Some types of sites not included here are covered in other AAII venues: broker sites are investigated annually in Computerized Investing, mutual fund family sites are listed in AAII’s annual Guide to the Top Mutual Funds and exchange-traded fund (ETF) sponsor sites appear in the annual Guide to Exchange-Traded Funds. You can access these special articles year-round in the Investor Guides area of AAII.com. Keep in mind that the Web is constantly evolving. Sites can change drastically in a short period of time. Be sure to verify the source of information or provider of a service. And read the fine print on pricing before agreeing to pay for any data or investment service.
Charles’ Favorite Web Resources
When researching a stock, I use these free websites to seek out information that cannot be found by merely analyzing financial statements.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) publishes filings for publicly traded companies in its EDGAR system. I pay particular attention to Form 10-K, which is a company’s annual report and is a goldmine of information.
Seeking Alpha publishes quarterly conference call transcripts for many companies. These transcripts can offer a lot of insight into a how a company performed over the past quarter and what management thinks may happen in the future. (To find transcripts, click on Earnings & Transcripts under Where to Go Next at the bottom of the home page.) I mostly ignore the articles submitted by contributing authors and posted on Seeking Alpha, however, since their quality varies widely.
Even though I am a value investor, I always look at a stock’s price chart to make sure I have not missed anything with my analysis. The customizable charts on this website are easy to use, but offer enough tools to satisfy someone who wants to conduct detailed technical analysis.
Many websites do a good job of providing updated news and commentary on individual stocks, so this is merely my personal preference. I like the way the site separates news articles and press releases on the quote page for individual stocks.
Investor Relations Websites
To locate, type the company’s name plus “investor relations” in a search engine such as Google.
Often overlooked, the investor relations sections of a company’s website can offer a large amount of information. Though each website is different, it is not uncommon to find presentations, annual reports, dividend history, historical press releases and a calendar of upcoming events.
—Charles Rotblut, CFA, vice president at AAII and editor of the AAII Journal
John’s Favorite Web Resources
The Internet offers so many great investment resources that my favorites focus on the tools that I use to control the flow of information.
Most investment sites offer an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed that alerts readers when information has been updated or newly published. By subscribing to an RSS feed, I am able to centrally follow news headlines and stories from a wide range of sites in an organized fashion. I like to use Google Reader to manage my RSS feeds. I can read the feeds on Google, but generally I use the NewsRack application (www.omz-software.de/newsstand) on my iPhone and iPad to scroll through my headlines, read interesting stories, save stories, and share stories with colleagues. I am currently following the feeds of AAII.com, CNNMoney.com, ChicagoBusiness.com, Lifehacker.com, Morningstar.com and The Wall Street Journal (WSJ.com).
Market Pulse – WSJ.com
I have a digital subscription to The Wall Street Journal and have complete access to the full content on the Web and through their apps that work on well on the iPad and Kindle Fire. This past year, they added the Market Pulse, which provides streaming coverage of the news impacting the markets. Major market indexes and an overview of issues moving the markets are presented on one side of the page, while headlines from the wide array of sections covered by The Wall Street Journal are posted to the other side of the page. New stories are added to the top of the list and time-stamped. It is easy to expand upon a given headline and read the full story without leaving the Web page. The Market Pulse also works on tablets and smartphones.
The CNBC website allows me to watch CNBC TV on my computer or iPad and provides real-time data and alerts. Their great mobile app, CNBC Pro, alerts me to breaking news and allows me to track my portfolio (pro.cnbc.com). It is the primary app I use to track the stocks in my portfolio and keep abreast of breaking news impacting my portfolio.
Many websites also offer helpful emails that push information to my inbox. For example, I get a daily email from Seeking Alpha that lists the daily price action and news headlines for each of my holdings from my portfolios.
Discount Brokerage Research
I have accounts at two discount brokers that offer a helpful collection of third-party research on stocks and mutual funds. I generally find it useful to get a second opinion on a stock before I buy or sell the security. While the research offerings differ from broker to broker, most top discount brokers give their customers free access to research reports from companies such as Morningstar, Thomson Reuters and Standard & Poor’s.
—John Bajkowski, AAII president
Using Twitter for Investing News and Ideas
Twitter is a useful resource for investors, despite its origins as a social networking service. It provides news in real time, and many posts contain links to full-length articles. The 140-character limit of a single post, called a “tweet,” forces writers to be pithy, which not only makes the posts interesting to read, but also easy to scan. Most importantly, since Twitter connects so many people, we are often alerted to insightful commentary that we would have otherwise missed.
Twitter is very simple to use. You do not have to write a single tweet if you don’t want to. In fact, you can read all of a person’s or company’s tweets simply by going directly to their Twitter page. For example, www.twitter.com/BloombergNow displays all of the headlines posted by Bloomberg News.
However, there are advantages to signing up for your own Twitter account. The biggest one is that you can create a list of the people and companies that you want to follow. This turns your Twitter page into your own personal news feed, which is simpler than visiting multiple Web pages to get the same information. You can also post questions and interact with other Twitter users. Finally, if you are so inclined, you can write your own tweets. Twitter is completely free.
In terms of investing, who you should follow depends on your interests. Investment-related tweets cover everything from a broad view of the market and the economy to specific information about an individual’s trades. To help you get started, here are some of the favorite twitter feeds among AAII staff.
Financial News/Market Commentary
Financial Times Alphaville
New York Times Business
Wall Street Journal
Economics and Bonds
The Dismal Scientist
WSJ Real Time Economics
AAII Twitter Accounts
Among the AAII staff, Wayne and Charles maintain Twitter pages. You can see a complete list of who they follow by going to their personal twitter pages and clicking on the “following” link on the right-hand side of the page.
Wayne A. Thorp
We also offer Twitter feeds with AAII content and other useful information.
AAII Invest Ed
AAII Stock Investor Pro
Joe’s Favorite Web Resources
This remains my go-to website for financial news. On the right-hand side of the website, the last five viewed quotes and my watchlist are easily accessible, along with the most popular articles.
Yahoo! Finance lists the most recently searched quotes along with my portfolio on the right-hand side. Clicking on More Top Stories from the home page gives me the archived top stories on the economy, stocks, bonds and earnings. I find this section useful when scanning for major events related to a big swing in the markets.
I like wikinvest as an online portfolio manager. The website automatically connects to my brokerage and retirement accounts and updates my holdings. The performances of my various accounts are available on the home page, and performance is broken down in the performance tab.
The Economist provides a great “change-of-pace” from the normal financial websites; it mixes world politics with business and economics. The website also features science and technology news and provides a section dedicated to global culture.
—Z. Joe Lan, CFA, assistant financial analyst with AAII
Wayne’s Favorite Web Resources
I find this an excellent source for definitions of financial terms. In addition, the site has tutorials and articles broken down by investment level and style, such as Beginners, Active Traders and Retirement. The coverage is comprehensive.
Arguably the best charting website available and an excellent resource for free point & figure charts; it’s my favorite chart analysis tool. In addition, the site’s Chart School is an excellent starting point for those wishing to learn more about charting and technical analysis.
By following a variety of investment professionals and hobbyists, I am exposed to numerous investment articles that I otherwise would not find on my own.
This is my go-to site for company news. I like how the site breaks things down by “premium” outlets, including WSJ.com, Barron’s, TheStreet.com, and Seeking Alpha, as well as by company press releases. That way I can get “unfiltered” news about a company as well as that with an analytical slant.
—Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, AAII senior financial analyst and editor of Computerized Investing
Staff Picks: Favorite Areas of AAII.com
AAII Investor Classroom
This is a great “how-to” resource, and I constantly refer members to it. The various lessons cover everything from managing risk and return expectations to evaluating dividend stocks. Best of all, it is very easy to find guidance on a specific investing topic.
—Charles Rotblut, CFA
Stock Investor Pro can be daunting without proper guidance, and our wiki and videos are great resources. Specifically written to help users familiarize themselves with the program, the wiki covers all the main sections of SI Pro and highlights their key functions and capabilities. Best of all, the wiki is collaborative: Users can submit their own input and suggestions. New SI Pro videos are posted monthly as a complement
—Joe Lan, CFA
AAII Discussion Boards
The stock screens area offers both education and investment ideas for members looking to construct and manage a stock portfolio. The area profiles over 60 strategies grouped by investment style. Members can read about factors that make each approach unique, see how a hypothetical portfolio following each approach has performed during various market environments, and even get a listing of stocks passing each screen.
—Wayne A. Thorp, CFA
This new section is an easy way to keep up to date with everything that is happening at AAII. Daily posts let you know when new articles or analysis have been added to AAII.com and which local chapter meetings are taking place.