Investing on the Internet
I spend at least half of my working day on the internet, often on-line from the time the market opens (6:30 A.M.
PST) until the close (1 P.M.). Researching investments on the net is the most efficient way to obtain a lot of
information, most of it free. However, there are literally thousands of investing sites, many offering the same
set of basic information, and in many cases, fact is mixed in with fiction as most internet sites are more concerned
with their own for-profit motives than they are with your quest for information. However, for the persistent, virtually
all information can be obtained for free if you are willing to dig through a lot of sites to get at what you want.
Two years ago I wrote a newsletter on investing on the net, much of which is still relevant today. This newsletter
can be accessed at:
There have been enough changes over the past several years to justify an update of where to look for certain types
of investment information. I am going to cover new ground here, so I would suggest readers view the older newsletter
with this one for the big picture. All sites are free, but many require a quick registration.
Market and Economic Information
For those looking for a quick overview of the markets, Briefing.com offers a succinct summary of the days events,
updated every half-hour at:
What is offered at briefing.com is very short-term analysis of why traders are either euphoric, depressed, or apathetic,
on an hour-to-hour basis. This is not the site for long-term investors unless you are looking to either buy or
sell on a particular day.
If you are looking for forecasts of markets, commodities prices and interest rates, there is a site that uses sophisticated
neural networks software to provide forecasts at:
If you want to see what current interest rates look like compared to a month ago or a year ago you can view all
the yield curves at:
If it's historical economic information you are looking for, the Federal Reserve keeps many data series at:
If you are looking for market or commodity prices outside of the U.S., a good place to start is:
For in-depth, article type of analysis of markets or the economy, I usually use the metacrawler search engine (www.metacrawler.com),
which is a search engine that searches the results of other search engines, and put in the key words of whatever
the subject is that I'm interested in.
Outside of stock quotes, there are more financial sites on the internet devoted to detailed information about specific
companies than any other topic. A good place to start is www.biz.yahoo.com. This site does not contain any unique
information but puts financials, research, estimates, insider buying, and company ownership all together in one
place. As with all sites, financials are backward
|looking and estimates sometimes are not updated for up to a month after analysts issue new reports. The information
is not cutting edge, but is a good starting point for beginning to learn about a company.
If you are researching a very small company and are looking for detailed company information, try:
The recent trend has been for companies to open their quarterly conference calls to all interested parties. Many
are now available to listen to via the internet at the company website, or at any of these conference call websites:
In the previous internet newsletter, I detailed the pitfalls and potential usefulness of the message boards. A
new site allows users to download a program that will automatically go out to the message boards and download all
unread messages for your stocks so that you can read them off-line:
Many sites offer news items on particular companies, almost all coming from the corporate PR wire or Reuters, but
I've found that these two sites retain the news articles much longer (up to a year) than most sites, which usually
only hold news items for three months:
|Another new trend is "whisper earnings" websites, where the idea is that corporate leaks of upcoming
earnings announcements are made available. I have not found any evidence of accuracy with these pre-earnings guesses,
but it does seem to be an indication of what investors are expecting. In other words, sometimes "whisper earnings"
can explain why a stock falls after beating published earnings estimates, in the event that they didn't meet the
Several places on the net now show actual analysts reports on companies, usually on a time limited or content limited
basis. The best are below:
Merrill Lynch is available on a 30 day trial basis at:
Free analyst research with no time limitations from Smith-Barney is available at
Another site that I occasionally find useful is the Thompson's "I-watch" site that gives daily institutional
buying and selling for most companies. If you are getting close to buying or selling something it can be useful
to see what the big boys are doing in the stock:
|useful to see what the big boys are doing in the stock:
Finally, stock quotes are widely available everywhere on the net, but if you are looking for free real-time quotes
(most free quotes are delayed 15-20 minutes) you can get them at:
For ticker watchers, at the same site as above (freerealtime.com/rt/frt/tools), you can download a piece of software
(Winfire) that will constantly run a user-determined set of tickers (delayed) across the bottom of your computer
After-hours quotes are available at:
Keep in mind that after-hours is a very thinly traded market for NASDAQ stocks that runs for about 2 hours after
the close of normal markets with no institutional participation. It is set up mainly to capture the business of
west coast individuals that want to trade stock with each other and has huge bid-ask spreads. For example, a stock
that can be purchased at 10 1/8th or sold at 10 during normal market hours (bid-ask spread of 1/8) is likely to
see purchases at 10 1/2 and sales at 9 7/8 (a bid-ask spread of 5/8).
The interesting thing about this site is that it provides Level 2 NASDAQ quotes, which means you can see ALL the
bids and asks, but again keep in mind these are just small investors trading back and forth.