To be a successful stock market investor, you need to emulate a master carpenter, and use the best tools available.
If you don’t, then you’re relying on other people’s opinions and stock tips, and that’s risky. No matter how “expert” someone appears or how great a track record they have, there’s no substitute for doing your own research.
So what are the best online tools to use? Well, many brokers now offer solid research capabilities on their websites, and sites like Morningstar, Yahoo Finance and Google Finance are popular for good reasons.
But here are five other online tools that could make you a better investor. Each one offers something a little different for investors to add to their tool belts, and the bonus is that they’re all free to use, at least at the basic level.
It’s true as much in the stock market as elsewhere that a good picture tells a thousand words. This site lets you view the performance of stocks, sectors and countries as heat maps, 3D maps, bubble charts, bar charts and lots more.
Then, if you spot a stock you’re interested in, you can double-click on it to bring up detailed financials, metrics, technical price charts, broker recommendations and news. It’s a great, highly visual, colorful way of spotting trends and picking out stocks to research.
One of the most powerful tools for a stock market investor is a good stock screener. You want to be able to input the metrics that matter most to you, depending on your own investing style, and narrow the broad market down to a more manageable set of stocks to research in more detail.
The screener at Zacks.com is very powerful, with a huge range of choices from financial fundamentals to share price movement to the company’s track record of beating earnings estimates. Hovering over each item tells you what it means and what a reasonable range of values would be. You can also screen for mutual funds and ETFs.
This one’s mainly for mobile devices, although it’s now available as a desktop app for the Mac computer as well. You can survey a color-coded view of stock performance in various sectors or across the whole market, and use a simple slider to switch your time period from 5 minutes to 5 years.
Then you can zoom in on a particular company that catches your eye, to find out more about what’s causing those price movements. Some investing apps just transfer desktop tools to your cellphone or tablet, but this one really takes full advantage of mobile devices’ touchscreens to make investing a truly tactile experience.
OK, so the clue to what this site does is in the name. But it also goes beyond charts, delivering a whole range of tools that are useful for investors, particularly those who are into technical analysis – analyzing the patterns in stock charts to spot “signals” about when to buy and sell.
The site shows you the top buys and sells based on technical signals, and when you view each individual stock you get more details on the various indicators and what they’re showing. Another interesting feature is coverage of futures, options and foreign exchange, which many sites don’t cover.
You probably know The Motley Fool already – it’s one of the most popular investment advice sites out there. But you might not have come across its CAPS section, which integrates the opinions of thousands of the site’s members with those of Wall Street pros to create a rating from one to five stars.
You can dissect those results in a whole variety of ways, setting up stock screens and looking at the most popular stocks in various sectors, or the ones people are shying away from. It’s a great way to find new investing ideas, or warnings about stocks you hold that may be overpriced. If you sign up to the site, you can also start submitting your own ratings and competing with other members to see who has the most accurate stock picks.
Have you ever used any of these tools? Do you have others that you prefer to use? Share your recommendations in the comments!