Monitoring Stocks on the Internet

Monitoring Stocks on the Internet

Investors and potential investors often want to monitor stocks on the internet. For example, it is possible to set up a portfolio of stocks in a free internet site that provides, charts, news releases, total portfolio value changes, fundamental ratios for the stocks and much more.

Below I will provide a brief description and some thoughts about various sites where you can track stock prices and news regarding a real or hypothetical portfolio.

Broker / Financial Advisor Sites

Most brokers whether full-service or discount will have a web site where, with a password, you can see your stock portfolio. Non-broker Financial Advisors may or may not have a Site, but I suspect that most do. If you have stocks, mutual funds or other investments invested with a broker, you should have access to such a Web site. I am only familiar with TD Waterhouse, so I will describe their site.

On TD Waterhouse I use the “balances” and “holdings” features to check the value of my portfolio accounts, cash balances and also to check recent trades. In general this information is only updated overnight so it useful to look at before the start of each days trading but does not update in real time as the day progresses.

Separately, TD provides the ability to enter up to 5 portfolios of up to ten stocks each. With this portfolio view, one can track the market price and portfolio value throughout the day and also can see the P/E ratio, dividend yield and a few other figures.

I have not used this TD portfolio feature for several reasons. Being short on time I find it very annoying that these portfolios cannot be picked up directly from my actual holdings and instead have to be input separately and manually updated. Also my portfolio has more than their limit of ten stocks. In addition these portfolios do not include links to news releases on each stock. Therefore I look to other sources of information to find news and other information on the stocks in my my portfolio.

Yahoo Finance http://finance.yahoo.com/ American Version
Yahoo Finance http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/ Canadian Version

I have been using YAHOO to track my stocks for over ten years now.

I find it quite easy to set up a portfolio. I believe at least 100 stocks can be entered in a portfolio. I found it easy to enter one “watch list” with all the stocks I follow and then also enter separate portfolios corresponding to my actual portfolio accounts. In the separate portfolios I enter the number of stocks I own and the price I paid per share. These separate portfolios have to be updated (for trades) manually.

I have found YAHOO to be very convenient and useful over the years. With my “watch list” portfolio, YAHOO shows me all the news releases for all these stocks from most recent to oldest. I set it to show back 30 days but it can be set longer. The format is very convenient as the latest news releases going back at least a few days can be seen simply by scrolling down a long list, no need to keep pressing “next” or whatever to get to the next page. I can then click on any news releases of interest. This is the manner in which I typically become aware of and print off earnings news releases for the stocks I am interested in.

For the individual portfolios where I entered the numbers of shares I own and the price paid, YAHOO shows me the last trade price, the bid and the ask, my gain or loss for the day and my cumulative gain since the stock was purchased and shows totals for the portfolio. This view can be customized to show other fields. Charts are also available for each stock.

As a Canadian user, I actually prefer the American version which as of recently does an automatic refresh, so you don’t have to click to refresh the screen.

While I have found YAHOO to be quite useful, I have also found a number of shortcomings or problems:

– For some reason about a year or so ago, it stopped showing the P/E ratios for Canadian stocks. (it does show P/Es for U.S. stocks)
– It does not give the market capitalization for Canadian stocks (but it does for U.S. stocks)
– Charts that should be available for years of data sometimes only show a few days of data.

Globe Investor www.globeinvestor.com

I have experimented with two separate stock monitoring services on www.globeinvestor.com

Their “Stock list” service allows you to enter a list of stocks that you are interested in. This service provides a wealth of information including P/E ratios, price charts, consensus ratings and much more. I particularly like the “stock list news” feature which provides a list of news releases for my stocklist beginning with the most recent news. One annoyance is that I have to click to see more than 10 news releases. I would rather be able to simply scroll down a list of 100 or so.

I expect to use this stocklist service rather than Yahoo since Yahoo no longer has the P/E ratios and has had other recent problems.

I also experimented with the Globeinvestor “portfolio” service.

I found that this service wanted to me to enter dates of transactions. I was not interested in doing that since it would be too much work to maintain and since my broker account is already doing that automatically. I wanted to be able to enter the number of shares I currently hold and the price purchased but it did not allow that without entering the date purchased. I simply found this to be too labor intensive and have no plans to use this service.

Other Sites

There are many other free Web Sites that provide the ability to track a group of stocks. Some sites will send you news alerts for press releases and some sites will alert you when a stock trades above or below a pre-set target.

I have not had much experience with these sites.

End

Shawn Allen, CFA, CMA, MBA, P.Eng.
InvestorsFriend Inc.
February 2, 2006 (with minor edits August 26, 2007)