Casting The Widest Net

Fresh stats are a must for investors. Here's how to get them on the World Wide Web.

As an investment club member, you have to research potential stock picks before actually going out and buying shares. Where’s the data? Online, of course, if you know where to look.

On the Net, there are literally mountains of statistics to be found on any company around–stock and mutual fund quotes, earnings per share information, price-to-earnings ratio analysis, 52-week high and low stock prices, and market information (see “Bytes to Bucks,” October 1997).

But before you start, you’ll need the right kind of equipment. Robert Lancaster Jr., investment research director for the Wall Streetwise newsletter (www. wall streetwise.com) and president of the seven-year old New Freedom Investment Club in Durham, North Carolina, recommends using a computer with a 486 microprocessor or higher, at least 16 MB of RAM: and a 1 gigabit hard drive; a 28.8 kbps or higher modem; and an Internet browser software package such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. You will also need an Internet Service Provider account, such as America Online, AT&T, MSN or Prodigy or any local Internet service provider. While rates and services vary, the average price is $20 a month for unlimited access. Then there’s the cost of the Web site to consider. While many investment sites offer free access, others require a monthly fee much like a subscription to a magazine.

It should be noted that stock quotes online are delayed at least 15 minutes. To get real-time quotes, you’ll have to pay an extra $10-$20 a month. We’d recommend that you think twice about it, however, given that on-the-spot quotes don’t give long-term investors an edge worth paying for.

You’ll also want to examine market information–the ups and downs of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, for instance–as well as industry statistics, brokerage analysts’ opinions, current news and individual company data, such as financial statements and management decisions. Many sites let you input a portfolio of stocks you’ve bought and then allow you to track share prices over time.

WHERE TO GO
We’d recommend that you check out three free services first to get a sense of what you can get on the Web “gratis.” DBC Financial’s site (www.dbc.com) is a great place to start. It offers stock quotes, a number of good statistical ratios to use in researching companies, as well as links to news sources and on-line trading companies. A good starting point to finding shop-for-pay services is Dally Stocks (www.dailystocks.com), which offers links to several dozen sites. You can access company and statistical information offered by a slew of firms including Zacks Financial, Yahoo and Morningstar. Morningstar’s site (www.morningstar. net) is chock-full of information, including financial columns and interviews with institutional investors.

Perhaps the most comprehensive site is Stocksmart (www.stocksmart.com), where you can find hundreds of links to investment-related Web sites offering company information and stock analysis.
The Financial Data Finder (www.cob.ohiostate. edu/dept/fin/osudata.htm) contains such sites as CNN Financial Network (www.cnnfn. com), so you can tap into late-breaking news affecting your stocks. Also worth checking out is the Stock Research Group (www.stockgroup.com). A great starting

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