Only this past summer, I
brought you a list of new investor-oriented Web sites (see BW
Online, 7/21/00, "Ten
Sites Worth Investing Your Time In"). I figured that list would
last until next summer. I was way wrong.
So many Web sites
are popping up now that I'm back this week with another bunch, most
of them entirely free, aimed at individual investors. If you're in a
this table to see a list and Web addresses. If you have five
minutes, read on to see what I discovered about each when I took a
breakneck Internet tour recently.
The first, 3DstockCharts, has been around since last winter.
My first impression then, which was reinforced last summer, was that
this was really great for day traders but not so useful for the rest
of us. Since then, I've reconsidered. What this site does is create
information-packed charts of stocks trading in the "third market" --
that is, on one of the new off-exchange, off-Nasdaq trading systems,
also known as "ECNs," such as Instinet, Archipelago, and Island.
After registering at the site's home page, I punched in
KREM, the ticker symbol for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. It took a few
moments, but then a cool, three-dimensional chart of the "buy" and
"sell" orders appeared. In this picture, I could swiftly see the
market for the stock -- that is, the price of the most recent trade
and all the orders stacked up to buy below that price and all the
orders to sell above it. Most investors don't need this most of the
time, but it wouldn't hurt anyone preparing to trade to check the
market before acting.
BELOW! At insiderSCORES.com, the giant market-data firm
Thomson Financial brings together a lot of the scattered information
about stock trades made by company officers and directors. It next
grades these insiders' ability to make timely investment moves and
then highlights new moves by insiders with good track records.
What good is this? Investors in Burlington Resources, for
instance, might be interested to know that CFO John Hagale, who has
seen Burlington shares fall after each of his past five sales,
recently reported another sale. I wouldn't make a trade myself based
only on one such bit of information, but what insiders are doing,
especially ones that have shown foresight in the past, is worth
Money.net bills itself as a one-stop financial
site for individuals, so it gathers a bunch of personal-finance
tools and information. The only unusual feature I found is a free,
real-time portfolio tracker called "Screamer." Enter your portfolio,
and you can watch the price of each holding change in real time. The
risk here is becoming fixated on the moment-by-moment changes in
value. But compared to the static portfolio trackers found at most
free sites, this is a big step up -- and a preview, I bet, of what
will be commonplace not long from now. I wish it would let users
import portfolio data to avoid having to labor at the keyboard.
TAKE A STRESS TEST. Another
neat toy can be found at Portfolio Science. Here, you can create a
portfolio and see its risk of losses on a daily, weekly, monthly, or
annual basis in either percentage terms or actual dollars and cents.
To test it, I created a four-fund portfolio. This took about
five minutes. Next, I asked the site to analyze my portfolio's risk,
and up popped a screen telling me that on any given day this
$220,000 portfolio might lose $4,047.62, or 1.84%. I also was able
to compare that with the risk in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock
index and other indexes and to perform a "stress test" designed to
show how badly my portfolio would be hurt if the S&P 500 dropped
a given amount. Depending on how your portfolio is invested, the
results of a stress test might be eye-opening.
year, GainsKeeper.com showed how much more easily we all
could keep track of the tax implications of portfolio moves. Its
portfolio tracker was built with the idea of producing a Schedule D,
the tax form used to report capital gains and losses to the Internal
Revenue Service. I think its service is great, but it costs $49 a
year for a basic subscription.
EXERCISE IN OPTIONS. GainsKeeper has a new free
Capital Gain. At the moment, it's a stripped-down tool and not
all that user-friendly, with little in the way of online support and
educational material. Given the price, this might be adequate for
some traders. But my bet is that any active trader will still find
the subscription fees at GainsKeeper a bargain.
tougher math problem for most investors is figuring when to cash in
employee stock options. A number of sites have popped up featuring
tools to help with the calculation. Now comes one from Pennsylvania
State University professor Steve Huddart. With admirable directness,
he calls the tool Should I Exercise My Stock Options?
calculator takes into account how long until the option will expire,
the underlying stock's exercise price, and its current price to
figure out how much of the option's likely value you might capture
by exercising now. The results and explanations may be a bit
complicated for many individual investors. But I think a trip to the
site is a worthwhile detour for anyone bent on exercising their
Just how smart are brokerage firm analysts? That's the question that
attempts to answer by rating the top stock analysts in various
industries and then alerting investors to their boldest picks. After
registering at the site, you can also view StarMine's
SmartEstimates, a way of trying to improve on consensus earnings
estimates by putting more weight on those made by the analysts with
the best track records. Good idea.
Not such a good idea is
SmartRatings.com, which bills itself as a virtual
investment adviser whose "wizards" can make "buy" and "sell"
recommendations. These wizards are really daily computer searches
that use various stock-picking strategies. Since the basic service
is free, it probably can't hurt to troll here for ideas, but this
should be the just first step in an investment search. You also can
subscribe ($24.95 monthly) for an expanded service, but I'm
skeptical: There's nothing truly automatic about investing.
TheLion.com is another free research tool that's
designed for the compulsively comprehensive investor. It gathers all
the message-board postings about a given stock from many investor
sites, including Yahoo! Finance, Raging Bull, and The Motley Fool.
All told, TheLion.com claimed the other day to have access to
26,892,367 messages. That's got to be more blather than this world
needs. Then again, it works swiftly and would probably save some
people some time.
UNDERVALUED? My last stop was at ValuEngine.com, a
site featuring some of the stock-valuation models of Zhiwu Chen, a
professor of finance at Yale University's School of Management. It's
a fun place to play for free (premium subscriptions, granting use of
extra features, run $19.95 a month).
You can call up the
site's opinions on whether any given stock is overvalued or
undervalued. I punched in Amazon.com as a test and found that
ValuEngine thinks the stock, at $26.75, was 38% undervalued. That
questionable conclusion alone sums up what I think you should bear
in mind at all of these sites: If they help you think through an
investment problem, fine. Just don't take their answers as