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TECHNOLOGY Q&A

Time to stock up

 

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA
May 2013

Q: Can you tell me where to find good, free internet-based resources and information that will help me analyze my stock portfolio?

A: A plethora of web-based resources is available to help you analyze investments and investment options, and I am certainly not familiar with them all. However, over the years I have found that the Yahoo! Finance website offers a generous amount of free stock, mutual fund, and bond investment resources. I can’t address all of Yahoo! Finance’s resources in this article, but I will highlight four that I find helpful, as follows:

1. Insider transactions. Insider transactions are considered crucial information that many people monitor for the stocks they own (or are about to buy). (Note: Insider transactions are not the same as “insider trading.” Insiders are legally allowed to sell or buy shares provided they give proper advance notice.) As an example, the numerous gray bubble icons on the Yahoo! Finance chart pictured below depict all of the insider transactions for Netflix Inc. (NFLX) over the previous five years. You can clearly see that insiders started selling shares heavily approximately six months before the stock value tumbled more than 70%. Of course, this notable amount of insider transactions prior to such a massive tumble could have just been a coincidence, or perhaps the intense insider trading triggered the stock value’s decline. The reality is that we may never know exactly why insiders buy or sell their shares, but some people believe that heavy insider transactions can be a warning sign that for better or worse, the insiders know something you don’t.

To view the insider activity for a publicly traded company, visit finance.yahoo.com, enter a ticker symbol in the Get Quotes text box, and press the Get Quotes button. Below the thumbnail chart image, select a chart duration (5y for five years as shown below), then from the menu located above the chart, select Events, Insider Transactions, as pictured.

Note that hovering the mouse pointer above each insider transaction icon temporarily displays each transaction’s details.

2. Stock screener. Yahoo! Finance offers stock screener tools that help identify investments that meet criteria you specify. To use this tool, visit screener.finance.yahoo.com/newscreener.html and click the link labeled Launch Yahoo! Finance Stock Screener. When prompted, agree to the terms and click Run. Once the Stock Screener appears, enter criteria information in the Criteria, Conditions, and Values columns. (For example, in the screenshot at right I arbitrarily entered criteria to search for stocks in the Communication Equipment sector, with more than 30% of the outstanding shares held by institutions, where the company pays at least a minimal dividend and the P/E ratio is between 8 and 22.) Click the Run Screen button.

The stock screening tool returns a table of stock investments that meet the criteria. (In this example the stock screener returned two investments—Qualcomm Inc. and Adtran Inc., as shown below.)

At this point, you could then use Yahoo! Finance to begin an in-depth study of these two investment alternatives to learn about their profile, financial statements, stock price history, dividend history, market capitalization, competitors, key statistics, corporate filings, analyst opinions, press releases, news stories, and so on. Note: Yahoo! Finance offers separate tools for screening stocks, mutual funds, and bonds.

3. Portfolio management. Your brokerage investment account most likely offers portfolio tools that enable you to view your holdings, but often these tools fall short in that they don’t reflect trades until the following day, they don’t allow you to add watched stocks, or they don’t allow you to set buy or sell triggers. Yahoo!’s portfolio tool offers these functions and more. To create a Yahoo! Finance portfolio, visit finance.yahoo.com and click the New User? Register link and follow the instructions for setting up a free Yahoo! account.

Sign in to your Yahoo! account and click the dropdown menu labeled My Portfolios, then select Create Portfolio. Enter a name in the Portfolio Name box. Enter ticker symbols in the Manage Symbols box and click the Add Symbols button. Choose a view, such as Performance View, from the Default View dropdown option’s box. Adjust other settings as desired and click the Save button in the lower-left corner. A fictitious example of the Yahoo! Finance portfolio is shown below.

Once your portfolio appears, click the Add/edit holdings menu option to add the number of shares, purchase price, and other information if desired. Click the Set alerts menu option to have Yahoo! alert you via email, Yahoo! Messenger, or mobile phone in the event a watched stock exceeds the preset limits you specify.

4. Other investment research. Yahoo! Finance offers an assortment of stock, mutual fund, and investment analysis tools at biz.yahoo.com/r (below).

These tools include Earnings Dates, which list the dates companies will announce their quarterly earnings; Conference Calls, which provide links to listen in to the management discussion of quarterly earnings reports; Surprises, which lists the instances when companies significantly exceed or miss their consensus earnings estimates; and Initial Public Offerings, which summarizes past IPOs (those floated and canceled) by day, including price, filings, and withdrawal information.

If analyzing your stock investments using these tools fails to work for you, try visiting the Ask 8 Ball website ask8ball.net for more specific guidance.

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