Some investors prefer to let experts manage their money. Others like to take a more hands-on approach. And many employ a combination—investing most of their portfolio in professionally managed products, and setting aside a portion for to make their own investments. If you like to make some, or all, of your own investing decisions, there are a number of tools that can help you do so.
Such resources can be found on websites and brokerage platforms, along with other sources of information (like the one you are reading right now!). To be sure, there are a number of ways that you can make yourself a more informed investor.
Here are five ways you can research stocks and manage your investments using online tools—many of which you might already have at your disposal.
1. Research platform
One of the most helpful, do-it-yourself resources for investors is a research platform. A research platform can provide you with a wealth of information, such as quotes for individual stocks, company financial statements, key company statistics, and much more. Even experienced, advanced investors and traders may be surprised to discover how extensive the tools and resources are that can be found in a particular platform.
If you go to Fidelity.com, you will find a powerful research platform by clicking the “Research” tab at the top of the page. This is where you can get access to a lot of information on not only stocks but also sectors and industries, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, bonds, options, IPOs, and annuities.
You can also visit Fidelity.com and enter a company/security or its ticker symbol in the search bar on the top-right corner of the page. This will bring you to a specific company’s snapshot page. Here, you can find a plethora of information that can help you research publicly traded companies or financial securities.
Suppose you were considering investing in a stock. On its snapshot page, you can find a detailed quote containing vital information such as the current stock price, average daily volume, and annual yield (see the graphic below). You’ll also be able to look at a chart of the stock’s price, find the latest news and research reports, and see other key statistics (more on all this information shortly).
Essentially, a research platform can act as the gateway to the information you need to make informed decisions, and help determine how a potential investment fits with your time frame, investing objectives, and risk tolerance.
2. Assessing the essentials: fundamentals and technicals
If you are the type of investor who likes to really dig into the numbers, it helps to have easy access to this information. Fortunately, stocks listed on exchanges in most developed markets are required to release their financial statements to the public. This information is critical to performing fundamental analysis on a company to determine whether it’s a worthy investment opportunity.
Fundamental analysis is the process of evaluating a company’s business performance and competitive positioning—such as revenues, expenses, earnings, and cash flow. This information—and much more—can be found on Fidelity.com.
A stock's earnings, growth rates, dividend yield, and much more can be found on its snap shot page, along with a helpful comparison against top competitors and industry benchmarks (see the graphic below).
Another method of analysis, known as technical analysis, involves looking at charts to try to detect tradable patterns.
You can do this too on Fidelity.com, as well as on Fidelity’s trading platform for active traders—Active Trader Pro®. Fidelity’s Active Trader Pro® is available to customers trading 36 times or more in a rolling 12-month period.
You can fully customize any chart on Active Trader Pro® with a number of indicators, change time frames, and more. Additionally, Fidelity.com offers “Advanced Chart & Technical Analysis” for listed companies on major exchanges (login required). This feature can be found right above the chart on a stock's snapshot page.
To learn more about how to apply technical analysis to a stock you are researching, you can visit the Viewpoints Active Trader page or the Fidelity Learning Center, or begin by watching a video (see video right).
3. News and research reports
Being aware of potentially market-moving news can make a big difference when you are deciding when to buy or sell a stock. For instance, what if you did all the research you wanted to do, and then a major news report was released, but you didn’t know about it? The news could have a major impact on the stock price—something that could affect your decision to buy or sell the stock.
Having easy access to news reports can be an invaluable resource. On Fidelity.com, there is a dedicated News & Events link for every listed company. A stock’s news feed can be found right next to the chart. In Active Trader Pro®, you have the option of customizing a news feed for the stocks you are watching on your interface—so you don’t miss anything.
There are more ways to access news than ever before. Social media, for example, is increasingly being used by investors to get the latest information. To find out what is being said on social media, consider using the Social Sentiment indicator to see what news is trending. You can also sign up for Stock Twits on a stock's snapshot page to get access to the latest tweets about a particular stock.
Just as news reports can be a market-moving event, so too can analyst research reports. Influential stock analysts—experts whose job it is to focus entirely on a particular sector or industry of the market—often have a valuable understanding of a company. While you may be researching stocks only when you have the time outside of your workday, analysts spend all their working time evaluating these stocks. Consequently, their views often can carry significant weight; analysts can move a stock with their recommendations alone, just like an important piece of news. For companies that have analyst coverage, you can find these ratings on the stock’s snapshot page.
If you’d rather not read through individual analyst research reports on a company, you can find a stock’s Equity Summary Score (ESS) by StarMine® on Fidelity.com. This is a consolidated view of the ratings from a number of independent research providers, all in a single score. This allows you to quickly get a sense of how analysts view a stock at a given point in time. You can find a stock’s ESS on its snapshot page below the chart (Fidelity.com login required).
When it comes to searching for investing ideas, filtering through all the opportunities that are available can be an arduous task—if you don’t have the right tools. Enter the power of the screener.
A screener is a tool that can help you quickly find investing candidates at the click of a button. Screeners sort through the market to find matches based on an array of characteristics. Do you prefer stocks that have strong growth potential, or would you rather look for those that generate a relatively higher level of income payments? A screener can help you narrow the list of stocks that you want to do further research on. Fidelity.com offers a variety of screeners. You can screen for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. And our new screener still enables you to access preset third-party screens that are tailored for specific investment objectives.
While screeners are extremely powerful tools, it’s important to realize that they do not replace the need for further analysis. Just because a stock or other security shows up in a screen you’ve run, that does not mean it is worthy of an investment. Screeners can simply act as an efficient vehicle to get you started down the road looking for opportunities in the market that meet your desired objectives and risk tolerance.
5. Practice and review
Understanding your investing goals and risk tolerance, and knowing how to research stocks and other investments that meet those objectives, is the first step. Where the rubber meets the road is when you actually make an investment, and then how you manage that position over your investing time frame.
As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” One way that you can learn how to make your investments is to practice trade. You can research how a stock or other security trades using a practice trading program.
Fidelity’s practice trading and strategy testing program is Wealth-Lab Pro®. Note that you do not have to be an active trader to utilize this tool. Wealth-Lab Pro® is available on Fidelity.com. It lets you practice buying and selling stocks and other securities so that you can get used to how the market works. If you haven’t traded stocks before, or are looking to improve your trading strategy, a resource like Wealth-Lab Pro® can help you take that next step after doing all your research.
Once you’ve made your investment choices, managing them is critical to being successful. You can use all the tools mentioned above to monitor and research your open positions. There are also ways to determine whether the stocks you’ve researched and chosen are a good mix when looked at as a whole.
Fidelity offers a Planning & Guidance Center, a guidance tool that compares your current portfolio with your target asset mix so you can evaluate areas that may need adjustment. This portfolio-level review can be a great way to see whether the stocks that you’ve researched are collectively meeting your investing objectives. You may also want to consider Fidelity’s Guided Portfolio SummarySM (login required) which can help you break down the investments in your portfolio and identify areas that may need more attention.