For much of the past year, Wall Street has bet and won on Internet-related stocks such as Netscape, Lycos and Yahoo!. The irony is that most of the investors capitalizing on the success of these stocks have yet to grasp how the Internet can enhance their own investing.
Investment information is flooding the ‘Net, mainly on the World Wide Web. If you need to know something, there is a good chance you will find it online if you look in the right places. Here, then, are a few of my personal favorite Web sites, the places I would go first to get that hard-to-find fact or worthwhile insight.
Let’s begin with NETworth (http://networth.galt.com), the most comprehensive investment site I have come across. You have to register to use this site, but this is done online and costs nothing. Registration gives you access to current stock quotes (delayed 15 minutes), a Morningstar database of information on more than 5,000 mutual funds, and a selection of prospectuses published by mutual fund operators. You can also set up and track a personal portfolio, receive experts’ market outlooks, and ask industry professionals investment-related questions.
We start our tour of NETworth in the Fund Atlas section of the “Mutual Fund Market Manager.” The Fund Atlas lets you choose an investment objective, ranging from aggressive growth to certain state-only bond funds, and a time period of three months to ten years. When you have made your selection, the Fund Atlas will provide a list of the top 25 performing funds with your chosen objective during the period you specified.
The Fund Atlas also includes a Comprehensive Fund Search which makes it possible to scan the Morningstar database for specific funds using up to 16 parameters. Here is how I might do a typical search.
Looking For Mr. Goodfund
Except for fund objective, all parameters must be set using numerical minimum and maximum settings. I am indifferent as to which fund objective is considered, so I deselect the default, which is aggressive growth. I want a fund that is managing at least a reasonable amount of assets, therefore I set $25 million as the minimum amount of net assets. Balancing risk and return is crucial, so I ask to see only funds carrying Morningstar’s top rating of five stars. (Morningstar’s ratings consider the fund’s historic returns relative to its volatility, or risk.) I favor no-load funds, so I enter zero as the maximum sales charge. I do not plan to make a large investment, so I set the maximum initial investment at $500. Finally, I really want a winner. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index returned 27% for the year ended April 30, 1996. I enter 27 as the minimum percentage return for one year. Now that I have set all of my parameters, I hit the “Run Query” button.
VOILA! I have found my perfect fund. It is the (Capstone) Medical Research Investment fund. It has $39.24 million in assets, a Morningstar rating of five stars, no sales charge, a low initial investment of $200, and, best of all, its one-year performance as of April 30 was an impressive 62.1%. NETworth provides me with a description of the fund together with some information about how I can contact Capstone.
Now that I have found an interesting fund, I want to review the prospectus. The fund search has given me a telephone number to call, but is there an easier way to get a copy? For some funds, though unfortunately not for Capstone, there is. The Fund Family Directory, also located in the Fund Atlas, lists many mutual fund companies that have placed information about their funds on the NETworth web site. A few of the larger families include Janus, Scudder, Montgomery, and Twentieth Century. With a few mouse clicks you can view or print a prospectus for a fund, or have one sent via the Postal Service. Two more clicks and you have the same options for an application.
Also under the Mutual Fund Market Manager you can find expert opinions and market outlooks. Each week, a portfolio manager from the Montgomery funds group comments on a different investment topic. NETworth users can submit questions or comments to the expert. You also can see a summary of the previous week’s market results and a release schedule of upcoming economic indicators.
Stock Quotes And More
Switching from mutual funds to individual stocks, the NETworth Equities Center provides a free 15-minute delayed quote server. This server lists the last price, the day's high/low price, the volume, and other financial data about individual securities that you input. The Equities Center also lets you design a customized personal portfolio to keep track of your stock and mutual fund investments, provided you know the ticker symbols. You can look up a symbol by clicking on the search option in the quote server.
Click back to the Equities Center to research individual companies at the Investor Relations Resource. This resource, which keeps growing, lists more than 1,500 public companies that maintain web sites.
The Financial Planning Center offers information on investment strategies and articles about investing techniques. Need more information? NETworth compiles a list of investment web sites in “The Insider.” NETworth links you to these web sites with one click of a button. One such site is the Wall Street Journal Interactive.
The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition (http://www.wsj.com) is updated continuously with important news and business items. If you register at this web site before July 31, 1996, you can access it and all the information that it provides free of charge until August 31, 1996. After that, annual subscriptions to the Interactive Edition will cost WSJ print subscribers $29, while non-subscribers will pay $49 per year.
Readers of the newsprint-based Wall Street Journal may ask, “Why do I need to read it again?” Simple question, simple answer. The Interactive Edition is different. For example, the web site provides useful Company Snapshots and Briefing Books. Simply clicking on the name of many publicly held companies produces a page with the most recent stock quote and links to current Wall Street Journal or Dow Jones news about the company. Clicking on the Briefing Book icon displays a company background report that includes financial data, a synopsis of the company, and links to other news items about the company.
Did you miss “Heard on the Street” last Wednesday? You can find it in the interactive Journal, which allows you to search for phrases or words that appeared in the Wall Street Journal or on the Dow Jones news wires in the past two weeks.
If you want more voluminous financial data, surf to the Securities and Exchange Commission EDGAR web site (https://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml). EDGAR enables you to search for all electronic SEC filings during the past three years. This database mostly includes companies’ 10-K and 10-Q reports.
Another excellent, though obviously not unbiased, site is the Fidelity Online Investors Center (https://www.fidelity.com/). This site contains over 2,900 pages of Fidelity investment material. Some attractions include the Net Asset Value area, a mutual fund library, a college cost calculator, a savings personality identifier, and a questionnaire to help suggest a suitable investment asset allocation (the Fidelity FundMatch (SM) Program).
Most of these items are self-explanatory, but the savings personality identifier deserves comment. It asks three questions that supposedly identify your “savings personality.” I, along with 68% of the users of this on-line questionnaire, portray myself as a “planner.” This implies that visitors to the Fidelity web site are not representative of the overall population, because Fidelity maintains that only 21% of us are actually planners. The other categories are strugglers, deniers, and impulsives.
Still need more information? Invest-O-Rama! (http://www.investorama.com) web site is full of useful investment data. This site includes a directory with over 1,900 investment links organized into 24 different categories. Investment articles are also plentiful.
How about on-line trading? E*TRADE Securities (http://www.etrade.com) and a few other investment houses figure that once you are done surfing the 'Net for financial information at 3 a.m., you might want to have a broker take your order on line. E*TRADE charges a base commission of $14.95 for market listed trades of 5,000 shares or less. Over-the-counter trades are $19.95 for 5,000 shares or less. E*TRADE is available around the clock, but your trade will not take place until the markets open.