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A week is a long time in politics. So too for the stock market. As I write, the stock markets have been the subject of considerable change.
A week ago, talks that the Internet bubble had burst were dismissed: today, the markets dropped significantly – the Nasdaq index falling 25 per cent in one week. Only time will tell if the bubble has burst. By the time you read this "dot.flop" could be "dot.success" again! With such fast changes, access to the latest financial information is of importance and an area in which the WWW has capitalised, providing a rich source of information on the financial markets and individual companies.
There are many sources of financial information. The various newspapers and news sites all provide business stories making the headlines. The recently revamped BBC site has a wealth of business news and updates on changes in the market, including prices of key shares, gilts, interest rates, currencies and key stock market indicators, such as the FTSE 100, Nasdaq and Dow Jones.
The London Stock Exchange has its own site (www.londonstockexchange.com), providing useful background information on the exchange, and a searchable database on individual (listed) companies. Taking the companies option enables you to enter free text to find a company, or you can search by a particular market sector. The information is brief, providing some basic facts and figures on market sectors, for example, or market capitalisation and if available, a link to the company's Web site.
For those interested in the high technology sector, a separate section is provided on the techMARK. Companies can be listed individually, by sector or even sub-sector. Again the information is limited, although a direct link in many cases is provided to Hemmington Scott (www.hemscott.com) where a plethora of information is available. The information on this site varies, but as a general rule a five-year financial summary is provided, the latest share price, graphs on the share price, and general company information, including head office details.
Across the water, both the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq have sites (http://www.nyse.com and http://www.nasdaq.com respectively), the Nasdaq being the better of the two. Given that the WWW is more mature in the USA, a greater wealth of information is available from these sites. On the Nasdaq site, details of individual companies is available by keying in the appropriate company name, or its code where known. For example, Microsoft is MSFT and Cisco Systems CSCO. Basic information is provided on stock prices, with links to company news, charts, stock reports, and company fundamentals.
The company news section utilises various sources, including Reuters and Business Wire with links to the stories. The charting facility is very good, and can provide details on prices and volume from "intra-day" (i.e. changes over the duration of a day) or over a period of up to the past 96 months. When viewing the chart, clicking on one of the lines will provide the specific data underlying the chart.
For those wishing to track market changes, historic figures for the Nasdaq as a whole are available to download and date back to 1971. Looking at the more recent figures over the past five years shows the dramatic growth in the index. Other useful information on the site is a list of IPO (Initial Public Offering) filings for the current month. Within this is a link to view previous months' IPOs. Of course, if you get stuck trying to find information, the site map is rather useful, providing links to information under key headings.
The New York Stock Exchange provides a similar level of information to the London Stock Exchange, with background information on the exchange itself and in the individual companies listed.
Moving back to the UK, one of the best financial Web sites – if not the best –has to be The Street (www.thestreet.co.uk), a recently launched site based on the US version, thestreet.com The Street provides all the latest financial news as with other news based sites. The news section is divided into sections including companies, the city and technology. Under these sections are further sub-divisions. A search facility is available to view previous articles that can be e-mailed to a friend, or printed off (using a "printer friendly" version!).
Even if you are unfamiliar with the financial markets, this Web site provides a handy "investor basics" section, with a couple of guides on investment. A glossary of terms is also available ranging from "accepting houses" to "zero coupon". If you want to know what a "naked writer" is, look no further.
One of the great things about The Street is the free e-mail service. Obviously you have to register providing some basic information, though once this is done you can select how to receive the news. I chose the morning and afternoon alert service. The morning service brings in a touch of humour in its review of the market, often a necessity after the daily trudge into work, or if the market has gone pear-shaped!
As with the likes of Nasdaq, information on individual stocks is available. Type in the appropriate symbol or the company name and some basic information is provided on market prices with links to a number of related stories (where applicable). A charting facility is also available, enabling comparisons against various indexes including the FTSE 100, 250 or Techmark. The time frame can also be varied from between one day to five years. A financial summary of the company is also available, though the level of information will vary. As a general guide, the site aims to provide an income statement, balance-sheet, head office details, number of employees and the auditors. Having only been launched recently, thestreet.co.uk has to be a must for anyone with an interest in the financial markets.
Of course, if you want more detailed information on a specific company, then try their own Web site. Most companies these days have an investor relation section, providing background information, news releases on financial status and copies of their annual or interim reports. Most reports are in adobe format, and if you are wishing to view it is often best to download the file (simply click the right-hand button of your mouse on the hyperlink). Some sites are better than others and give the opportunity to view just the financial information, rather than the full glossy brochure.
Other useful sites include:
CNN Financial News – www.cnnfn.com
Yahoo! – www.yahoo.co.uk
Charles Schwab – www.charlesschwab.com
Financial times – www.ft.com
FTSE International – www.ftse.com
CBS Market Watch – www.cbs.marketwatch.com
Nigel AlmondMarket AnalystWeatherall Green & SmithLondonE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(The views expressed are the author's and not those of WG&S.)