Do It Yourself Investing: Google Finance

As one can well imagine throughout the Financial Fiasco, letting the Financial community handle your investments has become both financially risky and intellectually stressing. So I am now doing do-it-yourself investing. Thus I am responsible for tuning and diversifying the portfolio with returns and risks managed to longer term goals. And being a Web developer with pronounced Open Source leanings – it has been natural to use as many free and/or Open Source financial investment tools as I could find. Let me tell you I was surprised at the diversity and quality of the tools available. And despite this richness, there has been a clear winner – the base tool for all my financial valuations and research is Google Finance:

What make the Google Financial tools so useful is not the just the charts , portfolios and stock summaries but specifically how  news is linked to the price charts. Many details of working with Google Finance have been well thought out. For example when using the Charts+News page  there is a “universal” Get the Quotes button with textfield at the top of the form which is the new standard for doing a company or ticker lookup. Enter either the name of the company or the ticker symbol and as you type it in Google Finance guesses what company or stock ticker you mean. Its very fast and very helpful – not like so many financial websites that have a separate look-up for ticker symbols and another for the corporate business names.

Next, the chart is dynamic – really so! As you move your mouse over the top part of the chart, Google tells you the date, price and volume for each blip in the chart. Next the chart can be grabbed and pulled to the right or left just like a Google Map. Next the chart’s timeline can be expanded or contracted by dragging the the sliders that appear in the Volume chart in the right corner when you mouse over that. Just drag and drop the sliders to change the chart’s timeline from showing a hourly range to daily to monthly, etc. But the piece de resistance is the news tabs.
Google uses its search data capabilities very smartly. In the right hand column it shows alphabetically tabbed news stories about the stock in question. It then attaches to the chart the letter tab of the news item according to the time and date when the story was published(see the A and C tabs in screenshot above). This then allows a user to see what the reaction of the market was to each news item for that stock. Very very useful because Google is on top of the latest news. Finally, the charts can have overlays of other stocks and standard market indicators.

On the downside, unless stocks are on the US markets (at least as ADRs) or the Canadian TSE  -Google Finance will likely not find them. Also a number of specialized US financial instruments and their pricing are not shown. And finally, I have found that key financials and ratios  just may not appear at all – particularly for  Canadian and foreign ADR stocks.

Still Google Finance  is a superb tool when used in conjunction with portfolio, stock screener, and other valuation tools. It has one key advantage – the huge search capabilities of Google. But the really remarkable achievement is the sophistication and ease of use of the UI-User Interface. Google has rightly been criticized in its minimalist approach to most of its UIs – GMail is easily topped by Zoho Mail and others for UI features. But this combo chart/news/infobar is a quiet masterpiece and makes it the top notch feature of Google Finance. And in turn this makes Google Finance a must use website as part of your free, do-it-yourself investing.

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