Who doesn’t want to be the person who hit it right on a hot stock and made big money? If you are interested in investing in individual stocks and trust your ability to analyze, understand what you buy and beat the market, you may want a stock picking service to help you narrow down from the list of thousands of possible stocks to the few you may want to buy.
This guide explains the pros and cons of some top free stock picking services. Read on to learn more about which free stock picking service may best meet your needs.
Should You Even Be Buying Single Stocks?
Before we get into the big questions about free stock picking services, it is important to address the elephant in the room. Should you even buy single stocks? Take a look at this article on leaving investing to the professionals to think about the reasons you may want to skip buying stocks and instead invest in index funds, mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs).
Warren Buffett just won a 10-year bet that the S&P 500 would outperform hedge funds, which are run by full-time investment professionals. Over the last 15 years, 92.2% of large-cap funds underperformed compared to the S&P 500. In mid-cap and small-cap funds, only about 5% of fund managers beat the markets.
If these people, who spend their entire professional career in the stock market, can’t beat the markets, why do you think you can do better? I have a small portfolio of single stocks. I use techniques I learned earning two finance degrees to decide if I should buy or sell stocks. But even with my background I still have some big losers in the portfolio. Think very hard before you rush to invest in single stocks. In most cases, investing in index funds is a better decision.
That said, if you do want to get into the world of buying single stocks, these stock picking services can help you get off to a better start in finding those undervalued stocks that are poised to make your portfolio pop.
What Is a Stock Picking Service?
Stock picking services are services designed to help investors choose the best stocks for their portfolio. They come in a variety of forms, each with its own pros and cons. Some stock picking services are curated and quite expensive. Others are more automated and come in at a lower cost. Some are even free.
It is easy to find expensive, paid stock picking services. Some popular paid programs include Dow Theory, Jason Bond Picks, and Jim Cramer’s Action Alerts Plus from The Street. These services all employ human investment professionals who analyze and report to members which stocks they recommend. These services are a great way to learn about the stock market. But not everyone wants to pay for investment advice.
Free stock picking services are generally not as high quality as paid ones. (Sometimes you get what you pay for.) But they can still help you screen through the noisy markets to choose the right investments for your portfolio.
The Best Free Stock Picking Services
Stock screeners are tools that allow you to input a specific set of criteria to create a list of qualifying stocks. From there, you can do individual stock analysis to decide which should go on your buy list.
Zacks Stock Screener — Zacks is a well-known stock research company. Their screener allows you to quickly sift through US-based stocks using an array of fundamental metrics. One included metric is book value per share, a favorite metric Warren Buffett uses to value companies for Berkshire Hathaway. A paid subscription adds a few features, but the free version is a top stock market screening tool.
Google Finance Stock Screener — Sometimes you just want to keep things simple. That’s what the Google Finance stock screener is best for. It doesn’t have as many filters and features as Zacks, but it is quick to use and has a familiar, clean interface regular Google users know and love.
Big investment banks like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street names, big and small, employ legions of analysts to best pin a target price on stocks. Some analysts with similar skills write for free blogs and investment news sites. Here are some top options.
Seeking Alpha — This mega investing site includes a huge array of articles. Reading full articles requires registering a free account. The price is right! Seeking Alpha writers are quoted all over the media. Analysis here includes detailed stock market reporting and tips on why specific stocks look good right now. You can also read about investment strategy and market news.
24/7 Wall St — This large investing site offers free analysis and other articles on finance and business topics. The site is part of the AOL-HuffPost family of sites. That means most of what is written here is well-vetted and trusted content. But remember to never take someone else’s word for it. Follow their analysis, but make your own decision before entering a trade.
Minyanville — This long-time investing site offers some premium paid products, but much of the stock picking goodness is available for free. The authors here do a great job of being transparent and detailed when sharing why a stock may make sense or should be dropped right away.
Social Stock Picking
If you want to cast a wider net and learn what other investing enthusiasts are up to, you can join a social investing service. Here are two free and fun options to connect with other excited investors.
KINFO — Join KINFO and connect your existing brokerage account to get started with this free stock picking app. Once you log in, you can compare your portfolio to those of professional investors and hedge funds and get other details on stocks you own and ones you are interested in. You can also browse other user portfolios, including some well-known personal finance bloggers. (Read our KINFO review here.)
StockTwits — If KINFO is Facebook for investing, StockTwits is certainly Twitter for investing. Instead of the usual hashtags used to create a #topic on Twitter, StockTwits uses dollar signs to help you follow stocks by their ticker symbols. Watch the real-time feed or click on a specific stock to see what people have been saying about it. Sign up to track your portfolio in StockTwits, and create a watchlist for specific stocks.
There Is a Ton of Free Investment Information out There
Before the internet, you had to read a book to learn about investing. These days, you can just type a stock into Google to get a plethora of knowledge at your fingertips. When looking at these services, don’t forget about the research and information your own broker provides too! As long as you approach your investments with common sense, detailed analysis and a healthy dose of caution, you are setting yourself up for investment success.