The Internet is an overstuffed investor's toolbox full of useful gadgets you never knew were there. Here are 13 examples you can bookmark to complement your go-to online investing resources.
For historical returns
One way to take the stock market's temperature is to look at the price-earnings ratio and dividend yield for a benchmark stock index. The place to find this data for Canada's most widely following indexes is TMX Money, a website for investors that is run by the Toronto Stock Exchange's parent company.
Click on an index name, scroll down the page and you'll find PE and yield data current to the previous market close.
Curious about how much extra yield you can get by investing in preferred shares over financial stocks? The S&P/TSX Preferred Share Index had a yield of 4.9 per cent recently, compared to 4.3 per cent for the S&P/TSX Capped Financials Index. Note: You can invest in both indexes using exchange-traded funds.
Nothing makes the case for diversifying your portfolio like having year-by-year data on the investing categories that have soared and cratered over the years. Think gold is a can't-miss investment? Gold was the best performer among 12 investing categories in 2002, with a gain of 24.4 per cent. In 2003, it was second-worst with a loss of 1.5 per cent and in 2004 it was dead last after losing 3 per cent.
The source of this information is the Periodic Table of Annual Returns for Canadians, which can be found on the Stingy Investor website. The data goes back to 1970, and you can adjust it for before- or after-inflation returns. By the way, Stingy investor is a great website if you're interested in value investing, which essentially means buying the shares of undervalued companies.
The specialty here is stock charting, which you can find on any number of investing websites these days. What's harder to find is a database like the one BigCharts keeps on historical share price data. Yes, Canadian stocks are included. Just type CA: in front of the ticker, as in CA:SU. Stock splits are noted.
It's both illuminating and depressing to look at long-term performance charts for major stock indexes. Oh, to have been an investor in the 1990s, when the Dow Jones industrial average, Nasdaq composite and S&P 500 all soared. Want to see for yourself? Then check out the historical chart gallery on the StockCharts.com website.
Wow, have real estate investment trusts ever done well in the past few years. Small stocks are just the opposite. For investors interested in buying low and selling high, data like this can be quite useful. But where can you find it?
The money management firm PWL Capital has a page on its website where you can download both short- and long-term performance numbers for major stock and bond indexes.
The numbers are updated monthly, and they include both Canadian- and local currency returns for non-Canadian indexes. Check out the long-term numbers for stocks. They're quite impressive, even if the five-year numbers stink.
For researching investments
This website is a clearing house for the plain language information sheets advisers must provide clients buying mutual funds. They're a great starting point if you're researching a mutual fund of any type.
The next step in research a fund is to check out the most recent reports from management on performance, market conditions and top holdings. You'll find them archived on this website, along with similar information from issuers of exchange-traded funds.
Want to see what new ETF products are in the pipeline? Use the search engine on this site to find preliminary prospectuses from the various ETF providers. Sedar is also home to regulatory filings from publicly traded corporations.
TMX Money (again)
If anyone has found an all-around great screening tool for ETFs, let's hear about it. Until then, this screener will suffice thanks to its handy graphic presentation of the various ETF options in various categories, as ranked by cost, diversification, liquidity, tax efficiency and tracking error.
Clearly, preferred shares have some appeal right now because of their comparatively high yields. Problem is, they can be a trap for investors who aren't wise to their many terms and conditions. PrefInfo, maintained by the preferred share specialist James Hymas, is like an online catalogue of preferred share issues that contains pertinent details like the annual dividend amount, maturity and retraction dates, and more.
Some of the entries include hyperlinks to posts from Mr. Hyman's PrefBlog, where he keeps a running commentary on the preferred share market.
It's hard finding a decent yield on a guaranteed investment certificate these days, so active comparison shopping is a must. This website enables you to compare rates available in your home province from both banks and alternative financial institutions.
What if you invest $100 per month for five years at a return of 3 per cent? What if you take more risk and try for 5 per cent?
Every investor needs a go-to online calculator for measuring how money will grow under various possibilities. MoneyChimp is one of the more versatile choices.
Stingy Investor (again)
Looking back at investment returns of the past doesn't tell you a lot about what to expect looking ahead, but it's better than investing blindly.
With the asset mixer tool on this website, you can build portfolios using 12 different categories and see how they would have performed for periods going back to 1970.
Save this for break time. It offers links to key websites in categories such as maps, reference, shopping, travel, sports and, yes, finance.