As a financial analyst, access to financial data is crucial to perform relevant analysis. Professionals working in the financial field usually have access to all the data they need through a Bloomberg terminal for example. Students also have free access to tons of financial data which they can use to perform their analysis or simply construct their portfolio. For the rest of us, it can sometimes be difficult to access timely and relevant financial information.
Obviously, by difficult I mean pricey since there are tons of websites out there who are more than eager to sell you access to various types of market information. Although it may make financial sense to purchase data if you are in the portfolio management or securities analysis businesses; for CFA candidates, it is a different story.
When studying for the CFA exams, we believe that it is preferable to actually implement the theories rather than just trying to memorize them. This is the practical approach we took in our CFA Level 1 Study Guide. In order to implement the theory you need to have access to raw data such as stock prices, economic variables and financial information. When working with students, I often notice that they do not know where to go online to find those resources without paying.
I will provide here some of my favorite websites to obtain free financial data, which can be used to perform any type of financial analysis. In most cases, the data is downloadable on Excel, which facilitates the analysis. It is clear that one will never be able to access freely the same scope and depth of information as on a Bloomberg terminal for example. However, nowadays, you can get more free info online than most people imagine… One last note before providing you with the websites: some of these sites aim to provide a full range of financial data. However, they are usually not good at everything which is why I use each site for a specific purpose or a certain type of data. For example, Yahoo! Finance is great because you can download historical stock prices on Excel. On the other hand, their charting ability is inferior to many other free sites out there.
The following are the best free financial data resources by category:
Best Charts Website
Tradingview.com allows you to build an interactive chart and add all the technical indicators you can think of. It basically allows all the customization you can wish for and the best thing is that you can save your chart as an image or publish it on Twitter or StockTwits. Another interesting feature is the ability to see comments or events on the chart. This allows you to see who makes the right calls and if you notice someone tweeting that the stock will go downs and it does, you may want to look at their analysis or follow that user. You can sign up for free in order to save your chart. This charting website is the most complete and user friendly I have seen so far.
Although ychart is inferior to Tradingview in terms of charting capabilities, it has the advantage of providing charts and data for both stocks and economic indicators such as GDP or unemployment. You may not import the data to Excel unless you take the Pro subscription but the free version is good enough for most uses.
Best Stock Prices Website
As mentioned earlier, this website is great for its ability to download the historical stock and indices prices. It was once the Mecca of free financial information of all kinds but is now only good for specific things. One of those things is the ability to get information on non-U.S. stocks (although the data is limited for stocks not listed on U.S. exchanges). It is also great for the futures information, including stock index futures. Most of the quotes are also real time which is always nice.
Best Economic Statistics Website
This website has a surprising variety of economic charts and data, including international information such as GDP growth, unemployment rate and government bond yields. The beauty of it is that you may download the data on Excel. They also have a sister website that allows you to build and import economic maps such as the U.S. unemployment rate map by state. The only problem with this site is that some of the data is not current (albeit only for more obscure data such as the Japanese GDP per hour worked which is available only until 2011). Overall, it is the most convenient place to get economic graph for a variety of indicators in many countries.
Best Industry Analysis Website
CSI Market also has an amazing depth of information. Some of the information is available everywhere such as financial ratios and stock price information. However, CSI Market stands out from the crowd by their competitive analysis. They offer great side-by-side comparison of a stock and its sector, including its competitors. Another unique feature is the geographical distribution of sales and other interesting visualizations. In terms of depth and scope of data on a specific industry and stock, it is the best free site I know.
Best Stock Screener
Finviz.com is best know for its breathtaking visualization of S&P 500 stocks which shows you at a glance what the market is doing. They have other interesting “maps” such as the bubbles, and 3D market maps. In my opinion, the best feature of this free website (they also have a paying Elite version) is its stock screener. Although it is mostly restricted to U.S. listed shares (they have a few international stocks), it allows user to screen stock based on an incredibly vast array of fundamental, performance or technical filters. Some of the criteria that you can use to screen stocks are quite interesting such as volatility and optionability. Once you have a list of stock you are satisfied with, you can download it on Excel. Another distinguishing feature is the ability to screen stocks based on technical patterns such as head and shoulders or triangle patterns.
Best ETF Website
This website is, as the name suggests, a database of exchange traded funds. It has information on over 1500 ETFs which can be screened based on asset class, commission, geography, style, leverage or a multitude of criteria. You may also use their already made ETF lists such as the cheapest or most traded ETFs. Since these instruments are now extremely popular and a great diversification tool, new ETFs are coming out every months. Most of them will eventually die due to lack of volume so it is important to have a tool to select the best possible ETF. ETFdb.com is the best site to accomplish that goal in my opinion
I have one last tip for you, which may be useful if you are a “numbers cruncher” type of person. Most of the financial statements of listed U.S. companies are now available on Excel. You can either go on the companies corporate website and download the Excel version of their financial statements or pull it from the SEC database EDGAR. This is free and it allows you to perform ratio analysis and valuation more easily.
We hope these resources will be useful to you. Please note that many of those website were used in compiling the data in our CFA Level 1 Study Guide, which is now available!