How to get information on Stocks?

Introduction to Stocks

Up-to-date information is the lifeblood of stock trading. What was once reported on ticker tape is now completely electronic.

Investors - both individual and institutional - can follow the ups and downs of the stock market, and the minute-to-minute changes in a stock's price, all day long if they wish. That information is featured on dozens of broadcast and cable television programs, on business radio and increasingly on interactive websites with their frequently colorful combination of words, numbers, and graphics.

While current trading information is only part of what you need to make long-term investment decisions, it is an example of the openness and accessibility of US markets.

Online Research
Much of the information you need to choose stocks and build a portfolio is available online - some of it for free and some of it when you open a brokerage account.

Thousands of corporate and financial websites, newsletters, FAQs, and online forums provide comprehensive market information, from background reports on virtually every publicly traded stock to economic analyses and vital market statistics. Many online financial publishers will even send you a newsletter tailored to your exact specifications and interests, whether you want information on certain companies, particular market indexes, or late-breaking news on the stocks in your portfolio.

Public corporations must file an annual 10-K report with the SEC, providing comprehensive financial details. They also file quarterly updates, or 10-Qs.
One of the most comprehensive resources available for investors is the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) website ( SEC filings for every publicly traded company are available from its EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system) database.

The role of the SEC - In the wake of the stock market crash of 1929 and the stock-trading scandals that it exposed, the US government created the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1934. Its mission is to regulate the securities markets. When necessary, the SEC enforces securities law with various sanctions, from fines to prosecution. Simply put, the SEC role is twofold:

    * To see that investors are fully informed about securities being offered for sale
    * To prevent misrepresentations, deceit, and other types of fraud in securities transactions

The SEC also monitors insider trading, which occurs when corporate officers buy or sell stock in their own company. Their trading decisions are influenced by what they know about the company's inner workings and its prospects.

It is perfectly legal for officers to buy and sell their company's stock as long as they follow certain rules and report their trading activity. In fact, tracking legitimate insider trading can be a valuable indicator of which way a stock price is heading.

But corporate officers - or their legal or financial advisers - are aware of potential problems or events that could affect the price of the company's stock. If they manipulate trading to profit from the information before it is released to the public, that insider trading is illegal. So are efforts to hide trading by having a third party - such as a relative - buy or sell for them. People who trade on information they receive from corporate officers or their representatives may also be charged with insider trading.

Ticker Tape - Before the development of computers and electronic media, the ticker tape was the broker's lifeline. (The first one was installed in 1867 and rented for $6 a week.) The tape listed the latest prices and the size of every stock transaction almost as quickly as prices changed.

These days, it's tough to find actual ticker tape on Wall Street - or anywhere else - since the information is provided electronically. Even the ticker tape parades in lower Manhattan have crowds tossing shredded computer printouts and confetti.
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