Research Resources
Places to go online

by George Runkle (TMFRunkle)

VENICE, ITALY (June 21, 1999) -- It used to be if you wanted to research investments, you needed to take a trip to the library and spend a couple of hours looking for the information. While the library is still a good place to go, much information can be found right over the Internet. So, in this column I'd like to cover some of the best places to go online.

First, in an act of blatant self-promotion, let me mention what we provide right here at The Motley Fool's site. You can get more than the latest stock quote in our "quotes/data" area (which you can reach from the top menu bar or from the quick box on the upper left-hand corner of the main page). You can find the latest news on the stock, earnings estimates, a chart of stock price movements, a company snapshot, and some of the key financials. The snapshot area is great because it provides some crucial measures, like Gross Margin, Long Term Debt/Equity Ratio, and other calculations that can help you quickly evaluate a company. Just now I discovered Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) had a Gross Margin of 70.32% recently, and I didn't even have to put numbers in my spreadsheet. The financials are abbreviated, but they give you some crucial growth rates (such as earnings and sales growth).

Now, what if you want more information? Let's say you want to review the last 10Q report (the company's quarterly report filed with the SEC). Where do you look? Yep, right here in Fooldom. All you have to do is type in the company's ticker and then click on "more info" on the right-hand side of the screen. The next screen comes up with "SEC Filings" and from here you can get the 10Q report in one click, or any of the other filings. The report comes up in an easy-to-read format, and it's also no problem to go directly to where you want to be in the typically long reports. In the older SEC Edgar database you had to page through all sorts of stuff before you found what you wanted, but those were the Dark Ages (about a year ago).

So, now I've brought you through some pretty thorough stuff and you haven't even left our site. You've found a number of financial ratios and percentages, estimates, news, an overview of financials, and detailed SEC filings. Is there anything else? Yep, there is a few things left to look at. You're a Drip investor, aren't you? How do you deal with the taxes, how do you invest in them, and what is a Drip? Check this out: http://www.fool.com/DRIPPort/DRIPPortInfoLinks.htm. OK, it's another link on our site. I'm guilty!

So far I've probably helped you find just about all the information you need. What? You need to find Drip companies and what they require for investments? Well, we have to leave the Fool for a minute for that. Try www.netstock.com -- hey, you can even buy into many plans directly through them. Finally, what if you are just about researched out but want to talk about your potential purchases. Try our message boards. I'd start with the Drip board. From there, you can go to boards for individual companies.

The opportunities online are quite significant really. Only a few years ago the amount of research that you can now find via the Internet would take you a couple of hours in a library, not to mention that in the library you probably would have had to settle for less-than-current information. Still, the library has Value Line, which is valuable for researching stocks. And if you have some old stock certificates your great-grandfather left you, check out Scudder Manual of Extinct or Obsolete Companies to get the depressing news (like I did recently). If he left you anything with the name "Trapshooter Reilly" on the certificate, don't bother looking; it's worthless. I already checked.

So, there is still some use to going to the library. Besides it's nice to get out and get away from the computer every now and then.

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