People watch stocks for different reasons -- they're waiting for a dip in price, watching for a specific catalyst, gathering all the news and information that might affect stocks they already own, or considering a sell. Regardless of their motivation, we can better understand market sentiment by seeing who's watching what. With the Fool's free My Watchlist service, we have tens of thousands of people telling us the businesses that have, for whatever reason, piqued their interest.

With this data we have come up with a new metric, watch interest, to inform investors what stocks their peers keep tabs on in each industry. In the case of the securities broker industry, watch interest is the percentage of people keeping an eye on securities broker stocks in general who are specifically watching each company. By looking at what stocks people are most interested in an industry, you can get ahead of the curb by finding hot stocks that you might have otherwise overlooked. The industry has been recovering from the debt crisis the past few years, but recently stocks in the industry have been beaten down over declining trading revenue and concerns about politicians not raising the debt ceiling.

The most-watched securities broker stock is...
Looking at the aggregate data, we see that Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) is above the rest in terms of watch interest and for good reason. As CAPS player ThreeOfClubs wrote three weeks ago:

The best company in the financial industry. Goldman hires the smartest, and always stays one step ahead. Good companies are run by good managers. While Goldman's stock may have suffered due to their bad reputation and concerns about future government regulation, they are still bringing clients in. Although no company is immortal, it certainly looks like they will continue to bring in top clients and talent in the near future.

Here are the rest of the top 15 most-watched companies in the industry with their watch interest along with the stocks' CAPS rating to show the sentiment of our investing community.

 

Company

Market Cap (millions)

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Watch Interest

1

Goldman Sachs

$69,418

***

37.7%

2

Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS)

$34,446

**

14.2%

3

E*TRADE Financial (Nasdaq: ETFC)

$3,467

****

12.5%

4

Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCHW)

$18,825

****

7.6%

5

optionsXpress (Nasdaq: OXPS)

$910

****

5.9%

6

TD AMERITRADE (Nasdaq: AMTD)

$10,816

****

2.8%

7

BGC Partners (Nasdaq: BGCP)

$963

****

2.2%

8

Ameriprise Financial (NYSE: AMP)

$14,086

**

2.0%

9

Gleacher (Nasdaq: GLCH)

$261

***

1.7%

10

Magellan Financial Group

$212

****

1.7%

11

Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services (AMEX: LTS)

$288

*

1.4%

12

FXCM (NYSE: FXCM)

$187

*****

1.2%

13

SWS Group (NYSE: SWS)

$200

***

1.2%

14

Jefferies Group (NYSE: JEF)

$4,422

***

0.8%

15

Raymond James Financial (NYSE: RJF)

$4,202

***

0.8%

Source: Motley Fool, Motley Fool CAPS.

Whether you're keeping an eye on the industry stalwarts like Goldman Sachs or are watching an up-and-com er like Gleacher, it pays to watch. We can help you keep tabs on your companies with My Watchlist, our free, personalized stock tracking service. Click here to start now.

Dan Dzombak's musings and articles he finds interesting can be found on his Twitter account: @DanDzombak.

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