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3 Stock Screening Tools Every Investor Should Know About

By Motley Fool Staff - May 1, 2018 at 7:18AM

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Effective -- and free to use -- these screeners have something for everyone. Here's what you need to know.

In this segment from Industry Focus, Motley Fool analyst Vincent Shen and senior contributor Asit Sharma share their take on the best, free stock screeners for investors who are eager to narrow down the universe of publicly-traded companies.

Find out the strengths (and weaknesses) of each option and how they can help you identify winning ideas for your investment portfolio.

A transcript follows the video. For the full episode, click here.

This video was recorded on April 24, 2018.

Vincent Shen: We've established a basic understanding of the filters at our disposal. Now, I want to quickly look at the tools that are available for screens. If you perform a quick Google search, you'll find lots and lots of websites that offer screening tools. But based on our research, the three top offerings are from Zacks, Yahoo Finance, and Finviz. Before we go any further, Fools, if you're on the run and you're unable to write the information for these down, don't worry, just send a note to and I'll forward you links to the screeners, along with some notes on what each one has to offer. Again, that's, just send us an email and I'll make sure to hook you up with that.

All three services are free to use. They allow you to create screens and save them for future reference, which is really helpful if you want to see how the field of results changes over time, whether certain companies that you've been looking at still meet the criteria that you set. And overall, I think they offer a pretty robust set of criteria for filtering your results. Asit, I think you're a little bit more familiar with these than I am. Any big differences that you've noticed that are worth pointing out between the three?

Asit Sharma: Just going to briefly run through the major differences. Zacks is great for first-time users, because after you get through the first four or five premium screens that it has, which you have to subscribe to their service to use, the next eight are very clearly laid out, and they work through the same basic parameters and overview that we've been talking about in this whole episode. So Zacks is a good one to start with.

Yahoo Finance is surprisingly robust. It tends to follow the three basic financial statements. It also has, if you're an investor who's concerned about environmental sustainability, you can sort for ESG -- that's environmental, social and governments metrics -- in their screen. I think that's pretty interesting. Very few screens have that.

Finviz has a little bit of a busy layout, but it's good for on the go. So if you're the type of investor who's working hard all day at your job and you just have a few minutes to grab a sandwich at lunch and an idea pops in your head, go to Finviz. As I said, it's a little bit of a compressed layout, a little busy, but you can quickly put in your parameters based on very broad ideas that you have, and you can get results spit out, which is then easy to bookmark, maybe, for later use.

So, Zacks for learning; Yahoo to delve further; and Finviz if you're on the run. But all three are great, comprehensive, and you can't go wrong playing with any of the three.

Shen: Alright. I'll just say, if I had to pick a personal favorite, I think I would go with Finviz, in terms of what you mentioned, as the on-the-go option. I don't think it offers as many filter criteria for your screen, but I really like how they present the results in that you can curate them according to specific focuses. So there's an output that's focused on valuation, another that's focused on financials, another on price performance, and there's other options, too. And it will basically spit out columns with metrics that are specific to each of those categories. So a really interesting look if you're, in one case, if you're focused on the valuation, you can look at that; otherwise, if you're worried about debt levels, you can look at the financials. So there's some really cool presentations for your screen results there.

And the last thing I'll mention in terms of the tool belt and the resources available to you for screens is that a lot of online brokers will actually provide investing tools, including screeners, as well. So make sure you check if your broker has something to offer, as well. And then, if through your job or your office or whatever, you have access to premium tools like Capital IQ or FactSet or a Bloomberg terminal, those can be amazing resources as well. Capital IQ, we're able to use those here at Fool HQ, and that's my go-to resource for screens.

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