Why use a Stock Analysis Service?
The top performers in our review are OptionsHouse, the Gold Award winner; Fidelity, the Silver Award winner; and TradeKing, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 companies.
Stock Analysis Sites
Investing in the stock market is one way of increasing your income, though it comes with risks that hinge on several factors, including economic stability, political tides and business trends. It is, at times, difficult to determine the best time to buy and sell stocks, which is why many people hire brokers to deal with the research and make the trades for them, but hiring a broker costs money that you probably would prefer investing and seeing a return on.
Stock analysis software gives you market analysis tools you need to help guide you through choosing, analyzing and trading stocks and other investments. These services offer you a real-time, technical analysis of stock trends so you don't have to spend hours, days or months doing the research yourself. Both new and well-versed investors can use the customizable features to help make sound investments in their financial portfolio. If you are brand new to the stock market, you may want to look at our Beginner Stock Trading site, which offers services that provide additional educational resources for beginners. If your focus is on more complicated investments, our Options or Forex sites may be good choices for you as well. For more information, have a look at our Online Stock Trading site and our articles on stock analysis software.
Analysis Software: Choose the Best Trading Platform for You
The best choices for stock charting software come down, in part, to the platform, features and functions you want from it. For starters, you can choose from a desktop or an online platform. Each has its pluses and minuses. For example, online platforms are simplistic and easy to use. They often have similar features to desktop platforms, but they are also generally less customizable. However, two of the services we reviewed, OptionsHouse and optionsXpress, are online platforms that include certain elements you can customize to your liking.
Desktop platforms tend to be even more customizable, allowing you to create multiple windows for various watchlists, option chains and streaming quotes. A solid example of a desktop platform is TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim, which is fully customizable, so you can open, close and minimize windows as you need. These are typically more complicated but may also offer additional advanced tools.
All services we reviewed offer typical features, including customizable watchlists, option chains and analytic reports. Most services offer additional features for tracking stocks and analyzing their performance, including volatility reports and risk evaluators. Other tools help you manage your portfolio, such as profit-and-loss calculators.
Best Stock Analysis Service
Beyond the platform itself, the other factor to consider is rates and fees when selecting a stock analysis service. All services charge commission fees for trades, and depending how active you plan to trade, those fees add up quickly. If you plan to order around 10 trades a month, look for a service with a low flat fee, such as TradeKing. If you prefer, some services have a tiered-fee model, such as TradeStation, so the more you trade, the less each trade costs you.
For day traders and others who may choose to borrow funds for investing from their brokers, look at the margin rates, which is the interest you pay against any borrowed amount. The majority of services decrease the rate as your balance increases, but this may not drop significantly until you've borrowed over $100,000.
How We Evaluated Stock Analysis Software
While reviewing stock analysis software, we tested each service to evaluate its functionality and ease of use. In each platform we created option chains, filled out trade tickets, set up watchlists and alerts, and played with the customization of the software. We researched stocks by testing the charting options and analytic tools of each available in each product. Additionally, we downloaded each service’s mobile trading app to evaluate the ease of use and function of researching and investigating funding options via mobile device. We created proprietary scores for both the mobile app and the trading platform.
Our Platform Ease of Use score is an indication of our experiences with the desktop or online platforms. We found that the online OptionsHouse platform was a solid choice altogether as the software is intuitive and simple to navigate. Another good choice is TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim desktop software, though it is slightly more advanced and may be less natural to use than other platforms. However, it does offer more charting analysis choices than any other service on our lineup.
Our Mobile App Functionality score reflects the ease of creating and editing watchlists, performing research and funding accounts via the service’s mobile app. Some mobile platforms are not as easy to use as others, and some apps are not supported on all devices.
No matter how stable a stock may have been in the past, there is always a chance for its performance to change without warning. There is always inherent risk in investing in the stock market for these reasons. Stock charting programs can help you identify past performance and patterns of a stock's behavior, but it can never truly predict whether a stock will rise, fall or remain static. This is obviously not necessarily a deterrent but is a basic fact of the market of which you should be aware. Stocks have less risk than other investment vehicles, such as options, futures and forex. The higher the risk, the higher the potential payoff but also the higher the potential loss.
Our Verdict & Recommendation
The best choice in stock analysis software ultimately comes down to your trading strategy and preference. The platform itself varies greatly from service to service. Online platforms are typically more intuitive, as they are laid out in a familiar website layout, which will be better for beginners and those trading simple stocks and options. optionsXpress offers a solid customizable online platform, while TradeKing's is less customizable but still offers those powerful analytic tools. Desktop platforms, such as TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim, allow for complete customization and better control over what is in constant view, which is better for active and day traders.
If price is a deciding factor, you can choose from a service with low fixed prices or a service with prices that decrease as you trade more. OptionsHouse offers some of the best fixed prices, whereas services like TradeStation work with a tiered pricing model. While you must choose what benefits your trading style, our top choices offer a range of options so you can find the perfect one for you.