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Best Stock Screening Tools on the Web

By Jim Fink on May 17, 2012

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How does one pick stocks to invest in? One great way is to find a knowledgeable and talented investment advisor such as those we have here at Investing Daily. You just can’t find better investment talent than Investing Daily‘s team of fundamental analysts. So, at least for the bulk of your “serious” money, sticking with the experts is the way to go.

But if you’re like me, you are also somewhat of a “do-it-yourselfer” and enjoy getting down and dirty investigating and analyzing potential investment ideas of your own. As I wrote in How to Pick Industry Sectors, there are two main ways to pick stocks: (1) top-down, where you start by analyzing macroeconomic themes and then zero in on individual stocks that fit those themes; and (2) bottom-up, where you focus on analyzing individual companies and select a portfolio of stocks based solely on their individual business performance without regard to their industry sector.

Top-down investing requires the mind of a philosopher, economist, scholar, and industry expert. It’s best left to professionals who have the time to see the big picture and forecast the future.  But bottom-up investing is more manageable, especially if you’ve isolated a fixed set of fundamental and technical criteria that you can screen for over a universe of stocks.

This segues beautifully into today’s topic: the best stock screening tools on the web that are FREE.

1.  Best General Stock Screener

My choice for best general stock screener is Finviz.com. It’s got a tremendous number of data fields that you can select for filtering, ranging from descriptive (e.g., market cap, industry sector) to fundamental (e.g., PE ratio, return on equity) to technical (e.g., crossing above 50-day moving average, head and shoulders pattern). If my employer didn’t provide me access to a Bloomberg terminal, Finviz would be my first stop in stock screening.

A few years ago, my answer would have been MSN Deluxe Stock Screener. But Microsoft (NasdaqGS: MSFT) in its infinite stupidity decided to discontinue this fabulous free tool back in November 2009. All that’s left is a hybrid fundamental/technical stock screen called Stockscouter.

2. Best Earnings Surprise/Revision Screener

Chicago-based Zacks Investment Research believes in the predictive power of a company’s earnings momentum. Specifically, a company’s stock has a tendency to rise after reporting earnings that are higher than analyst estimates, as well as after analysts raise their earnings estimates for an upcoming quarter. If you agree, then you’ll love Zacks.com’s stock screens for earnings surprises and earnings revisions.

3. Best Mutual Fund Screener

Morningstar is no surprise here. It’s not as good as Morningstar’s premium fund screener (duh), but it provides access to Morningstar’s five-star rating system, as well as expense ratios, equity style, and management tenure. Not bad, and the price is right.

4.  Best ETF Screener

Morningstar wins again. Its database is comprehensive with 1458 ETFs. Once you get past the initial introductory page (I normally just click the “results” tab without imposing an initial filter), you can sort the entire ETF database by a number of data fields, including expense ratio, market return, Sharpe ratio, standard deviation, dividend yield, etc. I can’t stress enough the importance of the sort function. Without that, it wouldn’t be nearly half as useful. With one click, I discover that the ETF with the highest dividend yield is Market Vectors Uranium & Nuclear Energy (NYSE: NLR) at 12.18% and the ETF with the cheapest expense ratio is Vanguard Total Stock Market (NYSE: VTI) at 0.05% per year.

5.  Best Seasonality Screener

It’s hard to find a tool on the web that tells you which stocks perform best during particular months of the year. In fact, I am aware of only two, so they win: equityclock.com and hybridtechnical.net. Unfortunately, even these tools don’t give you a ready-made list of best-performing stocks in a given month; you must input your own individual stock symbols and see how they have performed in each month of the year. Better than nothing, and if you input enough tickers, you’re bound to find one that performs well in the upcoming month.  For example, through trial and error, I’ve discovered that Oracle (NasdaqGS: ORCL) performs best in the month of June, which is coming up in a couple of weeks.

6.  Best Popularity-Contest Screener

Motley Fool CAPS rates stocks on a 1-5 scale based on the “outperform” and “underperform” votes of its 74,000 players. The more players that vote a stock “outperform,” the higher the stock’s rating and vice versa. Popular stocks sometimes do well in momentum-driven bull markets, but usually get slaughtered in choppy or bear markets. Consequently, I don’t think rating stocks by popularity contest has any value over a full market cycle, so I ignore the CAPS stock ratings. But the CAPS screener lets you dig deeper and focus only on the “all-star” voters – those people whose stock picks have outperformed at least 80% of the other players – and I like to see what stocks these all-stars have given “thumbs up” to.

7.  Best Mechanical Investing Screeners

Sometimes it’s better to rely on proven stock screening strategies and not try to reinvent the wheel. Weekly posts by rebel2011 (screen definitions) (Value Line data fields) and LonghornBoy (screen definitions) (AAII Stock Investor Pro data fields) provide you with several weekly stock screens that have been back-tested and proven to perform well – if you buy all of the top ten stocks in the screen. No cherry-picking allowed, because that would negate the screens’ back-tested performance numbers. Value Line screens focus on large-cap stocks and the AAII SIPro screens focus on smaller-cap stocks. Backtest.org and keelix.com provide back-tested performance results for the Value Line and AAII SIPro screens, respectively.

8.  Best Dividend Screener

Dripinvesting.org isn’t really a screener, but it provides a monthly updated list of stocks that have increased their annual dividends for at least 25 consecutive years. In these uncertain times, dividend consistency is reassuring.

[Related: Stock screen uncovers 5 high-yield stocks set to rise]

9.  Best Value Stock Screeners

A value stock screen based on academic research sounds good to me, so I like to check out the Value 40 screen developed at the University of Michigan business school. I also like a small-cap value screen that uses data points that make sense to me (e.g., high insider ownership, strong returns on invested capital).

  • Editors note: If you’re a DIY value investor like me, check out my Undervalued Stocks report, which uncovers the 4 secrets to finding great value investments. 

10. Best Closed-End Fund Screener

Cefconnect.com has a screener for closed-end funds (CEF) that is similar to Morningstar’s ETF screener. If you click on “select all” and press “submit” you get a list of its entire CEF database of 623 names. Then you can sort by data fields such as premium/discount (very important) and distribution rate. When you click on a CEF of interest, it takes you to a page that lets you compare the annual price performance of that CEF against the performance of a relevant peer group. Useful stuff.

11.  Best Options Screeners

Since I’m an options fanatic, I couldn’t end this article on stock screens without talking about options screeners as well.

Yahoo! Finance and MarketWatch offer scaled-down versions of options tools from Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCHW) subsidiary Optionetics: (1) a “Trade Search” that provides recommended options strategies based on your directional bias; and (2) an “Options Screener” that ranks by option volume, put/call ratios, and changes in historical and implied volatility.

The Optionetics website ranks stock options by comparing their current implied volatility compared to their 52-week range, so you know which options are expensive (i.e., good candidates for selling) and which are cheap (i.e., purchase candidates).

Schaeffer’s Research also provides some options tools. My favorite is the Schaeffer put/call open interest ratio (SOIR). You input a ticker symbol and it spits out the SOIR and what percentile of its 52-week range it represents. For example, if you input Oracle you discover that its SOIR is 0.94, which is near its upper-end level of the past year (i.e., 76th percentile). 

If you’re a contrarian, a 76th-percentile SOIR suggests over-pessimism and Oracle may go much higher until that pessimism fades. This coincides nicely with the seasonality screener mentioned above which says that Oracle performs best in June. We’ll have to wait and see whether these two screens are right to be bullish right now.

McMillan Analysis Corp. offers a “probability of expiration” calculator, as well as implied-volatility data on stocks, including 52-week high/low percentiles.

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Stock Talk

  1. avatar
    pkneeland78 Reply August 27, 2014 at 11:46 PM EDT

    Hello, looking for a fundamental stock screener (free or paid) that can give me % change in EPS, % change in sales, and % change in profit margins Qtr. over Qtr. for the last 4 quarters (example: %chg from this Qtr to last Qtr, last Qtr to 2 Qts ago, 2qts ago to 3qts ago, and so on). Any help in pointing me in the right direction would be a HUGE help, and I would be EXTREMELY grateful. Thanks for the info on your site, it’s been very useful (unlike most of the junk out there). Keep up the good work!

  2. Clint Box Reply June 8, 2014 at 10:49 AM EDT

    I like that Finviz can easily be exported into Excel, where I can do my own calculations and filtering, to identify what I believe are good value stocks. However, I’ve noticed a number of the values, from time to time, do not match screeners on other websites. Also, some values are missing but available on the other sites. Has Finviz data been reliable in your experience? Lots of people recommend it as their “number one” screener but I wonder if anyone has done analysis to see, on average, how many times the data is wrong. Thanks!

  3. avatar
    shunts Reply August 4, 2013 at 2:26 PM EDT

    I need a code to write on my stoc kcharts that will screen for higher highs on a daily bases… also I need a code to write on my stock charts that will screen for lower lows on a daily bases.. I can’t find any books that will teach me how to write codes so I figure maybe someone will know how to write a code or help me somehow.

    Thanks,

    Shirley
    rushed@comcast.net

  4. avatar
    Mikota Reply June 13, 2013 at 2:00 PM EDT

    Hello Sir,

    Is there any futures/commodities screener (specialized for futures purposes) that you might recommend?

    Mikota

  5. avatar
    Siva Reply May 4, 2013 at 10:07 AM EDT

    I am a new investor and reading What Works on Wall Street. Found the strategy: Value Composite that best suits me. Could you please advise me which software to use to screen for the All Universe stocks($200M and above) in decile 1 for:
    1. Price to book
    2. Price to Earnings
    3. Price to Sales
    4. EBITDA/EV
    5.Price to Cash flow
    6. Shareholder yield

    • Jim Fink
      Jim Fink Reply May 4, 2013 at 10:16 AM EDT

      Hi Siva,

      As I discussed in my book review of James O’Shaughnessy’s fourth edition of What Works on Wall Street, the Value Composite is impossible to replicate using publicly-available screeners. The only way to run this screen is by subscribing to several incredibly expensive databases (Standard & Poor’s Compustat and the Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP) equity database) and software packages (FactSet and SAS).

      http://www.investingdaily.com/14670/what-works-on-wall-street-and-trending-value-best-stock-screen-of-all-time/

      Best,

      Jim

  6. John McNally Reply April 9, 2013 at 11:25 PM EDT

    Hi Jim,
    Superb article. When looking at stock data, I’ve noticed differences between Finviz and Morningstar. Is one more reliable than the other?

    Thanks,
    John

    • Jim Fink
      Jim Fink Reply April 10, 2013 at 1:04 AM EDT

      Hi John,

      I can’t prove it, but in my personal experience Morningstar data is more reliable.

      Best,

      Jim

  7. avatar
    Lenny Grover Reply March 11, 2013 at 1:10 PM EDT

    Screener.co is not free (it costs $24.95/month after a 30 day trial) but it is much more powerful and reliable than the stock screeners listed in this article. With over 1,000 pre-built variables and the ability to define custom variables, it is much more flexible than even the FinViz paid screener. It also supports global markets in addition to US exchange-traded and OTC stocks. The underlying data set is Reuters Fundamentals, so it is very accurate.

    Full Disclosure: I am the founder of Screener.co so I’m a bit biased :-).

    Thanks,
    Lenny Grover
    Founder/CEO
    FinToolbox/Screener.co

  8. avatar
    Sallie Marsico Reply January 31, 2013 at 4:26 AM EDT

    Excellent information.
    Finviz.com screening choices provided me with WRLS,
    which has done well.

  9. avatar
    ling Reply December 28, 2012 at 8:45 AM EDT

    Do you know any options software has the function to screen different strategies in the past and test the strategies from that date? I know optionetics has that function but they don’t accept new clients anymore since Charles Schwab acquired the company. I like the functionality of back screening and back testing OPTIONS strategies and see how it changes date after date. Most software don’t do that. Some back testing software only calculates the overall performance during the period of time.

  10. avatar
    John Reply December 21, 2012 at 3:24 PM EDT

    Very useful article

  11. avatar
    Ro Mora Reply September 18, 2012 at 9:15 PM EDT

    Anybody can advise me where to find a software where we can identify best stocks based on seasonality. In other words, to find the stocks that go up or down during the next 2 months taking some basic criteria how, such as volume, number of years that the had such behavior during the 2 months, etc. Thank you.

  12. avatar
    joseph oliver Reply July 29, 2012 at 9:01 PM EDT

    Very useful info. I’m a novice at investing. However, I do have a good understanding of the macro economic factors that affect the valuation of equities on a daily basis. Since the market discounts the news on any given stock way ahead it becomes public it is almost impossible to capitalize on whatever impact those news have on the price of the equity being affected. I tend to favor more a “top down” approach to stock picking.

  13. avatar
    Art Winters Reply May 19, 2012 at 7:52 PM EDT

    Where is the best Screener if I want to find the PEG Ratio of a Stock?

    Art

  14. avatar
    Marjorie Erlinger Reply May 19, 2012 at 10:27 AM EDT

    Is this the same stock analysis program offered by Scottrade or NAIC?

  15. avatar
    wie Reply May 18, 2012 at 7:29 AM EDT

    Daer sir
    A GOOD BOND SCRENER?
    Thanks