Saturday, May 18, 2013

Morningstar

Many investors are familiar with Morningstar, a research firm that provides information and analysis on stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments. I often visit their website when performing due diligence on stocks because it provides a lot of useful information, such as nicely organized historical data about companies. Morningstar gives ratings of a company's growth, profitability, and credit, as well as an overall rating (from 1 to 5 stars) based on a proprietary system for determining fair value and projecting returns. All this information is available for free on their website.

Morningstar also has a Premium program that gives subscribers access to extra information about companies, detailed analyst reports, a comprehensive stock screener, and a few other features. A Premium Membership costs well over $100 per year, with the exact amount depending on the length of the subscription. As a small-time investor who aims to minimize expenses, I try to perform my due diligence through the exclusive use of free resources, so I do not subscribe to the Premium program.

However, about two months ago I discovered that I can get free online access to Morningstar's Premium features through my local public library. I just log into my account on my library's website, go to their list of online databases, and visit Morningstar from there. Some extra information about companies shows up when I visit their Morningstar pages, I get complete access to downloadable analyst reports (besides fundamental data, they also include commentary and bullish/bearish points about a company), and I can use the stock screener (which allows me to filter by star rating, economic moat, 5-year dividend growth rate, and dozens of other criteria). All these features nicely augment my approach to due diligence.

The point of this post is to recommend that others check to see whether their public libraries provide free access to Morningstar's Premium features. In my case, the Morningstar link is buried a few levels deep on my library's website and easy to miss, which is why I never noticed it until I spent some time exploring the website in depth a while ago. I wish I had stumbled upon this resource back when I started investing, but at least I know about it now.

As a final note, public libraries also have other investing resources. The vast majority of the investing books I read (and review on this blog) are from my library. The branch closest to where I live has a print copy of the Value Line investment survey, which provides nice one-page summaries about companies. On a few occasions I have spent an hour or two perusing the Value Line reports when searching for potential future investments. My library also has the latest issues of the Wall Street Journal, Barron's, and various financial magazines (Forbes, Fortune, Kiplinger's, Money, etc.). Thus, the public library can be an excellent place for free investing research.

7 comments:

  1. DGM,
    Thanks for the post. I'm fortunate that my library makes the online versions of both Morningstar and Value Line available to its patrons. These are both wonderful services (as you mentioned) and they help condense the research time. I subscribed to the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) a couple years ago and they provide a very informative monthly newsletter as well as a robust stock screening platform. It is relatively inexpensive and has been well worth the cost and then some. I'm in no way affiliated with the AAII, but thought I'd throw it out there to see if you had any experience with this newsletter. Best wishes!

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    1. Goosemann: Thanks for your comment. It would be nice if my library had Value Line online, but I don't mind browsing the hard copy. Thanks for the tip about AAII; I'll check it out.

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  2. DGM, I didn't know one can access Morningstar data thru the library. I am subscribed to their premium membership and I consider it worth doing it. 190 a year or so isn't that much and the information I can get helps me a lot to get the detailed information and analysis on a stock of my interests without needing to go to my local Library. I can get the info anywhere I go and have access to the internet. It is really worth it (to me).

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    1. Martin: My library actually allows remote online access to Morningstar, so I can do it from home or anywhere else. I just go to my library's website, log in with my library card number, and navigate to the Morningstar link. It's really convenient. The library does limit access to Morningstar to five simultaneous users, but I've never had trouble logging on, so I doubt the limit is reached often.

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  3. I go to my local library to look over the Value Line surveys. I'll have to see if they have access to the Morningstar service online. They have online access to Value Line but I believe you have to go to the library to access so I just look through the hard copies.

    I agree though, the library can be a great resource for investors to access some good financial information without having to pay the high subscription fees. Personally I really like Value Line but couldn't afford to subscribe. So pleased that libraries offer the subscription. I'll have to check out Morningstar.

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    1. Dan: I checked but I don't think my library has online access to Value Line. However, I don't mind walking over there (5 minutes from my home) to look at the hard copy.

      I'm interested to see what investing resources are at the public library in the new city where I'll soon be living. Hopefully they also have subscriptions to Value Line and Morningstar.

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