The best stock screener allows investors to quickly filter through thousands of stocks using their own unique criteria. It could be something as simple as a P/E ratio or dividend yield range. But most stock screens use several variables just to find that perfect stock for your portfolio. When you know what you’re looking for, the right stock screener will cut your research time from hours to seconds.
Back in the olden days (the early 90′s), the average investor had to pore over volumes of Standard and Poor’s. It could take hours or even days to find a stock that met your standards. Then the internet came along and knocked the time down to nanoseconds. You could spend a few minutes entering your search criteria and a second later it would spit out a list of stocks. If the list was too big, you just refined your search or added new variables.
Since then, tech changes have allowed for more complex stock screens. You can use complex algorithms, back testing, and even preset criteria that try to mimic the greatest investors. Basically, the more you know and understand about each variable, the more accurate your screens and results.
For now let’s stick to the basics. Access to predefined stock screens can go a long way when you’re learning. The only way to get familiar with all the variables is time. Once you have the basics down, a free stock screener might be all you’ll need.
Premium Stock Screener
If you’re new to stock screening, using a free screener might not be the best place to start. It can be confusing and have no explanation on how it’s used. This is why I recommend starting out with a premium stock screener. You’ll get better guidance on how to use the tools available, access to preset screens, and a wealth of other information that is well worth the money.
FINVIZ Elite is quite possibly the best premium stock screener online. It comes complete with real-time quotes and charts, pre-market data, and email alerts. You can screen for technical or fundamental data, even technical chart analysis and correlations. Lastly, the ability to backtest the profitability of your custom screens against historical data is key to any worthwhile strategy.
The only problem with the FINVIZ stock screener is it might be too advanced. But it does offer a free version, discussed below, that you can spend as much time on before upgrading.
Morningstar is a leader in independent investment research. While it offers a free screener covered below, the premium membership is full of tools and great information you won’t get anywhere else. The premium screener allows you to refine your custom screens with over 300 fundamental data filters and offers several predefined screens built by their top analysts. You can also save your custom screens too. Another great feature allows to save and track any passing stocks through the portfolio manager.
The premium service is more then just a stock screener though. It includes the Morningstar stock analyst reports, stock grades, portfolio manager, and all of Morninstar’s proprietary information like star ratings, economic moat ratings, buy/sell prices, and more. You can look into the free Morningstar screener below or take advantage of the premium membership with this 14-day free trial.
GuruFocus is a research site dedicated to value investing ideals. It offers a wealth of free information. But the real value is with the premium membership. You’ll get access to value strategies, valuation tools, and the stock screener. The All-in-One screener has over 120 filters and several predefined value screens that include the Net-Net screener, the Buffett-Munger screener, and the Undervalued screener. In all, the site is built for the value investor. You can test drive it today with the 7-day free trial.
Free Stock Screener
If you have experience with stock screeners already, there are several free screeners available. However, most are limited in comparison to the premium screening tools.
FINVIZ also offers the best free stock screener around. For beginners, this is the place to start, learn, and build your experience. If you already know what you’re doing, it might be the only screening tool you’ll need. It offers screening criteria for fundamental and technical data. FINVIZ doesn’t offer any preset screens and you’ll have to be a registered user to save any custom screens. But registering is free.
Morningstar also offers a free stock screener but you’ll have to register first (it’s free) to get access to it. Honestly, its worth it just for the free articles and market information. The free screener is a simplified version of its premium screener. It only includes 18 filters but does offer several predefined screens to use. Though you won’t be able to save anything. It’s obvious that Morningstar saves the best for its premium members. So if that’s something you’re thinking about, take advantage of the free membership and use that free trial mentioned earlier to test the premium features.
Yahoo! Finance has offered one of the more advanced free screeners for years. I’d recommend using the Java version, over the HTML version, since it’s more extensive and offers more options. The screening tool does come with 19 simple preset screens. From a user perspective, it’s not the easiest screening tool available. But it does offer a built-in mutual fund and bond screener, as well as the ability to export to a spreadsheet. You’ll have to be a registered user to save any custom screens, which is free to anyone.
Google Finance offers an easy to use stock screener that covers the basics. It has its usefulness if you’re just looking to do a simple stock screen. But that’s about it. It has no preset screens built-in and you can’t save any custom screens. Plus it’s limited by the criteria available to filter through. That said, it does have its uses if you’re keeping your screens simple. But it’s nothing you can’t do with one of the other free stock screeners.
The premium screening tools offer the best options and fit well with anyone wanting to learn. If you just plan to focus on simple stock screens, a free screener will fit the bill. Eventually you want to find a stock screener that has the criteria and filters to match your investment strategy.