Firstrade Research Tools

Updated Monday, February 8, 2010

Research Tools Grade: B


Firstrade offers quite an extensive collection of research tools.  At Firstrade you will find general market news, sector specific research reports and company specific news, data and research.  The events calendar and stock screener are serviceable but not the best examples of those found at the reviewed brokers.  The price alerts feature is done quite well.  Finally, X-Stream Watchlist and X-Stream Portfolio are interesting applications that would be more useful if they were integrated within the rest of the Firstrade interface.  When you add it all up, Firstrade offers an imperfect but nice set of research tools to aid investors of all stripes.


Here is a look at the Firstrade News & Commentary page, found within the News & Research tab (click on images for larger views):

In this section users will find general market news and commentary provided by Standard & Poor's, which includes separate pages for US stocks, global stocks, currencies, commodities and more.  At first glance this appears to be a lot of information but upon closer inspection, each page is simply a text dump, most of which is a paragraph or two in length and is not archived.  One slightly interesting feature is the IPO performance page, which shows the up to date performance of stocks that have gone public in recent years.  Like other pages, however, it is basically just a formatted text dump so do not expect any Web 2.0 style features.  Here is a look:

The Quotes & Charts page shows overviews of the most active stocks, largest gainers / losers, a breakdown of stock performance by sector and more.  There is also an earnings calendar, which can be broken down by day, week or month.  Most other brokers also show dividend and IPO events in their calendars so Firstrade is a bit lacking in this area.  In the example below we took a look at the companies set to announce earnings the next day:

Company and sector specific news articles are provided by Comtex News and MidnightTrader.  Small-cap news is provided by FinancialWire.  The standard financial statements - balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flows - are all easily accessible and are a welcome addition.  The earnings history page is nicely laid out and should be a useful reference item just prior to earnings announcements.  Here is a look at the earnings history page for Apple (AAPL):

Company specific research and consensus reports are provided by S&P.  Here is a view of the report for Apple:

Moving on to the Investor Tools tab, users will find a stock screener.  There are 34 different screening criteria and all criteria are fully customizable.  For example, users can screen stocks for market caps greater than $249 million and P/E ratios below 11.  We have a few issues with the screening results screen though.  First, screening results do not show the screening criteria.  Second, results are also given in alphabetical order and cannot be resorted.  This makes the Firstrade stock screener about average compared to other broker offerings.  Here are the results we retrieved with the screening criteria of market cap above $1 billion, P/E ratio below 10 and dividend yield greater than 3%:

Receiving their own menu are price alerts, which are triggers that generate emails when certain market parameters are met.  These parameters can be customized for individual securities based on price, volume, % moves and more.  We created a few examples and found that the email arrived in our inbox nearly instantaneously upon a condition being met.  This is a very cool feature.  Here is an alert we set up which triggers when GLD, the gold ETF, exceeds $104.00 in price or if it falls more than 1/2% below the previous day's close:

Finally, there are a pair of Java applications named X-Stream Watchlist and X-Stream Portfolio.  X-Stream Watchlist allows users to create a list of securities, chart in real time and quickly access predefined Firstrade menus.  X-Stream Portfolio allows for the creation of customized portfolios, which will keep track of gain / loss information.  These tools are interesting but they would be a lot more useful if they were integrated within the rest of the Firstrade menus and not separate pop up applications.