Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Where can I get free historical investment data?

Whenever you value a company it is essential that you go through their historical financials in an effort to both understand the business you are looking to invest in and also to understand the risks and opportunities associated with the business.  I have covered those things you need to look at before you invest in a previous post here.

However one of the issues associated with this is that it is extremely time consuming, especially if you are trying to screen stocks that meet certain parameters.  For the first run therefore what is preferable is to find a free data source which has accurate data for a sufficient number of years.  There are many websites that give historical data such as Yahoo Finance and Google Finance however I have no idea who is entering this data and whether it is accurate or not.

If I was going to use a free source for screening purposes I would almost always use the Company Insight Centre data provided by Bloomberg and CapIQ.  CapIQ data is used by almost all the major investment banks for exactly the same purpose and the accuracy of the data is very high.  As the same data is used on both the paid and free services you are pretty sure that it is going to be the most accurate free data source.

Is there any catch?

Not really.  It is not as functional as the paid data that CapIQ provides and you cannot dig into the numbers or export them to excel as you can with the paid service but for a free screening tool it is unparalleled.

Should I use the data when making an investment decision?

I would argue that no matter how accurate it is you should always do your own research.  That means that when you have screened down to a few companies you need to go through their annual reports and validate the numbers yourself and look for things they have missed.

This is not a replacement for the research you should be doing yourself but a great initial screening tool to help narrow your focus.

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