Zacks is an investment research company that was founded in 1978 to provide individual and institutional investors with the company research that they need to make the best investment decisions. Zacks was originally a company that offered its services only in print. Its presence on the world wide web was realized just a few years ago.
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What does This Site have to Offer?:
With Zacks.com, you get a full- service investment web site with lots of tips and advice on how to find the best place for your excess cash. Heres a rundown of some of the main areas of this site:
Home- From the home page, Zacks.com provides a place to lookup stock quotes, read summaries of recent earnings per share surprises, find a list of hot stock picks, get company research, etc. The home page includes many links into other financial sites, too, like Ameritrade, Scotttrade, E-Trade, and a few others.
Portfolios- In this section, you can enter your own portfolio data and track your investments. You can also access some model portfolios comprised of investments that have proven to perform well over the past year or so. Zacks.com even has tools that will monitor your investments and let you know if they are performing up to par.
Screening- This area is used to help select stocks. You can select from a pre- defined list of criteria, like Top EPS Growth Stocks, or Top $ Price Movers YTD, and Zacks.com will produce a list of stocks that match your selections. If you prefer, you can also create a custom screening tool that allows you to define more specific search criteria, like Low P/E Ratios, High ROE, etc.
Markets- This is simply a summary of the major market indices for the current day or previous working day. It shows the closing levels for the NYSE, S&P 500, Russell 2000, NASDAQ, and other indices. It also includes links to any important market news information.
All Stars- Which brokers have a proven track record for selecting the best- performing investments? In All Stars, you can look up All Star analyst information on a specific company, or in an industry sector. Zacks.com will display a list of brokers who are covering the stock that you request, and show you a ranking, from 1 to 4 stars, indicating how successful that particular broker has been, with his/her investment advice. If a company isnt very well- known, it may not have any covering brokers, so dont set your hopes too high when you use this.
Expert Advice- In this section, you will find pictures and articles written by Zacks.coms noted experts. There are about 18 different individual commentaries to read here, along with a search function that will find experts by investment type (stocks, mutual funds, options, futures, etc.) or by investment approach (aggressive, conservative, value, balanced, etc.)
Newsroom- General commentaries can be found here, written by the Zacks.com staff and other individuals. There are also several links into other sites, to lookup investment facts and/or to make purchases of more services.
Earnings- This shows a summary of EPS announcements, sorted into two groups: positive surprises and negative surprises (also found on the home page). There is also an earnings calendar that shows the approximate date when EPS announcements are expected to be made for key corporations.
Zacks.com offers a few other services, accessible from its home page. You can sign up for a free newsletter, delivered to your e-mail account. You can also take a few educational courses on the site, and personalize the site to best fit your own preferences.
Another service is Zacks Advisor, which offers additional commentary on business, investing, and economics. It also provides advice on when to buy and sell your stock, a targeted recommendation list, a bi- weekly newsletter, and other specialized services.
Costs for This Service:
There is no charge to use most of the basics in this site, like stock quotes, reading commentaries, etc. But you need to watch where you click, because many of the services do carry a price tag. For example, if you want to get some extensive company research, you will find that some reports are free, while others can cost you anywhere from $10 to $25. Many of these reports can be downloaded right to your PC, in PDF format. The annual reports are generally free of charge, but the more specific, analytical type reports will cost you some money.
The use of Zacks Advisor will cost you a monthly membership fee, but there is a free two- week trial period. Along with your free trial, you will receive two free weeks of Investors Business Daily, a newspaper publication.
Zacks.com also offers streaming real- time quotes, at a cost of $14.95 per month with a free 2- week trial period. It allows the investor to track up to 500 stocks with portfolio gains and losses updated instantly throughout the day.
Zacks.com is a good investment research site, and it does offer some sound financial advice from proven experts. It includes a mixture of free services and fee- based services. Much of the free services are similar to what you would find in other sites. The fee- based services are worth a look, if you are serious about investing.
The home page of Zacks.com is a little sloppy and not very eye- catching. Its divided into a grid of squares, with places to click for more information or investment- related advice. There is no headlining article or picture, so its not very appealing to the eye. They should probably improve this, because it would result in more user- retention if the site were more visually appealing.
One of the important things that I look for in an investment site is the thoroughness and timeliness of the company research and stock quote data. Most financial web sites include stock quotes, so this is nothing unique. With Zacks.com, you get the quotes, plus company news, earnings per share estimates, company profile, and financial statement figures. This information is good, but its not always timely. Many companies, for example, do not show updated financial information for the quarter ending September 30, 2002. More than 2 months have passed since then, yet the figures are still not updated for all businesses.
The stock screening tool is a little awkward and limited. If I want to create a custom screen for, say, earnings per share, all I can do is enter a range of EPS to search. I cannot enter a percentage increase to search. With something like EPS, the important thing to search is the percentage change from year to year, not the bottom- line amount. Some of the other screen options are a little better, like the growth option, which does allow you to screen for percentages. Taken as a whole, though, the screening tool is not all that useful.
Overall, I give Zacks.com a passing grade, mainly because of its news commentary and personal investing advice. I also like the fact that much of the information is available free of charge (including tools like the stock screener- its not the best, but its free). The services that carry a fee could be useful for some investors, but a complete waste of money for others. Only your individual investment needs can determine whether or not its worth it to pay.
Zacks.com is a pretty good site. A few more changes and improvements, however, would make it top notch.