What this pandemic has taught me is that we all need to make our money work harder for us. Bank interest rates are at disappointingly low levels and new employment opportunities limited by global headcount freezes. Like most people, I needed a plan to get a better return on our family savings. I decided to pay more attention to our existing investments and specifically how to better trade US stocks.
The great thing about trading stocks in the US is that it is a wonderfully well covered market. Essentially, this means information about the market is abundant and more importantly often available for free. However, this wealth of information can also be a problem to outside investors. It can be overwhelming. When you’re unfamiliar with the market, the sheer volume of information can be a major deterrent.
Over the years, I’ve come to rely on a few key tools and resources to manage this information flow and trade in the US market. The best part is that I’m still currently using the free version of all of them. Here’s an overview of what they are and how they’ve helped me trade US stocks successfully from Singapore:
Yahoo! Finance for Real Time US Stock Prices
As an amateur stock investor in Singapore, it was common to accept the 15 minute delay in stock prices. My previous investment strategy was more passive in nature which made real-time fluctuations in stock prices less of an issue. However, these days I’ve taken on a more active investment approach especially when I trade US stocks. I would argue that the high price volatility in the US market makes having real-time stock price data very important. It can make quite a substantial financial difference especially if you’re trading over a shorter investment horizon.
I’ve been using Yahoo! Finance for real time US stock prices. They have a web version and a mobile app. I personally prefer the mobile app because the UX is generally more appealing. However, the basic functionalities and real time data are the same across both platforms.
Aside from the useful feature of providing real-time stock prices, it also has other practical functions which I use regularly. The first is the “list” feature which I use to track the prices of my existing US stock portfolio. I have also set up a bunch of other lists on the app such as:
- date-based watchlists – next month’s, 2021
- sector-based watchlists – gold stocks, enterprise software stocks, covid biotech stocks
- theme-based watchlists – stay-at-home stocks, digital lifestyle stocks
- country-based watchlists – US, Singapore
Secondly, they have an easy to read company financial details section which displays important stats in simple to read graphs. I normally look at the revenue/earnings reports and analyst price targets before adding any stock to my watchlist. Having all this information within the app is very handy and saves me time searching outside of it.
Motley Fool Podcasts for Specific Stock Picks
I must confess, when it comes to technology, I’ve never been much of an early adopter. The podcast craze has been around before I picked up the habit in 2019. Today, it’s one of my major sources of information. Last year, most of the podcasts I’ve listened to have been related to my US stock trading activity.
The Motley Fool series of podcasts in particular have been a great free source of US stock specific information. Their “Industry Focus” series has introduced me to many promising US stocks across industries like tech, healthcare, energy and more. As per the name, each episode focuses on a specific industry and zooms in on three to four companies. The host and guests speakers discuss and present their case on why they think these companies are worth investing in. They also normally provide some time horizon for their predictions which can be helpful.
Having not lived in the US, a big challenge I faced was my unfamiliarity with the wider non-tech US industries. There are plenty of good investment opportunities outside of Google, Apple and and Tesla. Many of which I’ve come to know through my days listening to Motley Fool podcasts.
From my experience, it’s easier to start learning about a new industry by first focusing on one company and how it relates to the rest of the industry. Once that has piqued your interest, you would generally start researching deeper into the industry. This podcast has helped me successfully incorporate other industries like energy and healthcare into my US stock portfolio.
Seeking Alpha for Specific Stock Breaking News and Alerts
There are many US stock research websites out there. Most of these websites offer both free and premium (paid) access to stock analysis, recommendations and pricing forecasts. I’ve yet to pay for any subscription because I find the free information available more than enough for me to successfully trade US stocks.
One of the free stock research services that I rely on is Seeking Alpha’s email alerts. Seeking Alpha is very much like the other US stock research websites. They provide stock research, news, in-house and crowd-sourced ratings and also community discussions. However, one of the most useful tools is their email alerts.
Essentially, you enter the stocks you want to monitor into a watchlist and they will deliver company specific alerts or breaking news to your email everyday. I have both my existing stocks and the stocks I’m watching to buy entered in my list. I review the customised alert emails every morning and evening. This saves me time googling and researching company specific news everyday for each and every stock in my portfolio. It’s also particularly helpful if you’re from Singapore, as many of the US stocks I own never appear in my regular local news outlets.
I can understand if you’re not keen on getting your inbox flooded with a tonne of stock research emails. If so, you can also just login to their site and view the same customised latest news feed.
CNBC for US Financial, Political and Business News
As an investor in US stocks, I believe it’s important to stay updated on US current affairs. In particular the broader political, policy and economic developments there. This is especially true during highly volatile years where things like changes in federal policies and sudden socio-political incidents can swing the market violently. Today, the decisions I make when I trade US stocks are guided by knowledge gained from reading US news on a daily basis.
Many business focused US news outlets today are paywalled. For example, Bloomberg’s news site is no longer free and the Wall Street Journal has been charging since the 90s. My free US business news publication of choice is CNBC. Unlike CNN, the news articles are always anchored around business or finance related matters. Unlike a stock research site, CNBC provides up to date news about the state of the US economy on a broader level rather than on a company level.
The truth is understanding the current affairs of the US is only hard at the beginning. As a foreign investor from Singapore you may require a little further reading. You may want to understand the background behind some of the more important things. For example, the role and powers of the Federal Reserve or the different policy stances of the two main US political parties. Once you’re up to speed, it’s really about catching up on what happened the night before. I now spend just under 30 minutes a day reading US news.
We Study Billionaires Podcast for Longer Term Investment Strategy
I believe that there is merit in occasionally take a step away from the specifics of individual stock picking. To review your investment philosophy and evaluate how disciplined your investment execution has been. To take stock of what you’ve achieved and how to make improvements to your trading strategy.
I’ve drawn inspiration and tips from free content like Youtube videos to bestselling investment guru books from our local libraries. However, a podcast series that I’ve been listening to consistently for this type of information has been the We Study Billionaires podcast series.
This podcast series studies and discusses the strategies employed by legendary investors like Warren Buffett and other famous fund managers. It’s a great place to start understanding how to give more structure to your investments and US stock trading strategy. The podcasts are never taken out of the current context of the US economy and financial markets. This mean the conversation always moves toward how these exemplary investment strategies can be applied in the current economic environment.
I’ve been very happy with these five free resources. I continue to use them on a daily basis to provide guidance before I trade US stocks from my home in Singapore. One can only appreciate the value of a paid service after exhausting all the free options available. I have a long way to go before I can commit to paying for a paid service.
Below is a function and activity checklist for above free services you can use for your US stock trading research.
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