Know the market: Staying on top of economic standings helps not only business majors

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Business students are often assigned projects to research the economy, the stock market, individual companies or current financial events and are often lost within the wealth of information found online.  As I researched the market over the last few years, I  found several websites that provide relevant and concise financial information.

As an analyst in UNF’s Osprey Financial Group in 2009-2010, I was privy to some top-notch programs and databases not everyone can access. Bloomberg, as well as sites such as morningstar.com and briefing.com, along with the publications Investors Business Daily and the Financial Times were some of the research tools available to me.

Those are all great, but the regular student and everyday investor needs sites that are free to use and easy to navigate.

I give presentations from time to time at UNF and discuss the market with friends and colleagues.  A common question arises: – Where does all of this information come from?

Aside from the Wall Street Journal, which all of our professors urge us to read, our generation wants information from sites that are quick, easy and fun.

Yahoo! Finance and Google Finance are good places to start.  Those sites provide real-time market quotes, interactive charts and detailed financial ratio data, among other great tools.  I find the charts on Yahoo! to be about the best out there from a “less-is-more theory” perspective.  Yahoo! and Google offer news and opinion from many sources, including the WSJ.

For researching specific companies, it is great to simply go to the company’s website and review recent conference calls and presentations.  Conference calls are a great way to get a feel for how the company is performing and analyst questions can highlight some of the concerns Wall Street has for the company or industry.  Seekingalpha.com has transcripts from hundreds of company conference calls going back a few years.

As an energy and materials analyst in last year’s O.F.G., I have a keen interest in researching and following commodities.  Commodities trade in the futures market (the futures market allows hedgers and speculators to trade an asset that will be delivered at a specific time in the future).

Ino.com provides a list of most futures traded in the U.S. market and even those traded internationally.  Commodities, currencies, interest rates, indices and even the weather are found on this site, with news and commentary designed for a specific financial or real asset.

Smartmoney.com offers a cool feature for monitoring several hundred of the largest U.S. and global stocks.  The site’s “map of the market” shows how each company’s stock is performing by using a shade of red or green.  You really have to see it to get a grasp for the tool.  From there, you can research an individual company or sector in more detail.

Optionmonster.com offers a free account that gives you access to insights from professional options traders.  An often overlooked area of research by novice investors, studying the options market can give an indication as to where a stock or fund is heading in the near future.

A controversial website that has arisen in recent years is zerohedge.com. I find this site to be decidedly bearish and anti-government, but it offers analysis on topics the mainstream financial media does not always look at.  They have good tweets, too (@zerohedge).

These are just a few sites I look at on a regular basis, I am sure there are better ones out there of which I am not aware.  Following the financial markets is important in today’s economy and as we enter the job market.  Know and understand what is going on, and you will have a leg-up on your peers.

By Mike Zaccardi