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How To: Build a Stock Watch List

Beginners Guide to Online TradingA key concept for new investors to grasp is the importance of choosing a basket of stocks and watching them like a hawk every single trading day. Eventually you’ll get a feel for these stocks and maybe even start to be able to predict their movements. At the very least you’ll have a useful way to monitor your portfolio and keep an eye on things.

So obviously every trader needs to know how to monitor his or her stocks, and in most cases you are already doing so with software or a website provided by your broker. This is great, but sometimes you’ll want to massage the data a bit, set some alerts, or dig deeper into the fundamentals.

In this article we’ll go over a couple of methods to monitor stocks and work with market data. As usual we prefer free versus paid in almost every circumstance, so all of these methods are free or cheap, and relatively easy to setup.

Google Finance Watch List

Watchlist Google Finance

I’ve been a huge fan of Google Finance since it was launched but I must say one of its most useful features is the portfolio manager. In the case of my wife who has little interest in stocks but is still invested in them, it’s the only tool she uses to track her entire portfolio.

You can enter in your stocks in bulk with transaction data for buys/sells including fees and some notes. I divide portfolios into verticals and sectors like: Currently Holding, Technology, Oil, Banks, Gold Stocks, etc. Stocks and indexes update in real-time during trading sessions for NYSE/NASDAQ listed equities and are delayed 15 mins for everything else.

Google Spreadsheets Watch List

Google Docs is a set of free office tools from Google. This is a another nice method because not only is it completely free but it also allows you to use the same market data as Google Finance. Another thing I like is this list can be exported or viewed online from any computer.

Go to http://docs.google.com and open a new spreadsheet.

Build a watch list something like this:

Watchlist Google Finance

Now to get the data to show up from Google Finance simply highlight a cell and enter in the following formula:

=GoogleFinance(”AAPL”; “price”);

You can get more than just price of course. Here is the full list of attributes you can use with the GoogleFinance function:

Google Finance Functions

Here is the full list of attributes you can use with the GoogleFinance function.
pricemarket price of the stock, delayed 15 mins.
priceopenopening price of the stock for the current day.
highhighest price the stock traded for the current day.
lowlowest price the stock traded for the current day.
volumenumber of shares traded of this stock for the current day.
marketcapmarket cap of the stock.
tradetimelast time the stock traded.
datedelaylast time the stock traded.
volumeavgthe average volume for this stock.
pethe Price-to-Earnings ratio for this stock.
epsearnings-per-share for this stock.
high52the 52-week high for this stock.
low52the 52-week low for this stock.
changethe change in the price of this stock since yesterday's market close.
betabeta value of this stock.
changepctthe percentage change in the price of this stock since yesterday's close.
closeyestyesterday's closing price of this stock.
sharesthe number of shares outstanding of this stock.
currencythe currency in which this stock is traded.

Once you get the hang of it you can expand your watch list to include some really useful data and perform calculations or setup alerts. Here I am grabbing the PEG ratio of the stocks in my watch list. For those who forgot PEG or Price/Earnings To Growth aka the PEG Ratio is simply: the P/E ratio / annual EPS growth.

Watchlist Google Docs + Google Finance

Excel Stock Watch List

Microsoft Excel has long been a favorite of investors to keep track of trades, build watch lists, and of course calculate capital gains. The latest versions have tools built in to insert stock or currency quotes from MSN Money. It’s alright but it’s a bit intrusive IMO and not all that useful (see below).

Watchlist Excel MSN Money

Excel also allows for the use of add-ins that other programmers have written to enhance boring spreadsheets for stock tracking and analysis. The best one is developed by Randy Harmelink and maintained in the SMF Add-in Yahoo Group. It’s pretty awesome!

SMF Add-in for ExcelTo enable the plugin in Excel go Tools > Add-Ins and choose the add-in files. One caveat is that it will not work on Mac which was a bit of a bummer.

The SMF addon pulls in fundamental market data from Yahoo Finance but it also has the ability to pull various other information from sources like Morningstar, Bloomberg, and Business Week, among others. You can create some seriously amazing spreadsheets with this tool, and the community around the addon has contributed some great material this year. You can find examples for almost any type of market calculation you can imagine in their uploads and attachment areas. Here’s an example working with options below.

Watchlist Options in Excel

So that should get you started on building powerful custom watch lists for stocks you follow. There really is a ton of great tools coming out over the last few years for watching stocks – sound off in the comments to share your own methods.

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About Miles Evans

Miles is a pattern day trader from British Columbia, Canada, and has been actively seeking alpha since 1999. Outside of finance Miles is interested in web startups, programming, and the limitless wisdom of the crowd.

See all posts by Miles

  • Jonathan Poland

    There’s an easier way to populate the list with up to date data using stock market functions from Yahoo! Finance group.  Just look up “SMF Addin” on google.

  • http://www.stockrants.com Miles Evans

    Sure the 2nd half of the article talks about the mighty SMF Add-In.  Sorry it’s a long article, so I can see how you may have missed it Jon.  Perhaps this should have been 2 articles :/

  • CD Tberry

    How can you easily calculate the annual EPS growth from google finance?

  • Mickael

    Hello, where did you get the “expected growth this year %” data from? I couldn’t find that value in the table you provided in the article.


  • http://www.stockrants.com Miles Evans

    Sorry this reply is a bit late Mickael. For expected growth you need to make an estimate. One tool I use for this is here: http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/msft/earnings-growth

    Hope that helps!

  • Mickael

    I see, still really useful thanks for that.

    Did you manage to automate that part as well, ie, bring that value automatically into your google spreadsheet? or that’s done manually once a year or similar?

  • http://www.waytoinvesting.com Kuntal Banerjee

    Great Idea of creating watchlist through google finance.