If the gyrations of the stock market have you riveted, you can hardly find a better place for both free information and, if you need it, solace than the Internet. On the Web, you can keep continual track of how your investments are doing, and when you need sound advice, there are some excellent sites for that as well.
For tracking stocks, an easy method is to set up a customized home page on one of the numerous Internet "portals" operated by such companies as Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) and Excite (www.excite.com). Each allows you to track the value of stocks of your choice, whose prices appear in a table on your screen whenever you visit the page. It takes a little doing to get the page set up, and you may have to look up the symbols for your stocks, but once that's done and the symbols entered, it's automatic. The stock prices appear just 20 minutes behind the market itself.
The table on Excite is especially useful since it not only includes your stock's daily highs, lows and current price, it also calculates and displays the percent change and includes the 52-week high and low and, if you choose, the price-to-earnings ratio and dividend information. In short, you get in a single table more than you could find by going through your investments in a daily newspaper stock table, one stock at a time, and reading the fine print.
Excite's stock information is furnished by Charles Schwab and Co., the discount broker, which itself maintains a Web site (www.schwab.com) where you can obtain stock quotes and an array of other market information. You can also set up an online brokerage account. Several other such firms have similar Web sites, but most require you to establish an account in order to get the full range of their financial information.
At the moment, you may be more interested in some sound advice than in more market data. For years, some of the wisest counsel available has come from Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, a one-time textile mill which Buffett transformed into the most successful investment company in America. Some investors used to buy shares of Berkshire Hathaway just to get a copy of its annual report accompanied by Buffett's "Chairman's Letter," a witty, wise and literate dissertation on the company, the market and the world of business.
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