At any given moment, thousands of companies around the world trade publicly.
For investors looking to pick individual stocks, that raises a crucial question: How do you choose which stocks to buy?
While many investors choose to simply buy index funds as an easy way to “invest in the market” and likely earn average historical stock market returns, others aim to beat the market by picking individual stocks. They may simply look to day-trade, darting in and out of the market for quick returns. Or they may seek to buy and hold individual stocks for long-term gains and dividends.
That’s where stock screeners come in handy.
Stock Screeners 101
Stock screeners provide a series of filters and search criteria to help you narrow the field from thousands of stocks to just a handful. The more robust the screening filters, the better the screener can help you find exactly the type of stock you want.
New investors often confuse stock screeners with related tools and services, such as stock scanners, stock brokerage services, and stock pickers. Understandably so — they all tend to overlap.
Stock brokerage accounts provide the mechanism for buying and selling stocks. But most also offer stock screeners within their platforms to help you sort and sift through the thousands of stocks available.
Similarly, many stock scanners also help you sort through stocks. What differentiates a stock scanner is that its primary purpose is to stream real-time data and information about specific stocks or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). In contrast, stock screeners help you narrow down the thousands of stocks and ETFs available to a handful based on your specific criteria. Even so, many screeners include scanner tools and vice versa.
Unlike stock scanners and stock screeners, stock pickers are not self-service tools. As investing and analysis experts, they do the research for you and recommend individual stock picks.
What to Look for in a Stock Screener
Not all stock screeners are created equal.
First and foremost, look for robust screening filters. A stock screener is only as good as its ability to help you find stocks based on precise criteria. A few standard screening filters include:
- Stock exchange
- Country or region
- Market capitalization (cap)
- Dividend yield
- Target price
- Trading volume (current, average, or relative)
- Price-to-earnings ratio
- Earnings per share (EPS)
Some stock screeners include their own internal rating algorithm for stocks and funds. While many traders and investors like it as a feature, be careful not to rely too heavily on an algorithm’s feedback about a stock.
The best stock screeners combine flexibility with ease of use. Stock screeners should ideally let you narrow your search with exact precision without an overly complex or cumbersome interface. Even beginners should find them intuitive to use.
Finally, some stock screeners charge a fee, so cost becomes a factor. If you’re new to stock screeners, start with free services to familiarize yourself with how they work before shelling out a hefty subscription fee.
Best Stock Screeners
Ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with screening stocks?
Try the following stock screeners, and for the services that charge money, keep an eye on their free trial policies before committing long term.
1. Trade Ideas
Limited time offer: Sign up for Trade Ideas and save 25%. Use code THANKSGIVING25%. Expires 11/30/20.
For real-time scanning and screening, it’s hard to beat Trade Ideas.
The platform is exceptionally fast, with its data centers strategically located near major stock exchanges. It also provides a wealth of preset scans, which you can customize and combine with your own unique criteria.
Investors can backtest ideas for investing and trading to see how they would have performed in the past.
But one area where Trade Ideas sets itself apart is its artificial intelligence. Its AI tool, named Holly, uses technical, fundamental, and social data to scan thousands of trading opportunities and alert you when it finds one with strong upside potential. That helps you find opportunities you would never have otherwise noticed.
Trade Ideas only works with U.S. and Canadian stock exchanges. While the service does offer a free demo, most features require a premium account. And it isn’t cheap, either, with monthly plans starting at $118.
2. Stock Rover
Another outstanding option, Stock Rover excels at United States and Canadian stock screening.
The online software offers over 150 screening filters and makes it just as easy to screen ETFs as stocks and mutual funds. You can create complex equations, combining multiple filters with if-then logic to fine-tune your results. Stock Rover also provides robust scanning features, with its data, watchlists, and filters updating every minute if you like.
Stock Rover works particularly well for long-term investors. It can integrate with your brokerage account, including most major brokers, such as Vanguard, Charles Schwab, T. Rowe Price, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade. Once integrated, it offers more robust reporting, portfolio rebalancing recommendations, correlation testing for your asset allocation, and portfolio analysis.
The Stock Rover rating system creates succinct feedback for you to review. On a scale from 1 to 100, it displays several categories of rating scores for each security: overall, growth, valuation, efficiency, financial strength, dividends, and momentum.
Stock Rover serves day traders less well. Compared to its 150-plus financial indicators, it only offers nine technical indicators in its screener. It better serves value and income investors. In a nod to Warren Buffett’s emphasis on fundamental analysis, it even comes with a “Buffettology” screener preset to find companies with a strong margin of safety and fair value indicators.
Like TradingView, Stock Rover operates on a freemium model. Its free account option works well to help you get started, but for full functionality, you must pay for a premium account. Fortunately, they start at only $7.99 per month.
While slightly overwhelming for new traders and investors, TradingView offers an incredibly flexible screening platform at a low or no cost.
You can start screening stocks and ETFs with no sign-up required and familiarize yourself with the many options available. With over 150 fundamental and technical filters, you can sort stocks with precision. And if you want to only look at stocks or ETFs, you can switch easily between the two.
One area where TradingView excels is the breadth of securities and investments it includes. To begin with, it includes international stocks and funds from all over the globe, letting you compare American and foreign stocks with the same set of tools. Beyond international securities, it also provides access to cryptocurrencies and foreign exchange (forex) currency comparisons.
TradingView also offers a simple rating system for securities, indicating whether it’s a “buy,” “sell,” “strong buy,” or “strong sell.”
It’s particularly noteworthy that TradingView lets you compare broader economic indicators with company-level data. For example, you can compare a company’s performance with the national unemployment rate over time to look for patterns.
TradingView operates on a freemium model, with both free and premium options. The free version includes ads but also includes most functionality. To access the real-time scanner feature and export data, you need a paid subscription. However, they offer a 30-day free trial, and premium accounts start around $15 per month.
As a stock screener, Finviz (a portmanteau of “financial” and “visualizations”) is largely free. Its Finviz Elite plan adds a real-time stock scanner, aftermarket data, correlation data between stocks, and backtests, which apply a prospective trading or investing strategy to the past to see how it would have performed. The plan starts around $25 per month.
But its free plan requires no sign-up and includes a broad range of screening filters. The only real downside is a delay in updating the data, which impacts day traders more than buy-and-hold investors. The latter can use Finviz after markets close.
With its intuitive, simple online platform, Finviz makes a particularly easy starting point for new traders and investors. Its selection of 29 fundamental filters and 17 technical criteria are enough to help you learn the ropes but not too many to overwhelm.
Advanced investors and traders may not find its screening filters flexible enough, however. Where Finviz falls particularly short is the inability to select multiple options within the same filter field simultaneously. For example, you can’t select two economic sectors — you can either select one or all but not a specific few.
Consider Finviz a perfect platform for learning on. As you become more sophisticated, you can explore more advanced options as needed.
For over 25 years, TC2000 has excelled at stock screening and scanning.
It offers a broad range of fundamental and technical screening criteria. But TC2000 also allows you to create your own custom screening criteria, which you can then layer on top of existing stock charts. The ability to layer customized data into visual charts makes its charting unsurpassed in the stock screener field.
TC2000 also lets you customize alerts better than most screeners to let you know in real time when your custom combination aligns just right. Combine that with fast real-time scanning, and it makes for an outstanding platform for day traders.
Unfortunately, TC2000 only works with American and Canadian stock markets. It comes as downloaded and installed software, and some users complain its web-based platform fails to live up to the installed version.
Like other screeners, TC2000 offers both a free version and premium options, with the latter starting at around $10 per month.
Note: If you ever used FreeStockCharts.com, TC2000 bought them and integrated their features as part of its free service.
6. Atom Finance
Atom Finance aims to deliver institutional-level power with retail-level usability. And it largely succeeds. You can connect your other brokerage accounts to your Atom. That creates a bird’s-eye view of your entire investment portfolio — similar to Personal Capital — so you can see your full asset allocation and suggestions for where to diversify.
But it doesn’t stop there. Advanced stock screening tools help you research individual stocks and broader trends starting with real-time stock quotes and institution-grade financial news feeds.
Available company data include equity research from all major banks and financial firms, SEC filings and transcripts, analyst forecasts and recommendations, and detailed historical financial data. Atom’s advanced document search lets you search for phrases across multiple news articles, filings, and transcripts to unearth hidden trends and patterns. All of that combines to create a comprehensive portrait of a company’s performance over time.
Another neat feature is Atom Hubs. Taking the concept of watchlists a step further, hubs let you compare stocks by your metrics of choice, allowing you to choose among dozens of relevant data points. Those comparisons come to life visually through charts and graphs detailing different stocks’ performance. Your hubs also aggregate relevant news, documents, and events for your selected stocks. You can even share them with other investors to collect feedback.
Those hubs highlight a final strength: their community of investors and chat features. Find chat channels most relevant to your investments and style, and collaborate with other investors for better results.
Best of all, Atom Finance is free for individual investors. It plans to release a premium version for institutional investors called Atom+, but the company hasn’t released details yet.
Unlike Vanguard, which is known for its long-term buy-and-hold preference, TD Ameritrade is an online brokerage account built and designed around day trading.
Toward that end, they offer no fewer than six platforms. Their Thinkorswim platform in particular combines flexible data analysis with fast, easy trading.
It doesn’t hurt that TD Ameritrade doesn’t charge any commissions on trades, either. They were among the first online brokerages to go commission-free.
Embedded in its platforms lies a wealth of free tools, including its Stock Hacker tool for both filtering and real-time scanning. For instance, you can set up scans for technical patterns like channels, wedges, and flags and then immediately act on them by buying within the platform.
All for free. It’s especially notable that it lets you practice trading with fake money with its paperMoney feature.
However, you have to open a brokerage account with them to access these tools.
The Nasdaq stock screener is now powered by Zacks, which offers a substantial set of free stock screening tools. In fact, it comes with more filters than Finviz.
Zacks particularly shines by letting you enter a custom value or range for its screening filters rather than selecting from a drop-down list of preset ranges. That gives you far more precision in your screening results.
Additionally, Zacks offers more detailed earnings per share (EPS) search criteria than most. For example, you can delve into EPS surprise percentages, including the last EPS surprise, previous EPS surprises, and the average EPS surprise (from the previous four quarters).
You can also save search settings and export results to a spreadsheet for further parsing and analysis.
Zacks also provides multiple screening criteria for analyst ratings, including upgrades, downgrades, or specific rating changes. Unfortunately, this feature and many others require a premium account to use. Many of Zacks’ best features, such as preset screening criteria based on formulas used by famous investors, require payment. Premium accounts cost $249 annually, and they offer several more expensive services as well.
Day traders and individual stock pickers need access to more complex data analysis than buy-and-hold index fund investors. To sift through the hundreds of thousands of stocks in the global market, they need outstanding screeners.
Start with a free stock screener option like Finviz or TD Ameritrade if you’re new to the game. As you grow in confidence and expertise, you can try out more robust screening tools like TradingView and Stock Rover.
There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun trading in the market. But never trade with money you can’t afford to lose and start low and go slow when you start trading with real money rather than pretend dollars.
Have you ever used any of the stock screeners above? What were your experiences with them?