ETF Data Made Easy(er)
Matt’s post on charting prompted some good internal debate about where we all get our data fix. While I’d love to say there’s one magical Web site that does it all (like, say, IndexUniverse.com) the reality is we’re all good at our own things. Here’s what I look at when I’m evaluating ETFs:
Not everyone can afford $1,900 a month for a Bloomberg terminal, but in the words of Ferris Bueller, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.” Learning how to efficiently use the thing is a bit like learning how to drive an aircraft carrier using Braille, though. Even if you’re not willing to pay the big money, the Bloomberg newsroom does a good job on their free Web site (and related iPhone app) of covering core economic, investor and commodity news, and it’s a regular stop on my daily rounds when I’m away from the big black screens.
When it comes to running my own numbers, I’ve found Yahoo Finance to be the most data-geek friendly, for one major reason—you can download an adjusted price series since inception for every ETF. “Adjusted” means adjusted for dividends, which means you can do your own analysis while avoiding the pitfalls Matt highlighted on Wednesday. I’m not impressed by the various other ETF data they provide (holdings, etc.), as my experience is that the data quality is spotty.
There’s nothing ETF-specific at StockCharts, but they do make some pretty charts. Here’s the smallest, simplest version of their flagship “SharpChart.”
While I agree with Matt on most of what he wrote about technical analysis, I also subscribe to the voodoo principle here—it actually does work when enough people believe it will. If, for example, everyone believed you should sell gold if it drops below its 50-day moving average (I just made that up), then of course gold would plummet after it broke that blue line, because everyone would be selling.
So while I’m not a believer in the sense that I think technical analysis solves all your problems, I do think TA can help us understand investor psychology and market dynamics. StockCharts tools are among the best out there for the technically minded. I used to recommend ClearStation.com, but I think the simplicity of StockCharts wins out.
The world isn’t ETFs. Most things are pretty easy to find, but good commodities charts can be a bear. FutureSource, part of the massive Quote.com empire, has the easiest-to-manipulate charts for the futures markets. They don’t have the customization a real futures trading platform does (letting you do things like pick your rolling dates), but they’re the best I’ve found for free.
Understanding how well your ETFs really diversify your portfolio is critical to making informed investing decisions. AssetCorrelation.com lets you build custom correlation matrices in seconds, and even more fun, lets you run custom correlation-over-time studies to show you how, say, gold and oil have become better and better friends this year. The data source is, I believe, Yahoo Finance, so don’t expect access to every index in the world; but for ETFs, it’s tremendous.
Our annual fixed-income conference is coming up in a little more than a week and I can’t wait.
When it comes to reinvesting dividends, mutual funds have ETFs beat.
With VIX spiking, it’s tempting to pile in or bet against it. Both are a bad idea.
Some ETFs really do track their indexes better than others.