Big market data for the small investor



If you’re a do-it-yourself investor — or DIY’er for short — finding real-time market pricing for stocks and related information all in one spot has long been a challenge.

That’s not to say the internet isn’t brimming with resources on investing. In fact, there’s so much to choose from, it’s overwhelming, especially for newbies to trading on their own.

Even the discount brokerage you may use — while often providing a robust amount of research information — generally falls a little short. Either some key datapoints are missing, or the platform has a clunky layout that makes researching a potential investment frustratingly more difficult than it should be.

If this is your experience, a U.S.-based DIY investment research platform TradingView may be worth a look.

Based out of Chicago, it launched about 8 years ago as a social media site for mostly daytraders — who buy and sell stocks after holding them often only briefly. They often use technical analysis — the art (some would argue ‘science’) of predicting price movements based on past price movements.

Over the years, TradingView has added more information and today packages an impressive array of pricing and charting data for the U.S, Canada, commodities, bonds, currencies and overseas markets. (It also connects to discount brokerages, however, only a few obscure Canadian ones mostly involved in currency trading.)

For those aforementioned daytraders and market technicians, TradingView is a Shangri-La of market data, allowing them even to overlay a multitude of technical metrics — like 30-day exponential moving averages and momentum oscillators.

To most folks — even a lot of investors — these terms might as well be an alien language. Still, that doesn’t mean TradingView doesn’t offer a bevy of useful information for the more common species of DIYers — the buy and hold investors, and occasional speculative trader.

It also offers access to corporate data, like income statements, as well as related fundamental analysis metrics like price to earnings (a measure of essentially how much investors are willing to pay for every dollar a company earns).

Recently TradingView upped its offerings with a neat, new chart called the “Timeline” for a handful of popular stocks like Tesla and Beyond Meat.

“We’re very much trying to build the tools that everyday investors previously haven’t had access to, so … trying to build the Wikipedia — if you will — of corporate entities and really tracking the performance of these companies over time,” says TradingView’s general manager Pierce Crosby, based in New York.

He adds the new tool is great way for beginner investors to research a company history visually following price chart movements with the major ups and downs often appended with a key company event — like McDonald’s test-driving Beyond Meat’s burger.

Crosby says Timeline is just another instance of the platform revolutionizing the DIY investment universe.

“What I tell folks is we are really the Bloomberg for retail (investors),” he says, referring the much-vaunted digital tool offered by the business news giant. It’s considered the benchmark data provider in the investment industry. Bloomberg’s bundle of tools are used by professionals, and it also costs a bundle. By contrast TradingView offers free accounts, and then paid subscriptions for additional access to information. But the cost is still relatively cheap, about a few hundred dollars Canadian a year for its most costly subscription.

It’s a compelling proposition for DIY’ers. Yet TradingView offers so much information, it almost begs that question: Could this be a case of too much of a good thing?

That question got posed to a Winnipeg personal finance blogger and DIY investor, who reviewed TradingView briefly.

Enoch Omololu writes the Savvy New Canadians blog — offering personal finance information for newcomers — but he also manages his own investment portfolio.

Based on what he saw, Omololu was impressed.

“It’s very easy to use — if you know what you’re doing,” he says. The layout is easy to navigate, and indeed its charts and real-time pricing are impressive for basic access — which is free.

“These are some of the best trading charts I’ve seen, and I’ve used a lot of platforms.”

Still, TradingView is very much geared for frequent trading. And Omololu trades at a maximum of a few times a month.

“All the new offerings lean toward day-trading, so trading stocks and holding them for minutes or hours,” he says. “That comes with its own baggage, because what happens is people are not really thinking long-term.”

A “newbie” DIY’er could get sucked into TradingView’s social media feeds — providing buy/sell opportunities often bolstered by very intricate technical trading chart theories that may or may not be useful.

These quick and simple tools “make it easy for folks to get sucked into that speculative trading strategy, which is highly problematic if you are trading with your retirement funds,” he adds.

Portfolio manager with Cardinal Capital Management, Jeff Ryall — who also quickly reviewed the site — wondered similarly: Is this “really a trading platform or a speculating platform?”

He further notes TradingView is a bit like a Rorschach test — those ink blots where people see different images. Investing means different things to different people. Indeed while Omololu found its layout organized, Ryall found it confusing.

Fellow Winnipeg portfolio manager Alan Fustey noted: “TradingView is simply a charting and technical analysis site.”

The advisor with Adaptive ETF further notes Bloomberg’s market data and analytics — as well as other professional offerings — offer much more, including leading market leading research. TradingView, in contrast, offers some market news and research, but the majority of its analysis comes from the social media feed.

And everyone knows these streams of group consciousness are double-edged. All three who reviewed the site for the Free Press would like to see more emphasis on investor education as opposed to the market theories of semi-pro traders, who are deep in the reeds of technical analysis — which to the uninitiated can be impenetrably difficult to comprehend.

What’s more some market data could certainly be bolstered, particularly for exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and even mutual funds — like information on management fees and portfolio contents (i.e. the stocks they contain).

Still, TradingView is worth a look for a DIY investor as a research tool, particularly for those seeking to deepen their knowledge of trading techniques. And as Crosby points out, its new Timeline tool will continue to grow, offering more interest to those seeking to dip their feet into buying and selling stocks, bonds, commodity futures, and currency.

“Being able to tell those histories is a great way to do storytelling in general,” he says.

“This is just the natural next step of the fintech evolution.”