As I mentioned in an this article, you should never use statistics from a finance site (like Yahoo! Finance) to make your investing decisions. However, one shortcut I recommend is exploring Value Line. Each Value Line report is created by expert analysts. Because of this, the bad data issues I have come across on sites like Yahoo! Finance and Google are not a concern. A subscription to Value Line is not cheap, ranging from $200 to $800 a year. Before you write this off, I’ll let you in on a special secret for getting these reports for FREE.
How to Get Value Line for Free
Ready for it…?
…your local library.
That’s right! Most public libraries subscribe to Value Line, and it is available free of charge if you belong to a library. Sure, you have to physically go to the library (at least in my town) to use the resource, but it still beats shelling out hundreds of dollars a year for high quality data. They even include analyst reports, which can be interesting and help you learn more about the company. I would never rely solely on an analyst report, but it can be a great starting point.
Value Line offers a lot of great resources. The two features I use most often are the one page analyst reports and the stock screener.
1) One- Page Analyst Reports: The one page reports are great for getting a lot of important historical data on a company and an overview of all the vital statistics. An example page is available from Value Line here. Sales, earnings, and important ratios are all listed for past years (usually around 15 or more years) along with some analyst estimates and commentary. It is a easy way to get a feel for a business at a glance. It certainly saves you from combing through 5 to 10 years worth of financial reports to get a feel for a business. However, I would still recommend reading the annual reports for a company.
2) Stock Screener: The stock screener is another nice feature Value Line offers. It allows for far more search criteria than any free screener I have found. Also, the data is far better maintained than your average free screener. You can screen by just about any ratio or statistic you want. While I find screeners to not extremely effective, they can sometimes serve a useful starting point to sift out some of the less desirable companies. If I do use a screener, I use Value Line. But truth be told, I do not use screeners very often.