I am often asked what steps I take to get an edge on other investors. The answer is always the same: I’m a voracious reader.
Much of what I read often turns out to be of little use, but 5% or 10% of the articles help me gain a real advantage. I learn what’s really happening behind specific sector moves, and which companies might soon be heading for an upswing.
A decade ago, I would have handily ticked off a series of magazine and newspapers. These days, I tend to shun the print periodicals. Either I read their content online, or have found that their lack of timeliness (especially the monthly publications) becomes apparent by the time they go to press.
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So what do I consider to be essential online reading?
It may be obvious to note that The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times employ some of the strongest financial journalists in the business. You should be reading both of them daily, especially to maintain a clear, 10,000-foot view of what’s happening in the economy.
Here are four other online sites that I try to visit at least several times a week. Each fills its own niche, and taken together, the five of them create a strong mosaic of financial information and investment ideas.
This site doesn’t break news and it doesn’t offer up a lot of stock tips, but it does provide a rapid assessment of key factors that are moving the markets, from commodity price spikes to government policy, to some of the more inane shenanigans that companies try to pull off. It’s a quick read, best visited before the market opens.
Barry Ritholtz must never sleep. He runs an investment advisory firm and still finds time to spit out a ton of intriguing posts on his website (perhaps aided by members of his firm). Though he’s an extremely experienced industry player, he takes on the role of David to Wall Street’s Goliath, poking holes in the many myths that big Wall Street firms would have you believe. Most importantly, he has a plainspoken style accessible to novices and pros alike. He pays especially close attention to Federal Reserve policy, the housing crisis, Wall Street malfeasance and current ways of assessing the stock market’s value. Best of all, he seems to have a lot of fun keeping up his blog, which makes it loads of fun to read.
This is an interesting site to find fresh stock ideas. Its anonymous author takes a look at Wall Street research reports, selecting a fresh one every few days that appears to be especially thought-provoking. The site highlights “outside-the-consensus calls,” focusing on analysis that is contrary to conventional wisdom about a particular stock. The track record is pretty impressive -- many highlighted stocks turn out to be big gainers (or losers) in subsequent sessions.
On the downside, this paid site is dominated by the “wisdom” of tele-pundit Jim Cramer. But one of its strengths is that it's also home to many other bright market watchers, each with their own area of expertise. If you can silence the noise generated by Jim Cramer, the website's other voices can be quite educational as they analyze ETFs, currency issues, stocks and sectors, Fed policy and a healthy dose of earnings analysis and commentary.
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