Getting data on foreign stocks is much more awkward than you’d expect. That’s because most data providers catering to individual investor still focus on just one or two countries, rather than offering a global service.
While you can usually find a data service for each international market, it’s hard to get them all in one account. This is a real inconvenience, since most investors don’t want 30 separate data accounts, many of which they’ll use only once a year.
Institutional investors can get all-in-one global price and fundamental data from firms such as Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, Capital IQ and Factset. These offer the most comprehensive data feeds available.
Unfortunately, they don’t cater to private investors. While they don’t quote subscription fees openly because it’s subject to a lot of negotiation, a informal survey of users suggests a typical rate of $1,000-2,000 per user per month.
The good news is that there are providers that cater to investors with smaller budgets. The bad news is that still seems to be a gap in the market for sensibly priced but reasonably comprehensive data. Either you get less data than you ideally want or you pay through the nose for more than you need.
But there are a few resources and providers that are useful to international investors. A few of them are even free. So let’s take a look at what’s available.
Getting price data for foreign stocks
There are two types of international stock market data you might need. One is price data, including live Level 2 data that shows you what’s going inside the exchange, and the other is fundamental data showing company financial information. High-speed traders will have the greatest need for the first, while longer term investors will find the second most useful.
Let’s begin with price data. A useful basic source is Bloomberg’s free news site, which is a handy way of getting a recent price on almost anything in the world (the delay is typically 15-30 minutes, depending on the exchange). The interface is limited and you can’t download the data, but you can see charts going back as far as five years.
Yahoo Finance covers a more limited range of markets, but has longer historical price series. A few major stocks on Yahoo have charts going back to the 1950s and 1960s. While it’s not officially supported, you can also download data from Yahoo into a spreadsheet.
To get more timely or detailed price data, you typically need to pay. You may be able to get some data from your broker. Online brokers typically offer some live Level 1 price data covering their major markets and may well offer you one or two markets free.
They may also offer you the ability to subscribe to more extensive data feeds, including Level 2 data. Interactive Brokers really stands out here. You can pick which feeds and data you require for any market you can trade through the firm, paying just the exchange fees. Saxo Bank also offers a slightly more limited service, with similar pass-through exchange fees.
Not all brokers are so comprehensive or price their packages so transparently. So as well as getting a quote from your broker, it’s also worth looking at some of the third party data providers. These vary from firms specialising in one or two markets to extremely comprehensive – but extremely expensive – semi-professional solutions.
The best price data providers
At the lower end, there are plenty of firms that cover a handful of exchanges such as Quotestream, which has good US, UK and Canadian coverage. But for international investors, it’s probably easier to look at providers that cover a wider range of global markets.
So the best introductory-level provider here is probably ADVFN, which offers a selection of data from around 80 global exchanges. There is a huge amount of information on its site and it’s a decent place for any investor to start while they’re working out exactly what data they need, although it is in desperate need of a more user-friendly web interface.
Initial registration and access to a significant amount of data for a limited amount of time per day is free. Fees for premium services vary from £5 per month for some Level 1 services to around £130 per month for a package of Level 2 data on several exchanges.
If a firm such as ADVFN doesn’t meet your needs, there are much more comprehensive data providers. They let you pick and choose feeds from a range of stock exchanges, which aren’t tied to a website or specific program, but can be fed into which charting, analysis or trading software you use. But this range and flexibility doesn’t come cheap.
Prices are usually unbundled – ie you pay separate fees for every facility you want and pay exchange fees on top of that for every market where you want real-time data. Exchange fees can vary from US$1 per month to around US$70 per month, depending on the exchange.
The cheapest comprehensive service seems to be Interactive Data’s eSignal, which has fairly good coverage throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe. End of day equity data for most meaningful global markets through this will cost you around US$45 per month, while real-time Level 2 data would cost you around US$150 plus exchange fees..
The gold standard for non-institutional investors is Quotecenter, which comes from Thomson Reuters via its Equis subsidiary. You pay a steep price for this – currently US$135 per month per region or almost US$300 per month plus exchange fees to cover all significant global exchanges.
But the full Reuters feed means that it’s most comprehensive and best quality data available to individual investors. If you’re not looking for real-time data, but want global historical end of day prices, another service called Reuters Datalink provides end of day data for around US$25 per month per region.
Getting fundamental data for foreign stocks
Getting good fundamental data is even more awkward than price data. As a general rule, it’s possible to get fundamental data for many markets going back around five years for free. Beyond that, you either need to pay or take the low-cost but time-consuming option of getting old annual reports and entering it in a spreadsheet yourself.
Getting any data at all beyond 10 years can be tricky although you will sometimes find providers who offer it for a specific market. For example, Sharescope is unusual in claiming 19 years of fundamental data for some UK stocks.
Older data is often considered irrelevant, which is unfortunate since it can be extremely useful in analysing how firms coped with specific problems or economic conditions in the past. Even the institutional feeds such as Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters are more limited on this than you might expect. Around 20-25 years tends to be the maximum even for very large and long-lived companies.
So where should you look? The single best free source is probably the markets section of Financial Times website. This has a significant amount of five-year company fundamental data, covering a wide range of international markets. It also has probably the most comprehensive free stock screener available for international stocks. You need to register, but don’t currently have to be a subscriber to the paper.
Morningstar is best known for mutual fund information, but also has a substantial amount of corporate financial data covering a number of international markets. Five year data is free – although not quite as comprehensive as on the FT website – while 10 year historical data is available for some markets as a premium product.
Some of the price data providers mentioned above offer some fundamental data, although it’s often limited. ADVFN is useful for some recent data.
At the top end, QuoteCenter is again the best and most comprehensive, as you’d expect from Reuters feeds. But few investors could justify the cost of these services for fundamental data alone.
Brokers are rarely a useful source of fundamental data, but it’s worth checking what your one offers. Interactive Brokers again stands out, offering a Reuters fundamental data feed for US$7/month for clients.
For non-clients, the firm offers a stand-alone product called Interactive Brokers Information Systems (IBIS) with a platform fee of US$69/month, through which you can subscribe to the Reuters data and other feeds.