International investing news and information

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Today, the best international stock brokers can trade most major global stock markets with relatively low cost and hassle. Accessibility is no longer a big barrier to international investing for the adventurous private investor.

But there are still obstacles to building a global portfolio and the worst of these is probably information. Even though individuals can invest around the world, most don’t. Consequently, most investment magazines, newsletters and other resources are geared towards buying shares in your home market and using funds if you want to go abroad.

Institutional investors have access to all-round data feeds such Bloomberg and a steady of investment suggestions from brokers (often useless, but it’s a starting point). But few people market these kinds of services to private investors

The result is that international investors need to do much more legwork to come up with and research investment ideas than they might want. There’s no getting around that. But there are a handful of high quality resources that cater to individuals or are affordable to most. This article lists some of these best. Continue reading »

Oct 042011
 

Interactive Brokers have recently announced an interesting new data product called Interactive Brokers Information Systems (IBIS) that seems to be trying to fill the gap for investors and traders who want extensive data and analytics services without the Bloomberg and Reuters-level price tag.

IBIS is available as an add-on to its Trader Workstation for Interactive Brokers’ clients (US$39/month, discounted against commissions) or as a stand-alone product for non-clients (US$69/month for the first year, rising to US$89/month afterwards). That’s the platform fee – you need to pay the relevant exchange and provider fees for price and data feeds on top of that.

Existing clients can already get data through Interactive Brokers on the same terms, so the extra US$39/month value in IBIS is presumably supposed to be the convenience of its interface, portfolio analytics, screening tools and other software. Each trader will have their own view on whether this is worth the money or not.

For non-clients, this now seems to be the cheapest stand-alone way to subscribe to international price and fundamental data. With an IBIS platform subscription, you can then get Reuters Worldwide Fundamentals for US$7/month, for example.

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Getting fundamental and price data for international stocks

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Getting data on foreign stocks is much more awkward than you’d expect. That’s because most data providers catering to individual investors 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 10 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, Interactive Data, Morningstar, S&P Capital IQ, Factset and Sungard. These offer the most comprehensive data feeds available.

Unfortunately, they don’t cater to private investors. While these providers often don’t quote subscription fees openly because they are subject to negotiation, Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters are in the region of $1,500-2,000 per user per month, while cheaper offerings such as Morningstar Direct and Sungard Marketmap will still set you back several hundreds of dollars 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.

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What is level 2 data?

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When you sign up for a brokerage account you will often be given a choice of how timely and detailed you want market price information to be. The most basic option is to have delayed data. This means that the bid and offer prices and the trading volumes you see on your screen are not live, but delayed by 15-30 minutes.

To get the latest quote at which you can trade, you need to open a trading window for the specific stock you’re interested in. This is not because your broker is trying to make life awkward for you.

Rather, it’s because data distribution is controlled by the stock exchange – and since streaming live data has a value to traders, they charge for it. In some cases, they charge quite a lot.

Continue reading »