Subject: Information Sources - Free to All Who Ask

Last-Revised: 28 Apr 1997
Contributed-By: Brook F. Duerr, Seshadri Narasimhan

Here are some tips about obtaining cheap or free info.

Moderator's note 3 September 2014: This list from 1997 is obviously showing its age, because internet sites now provide a deluge of free information, and fax-back services have disappeared! Still there are some useful suggestions here, hope you find them helpful.

Local Companies
Look in your local newspapers for information and stories about the companies in your immediate area. I have found that our local papers carry some great articles about our local companies long before the WSJ or other papers pick up on them. The local papers tend to report very minute details that the "big" papers never report. The local paper that I get covers insider buys/sells, IPOs etc., management changes, detailed earnings reports, analyst opinions, you name it.
Stocks on Call
A free, fax-back service with lots of stories about companies. The information is biased because it is paid for by the listing companies, but it is free, so you get what you pay for. The list has been growing very rapidly, and they company drops the information after it has been listed for 24-72 hours, so it pays to call often. Some articles are only posted for one day. It takes me about 5 minutes to get the 10 or so articles I want. They used to publish a list in the papers, but the list is too long to do that now. Once you have the list then you can call and get 3 stories per call sent directly to your fax. It is all handled by computer (usually). You can call back and get 3 stories per call for free. I have gotten some great tips here - nice, fast-growing, small companies (and some F-500s too). Although Stocks on Call is automatically provided with your number (a feature of 800 service), they state that they will not give your number away to third parties. Contact them at 800-578-7888.
Pro-Info
A second free, fax-back service, different from Stocks on Call (see above). This service places information into a computer so you can access it at any time and it is always available. Pro-Info has such things as Investor Packages, Latest Earnings Reports, news releases and analysts reports. They cover about 100 companies and the list is growing. The quality of the faxes is not great because Pro-Info apparently scans the pages into the computer. Contact them at 800-PRO-INFO (800-776-4636).
Stock Charts
I get at least one copy of Investor's Business Daily per week. The Friday edition is particularly great. IBD is available in most areas at newsstands, bookstores, etc. IBD is a good newspaper for its charts.
Archive Information
For historical information, I save one copy of Barron's or WSJ or IBD each month. If I see a company that I am suddenly interested in then I can just open up those old editions and get some pretty good historical data. IBD is great for this.
An Important Edition of The Wall Street Journal
I think it is imperative to get a copy of the WSJ that covers the year in review. This edition comes out usually on the first business day of the new year. It contains a lot of information about how each stock has performed during that last year, including the % movement of the stock during the past year. I get two copies of this paper because I get so much out of them (one for work, one for home).
SEC on Internet
This is the place where you can obtain Securities and Exchange files (10-Ks, 10-Qs, you name it) on companies that file electronically with the SEC.
Archive list for ticker symbols
Available by accessing this URL:
ftp://metalab.unc.edu/pub/archives/misc.invest/information/symbols
Writing Letters
If you are interested in a company then by all means get their address and write them a letter. If you have a non-discount broker then they can get you the company's address. Otherwise go to virtually any library and they will be able to help you find the addresses you are interested in. When you write to a company, tell them you are interested in investing in them and you want to learn more about them. Ask for 10Ks, annual reports, 10Qs, quarterly summaries, analyst reports and anything else they can send you. Some companies will bury you with information if you just ask. Ask them to add your name to their mailing list for future information. Many companies maintain active mailing lists and so the information will keep flowing to you. All this for only a stamp.
Public Registers Annual Report Service
This is a outfit that acts as a clearing house for mailing out annual reports on companies. They have a huge list (several thousand) companies that they work for, and they are a free service. They also send out a newspaper called the "Security Traders Handbook" and "The Public Register". These newspapers contains wealth of information on earnings, IPOs, insider trades etc. The price on the cover says $5.00, but I have received several issues and have never received a bill (I wouldn't pay anyway). You have to write to them to get on their mailing list. The address is: Bay Tact Corporation; 440 Route 198; Woodstock Valley, CT 06282. Write them a letter and ask them what services they provide. They send out annual reports, but they do not carry analysts reports and other news release type items. Try calling them at 800 4ANNUAL.
Reader Service Cards in Investor's Daily or other Places
Another reason I like to get the Friday edition of IBD is because they usually have a bunch of companies hyping themselves and offering information if you send in a reader service card. This is another great almost freebie. For a stamp you can usually find at least 3-5 companies that are worth finding out about.
The Wall Street Journal's Annual Reports Service
According to their blurb, you can obtain the annual reports and, if available, quarterly reports, at no charge for any companies for which the 'club' symbol appears in the stock listings. (The 'club' symbol is the same as the one on a playing card. Look at Section C "Money and Investing" of any WSJ and you will see what I mean.) These reports can be ordered by calling 800-654-CLUB. You can also fax your request, giving the ticker symbols of the companies whose reports you want, to 800-965-5679. It usually takes at least a week to get the information to you.
Mutual fund companies
The companies' toll-free lines may be your best friend, if the solution might involve investing money with them. Call them, state your problem simply, and request follow-up information in writing. I would be completely honest with them, just tell them if they give the best service, you'll invest your money with them. Of course, if your problem can't be solved, even tangentially, with mutual funds, you should probably not waste your (and their) time.

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