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Best Brokers for Research

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Part 3 of Streetwise Reports' Online Brokerage series delves into the research brokerage firms offer.

Information is often the difference between good and great investing results. New investors can sometimes be intimidated by too much data, while some more seasoned investors simply can't get enough.

So we've sifted through the overall research and tools offerings of our top ten online brokers, and top five Canadian brokers, then ranked them on this basis.

Some online brokers offer all their research and data for free. But those whose offerings are the most customizable tend to have multiple data and research offers at a number of price levels. And these tend to be geared towards professional or even institutional traders.

In order to help you dissect the various offerings, we've indicated what's free and what you'll need to pay for. In some cases, we tell you how to access these services for free or at reduced cost, through a minimum number of trades or account balance.

U.S. Brokers, ranked for research

  1. Interactive BrokersInteractive Brokers Interactive Brokers (IBKR:NASDAQ) holds $162 billion of assets in 673,000 client accounts.

    FREE: tools, plus research from many providers

    IB offers vast amounts of research and tools that are available “a la carte” or bundled. Clients get free research from nearly 100 providers including Alexandria Social Sentiment, Market Realist, Zacks, TipRanks, ValuEngine, Dow Jones and many more. ESG ratings are available from Thomson Reuters, letting you compare and rank companies based on factors that matter to you.

    You can also buy discounted subscriptions to premium research or bundled services.

    The IBKR PRO platform offers options traders the many tools built into TWS, such as Probability Lab, which lets you compare your market outlook to current conditions, suggesting strategies you can trade. And IBKR PRO provides selectable real-time market data for a fee, in some cases at reduced or no cost depending on trading activity.

    The IBKR Lite platform, which offers free commissions, also has fewer research tools, a good quantity of free research and news services (more limited than PRO), and offers some market data like real-time quotes (more limited than PRO) for a fee.

    PAID: A huge assortment of news & research, and real-time market data at varying prices
  2. TD AmeritradeTD Ameritrade TD Ameritrade (AMTD:NASDAQ) has 11 million client accounts with more than $1 trillion in assets.

    FREE: All research, platforms and tools

    Wide-ranging research capabilities and multiple news feeds make TD Ameritrade our top choice for research. Its most advanced trading platform, “thinkorswim,” lets investors search for trading ideas using real-time data for equities and options. Level 2 real-time quotes are free, whereas some competitors charge a fee.

    Charting on “thinkorswim” can be tailored and offers many technical analysis tools. The website tools allow investors to ladder bonds and offers an outstanding bond screener. Analyst reports available from Argus, Market Edge, CFRA, TD Bank Financial Group, Vickers and Thomson Reuters.
  3. FidelityFidelity Fidelity boasts 29.6 million brokerage accounts and $7.8 trillion in total assets.

    FREE: All research, platforms and tools

    Fidelity comes in a very close second place for research offerings. Accessing all the tools may require using multiple platforms, but screening tools are great as they help investors narrow options based on their own criteria, and cover stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds and options.

    Recognia’s technical patterns and events enhance Fidelity’s own charting software. Active Trader Pro, accessible to all clients, is customizable with streaming news and video supplied by Bloomberg TV, and includes Level 2 quotes others charge for. And MSCI provides the environmental, social and governance ratings (ESG) in stock snapshots. And finally, clients can build longer term investment plans even before opening an account with Fidelity.
  4. SchwabSchwab Schwab (SCHW:NYSE) now has 12.1 million accounts and a total $3.77 trillion in assets.

    FREE: All research, platforms and tools

    Research is deep, coming from a number of sources including Reuters, Morningstar, Credit Suisse, MarketEdge and CFRA. While offering a number of platforms, StreetSmart options allow for more sophisticated investing. Clients enjoy real-time news feeds and have access to multiple providers, including Associated Press, Business Wire, MT Newswires, Globe Newswire and more. The company’s own rating system covers more than 3,000 public companies.

    StreetSmart’s Idea Hub also provides numerous ways for investors to generate options trading ideas, as well as more in depth study if desired. And charting on StreetSmart platforms is streamlined, with real-time data and the ability to place a trade right from the chart.

    PAID: Level 2 real-time quotes for charting: $30 every 3 months
  5. E*TRADEE*TRADE E*TRADE’s (ETFC:NASDAQ) total assets are $61 billion spread across 7 million accounts.

    FREE: All research, platforms and tools

    Investors wanting analyst recommendations will appreciate E*TRADE’s consensus ratings from multiple third parties, including individual ratings via TipRanks. Trefis is included on the site’s charting with a price estimate on the chart, and a link to a full analysis from Trefis.

    Options traders will benefit from the Power E*TRADE platform, which offers great tools, and where TradeLab allows users to analyze options. And TradeLab offers a wide range of analytical techniques from simple to more complex.

    Power E*TRADE’s StrategySEEK facilitates finding trading ideas, depending on total dollars to be invested and market outlook, with each strategy indicating risk and uses. Charting is powered by Chart IQ with Recognia technical analysis, 118 optional technical indicators plus 33 drawing tools.

    PAID: E*TRADE Pro is $99.95 monthly and includes Level 2 quotes, though this service is being phased out as Power E*TRADE is replacing it.
  6. TradeStationTradeStation FREE: real-time data for some basic U.S. markets, minimal news

    TradeStation is available as TSgo (mobile & web), or with more flexibility TS Select (desktop & mobile & web). Real-time data is available for main U.S. stocks, OTC and futures exchanges. Additional real-time data is available on an itemized basis, at $5 to $50 per month depending on the feed. News and research are free but very limited: Benzinga and Market Insight (by TradeStation).

    Strategies and order placing can be done through OptionStation Pro in the downloadable platform. Potential profitable trades are shown in the graphical display. RadarScreen is a highly flexible equities scanner, where you can create stock screens using fundamental and/or technical criteria. Historical data is unbeatable, with 50 years of daily, 27 years of minute, and 6 months of tick by tick histories.

    PAID: A huge assortment of real-time market data at varying prices
  7. Merrill EdgeMerrill Edge FREE: Most research, platforms and tools

    NOTE: Access to Bank of America and Merrill Lynch research available (no cost) but only with minimum $20,000 average balance over 3 months. All research unlocked with minimum $100,000 account balance split between Bank of America and Merrill Edge.

    Merrill is reputed for its extensive proprietary research and stock ratings. There is now a searchable database with the previous 6 months of reports on some 1,500 stocks. Bond investors enjoy the quarterly Fixed Income Digest. Emerging markets investors have access to quantitative research and data on those markets. The Stock Story feature mines equities data from multiple sources. Morningstar and CFRA provide stock screeners. A Fund Story feature is in the works for this year, with detailed info on ETFs and mutual funds.
  8. RobinhoodRobinhood FREE: basic research

    Yahoo Finance, Seeking Alpha, Associated Press, MarketWatch, WSJ, CNN Business, Cheddar, Reuters and Barron’s and other news feeds are included for free.

    PAID: Morningstar Research on stocks and Level 2 Market Data (later this year), $5/month. Robinhood Gold members gain unlimited access to independent stock research reports from Morningstar. These cover 1,700 stocks with frequent updates to account for company news. They include professional analysis and ratings on business strategy, fair market value, risk, leadership, and so on. They provide users with insight from professionals on company outlook for more informed investment decisions.
  9. VanguardVanguard FREE: basic tools and research, but very limited in scope.

    Vanguard’s tools like stock screener and ETF screener are good. There’s also a mutual fund screener that’s very basic, and covers mostly Vanguard’s own funds. You can also use an options research tool, but this is limited to options chains, offering much less detail than competitors. Even charting is there but very basic, with no ability to perform technical studies or customizing.
  10. VoleoVoleo Only proprietary info from other users/members of Voleo, no traditional analytical tools, just basic fundamentals like market cap, P/E, yields, etc. Looking to expand research available over time.

Canadian Brokers ranked for research

  1. Interactive BrokersInteractive Brokers FREE: tools, plus research from many providers

    IB offers vast amounts of research and tools that are available “a la carte” or bundled. Clients get free research from nearly 100 providers including Alexandria Social Sentiment, Market Realist, Zacks, TipRanks, ValuEngine, Dow Jones, and many more. ESG ratings are available from Thomson Reuters, letting you compare and rank companies based on factors that matter to you.

    You can also buy discounted subscriptions to premium research or bundled services.

    The IBKR PRO platform offers options traders the many tools built into TWS, such as Probability Lab, which lets you compare your market outlook to current conditions, suggesting strategies you can trade. And IBKR PRO provides selectable real-time market data for a fee, in some cases at reduced or no cost depending on trading activity.

    The IBKR Lite platform is not available in Canada.

    PAID: A huge assortment of news & research, and real-time market data at varying prices
  2. TD Direct InvestingTD Direct Investing FREE: Research reports from analysts at TD Securities, TD Economics, and third-party providers like Thomson Reuters and Morningstar. Morning Action Notes and a monthly collection of ideas from TD Securities. Thomson Reuters provides Morning News Call for U.S. and Canadian markets.

    TD Economics provides macro insights and Market Digest gets you a review of market conditions. As well there are special reports for impactful events like monetary policies and quarterly economic forecasts. Research tools include quality charting and screens.

    PAID: Advanced Dashboard for $29/month provides livestreaming quotes (Level 1), free with 30+ trades/quarter or have a minimum $500k balance. Market Depth for $10/month provides Level 2 quotes on multiple North American markets.
  3. QuestradeQuestrade FREE: Questrade has essentially two trading platforms, IQ Web and IQ Edge. Tools and customization are more robust on IQ Edge, something active traders will prefer. Still IQ Web has streaming data, charts, option chains, and provides a good basic level of news and organization. IQ Edge has more features, allowing for better customization.

    Customers wanting to do fundamental research have two main research tools: Market Intelligence and Intraday Trader. Morningstar is behind Market Intelligence, with fundamental analysis of Canadian and American stocks and ETFs. Morningstar also powers the mutual funds research, and is limited to Canadian funds only. Intraday Trader generates trade ideas and suggests trades based on automated technical analysis.
  4. BMO InvestorLineBMO InvestorLine FREE: News and research, basic tools

    BMO Investorline accounts include basic tools as well as the Thomson Reuters newsletter, daily ETF and equity newsletters, and research from S&P Global Ratings, Morningstar and BMO Capital markets.

    Clients with $250,000 minimum balance or 15-74 trades per quarter qualify as 5-star members and Market Pro status. This gets you a customized trading dashboard, with more sophisticated tools and analytics, and streaming real-time quotes for equities and options.
  5. Qtrade InvestorQtrade Investor FREE: Qtrade offers trading ideas by Morningstar research.

    Fundamental data available includes equities financial statements, price and performance history. The newsfeed provided by Barrons.com, Investors Observer and others is limited, lacking in visual elements such as charts or pictures, but is easy to read. Charting is basic, with a limited suite of chart editing tools and technical indicators. Meanwhile stock research and portfolio analysis tools are above average.
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Disclosure:
1) Peter Krauth compiled this article for Streetwise Reports LLC and provides services to Streetwise Reports as an independent contractor. He or members of his household own securities of the following companies mentioned in the article: None. He or members of his household are paid by the following companies mentioned in this article: None.
2) The following companies mentioned in this article are billboard sponsors of Streetwise Reports: None. Click here for important disclosures about sponsor fees.
3) Comments and opinions expressed are those of the specific experts and not of Streetwise Reports or its officers. The information provided above is for informational purposes only and is not a recommendation to buy or sell any security.
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5) From time to time, Streetwise Reports LLC and its directors, officers, employees or members of their families, as well as persons interviewed for articles and interviews on the site, may have a long or short position in securities mentioned. Directors, officers, employees or members of their immediate families are prohibited from making purchases and/or sales of those securities in the open market or otherwise from the time of the interview or the decision to write an article until three business days after the publication of the interview or article. The foregoing prohibition does not apply to articles that in substance only restate previously published company releases. As of the date of this article, officers and/or employees of Streetwise Reports LLC (including members of their household) own securities of Voleo, a company mentioned in this article.




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