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New Possibilities:

The Democratization of Information

The reason investing institutions and firms have always had an advantage is not only their access to capitol; they also have access to more information than the public.

The average private trader will never have the purchasing power to actually change the value of securities the way the brokers do, but the Internet is helping to level the playing field when it comes to information.

Lowering Risk Through Research.

Fundamental Analysis

How is a company structured? Did it turn a profit last year? What new products or services are they developing? These are the basics of fundamental analysis for investing in stocks (Thomsett, 42). This type of research can also be applied to commodities and currencies: Is the weather going to cause the price of corn to skyrocket? Is Euro going to gain value compare to the U.S. dollar? Knowing these things can help you make money, and more importantly, prevent you from loosing it.

Technical Analysis

Before electronic data collection, analysts had to write down stock prices and trade volumes as they appeared on the exchanges. How to interpret the data was different for every analyst, and visual representations of the numbers were very rare. With the advent of personal computers and the Internet, up-to the minute quotes and decades of history became available (Lichtman and Duke, 96). Furthermore these services often include analysis, so you do not need to be a mathematician to observe patterns and trends.

Resources

Goverment Resources

One of the best sources for data and analysis is been the government. U.S. law guarantees a degree of transparency for large companies (Lichtman and Duke, 43). These regulations hinder illegal activity and benefit investors.

EDGAR

Electronic Data-Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval is the system developed by the SEC to collect and make public the various filings that publicly traded companies must submit. Included are reports on the company's performance and insider trades (Lichtman and Duke, 42).

Financial Advisors

Online discount brokerages are shifting much of their services from a system centered around brokers to one based more on financial advice (Thomsett, 182). Even skilled stock traders occasionally need help from financial advisors. You can pay these firms to receive personalized financial advice. Some online brokerages also offer a lot of information for free, perhaps as a sophisticated way of advertising.

The Media

Traditional media companies have offered business news and financial advice of varying qualities for years: from the Wall Street Journal to the thirty-second financial segment on the evening television news. Some of these companies have adapted to the Internet better than others. CNBC and Reuters are excellent examples.

As with many specialized journalism markets on the Internet, specialized companies have surpassed many of the long-established news services. Webfinance, Inc. has Intvestorguide.com and wiseradvisor.com and, both of which are great resources.

Mashups

Brokerages and ECNs offer proprietary programs that you can use to monitor your investments and the markets. Some run in the browser and some you have to download, and they are customizable to a degree. The future of such interfaces is pointing towards mashups. "A mashup is a technique for building applications that combine data from multiple sources to create an integrated experience," according to an article from The Architecture Journal.

While mashups still need further development, their potential for investors is clear. Soon you will be able to have a constantly updating display of your investments, various news sources, commodity reports, currency exchange rates, and whatever else you want feeding directly into a window on your computer.