How Google Finance Works

By: John Barrymore

Financial Web sites such as Google Finance help millions of people monitor their portfolios and the events on Wall Street. See more stock market and investing pictures.
Financial Web sites such as Google Finance help millions of people monitor their portfolios and the events on Wall Street. See more stock market and investing pictures.
Mario Tama/Getty

If you have a portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other investments, then you may crave up-to-the-minute news on a potential investment -- even if you're away from your computer. Perhaps you also like to read about the latest trends in the business world. If so, Google Finance -- a comprehensive financial Web site developed by Web-search giant Google -- may help you customize the way you receive information about your investments.

Part of the Google family of Web sites, Google Finance debuted in 2006. It competes with many other financial Web sites, including Yahoo! Finance and MSN Money, the leading financial Web sites in terms of visitors [source: 24/7 Wall Street]. Unlike other financial Web sites, Google Finance has no advertising.

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In this article, we'll explore some of its main features. You'll learn how to find information specific to a stock or fund, use interactive charts, personalize portfolios, and participate in discussion groups. You'll also learn about some of the more advanced options for customizing your Google Finance page.

But first things first: You can't personalize a portfolio if you don't have one. Read on to find out how to create your Google Finance portfolio.

Creating a Portfolio in Google Finance

A new software platform for mobile phones introduced by Google in early 2008 will make it easier for many investors to track their portfolios online from almost anywhere.
A new software platform for mobile phones introduced by Google in early 2008 will make it easier for many investors to track their portfolios online from almost anywhere.
Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty

To use Google Finance, you'll need to create a Google account. This is a simple process that's free and takes less than a minute. Once you have an account, you can create a portfolio and participate in Google Finance discussion groups.

To create a portfolio, you simply click on the Portfolios link at top of the Google Finance home page. Then click Create a Portfolio. As soon as you have created and named your portfolio, you can start adding stocks and mutual funds.

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If you already have any Google account -- like a Gmail address -- just go to Google Finance, log into your account and then click Portfolios. You'll go to a page entitled My Portfolios. Follow the instructions on the page to add stocks or funds to your portfolio.

Once you've entered the stocks or mutual funds you want in your portfolio, you can view it in several modes.

  • In the Overview mode you can view each stock's last price, its percentage change, its current market capitalization, its volume, and its high and low prices for the current market session.
  • In the Fundamentals mode, stocks in your portfolio will show last price, market capitalization, average volume, 52-week high, 52-week low, earnings per share (EPS), price to earnings ratio (PE), forward price to earnings ratio (FW P/E) and beta. You can also view the transactions related to your portfolio.

You can always edit your Google Finance portfolio, as well as its record of your transactions. Click on the Edit Portfolio link to change the list of stocks and funds, or to change your preferred currency. Use the Edit Transactions link to change your transaction records. You can track the kind of transaction (buy, sell, sell to cover, or sell short), the date, the share price, the commission, and any other notes you want to record.

Note that you must have stocks or funds in your portfolio before you can edit transactions. Many menu options are not even visible if your portfolio is empty. As soon as you add a stock, however, the Edit menu will appear.

Another way to use Google Finance is to participate in discussion groups. Discussion groups contain opinions and information from Google Finance users related to specific stocks or groups of stocks. Anyone may read content in any particular discussion. But to participate in a discussion, Google requires that you have an account and complete a Google Finance portfolio.

If you post content, you must abide by Google's community guidelines which are common-sense Netiquette. Users agree not to post spam, viruses, or other harmful or abusive content and not to violate any local laws.

To learn how to customize your financial news -- and how to take a peek at the pay stubs of the world's highest-paid CEOs -- read on.

Viewing Market Data

Recent market volatility has leeched profits from many investment portfolios. Coupled with the disappointing earnings reports, a string of high-profile management scandals (such as this one, at Volkswagen) has many investors wondering whether CEOs are rea
Recent market volatility has leeched profits from many investment portfolios. Coupled with the disappointing earnings reports, a string of high-profile management scandals (such as this one, at Volkswagen) has many investors wondering whether CEOs are rea
AFP/Getty

Statistics automatically update but aren't in real time. As on most other free financial Web sites, data is delayed by about 20 minutes.

The search box at the top of the home page lets you find information about a particular company. For example, to learn about Frontier Oil Corporation you would type in the name of the company or its stock symbol (FTO). When the company name appears on the drop-down list of choices, click on it or the Get Quotes box. Doing so will take you to a new screen that contains a variety of information about the stock, including recent news, discussions, and information about companies in the same sector.

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The charts on Google Finance are more sophisticated than most. Each chart correlates market data with dated and lettered news stories from Google News, which compiles over 4,500 sources. The charts allow you to see the effect particular news stories have had on the price of the stock. For example, after reading a story about a company that raised its dividend several months ago, find the letter corresponding to that news story on the chart and to see the effect of the dividend change.

The charts are also interactive. Move your cursor over the chart to see the price and volume of a stock at any given time. You can see a photograph and view the biography and compensation of the company's CEO, just by mousing over the executive's name. What's more, you can click and drag the charts to different time periods. The Zoom feature enables you to track the stock's performance over given periods of time, ranging from one day to 10 years. In addition, you can sort the chart information by News Flags, volume, splits or dividends, and customize the chart's appearance.

Note that many of these features depend on Adobe's Flash player. If you don't already have the Flash player installed on your computer, you can download it for free from Adobe.

You can refine your Google Finance information with several advanced options:

  • Compare information about specific stocks by selecting one stock and then clicking the Compare tab.
  • Track information about splits (represented as S) and dividends (represented as D).
  • Track the performance of different currencies. Each currency includes a link to its own page, which features a currency converter that lets you quickly compare values.
  • Obtain multiple quotes by entering two or more ticker symbols in the search box.
  • Track extended-hours or after-hours trading for certain stocks.
  • Get automatic e-mail messages whenever there is news about companies that interest you.
  • Add RSS feeds to your Google Finance page.
  • Download prices, transactions and other information into a spreadsheet.

If you'd like to know more about Google Finance and related topics, follow the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

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Sources

  • CIO "Google to Launch Financial Web site." http://www.cio.com/article/19305
  • Forbes.com "Google Rolls Out Finance Site." http://www.forbes.com/2006/03/21/google-yahoo-microsoft-cx_ck_0321google.html
  • Google Finance Help Center. "Basics: About Google Finance."http://www.google.com/support/finance/bin/answer.py?answer=71874&topic=13854
  • Google Finance Help Center. "Personalizing Google Finance: Creating a Portfolio." http://www.google.com/support/finance/bin/answer.py?answer=71892&topic=13855
  • Google Finance Help Center. "Personalizing Google Finance: Importing a Portfolio." http://www.google.com/support/finance/bin/answer.py?answer=71893&topic=13855
  • Google Finance Help Center. "Personalizing Google Finance: Before You Post." http://www.google.com/support/finance/bin/answer.py?answer=71920&topic=13855
  • 24/7 Wall St. "Business and Financial Web site Numbers."http://www.247wallst.com/2007/09/business-and-fi.html