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how to find the best stocks, closed-end funds, ETFs & mutual funds

Basic Training for Winning Investors

Interested in Fundamental Analysis?
Fire Your Stock Analyst
A Step-by-Step Guide by Harry Domash

Do you want to improve your analysis skills.  There is plenty of stock market information on the Web. Do you know how to use it to find the best stocks, ETFs and mutual funds? Basic Training tutorials describe how professionals employ fundamental analysis strategies to pinpoint the best stocks and mutual funds. Each includes up-to-date links to the data you need to implement the described strategies. New tutorials are added every two weeks. 

Basic Training Contents

Dividend Stocks 

Evaluating Stock Market Advice

Evaluating Financial Health

Finding the Best Stocks to Analyze

Industries & Sectors  

Mutual Funds, CEFs & ETFs 

Predicting Market Direction 

How to Analyze Stocks 

Web Stock Market Resources  

Sharpen Your Analysis Skills

Click here to receive new Basic Training tutorials by e-mail the day of publication

  • Which Works Best: Mutual Funds or ETFs?
    Are you better off owing conventional mutual funds or exchange-traded-funds (ETFs) focusing on the same sector?Here's what you need to know.

  • Seven Dividend Stocks For 2015
    Here are seven stocks for you to consider for 2015. As usual, all are dividend payers. That way, if the market unexpectedly sinks, you’ll still be collecting dividends why you wait for an upturn.

Dividend Stocks 
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  • How to Find the Best Dividend Stocks
    With the market for growth stocks looking a little rough, it may be time to take another look at dividend-paying stocks. Here's how to find solid dividend-paying candidates. Time to Consider Preferred Stocks
    If the market looks a little too volatile for your tastes, this would be a good time to consider preferred stocks.  Many are paying dividends equating to 5% to 8% annual yields. Here's what you need to know.

  • Like MLPs? You'll Love Their General Partners
    Thanks to surging natural gas production, nat-gas pipelines are in fast growth mode. Pipeline Master Limited Partnerships are great, but their general partners might offer even higher returns. 

  • Utilities - Not So Boring After All
    So far this year utilities are up 18%, triple the
    S&P 500’s six percent gain over the same period. Do you still think that utilities are boring?

  • Time for Business Development Companies
    The old adage, “buy low, sell high,” still holds true. But, thanks to the hot market, it’s tough to find stocks that aren’t already “fully valued.” However, one category of stocks, Business Development Companies (BDCs), fits that bill. Here's the scoop.

  • Check Into These Hotels For High Returns
    Given the mixed economic reports that we hear so much, you might be surprised when I tell you that the hotel business is booming. But it’s true. All the relevant economic numbers: occupancy rates, room rates, and total revenues, already near multiyear highs, are still trending up. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are the best way to play the hotel business. Here's how to pick the best of the bunch.

  • ETFs Can Pay High-Dividends Too
    probably know about using exchange-traded-funds (ETFs) to hop on and off market sector swings. But you might be surprised to learn than many ETFs also pay high dividends as well.

  • Time to Stick With U.S.A. Stocks
    Europe is sinking into recession and China's growth is slowing. But here in the U.S.A., despite mixed economic reports, the outlook looks promising. Thus, for stock investors, the U.S.A. is the best game in town. Here are five stocks that will prosper as the U.S. economy strengthens.

  • Are REITs Right For You? 
    With the economy gaining strength, this might be a good time to consider investing in commercial real estate. You can do that via real estate investment trusts (REITs). Here's how.

  • Buy & Forget Portfolio
    Is this stock market driving you up the wall? Here are four stocks and one fund that you won’t have to worry about.

  • It's Time to Hedge Your Bets
    Escalating debt problems in Europe combined with mixed economic signals in the U.S. are raising fears that we could be headed back into recession. If that happens, stocks are likely to head down, but bondholders will probably still make money. Since bonds are not as easily traded as stocks, it's more practical to invest in bond funds. Here are four ideas.

  • Energy Pipelines: High Yields Plus Low Risk
    Energy pipeline operators, organized as Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) offer a combination of low risk and high yields, an ideal combination for this shaky economy.  Here's how to find them.

  • Opportunities for Patient Investors
    Opportunities abound for investors patient enough to wait out short-term volatility. That’s especially true for many high-dividend stocks. They already have plenty of cash in the bank and business is improving, so their payouts are not at risk.

  • Dividend Capture & Other Dividend Questions
    My column describing high-dividend stocks elicited questions about the various dates associated with a dividend payment. Others readers asked about dividend capture strategies, which involve holding a stock just long enough to collect a dividend, and then moving on to another dividend-paying stock. Here are the answers.

  • Safe Dividend Payers
    Since no one can predict when the market will recover, pundits are advising buying dividend-paying stocks on the premise that you will be getting “paid to wait.” Problem is, that only works if you pick stocks that don’t cut their payouts. Here’s how to find them.

  • Preferred Stocks: FAQs
    You’d think that preferred shares would be an arcane topic of little interest. But, in fact, my recent columns on preferreds generated unusually heavy volumes of mail. Here are the most frequently asked questions.

  • Dogs of the Dow
    Are you too busy to do the analysis required to select stocks for investment? How about a stock selection approach that requires less than one hour per year. This intriguing stock selection strategy called the Dow Dividend Approach, more popularly known as the Dogs of the Dow, has beaten the overall stock market substantially over the last 26 years. 

Evaluating Financial Health
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  • Check Fiscal Fitness First
    Just because the stock market is looking stronger these days doesn’t mean that you should throw caution to the wind. Up or down market, you’ll always do best owning stocks with rock solid balance sheets. Here's how to spot them in a minute. 

  • Bulletproof Stocks
    Just the rumor that one of your stocks is teetering on bankruptcy could ruin your day. Thus, it’s best to stick with stocks unlikely to suffer that fate. Here’s how to find them.  

  • How to Evaluate Credit Market Risk
    With the credit markets tight, if not stuck completely, it’s important to evaluate each of your stocks for credit risk. But there’s no website where you can look this stuff up. You have to do it yourself. Here ‘s how.  

  • Credit Risk Scorecard
    Given the state of the credit markets, holders of stocks that rely on debt to finance growth could be in for some unpleasant surprises. Here's how to find out if your stocks are in that category.

  • Use Cash Flow to Spot Bankruptcy Candidates
    We’ve heard a lot about accounting fraud, but recently bankrupt Consolidated Freightways simply ran out of cash to pay its bills. Here’s how you could have used cash flow to determine that Consolidated was risky business months before it filed bankruptcy..

Evaluating Stock Market Advice
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  • Follow Your Favorite Guru
    Here’s an idea. Instead of spending hours find and researching stocks on your own, why not simply mimic the trades of your favorite investing guru? Here’s how to find out what these proven winners are buying and selling.

  • Here's Who Predicted 2013's Big Winners
    As of Christmas Eve, 22 large-cap stocks had produced at least 200% returns so far in 2013. How could you have picked these blockbuster stocks in advance? Here's who, on Seeking Alpha, predicted the top four winners.

  • Pay Attention to Analysts - Just Don't Follow Their Advice
    Analysts' earnings forecasts contain important information that could help you make money. But ignore their ‘buy/sell’ ratings. Here are the details.

  • Why Investors Can't Make Money Following the Analysts
    Can you make money following stock analysts’ advice? The answer depends on who you are.  For those with the big bucks such as hedge funds and other big players, the answer is yes. But it’s a different story for individual investors. Here’s why.

  • When Sell Means Buy
    An analyst’s rating downgrade usually drives a stock price down. But if the reason for the rating change was solely valuation, the downgrade could be a buying opportunity.

Industries & Sectors
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  • These Web Sites Can Help You Make More Money   
    Staying on top of your stock’s industry news and trends will make you a better investor. Here's where to find that info.

  • Industry Timing Using Exchange-Traded Funds
    Not everybody loses money in a weak market. Investors in the right industry can make money, even in rough markets, if they know when to get in, and when to get out. Here’s how to use Exchange-Traded Funds for industry timing.

Mutual Funds/Closed-End Funds/ETFs
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  • Use ETFs to Spot What's Hot & What's Not
    Making money in the market is all about being in the right place at the right time. Here's how to use free ETF performance reports to spot "what's hot & what's not."

  • Open Up To Closed-End Funds
     If you’re like many investors, you probably don’t pay much attention to closed-end funds—but you should. Here's why.

  • Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)  
    Hedge fund managers have adopted exchange-traded funds (ETFs) as their favorite investment vehicle. But there is no reason why individual investors can’t also exploit the benefits of ETFs. Here's what you need to know. 

  • How to Pick the Best Mutual Funds
    The amount of mutual fund performance data can be overwhelming. Not to worry! Here are a few simple rules for picking the best funds.

  • Corporate Bonds Beat Money Market Accounts    
    With banks paying next to nothing in terms of interest, this may be a good time to consider corporate bonds. Here's how to find and evaluate bond funds suitable for current conditions.

  • Screening For Mutual Funds
    Mutual funds offer advantages over owning individual stocks in this rough and tumble market. Here's how to use Morningstar's free mutual fund screener to find worthwhile mutual fund candidates.

  • Do Managed Mutual Funds Outperform?
    In a market like this, managed mutual funds, in theory, should outperform the overall market. So far, that hasn’t happened. Here are the details.

  • Power of Compounding
    Probably the most important thing you need to know about building wealth is the power of making regular periodic investments and reinvesting rather than spending the profits. The results you’d get are astounding. Starting with nothing, you'd have a cool $1.7 million in 30 years if you just match the market's historical returns. Here's how. 

  • Beware of Fund Manager Changes
    A mutual fund’s past performance gives us a good clue to the future. After all, if a fund manager has been a good stock picker in the past, he or she will probably continue to pick good stocks. But all bets are off if the fund changes managers. Here’s how do you find out about fund management changes and a passel of other worthwhile info.

How to Research & Analyze Stocks
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  • Analyze Stocks Like a Pro
    Do you think analyzing stocks is too difficult? It doesn’t have to be. Here's how to analyze stocks like a pro.

  • Frequently Asked Questions
    About "overbought" and "oversold" stocks, screening for short-selling candidates, and dividend stock definitions. 

  • Seven Stock Investing Rules
    Don't make stock investing overly complicated.
    Here are seven simple rules that will help you make better investing decisions.

  • How to Avoid High-Risk Stocks
    Last week’s stock market burps remind us that, just because the market has been strong, this is no time to throw caution to the winds. Here are six checks you can use to gauge the risk of owning a specific stock.

  • Watch Out for Pump & Dump
    If you’re like me, you probably receive frequent e-mails from people you don’t know alerting you to opportunities to get in on the ground floor of exciting new businesses. Unfortunately, in many cases, it’s more about making money from selling stock to unsophisticated investors than about starting a groundbreaking new business. 

  • Guidance Moves Share Prices
    Until recently, when a firm reported earnings, its stock went up if earnings beat analysts’ forecasts and down if they didn’t’ But that was then. Now, the rules have changed. Here are the details.

  • Growth Stock Evaluator
    Growth stocks usually outperform the market in a strengthening economy; such as we’re currently experiencing. However, not all growth stocks are created equal. Here are six tests to help you decide whether your candidates are potential winners.

  • Organic Growth vs. Growth By Acquisition
    Some stocks
    grow by selling more products (organic growers), while others depend on acquisitions (serial acquirers) to maintain growth. Which is better? You might be surprised.

  • Six Questions to Ask Before Buying Any Stock
    Here are six questions that every investor, whether looking for high-flying growth stocks or beaten-down value plays, should ask before buying.

  • Rules for Avoiding Catastrophic Losses
    Making money in the stock market is as much about avoiding big losses as it is about scoring big gains. Here are six rules that could help you to do that.

  • Get a Second Opinion
    Even if you’re a great stock picker, it's worth getting a second opinion before you pull the trigger. Super Stock Screener, a site that I only recently discovered, looks like a good resource for getting second opinions, and potentially much more.

  • Four Important Stock Picking Factors
    Want to pick better stocks?
    I recently did some research that unearthed four factors that should help growth investors pick better stocks. Here are the details

  • Assessing Management Quality 
    Management quality is one of the most important factors you need to consider when evaluating a company’s outlook, and hence, whether you’ll make money owning the stock. Here's how to do that from the comfort of your easy chair.

  • Ten Rules for Picking Better Stocks 
    Picking winning stocks is harder than it looks. Here are 10 rules that will improve your odds of success.

  • When to Sell 
    You can find plenty of advice about when to buy stocks, but knowing when to sell is equally important. Here are three "red flags" telling you that it's time to sell.

  • Moneymaking Research Tidbits
    Does January's market action really predict the whole year? How much can you make following Jim Cramer's advice? Are high unemployment numbers good or bad for stocks? Here's a compilation of recent research findings that can help you make better investing decisions.

  • Corporate Tax Rates Move Earnings
    Corporate income tax rates play a big role in determining whether your stock will beat or fall short of forecasts at report time. Here’s how to figure out which way that wind is blowing.

  • Using Margins to Pick the Best Stocks
    Sometimes picking the best stocks in an industry is as easy as looking at gross or operating profit margins. Here's how.

  • Looking For Growth in All the Wrong Places
    Acquisition-fueled growth is like a Ponzi scheme. It works until something goes wrong. Here’s how to spot serial acquirers. 

  • Avoid Big Losses By Checking Balance Sheet Red Flags
    Crocs' shareholders who ignored two balance sheet “red flags” saw $1,000 turn into $209. Here’s how you can avoid making the same mistake.

  • Finding Google
    Most investors are looking for the next Google: stocks with rapidly growing earnings that will send their share prices through the roof. Here are 6 important rules for spotting hot growth candidates.

  • For Every Stock, There's a Season
    Making money on a stock may be as much about when you buy as what you buy. Here's how to find the best time of the year to buy your favorite stock. 

  • Death List = Risky Stocks
    With the Dow hitting new highs almost daily, the market has been fun lately. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and pay too much for stocks that have already seen their best days. Here’s how to identify stocks in that category.

  • Brushing Up On Basics
    Your mail tells me that new investors might not understand all of the terms that I use in these columns. So, here's an explanation of some of the stock market jargon I’ve been throwing at you. But experienced hands need not tune out. As usual, I’ve included enough of my own debatable opinions to make it interesting. 

  • Selling Short Can Backfire
    I get a lot of mail asking me to describe a strategy for picking short-selling candidates. That mail has gone unanswered. Now I’m going to tell you why.

  • Cramer Can Help You Make Money
    Watching Jim Cramer's "Mad Money" TV show is like a visit to the loony bin. But Cramer can teach you how to be a better investor. Here's the best news: you don't have to watch him on TV.

  • Survival of the Fittest
    Survival of the fittest, the law of nature that says, "Only the strongest survive," is a principal that investors should apply to qualifying stock candidates. Here's how. 

  • Get a Jump on the Big Players
    Institutional players move your stock’s share price big time when they buy or sell. Knowing how they think will help you predict which way your stocks are likely to move next.

  • Easier Way to Spot Accounting Red Flags
    Stocks usually take a big hit when a company reports earnings below expectations. That’s why some investors go to great lengths to detect “red flags” warning of such events. But you don’t have to. Here’s an easier way. 

  • Six Quick Growth Stock Checks
    Don’t spend time analyzing stupid stocks. Here are six items you can check in a minute (no kidding) that will help you rule out bad ideas so you can spend your time researching worthwhile candidates.

  • How to Gauge Interest Rate Risk
    Interest rates are likely to go up when the economy improves. Here’s how to gauge the risk to your stocks in a rising interest rate environment. 

  • Focus on ROE Instead of Earnings
    Investors would fare better by focusing on a firm's profitability rather than earnings per share when researching a stock. Why? Because as you'll soon see, one profitability measure, return on equity, can help you gauge a firm's earnings growth prospects. 

  • How to Profit From Stock Buyback Announcements 
    You may be able to improve your stock returns by focusing on firms that are buying back their own shares. But be sure your companies are actually doing it rather than just talking about it. Here’s how to do the analysis. 

  • How to Spot Takeover Targets 
    Even in this market, you usually make money if you are lucky enough to hold a stock when the underlying firm is bought out. Her are some ideas for spotting acquisition candidates.

  • New Rules for Valuing Stocks
    Investors typically rely on P/E ratios to value stocks. Now valuation is even more important, but in many cases P/E isn’t meaningful because recent earnings, the “E” in P/E, are either depressed or non-existent. Here’s how to get around that problem along with two more ideas to help you evaluate stocks in this market. 

  • How to Analyze a Company's Business Model
    f you were buying a real business, you’d probably spend considerable time analyzing each prospect’s profit potential. Yet few investors spend much time analyzing the business models of the stocks that they purchase. They’d be better investors if they did. Here's how to get started. 

  • How to Set Target Prices
    Setting target prices is something that professional money managers almost always do, but individual investors almost never do. Most are not aware of the importance of setting target prices, nor how to go about doing it, even if they want to. Here’s a simple procedure for estimating target prices.

  • A New Look at Value Investing   
    I’ve recently had the occasion to talk to several value-style managers about their selection strategies. As a result, I have a new appreciation for the craft, and in fact, value investing makes a lot of sense to me. Here’s a rundown on what I’ve learned.

  • Get a Second Opinion
    Even if you’ve done a thorough job of analyzing a stock, it pays to get a second opinion before you buy. Here are three sites ready and willing to give you their take on your picks.   

Finding Stocks to Analyze (Screening, Tips, etc.)
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  • How to Find Fast Growing Energy Shale Players
    The U.S. is in the midst of an oil and natural gas production boom. What’s more, many of the producers are small firms with explosive growth prospects that didn’t even exist 10 years ago. Here’s how to find them.

  • Finding Small Stocks Before They Get Big
    When it comes to stocks, names like Tesla, Twitter, Facebook and Google are getting all of the attention. But, since everybody already knows about them, it may be too late for you to get on those bandwagons. Here’s a screen for finding small companies that haven’t yet hit it big, but are showing signs that they are on the way.

  • Validea Can Help You Pick & Analyze Stocks
    Wouldn’t it be great if you could emulate the strategies of famous investors such as
    Joel Greenblatt or Benjamin Graham to help you pick stocks? It turns out that you can, here’s how. 

  • Finding Hot Stocks in a Hot Market 
    Despite the bumps, the market keeps moving up. How long that lasts is anybody’s guess. Nevertheless, why not hop on some hot stocks and enjoy the ride. Just be prepared to get out quickly when the market turns.

  • Easy Bargain Hunting Screen
    The S&P 500 dropped 3% in August. but many stocks took much bigger hits. That downdraft opened up opportunities to pick up bargains. Here's a simple screen anyone can run to find them. 

  • Time to Consider Private Equity
    main business is taking over major companies with problems, fixing them, and then taking the rehabilitated firms public again, often realizing a big profit. Here’s how to invest in three of the biggest players.

  • Finding Stocks in the Value Bin
    Given the market’s big run-up so far this year, this might be a good time to consider relatively low-risk, value-priced stocks. Here's how to find value investing candidates.  

  • With the Economy Picking Up: Consider Growth Stocks
    Share prices generally track earnings growth expectations for a stock. Thus, stocks with fast growing earnings usually outperform slower or no growth stocks. Here's how to find them.  

  • Follow the Smart Money
    The old adage, "work smarter, not harder," applies to picking stocks. Here's how to find out which stocks the big boys are buying, and equally important, which stocks that they're dumping.

  •  Healthcare Stocks
    expect hospitals, pharmaceutical makers, and providers of healthcare information systems to be the biggest beneficiaries of the new healthcare bill. Here's how to find candidates in those categories.

  • Use Surprises to Pick Stocks
    Here’s a stock picking strategy that doesn’t require scrutinizing financial statements or checking price/earnings ratios, or even worrying about how economic ups and downs might affect a company’s outlook. 

  • Time to Consider Growth Stocks
    With the economy no longer looking like it’s falling off a cliff, and the stock market showing signs of life, this may be a good time to consider edging back into the market. If you agree, here’s a search you can run on Morningstar’s user-friendly stock screener to find interesting growth stock candidates.

  • New Tool For Finding Growth Stocks
    It looks like the government will get the credit markets working again. If that happens, the stock market will begin looking beyond current conditions to the recovery. Zacks‘ new tool for finding growth stock candidates will come in handy. Here are the details.

  • Stocks For a Rebound
    Despite the continuous flow of bad news, eventually, the market will recover. Today, I’ll describe a strategy for finding stocks worth considering in a rebounding market. Here’s why you should be getting ready now.

  • Little Book Beats the Market
    The best selling stock market book these days is “The Little Book That Beats the Market.” The reason is no mystery. The book describes a simple formula that, according to its author, would have averaged a 31% annual return from 1988 through 2004. It’s worth a look.

  • Taking Screening to the Next Level  
    Portfolio123 is a new site with the goal of providing you with tools for creating automatically managed stock portfolios. It looks like it has succeeded. Here’s how it works. 

Web Investing Resources
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  • New Sites To Help You Make Better Investing Decisions 
    The Web, at least from an investing perspective, is undergoing a resurgence and dozens of new investing sites have surfaced in recent months. Here are some that I’ve found interesting.

  • Important New Investing Resources
    Investing resources on the Web are multiplying and evolving in ways that few of us would have predicted. Here are some of the best.

  •  Investing for Beginners
    Is investing an undecipherable puzzle? Here are five sites where you can get up to speed on the basics of investing.

Predicting Stock Market Direction
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  • Best Month's To Be In the Market
    “Sell in May and go away” is advice that you hear a lot this time of year. But, based on recent evidence, you'd do better by buying in October and selling in January. Here are the details. 

  • Ignore the Experts - Figure It Out Yourself
    Can anyone predict the market? Apparently not!  But CXO gives you the information you need so you can figure out which way the market is likely to head on your own.

  • Sites For Predicting the Economy
    Are we heading into a recession? You can find any answer you want by picking the right guru. That’s why it’s important to do your own research. Here’s where to start.

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