Some data is worth the price you pay for it, making it significantly easier to evaluate company performance.
Data providers that charge for their data typically earn their keep by manipulating the numbers reported by companies [Hack #15] in one of two ways. They create standardized data by assigning the reported values for income and expense items into the most appropriate standard categories. In addition to saving you time in calculating or categorizing reported numbers, standardized data definitely saves you from deciphering the more enigmatic income or expense categories used. Normalized data removes the impact of one-time events so that a company’s ongoing performance is more visible.
Data for a fee often includes business summaries and analyst opinions to help you identify strengths and weaknesses more quickly. In addition, data providers present quantitative and qualitative data for each company in the same layout, so you’ll know just where to look.
Data for a fee ranges from almost free to “this better be good.” If you’re using a stock analysis program [Hacks Section 4.18 and Section 5.13], you must choose a data source that provides data in a format that your program can read.
When you’re in the market for data that makes your job easier, consider one of the following sources:
Value Line (http://www.valueline.com) offers data for 1,700 stocks in the Value Line Investment Survey Standard Edition, and an additional 1,800 companies in the Small and Mid-Cap ...