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Screening Stocks, Options, ETFs, & More: Who Makes the Cut?

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September 20, 2012

There’s a lot of choice when it comes to stock research, analyst picks, and peer-generated tips spouting from online newsletters, social media, and TV broadcasts. And the bad news? Yup. There’s perhaps too much choice.

So, to sift through the scores of stocks, options, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that best fit your criteria, you might try to shrink that pool of potentials to only those most compatible with your investing needs (See Figure 1). You can do all this with the Screeners function, after you log in to your account at tdameritrade.com.

For some investors, screeners are simply the starting point to test and validate a strategy. Screeners might help investors dig into the company that makes the smartphone they just bought. Screeners might help active traders single out a covered call or a calendar spread to layer in an added layer of potential protection to an existing stock strategy. With any approach, keep in mind past performance is no guarantee of future results.

You might start with a concept and narrow down to the most relevant ways to play that hunch. Generate new ideas or latch on to an idea that the Screener brings to the surface. And then, adjust and refine (again and again) to better sync with your goals. The best part? You can sit a bit with your ideas. Save them and revisit; no need to commit until you’re ready or until you get just that signal you’ve been waiting for.

Here’s how it works:

• Click the Research & Ideas tab, troll for ideas, or bring your own.

• Open the Screeners page where you can create Screeners for stocks, options, mutual funds, or ETFs.

FIGURE 1: SMOOTHER OVER TIME. Sample Screener below shows Large Cap stocks search results reduced by selecting additional criteria. Forty-one potential stock ideas emerge. The securities shown are for illustrative purposes only and not a recommendation.

• Pick pre-defined stock Screens (See Figure 1), sectioned by ratings, technicals, or fundamentals. You can start with a pre-defined screen and make it your own. Or start from scratch and create a new Screen by selecting criteria. In multiple steps, fine tune the results. For instance: sector and industry; market capitalization; beta; price and volume; management fees (and more).

• Screener will generate a list of stocks, options, or funds that meet the criteria that you’ve defined (See Figure 2).

FIGURE 2: Sample list of “custom screened” stocks ranked by market capitalization. The securities shown are for illustrative purposes only and not a recommendation.

• Adjust and sort the data displayed in the Screener results page and then start researching individual assets.

• Access research and opinion.

• Tap tools straight from the Screener, including: fundamental and technical performance data; advanced charts; fundamental and technical third-party analyst ratings; ETF and mutual fund ratings/risk, and portfolio analysis.

• Save your Screener and check it whenever you like. You can also turn your findings into a Watch List and customize how you want to receive alerts.

FIGURE 3 Custom screeners at tdameritrade.com make it easier to sift through the myriad choices with your own criteria.