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(More) Cool Toys to Play With

August 1, 2014

The stock market is a sum-of-all-its–parts thing—lots of parts, always moving, and giving off signals that may or may not be valid. Recent enhancements to can help you drill down into specific sectors and industries to get a better sense of what’s going on.

The days are getting shorter, the kids are heading back to school, and another summer is about to officially go in the books. So, how are your portfolio and your fantasy football team stacking up this year? We can’t help you with the latter, but we can with the former. As we head toward a season of the market calendar notorious for frightful twists and turns (some refer to this as “October”), it’s time to take inventory, get a sense of what has worked and what hasn’t, and consider some steps for the year’s third act.

Context is crucial. Without the right context, market trends can be misinterpreted and potential opportunities missed. To that end, TD Ameritrade’s enhanced site, launched late last year, has your back with several new features to help inform and enlighten your strategy. As the second of a two-parter (see also Part 1, “Come Play With the Coolest New Toys”), today we’ll spotlight three more tools: the Sectors & Industries center, the Market Monitor and the Third-Party Research function.

1. Sector & Industry Performance: Start Big, Get Small

Yes, the market is massive and complicated. But it’s important to recognize the fundamental factors that drive specific industries and the individual stocks within them. What’s important to retail stocks isn’t necessarily relevant to manufacturing, or health care, and so on.

The Sectors & Industries center offers a top-down road map, combining fundamental research, commentary and performance data to create an intuitive, progressively granular means to identify stocks within industries and help you assess how they stack up against each other. Put another way, you’d first pick a sector—financials, for example—and then sharpen your focus among several sub-categories—banks, or insurance companies, or real estate development.

Look at this as an idea generation machine that can help you validate. Before making a decision on whether to buy a stock, check out how its peers are holding up. Who are the underachievers and overachievers? Also, check performance metrics for which sectors are leading the charge or retreat when the broader market is up or down over a certain time period, as well as how each sector reacts to major economic reports and other market events (see figure 1).


FIGURE 1: WHERES THE ACTION? Use the drop-down menus (red arrows) to find performance information on specific market sectors and industries. You can also see how different sectors fared against the broader market over certain time frames (yellow). Source: TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only.

2. Market Monitor: Seeing Is Believing

“Every picture tells a story, don’t it?” Rod “The Mod” Stewart famously sang. The same principle applies to markets, and the Market Monitor provides a visual complement that can help you see clearer and identify what might otherwise remain hidden among the waves of numbers and words in front of you.

The Market Monitor tool (located under Sectors & Industries on the right side of the page) is a robust, graphic representation of all sectors, industries and stocks within the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (see figure 2). A glance reveals the strong, the weak and the in-between, along with proportional indicators that show how much a particular stock is skewing a larger sector.


FIGURE 2: GOING GREEN, SEEING RED. Based on the Market Monitor, energy and utility companies (yellow arrows) were among the strongest performers on the S&P 500 on this particular day, while financials and industrials lagged (blue). Source: TD Ameritrade, Thomson Reuters. For illustrative purposes only.

Each sector, industry and stock is color-coded red or green and listed in order of performance. The size of each cell illustrates relative market capitalization. Click on a sector or industry to drill down into a more granular market segment and hover over the stocks that catch your eye. Be sure to take advantage of the time-frame options.

3. Third-Party Research: Lessons From The Pros

It never hurts to get a professional’s opinion, right? In this case, we’re talking about some of the market’s heavy hitters, available through the Third- Party Research function. S&P Capital IQ’s weekly Sector Watch report offers an overview of the market and underlying trends. Credit Suisse, MarketEdge and TheStreet are also there to provide comprehensive commentary and analysis on stocks and market segments.


FIGURE 3: THUMBS UP, THUMBS DOWN. Analysts at Credit Suisse and other research firms (red circle) collectively were slightly more positive than negative (red arrows) on information technology stocks in June, based on the Ratings History function. Source: TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only.

A few particularly handy items include ratings history charts, buy-versussell ratings ratios and ratings “momentum” for each sector and industry (see figure 3). These tools can shed light on professional equity analysts’ outlooks.

Is there anything close to a consensus on whether a given stock is worth buying? Should you stay away? Or is the electorate divided?

We’ve covered a lot of ground on new site enhancements available on No doubt, you don’t need to be reminded that markets are constantly changing. Be sure to check back for future Gear Head columns on the coolest new “toys” to help you stay focused, stick to your plans and pursue your goals.

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