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Nov. 23, 2021, 8:58 p.m. EST

These are the most important things to check on a stock’s quote page before deciding whether to buy or sell

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Tomi Kilgore

There’s a lot more investors can glean from a MarketWatch stock quote page than just the price and the change from the previous session. In fact, price may be one of the least useful research data available.

Of course, you may want to know what is driving a big change in the stock price. Type a company’s ticker symbol or name into the search field on MarketWatch.com to get the stock page (also called a ticker page) and look under the “overview” tab for reports from MarketWatch and other Dow Jones publication as well as company news releases and reports from some other contributors.

But to become a smarter investor, you need to look at both the stock price and the underlying metrics used to evaluate a company and stock against both peers and over time.

One way to do that is by using an “advanced” or “interactive” chart , which can be found on the MarketWatch quote page. The charts can extend the time viewed to more than 10 years, and can overlay, or provide in a lower chart, a number of technical or fundamental metrics. It also lets you compare the moves to other stocks and indexes.

Here are 10 things more important than price that are available to investors, listed in alphabetical order:

52-week high and low

A stock’s 52-week high or low is a price range that helps an investor see where the stock is trading relative to how it has traded over the past year. It can be found under the “overview” tab in a quote page.

Although some might view a stock trading closer to its low over the past year as relatively cheap, Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities Corp., said he would prefer to invest in a stock that is trading closer to its 52-week high than its 52-week low.

“I’m not looking at what the market is getting wrong, I’m looking at what the market is getting right,” Hogan said. “It’s near its high for a reason.”

Analysts’ estimates for EPS and revenue

Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading, likes to check the change in analyst expectations for full-year earnings per share and revenue, as that can provide a view on how Wall Street perceives the underlying strength of a company’s business.

Those and more can be found under the “analyst estimates” tab on a quote page.

A look at the yearly numbers shows the EPS estimates for the current year as well as for the next two years, as compiled by FactSet, in both table form and as a chart. The page also shows how what a company reported on a quarterly basis compared with the average analyst EPS estimate, overall analyst ratings of a company and how the ratings have changed over the past three months, and the average stock price target and notable changes in ratings and targets.

For example, Facebook Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB -1.24% full-year EPS was expected to keep growing at a steady rate as of the start of the third quarter of 2021, and its reported quarterly EPS beat expectations in the previous four quarters.

Competitors

It’s smart to compare a company’s financial performance against its competitors when assessing its financial performance. Scroll to the bottom of the “overview” page to find that list — companies in the same business and in some cases others in a similar broadly defined sector and within the same market-capitalization tier.

Dividend yield

Also on the “overview” page is the dividend yield, or the annual dividend rate per share divided by the stock price. It is best viewed relative to a company’s peers, the broader stock market and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. BX:TMUBMUSD10Y

For example, Microsoft Corp.’s /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT -0.87% dividend yield as of the end of August 2021 was a little over half that of the S&P 500 and the 10-year Treasury yield. However, the yield is above that of Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -0.65% , the only other company with a larger market cap, and above the yield of the SPDR Technology Select Sector exchange-traded fund /zigman2/quotes/207444675/composite XLK -0.84% .

To see if the company has consistently paid a regular dividend, select “dividend” under the “events” tab.

Free cash flow

Free cash flow is the cash generated from operations after expenses and capital investments. The more cash available to a company, the more it can spend to expand. It can be found under the “financials” tab, then click on the secondary “cash flow” tab .

How free cash flow changes over time is useful in judging the current strength of a company’s business and its potential for growth, said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Investment Management.

The MarketWatch quote page provides a scale to see the change in free cash flow on an annual basis over the past five years or over the past five quarters.

For example, free cash flow (FCF) was a key metric analysts used to evaluate General Electric Co. /zigman2/quotes/208495069/composite GE -0.97% , as the company recovered from years of financial distress. The quote page shows how FCF turned positive in 2019 after being negative the previous three years and that it stayed positive in 2020.

To become a better investor: sign up for a MarketWatch newsletter here.

Gross profit margin

Gross profit margin, and the change over time, is another important measure of a company’s profitability. That can be found under the “financials” tab on a quote page.

Gross profit margin is calculated by dividing gross income — sales minus cost of goods sold (COGS) — by sales. It should be viewed over time and relative to its peers.

For example, the year-over-year growth rate for Microsoft’s revenue has been higher than the COGS growth rate the past four years, which indicates that gross profit margin has improved in each of the past four years.

Microsoft’s 2020 gross profit margin also was more than double the S&P 500’s implied gross profit margin and nearly double that of Apple and Amazon.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -3.44%

/zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 312.64
-3.92 -1.24%
Volume: 3.75M
Jan. 21, 2022 10:03a
P/E Ratio
22.59
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$880.59 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.92M
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/zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 298.98
-2.62 -0.87%
Volume: 7.78M
Jan. 21, 2022 10:03a
P/E Ratio
33.69
Dividend Yield
0.82%
Market Cap
$2264.41 billion
Rev. per Employee
$973,762
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/zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 163.44
-1.07 -0.65%
Volume: 19.69M
Jan. 21, 2022 10:03a
P/E Ratio
29.37
Dividend Yield
0.53%
Market Cap
$2687.17 billion
Rev. per Employee
$2.38M
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/207444675/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE Arca
$ 156.14
-1.32 -0.84%
Volume: 2.28M
Jan. 21, 2022 10:03a
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/208495069/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 97.30
-0.95 -0.97%
Volume: 999,560
Jan. 21, 2022 10:03a
P/E Ratio
22.19
Dividend Yield
0.33%
Market Cap
$107.89 billion
Rev. per Employee
$433,155
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 2,929.08
-104.27 -3.44%
Volume: 1.06M
Jan. 21, 2022 10:03a
P/E Ratio
58.26
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$1538.36 billion
Rev. per Employee
$352,824
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