Lifting market mystery with the web

GIVEN the turmoil in stock markets around the world this week, all investors - regardless of the size of their portfolio - would do well to track exactly what is going on.

While your financial adviser will be able to discuss the effect of fluctuations and market corrections in detail with you, a basic understanding of how your portfolio is being influenced would undoubtedly come in handy.

You may be asking yourself: should you sell your equities and move into cash or property? Should you get all your money out of markets in the Far East? An understanding of how stock markets work in reality can help you make these decisions.

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That's where financial and stockbroker websites that give you information on a range of areas from unit and investment trusts to investment best-buys can prove invaluable.

There is a proliferation of such sites and independent financial advisers (IFAs) can point you in the right direction, depending on whether you are after basic information on bank current accounts or want to monitor your share performance.

Johnny McGlynn, wealth adviser, private client, at JS&P, said: "The most useful financial websites for consumers usually fall into two categories. The first is those that give basic independent guidance. This cannot be provided by a company that wishes you to buy a product and a good starting point is, which has a wide range of consumer information.

"The second category is those that provide factual information."

IFAs themselves do a lot of business online so it's worth asking which sites they are using to help manage your portfolio.

Larbert-based IFA Tom Munro said: "With regard to everyday financial products, look no further than is a fantastic site, which is so simple to use my 12-year-old son navigates it with ease. It has all the best buys: bank savings and current accounts, both onshore and offshore, lowest rate credit and store cards, mortgage best buys, top cash ISA rates and the most competitive loan rates. The site will also compare term assurance and annuity rates."

For slightly more sophisticated investors there are a number of specialist online providers but a name many internet surfers will be familiar with is Yahoo. It offers a service well worth checking out, according to Raymond Milne, sales and marketing manager at Dunedin IFA. It has an area dedicated to money at Once you have signed up for an account - free of charge - you can create a portfolio of your holdings. It also has a real time displays of the major world indexes and currency rates.

A site that many IFAs recommend is, which lists details of every unit trust, open ended investment company, investment trust, pension and life fund in the UK.

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Munro said: "Funds are simple to locate with the site's easy-to-follow menu. You can also add your investments to the 'my portfolio' file on the site and track the performance of your own investment funds on a daily or weekly basis to suit yourself. Fund statistics, fact sheets, top quartile and other performance data is easily assessable in order to ascertain which funds are performing well in any of the main sectors."

Other similar sites include, which has a vast array of data on individual investment funds, for what you need to know about stockmarket performance and to keep up to date with industry developments.

For people who want to trade online, you could visit It was founded in the US in 2000 but is now targeting the UK. The site is an online options trading platform that aims to simplify the process to appeal to a wide range of investors.

Tom Stern, chief executive, said: "First, we provide education on the site and as it's browser-based, with no software to download, it's easy to use.

"Second, there are evaluation tools online for the user to specify the criteria of what they want to invest in. We hope that people can become better informed investors."

Before you part with your cash you can try virtual trading on the site's practice platform using "monopoly" money in real market conditions.

But, given the volatility of markets - especially at the moment - it isn't ideal for everyone. Munro warned: "The site is not for the faint-hearted. Speculative investors running their own portfolios would benefit from this type of online trading but I feel the majority of people worrying about the corrections going on in the markets would shy away from this type of DIY investing, especially in futures and options."

While there is helpful information on the web, the advice is to tread with caution when going online to manage your finances. Jason Hemmings, director of Albannach Financial Management, said: "I'm very wary of some sites as they are a popular selling tool. If you buy a financial product online you have no comeback if things go wrong as you haven't sought advice. Saying that, they can be useful for research."