STOCK charts are seldom a primary reason for investors to visit corporate investor relations websites, but no IR website is complete without them. That’s why free stock charts make a lot of sense for companies of any size.
The good news for companies is that there are now more free chart options available thanks to advances in technology and the emergence of alternative market data providers that don’t have the same draconian licensing restrictions as the big exchanges.
The bad news is that the options are still fairly limited and none of them is perfect. Still, if the allure of free appeals to you, there are some potentially viable solutions available. All are easy to install and some have features absent from many of the paid stock charts you’ll find on IR websites.
The charts are free because the services providing them want to increase their online visibility. The charts also may include a link back to the chart provider’s website, which can increase their ranking in search engines. In other words, you are paying for the charts, just not in hard currency.
For this article, we’ll show you 5 free stock chart options using diversified electronics company Orbotech (NASDAQ:ORBK) as an example. We chose Orbotech because it’s a small company (market-cap $350 million) that outsources its IR website to Thomson Reuters, which is typical of most US companies. Here’s a screenshot of the company’s current paid stock chart.
Now let’s look at five free alternatives that Orbotech could use instead of its current paid chart. In each example, we chose a 1-year view and included a peer company comparator if the option was available. We also re-sized the charts to be 600-pixels-wide if that option was offered. Some of the free charts offer many more features than we have used, so we recommend you explore each one in more detail.
YCharts just launched its stock charts yesterday. They currently have limited customization features and you cannot control sizes or colors. The chart embedded below shows ORBK compared to Electro Scientific Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:ESIO), which is a nice option to have. You also can compare the stock price to a wide range of company specific financial or valuation metrics, but we aren’t showing them in the chart.
It’s worth noting that YCharts offers a lot of other embeddable charts besides stock charts. These other charts would be great in a financial history section on an IR website (see an example in the second embed below).
The charts are live Internet applications, not images. You’ll notice that if you roll your cursor over them.
And here’s a Ycharts embed showing ORBK’s revenues compared to its expenses, which would work well in a financial history section:
Wikinvest was one of the first services to offer embeddable charts. They are famous for allowing anyone to annotate a chart, in the best wiki traditions. However, you don’t have to show any existing annotations on the chart you embed in your site, although visitors to your site can add their own if they wish.
The chart itself is a fairly basic Flash application. You cannot add comparators, but users to your site can customize the time period. You can customize the size and include a live delayed stock quote. There’s an option for visitors to embed the chart on their own websites and the Wikinvest branding and link is quite prominent. Nonetheless, it’s a solid chart.
FreeStockCharts.com stands out for providing the most features and customization options. However, there’s a big downside. The charts use Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, which means about 40% of the current web population won’t be able to use the chart unless they install Silverlight, according to stats by riastats.com.
Other than that, the charts offer excellent customization options, including the ability to show index and peer company comparators. In the chart embedded below, I’ve compared ORBK to ESIO.
These charts, which use the BATS exchange data, are better than anything you will get from most IR website vendors. Support for Silverlight will continue to grow, but until it can match Flash’s 98% penetration, it’s probably not a good option for most companies.
This chart comes with advertising, which is why it’s free. You also have to sign up for an account with eSignal.com and acknowledge a long disclaimer. The features are limited and the website I used to get the code wouldn’t let me past the disclaimer for several minutes. Overall, we wouldn’t use this, but it’s free and fits the requirements for this post.
5. And the old image trick
Many small-cap companies don’t pay for their stock charts. Instead, they use a simple trick to show a stock chart on their sites via services like Yahoo! Finance or Big Charts. All you have to do is right-click on a chart image on Yahoo! Finance or Big Charts and then insert the image into a web page as an image. Each time someone visits the chart page on your site, they’ll see the most recent information. These charts are static, but they’ve done the trick for many companies over the years.
There you go — 5 free stock chart options for your IR website. None is perfect, but there are more options today than there was a year ago. And as technology and competition continue to progress, there’ll probably be more options a year from now.
Let us know if you see any.