Unless you're running a hedge fund out of your den, you probably will never get the most influential Wall Street research as quickly as the big institutions do. But you can get almost everything produced by the top analysts -- the winners of our
Analyst Rankings -- Equity 2000
survey -- at least within a day and sometimes just hours after the big fund managers get the inside scoop.
These days, almost all Wall Street research can be obtained online, either directly from the brokerage firm or through an aggregating service, such as
Multex.com, that sells reports from most brokerage firms. Also, many online brokerages offer access to research from their own analysts or from investment banks. And, of course, you can get research the traditional way: by opening an account with a full-service brokerage.
Multex.com brings together research from about 300 firms. Investors can start by signing up for a free trial with major firms such as
Salomon Smith Barney
, which offer their reports on Multex as a way to attract new accounts. Reports are generally posted within hours after they go to the firm's clients. Once the trial period ends, after 30 or 60 days, access to the reports is cut off unless the customer signs up for a brokerage account.
Multex also offers a variety of "pay-per-view'' reports that cost anywhere from $3 for a company report to $300 for an in-depth sector analysis. These reports are available to Multex customers three to 14 days after the firm's brokers and clients see them.
Multex also offers daily notes -- analysts' quick-hit thoughts on a particular stock or sector, usually in reaction to news. These come both free and pay-per-view with a delay of several hours.
Another online research mart is operated by
Zacks, the Chicago-based firm known for its research on Wall Street earnings. It sells time-delayed research from firms such as a
. Reports cost from $10 to $150 depending on length. The site also offers research notes. Recently, the site was selling the daily update on
Thomas Weisel Partners
analyst David Readerman for $10 -- but a week after the investment bank's clients had seen the June 8 bulletin assessing the impact of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling to split the company in two.
On the other extreme,
WallStreetGuru.com dispenses with the full-length reports, but provides free daily updates on analysts upgrades, downgrades and price-target changes.
Almost all of the online brokers offer some type of research these days.
Charles Schwab clients can order reports from Chase H&Q,
Credit Suisse First Boston
Standard & Poor's
. Again, there's a free trial (60 days) for this Analyst Center feature. The service remains free for investors with $100,000 or more in assets or who do more than 12 trades a year. Clients who don't meet those requirements can pay $29.95 per month for continued access to the research. Again, the reports are generally delayed. Credit Suisse company reports, for example, are embargoed for 48 hours after their release to their own institutional clients. Its daily notes of hot investment ideas are posted with a one-hour delay.
Fidelity customers get free research, but only from
analysts. Reports are delayed for several hours after Lehman's institutional clients have had a chance to pick over the news. Daily notes are embargoed for three hours; company reports are posted from one to three days after they've gone to Lehman's customers.
Clients of Merrill Lynch's online service,
Merrill Lynch Direct, get Merrill research when they sign up. And Merrill Direct offers the same com-on directly as it does through Multex: a 60-day trial that can be extended by opening an account.
Merrill says its reports are posted to the site at the same time the research goes out to its brokers who handle its full-service customers. But the firm's "morning call," in which analysts discuss with Merrill salespeople the major investment themes of the day, doesn't get distributed evenly. The call goes out around 7:00 a.m. ET, and an edited transcript is posted online by 9:30 a.m.
DLJDirect.com distributes research from parent
Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette
to new online clients for 60 days. After that, investors who have more than $100,000 in assets continue to get the research. For those who don't, DLJDirect offers no way to get DLJ research.
Online Investment Banks
For investors who want free research with no strings attached, two fledgling investment banks deliver the goods. At
, the San Francisco online investment bank, all of the research is free on
wrhambrecht.com. There's no need to sign up for a trial and no one will ask you questions about your net worth. Research includes both reports and notes, which are posted on the Web site at the same time "it goes to anyone else," says a spokeswoman. But the company, which underwrites mostly New Economy-type stocks, only covers e-businesses.
E*Offering, the online investment bank whose largest shareholder is the discount broker
, offers its own spin on New Economy stocks. The firm's small army of 15 analysts produce in depth reports, mainly covering e-business, the investment bank's bread and butter. The reports, which cover 33 companies, are available without charge and without registration.
Wit Capital, another e-business investment bank, has recently proposed to acquire the firm.
Much of Wit's research is now available online, though some of the lengthier fare hasn't made an appearance yet. The firm also posts online accounts of the morning and afternoon calls to Wit's sales force, as soon as the material can be boiled down to bullet points, a spokeswoman says.
When all else fails, of course, you can still get your research the old-fashioned way: by opening an account with a full-service brokerage. Your broker can provide any research the firm is publishing.
"In the old days, the client would call our office and we'd have to put it in an envelope and send it to them," says a broker at one such firm. "Now we just email."
PaineWebber lets its customers retrieve research directly through a special Web site. Instead of waiting for a broker to call with news of an upgrade or downgrade, customers can set up email alerts that automatically deliver the news.
One way or another, if you have the time and the patience, you can get the best research on Wall Street.