A Guide to Earnings Sites

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It's been a busier week than most covering the stock market. It's not the Elvis-like gyrations in the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

or worries over the

Super Bowl Effect

(we just can't let that one go) that's got wire services,

CNBC

reporters and the Wall Street militia mobilized. It's capitalism's quarterly paean to greed: earnings season.

Prices rise and fall if earnings are above or off expectations by a single penny -- just look what happened to Cascade (CSCC:Nasdaq). It lost one-third of its market value after reporting earnings that didn't please the Street. With this quarter's spectacle in full swing, here's a guide to where to find forecasts, results and more.

Before investors can evaluate a company's earnings, they need to have a realistic idea of what their investment can deliver. Fortunately, there's no shortage of companies that compile analysts' forecasts. A few of them even give away the data to lure customers to their fee-based services.

Equity Analytics

does just that. The site provides a week's worth of expected announcements. Nothing flashy -- it's the VW Bug of earnings sites -- Equity Analytics is a grid filled with names, symbols, a forecast and the previous year's data. Data are scheduled by expected release date. The area also links to other EA services, many of which require a fee.

Once you know what to expect, you need to know where to find out what happened. Most individual investors can't plunk down the hefty monthly fees

Bloomberg

or

Reuters

charge. And all want that precious desk real estate for really important things, like unread magazines and coffee cups that haven't been cleaned for weeks. Fortunately,

USA Today

, the same paper left behind in airport terminals across the country, updates its site as earnings are released. News hits the site about 15 minutes after the actual release. That's competitive with most of the wire services. Click on the ticker symbol and the site provides you with extra information: share price, number of shares outstanding, high-low, etc. Again, the presentation is prosaic and, unlike the paper itself, there is no astonishingly bad use of colors.

First Call

, an industry leader in providing earnings estimates and coverage, offers a modified version of its site for free. First Call presents an earnings scorecard, essentially a synopsis of major companies and how close they were to consensus expectations. Like almost every other site we've seen, the information is presented as a box-grid. Can't anyone devise a more exciting display? Additional details can be purchased.

Lastly, a host of sites will provide you with in-depth coverage and analysis of the earnings orgy if you're willing to pay.

Zacks

and the

Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

offer earnings services on their sites. Both, of course, are household names (at least in investment houses). Is the extra edge worth the extra wedge? We don't know. We were too cheap to pony up.

By Andrew Morse

amorse@thestreet.com