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Company spotlight Scottrade One of the most recognized and respected names in stock and commodities trading, Scottrade has been developing industry-standard tools for over three decades. The company offers several trading platforms and research tools, which could help you stay informed and ahead... Read Reviews
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For more than a decade, China has been the engine driving global economic growth. A leader in the emerging market economies with double digit GDP growth, a newly capitalist political regime and a rising middle class gave investors a guaranteed way to maximize profits. The exponential growth caused demand for commodities like steel and aluminum to rise and helped lift markets worldwide. But China's days as a fast growing emerging market economy are numbered. GDP is decelerating and settling into a normal pace for a developed economy and the global economy has yet to recover from the demand vacuum China left behind. The Next Generation Investors might already be familiar with the BRIC economies: Brazil, Russia, India and China. These have been the staple for high growth emerging markets for more than a decade, but their reign may be at an end. Brazil and Russia have been gripped by recessions and China's story is essentially at an end, leaving only India as the one BRIC economy that could rise up as a replacement. With a fast growing population and radical… Read more

Most people think of space exploration as the domain of scientific discovery and nothing more. Only a handful of tech visionaries have already begun investing in what could be the next greatest economic expansion in human history. While it might seem like the stuff of science fiction, investors can already invest in space operations with defense contractors, aerospace companies and telecommunications companies. While most of the companies on the forefront of space technology are still private, investors should pay close attention to what is being developed and how they're growing. SpaceX There's no bigger name in private spaceflight right now than Elon Musk's SpaceX. The company builds and launches rockets with its Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon spacecraft. Recent breakthroughs have made the rockets reusable, lowering the cost of a launch to around $42 million – a significant decrease from just a decade ago when launches typically averaged over $100 million. Musk's latest goal to travel to Mars to establish a colony may sound too bold, almost unreasonable, but considering how fast the industry is developing, that goal looks more and more… Read more

One of the best ways investors can gauge the strength of the economy is through mergers and acquisitions (or M&A) activity. It tells investors that businesses are growing and that the economy is healthy enough to support large financial commitments. Historically, increased M&A activity has been associated with the availability of credit, deregulation or other changes in government policy, and innovation stemming from the private sector. Because these business deals are often multi-billion arrangements, mergers and acquisitions tend to make the most sense when stock values are high so companies can finance part or all of the buyout through stock purchases. With the markets near all-time highs and a pro-business administration newly elected to office, it would make sense that M&A activity would be up. M&A Activity in the Last 12 Months For 2016, takeover activity registered as the third highest on record – with only 2015 and 2007 being higher. Some of the biggest mergers recently were the mega-deals in the chemicals industry. Dow Chemical and DuPont agreed to a $59 billion merger, China National Chemical Corp acquired Syngenta for… Read more

The bull has been marching for eight years now with no signs of weakness. In fact, the economic data keeps growing stronger, supporting the case for continued strength in the global rally. The Fed's recent statements seem to indicate possible rate tightening to combat future inflation, as well – another sign that the markets are healthy. Taking a look at volatility in the markets reveals that investors aren't too worried about a correction of any kind with the VIX reading under 12 for the past month. But it's often when nothing seems obviously wrong that the markets make a sudden turn downward. The only way to really know if the markets are growing is to check the data. Important Market Indicators While many investors rely on the mercurial Fed for direction, there's another way of determining the strength of the markets. There are a number of indicators that investors can use to analyze how healthy the markets are. One obvious indicator is the strength of the markets themselves - in other words, how equities are performing. When equities are high,… Read more

The stock market is a dynamic entity that's in constant motion. Investors analyze stock movements across various sectors in an attempt to spot trends and predict future patterns. One of the most often used methods for analyzing stock patterns is the business cycle. As the economy ebbs and wanes, certain sectors of the stock market outperform or under-perform. The business cycle tracks these movements and creates a generally recognized pattern that investors can use to identify winning sectors. By identifying where the economy is at in the cycle, investors can narrow down their search to those sectors that are expected to perform well. Tracking the Business Cycle There are four main stages of the business cycle: early expansion, mid-expansion, late expansion and recession. Let's take a closer look to see what events occur during each stage and which industries outperform. Early Expansion In this stage of the economy, a recovery from a recession is well under way with inflation turning positive and manufacturing production rising. Monetary policy changes to ease credit conditions, allowing for growth in profit margins, while low… Read more