Importance of looking at historical stock data in your stock analysis cannot be overstated. There are countless websites where you can find real time stock quotes, pe ratio, dividend yield etc. for a stock you are interested in. However, trying to get 10-15 year historical stock data on the same stock is difficult. Sometimes you must pay, some free data is not reliable. Some data doesn’t include splits etc. Read on to find how you can get free historical stock data for your analysis.
Importance of Historical Stock Data
Before we look at ways to access historical stock data, lets look at some benefits:
- It helps you judge value of your investment. Whether the stock is trading at a high value compared to past or relative to normal value according to historical averages.
- There is a very popular reversion to mean theory which suggests that most asset prices revert back to their long-term historical averages. Meaning a stock can be considered overvalued if it’s at a higher pe ratio than historical stock data would suggest. And undervalued inversely. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to all stocks. But, gist is that you can use historical stock data to try and buy undervalued stocks for your portfolio.
- Sometimes, you might develop a strategy to invest and historical stock data can help you back test this strategy.
- You can even use historical stock data to understand trends in company of your interest. Are sales increasing over 10-15 years? Maybe the company is cyclical and a better time to buy would be when they hit a downturn. Do increase in sales show a big increase in expenses also? Is the dividend increasing over time?
You can get insight into questions like these using historical stock data.
The trick: Free Public Library Card
In the US, many cities have multiple public libraries. These libraries are funded via public tax dollars. Whatever area you live in, you can go to public library and get free membership by presenting a valid address proof. Many such city library systems offer books, internet access to resources, training programs etc. free of charge! Most times, this includes free online access to Morningstar, Value Line and Factiva. Just go to your local area library website and search for virtual library or research and databases access. You can alternatively just directly search for Morningstar or Value Line.
In my research, I see most US local city public libraries offer these databases access with free membership. In case, your local library doesn’t, there are some city libraries that give non-residents a membership at some amount of annual fee every year. Do call to make sure Morningstar/Value Line access is included in such a non-resident subscription if you have to go for it.
1. Exploring Morningstar Access
When you click on “access now” from your library site. It takes you to a special URL where you can enter your library card number and password to log in to Morningstar:
After you login, you can explore Morningstar as a paid subscriber! You can search for any company under the companies tab and look at its star rating. Morningstar rating is just a measure of how undervalued the stock is according to their fair value. For some stocks they provide a full analyst report which you can look at by clicking the “Read Full Analysis”. The analysis is pretty detailed with comments on current business challenges, management, fair value etc.
For historical stock data, lets first look at Financials tab. This gives you past 10 years of income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements data. You can look at revenue, net income, free cash flow trends over last 10 years. You can even export this historical stock data into excel if you want to do more analysis on it.
Coming to Operating Performance tab, here you can look at 10-year gross margins, operating margins, return on assets, ROIC etc. trends. Similarly, the Valuation tab shows the 10-year price/earnings, price to cash flow, price to book value historical stock data.
Coming to Ownership tab, here you can see what funds or institutions hold the stock. Have they been buying or selling over the last 8 quarters? This is great if you have certain institutions you know or who you follow. Maybe there is a fund that is famous for long term investing in good dividend companies. If you spot them in this tab, it’s good to know if they are buying or selling the stock you are looking at.
Your free Morningstar access from the library also allows you to look at funds and ETF’s like individual stocks. You can look at expert reviews of specific funds/ETF’s.
Free Morningstar newsletters!
If the above was not enough to convince you to get your free library membership, you also get access to Morningstar newsletters. You get access to past 12 issues of their newsletters related to dividends, funds, ETF’s and individual stocks. You can open any issue, look at their portfolios across all 4 newsletters and get some expert commentary on a few ideas for that month. Isn’t this simply awesome? So many ideas for you to research and look at and all for free. Morningstar charges about 200$ a year for premium access to all these features and I just showed you how you can get this for free!
2. Value Line Historical Stock Data
Morningstar works great for looking at historical stock data. However, you must click on different tabs to get to the information you want to see. PE ratio is at a different place, Dividend trends are somewhere else etc. I like Value Line because it displays all this data in one pdf! They even update these pdf’s once a quarter. Their pdf research reports on individual stock includes up to past 15 years of historical stock data. This includes things like pe ratio, dividend yields, cash flow, net income, return on equity, revenue etc.
Once you access Value Line through your library website, you see the following home page. Here you can enter any stock ticker and select it to know more about it:
On the next page, you can see the timeliness, safety and financial strength rating from Value Line analysts. Do research on how they get to these ratings. Under the pdf reports button, you can open the latest pdf.
Now, here is the magic! The pdf shows historical stock data for MMM since 2004! You can see average annual pe ratios, revenue, eps, dividends etc. You also get a 1-2 paragraph description of the business. Plus, some commentary on the most recent quarter.
3. Free Historical Stock Data using Macrotrends
If you cannot get a free library membership or your library does not have access to Morningstar or Value Line, then there is Marcotrends. Here, you can just search for the stock symbol and it will show you things like revenue, gross profit, cash trends over 10 plus years. Lets try to look at the dividend yield trends for MMM. I can see, macrotrends has a 31 year historical stock data available:
You can see if dividend is rising or when it fell etc. Similar graphs are available for other historical stock data metrics as well.
A good understanding of the historical stock data like average pe ratios, average dividend yield of a stock is an important step in investment process. You could have bought MMM at 220$ when its PE was 31, dividend yield was 2.07% thinking it was a good buy. But both of those ratios were way above average for MMM across its history and a year later you were getting it at 140’s at pe of 15-17 and near all-time high yields of 3.90%+. More information about any stock before buying helps you make a more informed decision. This is not the only information you should focus on but one of the many things to look at before making an informed decision.
If you liked this post on free access to Morningstar and Value Line, check out my other post on getting free access to barron’s and wsj subscriptions. Please also support us by sharing this content with your social media audience in case you would like to see more such articles.