Investors who want more than just earnings estimates for their companies also have Internet access to the detailed research reports written by analysts at major brokerages--even if they aren't customers of those firms.
For example, small investors can read stock research from firms such as Merrill Lynch & Co. and Salomon Smith Barney through a Web site run by New York-based Multex.com.
Investors usually must pay for the reports, but prices are reasonable and the information is often timely.
Multex.com (http://www.multexinvestor.com) has more than 300,000 analyst reports available from 300 brokerages.
Prices vary based on the size of each report. A one-to-five-page report costs $10, while a six-to-12-page piece goes for $25. Under IBM, for example, Multex.com lists nine reports from Prudential Securities ranging between $10 and $25 each.
A tip: For investors looking for in-depth research on a specific company, it might be worth the price of a longer report. Shorter reports--often termed morning notes--typically discuss only one or two elements of a company's business or outlook.
Before you buy, read the title of the report carefully to make sure it focuses on the company itself rather than on a broad topic such as industry trends (unless that's what you want).
Some brokerages make their research available for free on the Net. But there is a charge of sorts: Investors must fill out questionnaires and can expect solicitation calls from brokers.
In exchange for signing up, however, investors often gain access to all of a firm's research for a limited period, such as one month.