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Investment tools of trade

INVESTools plans to roll out a fee-based portfolio service capable of selecting stocks based on a set of criteria.

INVESTools plans to add a new twist to its online trading services next week as the company rolls out a fee-based portfolio service capable of selecting stocks based on a set of criteria.

The feature is just one way INVESTools is trying to rise above the growing crop of online trading services that offer real-time stock quotes to research reports.

Under INVESTools' Portfolio Workshop, investors will be able to select a stock based on such criteria as price-to-earnings ratio, stock price, and industry, according to Marjorie Cannon, spokeswoman for Tabula Interactive, which operates INVESTools. The search will then cull through the Market Guide database of fundamental data.

Meanwhile, competitor Quote.com is planning to offer a similar stock screening service within the next six months, said Noosheen Hashemi, vice president of sales and marketing for Quote.com. She added that mutual funds will also have this screening feature.

Investment tools like these are part of the equation toward capturing new customers, the online trading services say. Analysis of data is another.

The Internet provides investors with an torrent of research data, but for investors short on time to crunch through numbers or for those daunted by analysis, the online trading companies are trying to one-up each other on available research reports.

INVESTools offers research reports from 40 publications, ranging from Morningstar Mutual Funds to IPO Maven. The cost of the reports vary from 25 cents to $25 each.

"Most people don't have time to do their own analysis, so we bring that to the individual investor with these reports," Cannon said. "We're also a clearinghouse for content providers, whereas brokerages only sell reports that they publish."

Indeed. Goldman Sachs launched its Web site in October, which offers its customers access to its reports. Meanwhile, Montgomery Securities debuted its Web site with similar online research features in September.

Quote.com, meanwhile, also offers a range of research reports from a variety of sources that also includes Morning Star, IPO Maven and Standard & Poor's.

No one will beat us on research content," Hashemi said. "Our list is more extensive than our competitors."