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Picking Stocks? Your Brokerage Can Help

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If you’re a regular reader of Kiplinger’s, chances are you know some basics when it comes to evaluating stocks. You know that you want to buy low, sell high and hold for the long term, for example, and that a low price-earnings ratio means that a stock is relatively inexpensive. But when it comes right down to it, out of the thousands of stocks trading on U.S. markets, do you really know how to choose ones to invest in?

Probably not. But to be fair, you’re not alone. Take it from Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, himself: “Most people don’t know how to pick stocks. Most of the time I don’t know how to pick stocks,” Buffett said in a 2019 interview. He believes that most investors—pretty much anyone who doesn’t research stocks for a living—should be invested in diversified, low-cost mutual funds.

We’re fans of a well-diversified core portfolio of funds, too. But part of the fun and challenge of investing is picking great stocks, and if you’re ready to branch out, your brokerage is an excellent place to start your search. “About 84% of investment research done by our clients on any given day is directly related to individual stock research,” says Cory Triolo, head of digital client experience for Merrill Edge. “We want to make that experience as seamless and intuitive as possible.” Merrill isn’t alone in this regard. Lowering fees and commissions isn’t the only incentive brokers are using to lure customer dollars. They’re beefing up investor tools and research offerings, too.

Where to start? To funnel thousands of stocks down to a handful, investors first must establish a “circle of competence,” says........

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