Best stock charts at a glance
Depending on how you trade and which indicators you most often use, you may or may not need a paid subscription to create charts useful for planning your next trades. Paid options offer additional charting tools or the ability to split your screen into several charts for a full analysis. More indicators will also be available with paid options, but some of the better free charting options provide all or most of the commonly used technical indicators.
- Best overall: StockCharts.com
- Best free charts: Yahoo Finance
- Free Option – TradingView
What is a stock chart?
Stock charts provide a graphical way to display stock data, including price and volume. The simplest charts just display price data plotted on a line graph as it changes over time. Candlestick charts, also common and so named because the indicators resemble candlesticks, indicate trading volume in addition to price data. More complex charting tools allow you to set additional indicators to fully understand the trading activity for a given equity or index.
Most useful stock chart indicators
If you put 100 traders in a room, you might get 100 different answers on which indicators are the best for trading, but a few indicators have proven their worth over time with some of the more reliable indicators focused on short-term to long-term trends as opposed to intraday price movements.
Trend trading, in many cases, misses the highs and lows for a stock or index because the buy or sell signals happen after a trend has started. This approach can limit returns, but has the advantage of waiting for a trend to be confirmed before making a buy or sell decision, riding the price up and then exiting the trade when a decline is confirmed — but missing the lows if the trend continues down. While this creates and admittedly slower reaction time for traders, other indicators that try to time trades more precisely may not be as reliable.
1. Moving averages (and crossovers)
A moving average tracks the average price of a stock, commodity, or index over a given period of time. A 200-day moving average looks back in time, averaging the price over the last 200 trading days. A 50-day moving average does the same, but with a shorter time frame for the average. These two indicators are often used to find buying or selling signals. For example, when these two lines cross on a chart, it’s usually seen as a confirmed trend, sending a buy or sell signal depending on the value of the 50-day moving average relative to the 200-day moving average.
- When the 50-day moving average falls below the 200-day moving average, it’s a sell signal.
- When the 50-day moving average rises above the 200-day moving average, it’s a buy signal.
Daily stock prices compared to the 50-day and 200-day indicators are also sometimes used to determine a trend — but this method can be less accurate and can create false signals because daily pricing is more volatile and intraday stock prices can be pushed around by news or large orders on thinly traded stocks.
2. Moving average convergence divergence (MACD)
The moving average convergence divergence (MACD) indicator is an oscillator indicator and is a bit more complex than simple moving averages, but still uses data from moving averages to signal potential entry points or exit points. The MACD shows both trend and momentum, helping to differentiate stronger buying or selling signals from the sometimes unconvincing signals that can come from a chart that isn’t moving decisively and may change direction again. MACD uses zero as a baseline, with MACD lines above zero indicating a potential entry point and lines below zero indicating a potential exit point.
3. Relative strength index (RSI)
RSI considers the number of days up versus the number of days down on a chart as a part of calculating the relative strength index. One of the signals that can possibly be read from the RSI is whether a stock is overbought, potentially indicating near-term profit taking and an impending swoon for the stock, or whether a stock is oversold and potentially due for a bounce. RSI is shown as a value between 0 and 100. A value above 70 is considered to be overbought, while a value below 30 is considered to be oversold.
4. On-balance volume (OBV)
Another popular indicator is on-balance volume, which looks at volume in uptrends against volume in downtrends. This indicator becomes relevant when confirming buying or selling signals. Stock prices can drift aimlessly at low volume, triggering buy or sell signals as they wander up or down the chart. However, without convincing volume, moving averages and crossovers alone can be misleading and direction can quickly change when news hits or normal trading volume returns.
Free vs. paid stock charts
There are some great free stock chart platforms out there, but most have limitations, often encouraging users to upgrade for additional features or functionality. In addition to a typically limited feature set, free charts may not provide up to date or complete data.
A 15-minute delay is common, which can make free charting tools less useful for day trading. Volume reporting may also be affected for free charts that only display limited exchange information. Paid options provide real-time pricing with live updates, unlock more charting options, and may allow additional features like the ability to save charts or use more overlays with your charts.
Whether you need real-time data depends on your trading style. For day traders who might hold a stock for hours, minutes, or even seconds, real-time data isn’t just valuable, it’s imperative. With that said, active traders are likely to have access to charting with real-time data through their online brokerage account. For trend traders, who may be holding a stock position for days or weeks, real-time data isn’t as important but the availability of the charting tools that provide the most reliable buy or sell signals is still an important consideration.
These favorite charting tools, which vary by the trader, may or may not be available with free charting platforms.
Best overall: Stockcharts.com
Despite its decidedly old-school feel, Stockcharts.com offers clean charts with lots of indicators that are easy to find and apply to your chart. The free version of StockCharts.com limits overlays and indicators and also limits the size of the chart. Depending on your screen size and charting needs, the paid version may be a worthwhile investment if you enjoy StockCharts.com’s functionality.
Paid subscribers are treated to more charting tools as well. StockCharts.com also several other free tools and other goodies, including predefined scans so you can find stocks with bullish or bearish chart indicators as well as StockCharts TV, which analyzes live charts of current price action in the markets. Subscription prices for stockcharts.com currently range between $14.95 and $49.95.
Best free stock charts
Yahoo Finance is one of the granddaddies of online stock charts, with Yahoo Finance charts guiding traders since the late 90’s. Prices are real-time and update on your chart automatically. Yahoo’s charts may not have every feature that you’ll find on other paid charting options but the most common charting tools are available, including moving averages, MACD indicators, RSI, Bollinger Bands, and more. Charts are easy to read with default settings but can be customized to your liking.
TradingView’s free version provides access to three simultaneous indicators. You can also apply indicators created by other TradingView members. We found TradingView’s interface a bit more difficult to read and to navigate than some other charting options but liked TradingView’s snapshot gauge display that clearly indicates combined buying signals (or selling signals).
Tradingview allows you to find your inner Picasso, allowing you to draw anything you’d like on your chart, including notes, price direction arrows, or anything else that you find useful when making a trading decision. Many other charging options only allow you to draw straight lines, such as those used to indicate resistance and support. You can also display multiple charts at once, splitting your display so you can take in the big picture.
To access all of TradingView’s features, you’ll need a subscription, with a pro plan starting at $9.95 a month and additional plans ranging up to $39.95 per month.
FINVIZ is a stock screener website that also happens to have very useful charts. Automatically generated technical analyses, including a candlestick chart, support and resistance levels, and moving averages are available.
An upgrade to FINVIZ Elite will buy you real-time data, intraday charts and advanced charting tools. For simpler analysis and trend-trading, running a chart after market close is often enough to be a useful tool for trades you plan to execute the following day. However, free charts can’t be modified with FINVIZ.
You can’t add your own indicators. FINVIZ’s clean charts and quick overview — even the free versions — are also a great way to confirm or disprove your analysis from other charting data. FINVIZ Elite pricing starts at $24.96 per month with an annual subscription or $39.50 monthly and provides access to real-time and pre-market data, advanced charting capability, and an advanced screener, as well as unlocking the ability to run backtesting so you can see which indicators matched up with actual market events.
FreeStockCharts.com offers a free charting platform, as its name suggests, but also offers a premium platform starting at $19.99 per month, which gives you the option to add a la carte services to meet your needs.
The free version of FreeStockCharts.com requires Internet Explorer for Windows or Safari for Mac. Disappointingly, popular browsers such as Chrome or Firefox are not supported.
Alternatively, FreeStockCharts.com offers downloadable software called TC2000, which allows robust charting as well as a demo account funded with $200,000 so you can test trading strategies without risking real investment capital. With an optional upgrade to a silver, gold, or platinum subscription, you not only unlock new features but can perform live trades through the platform.
Day traders or frequent traders benefit from access to real-time data and the more advanced charting options available with paid subscriptions. Trend traders or those looking for an entry or exit point for a longer-term position may not need all the features available with the most expensive subscriptions.
Paid charting platforms can range from about $10 per month up to as high as $90 per month, depending on the features you add or the subscription level you choose. StockCharts.com remains our favorite, with subscription prices starting at under $15 per month. Using the free version of stockcharts.com is enough to give you an idea of its features but can be frustrating due to limited chart size, a handicap that is removed with a paid subscription.