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Markets

Instant Analysis

You'll soon be able to easily crunch corporate financial data.

The Securities and Exchange Commission plans to throw dogged investment sleuths a very big bone. The agency wants to require publicly traded companies, starting early next year with the largest ones, to file financial data in an interactive format that makes it easy to search and compare key financial figures.

Within two years, most public companies would be required to attach digital tags to data points such as earnings per share, dividends and operating profits. Mutual funds would start filing risk, return and cost data, plus other numbers, in the new, interactive language -- called extensible business reporting language, or XBRL -- by the end of 2009.

The SEC currently has a pilot program for funds and companies to file information in XBRL (see it at www.sec.gov/spotlight/
xbrl/xbrlwebapp.shtml
). You can set up digital feeds to capture the latest company or mutual fund filings. Some three dozen companies and about 20 mutual funds participate now.

Extending this access to more than 8,000 funds and virtually all stocks would allow anyone with a keyboard to slice and dice data and compare company results, past performance and industry averages. That would be enough to make any Wi-Fi hot spot your window on Wall Street.