The investor section of a company's Web site contains a wealth of information, including slide shows, fact sheets, historical information about the stock, recent news and upcoming events. You'll also find the financial reports that publicly traded companies are required to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (you can also access this material at www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml).
Spend some time with the latest earnings release, which reports the most recent quarterly financial results and, often, the company's outlook. "Try to understand what's behind the numbers," says Charles Rotblut, senior market analyst at Zacks Investment Research. "Why are revenues growing, for example? If you can do that, it'll be easier to understand the stock's behavior, and it will help you identify problems in the future."
Don't miss the quarterly earnings call, which is your chance to eavesdrop on a meeting with executives. During this teleconference, which is usually broadcast live from the company's Web site several hours after an earnings announcement, the honchos discuss the quarter's financial results and fill in details not included in the earnings release. Often the most informative part of the call is the question-and-answer period, when financial analysts (and sometimes you, too) can ask questions. If you miss an earnings call, don't worry: Companies often keep a recording posted on their Web site. Otherwise, search for full transcripts of the calls at SeekingAlpha.com.