Bloomberg is synonymous with investment information in many corners of the finance world. According to its guide,  "Bloomberg L.P. is a financial news service that provides financial news and data to companies and organizations in virtually every country in the world. Business professionals can monitor and analyze real-time financial market data, as well as place trades and review historical trading data." So not only does it have a news and media outlet, it also has a software/hardware system that most, if not all, professional money managers use.

Key Takeaways

  • The Bloomberg terminal is both a hardware and software system which includes a keyboard with color-coded keys.
  • Red keys are for stop functions, green keys are for actions, and yellow keys reflect different market sectors.
  • The Bloomberg terminal comes with a hefty price and is mainly used by professional investors.

The Terminal

The Bloomberg terminal is both a hardware and software system. It includes the Bloomberg Keyboard which has special color-coded keys. The color coding is as follows:

  • Red keys = Stop functions
  • Green keys = Action functions
  • Yellow keys = Different market sectors
bloomberg keyboard

How to Use Bloomberg Terminal

The market sectors toggled to using the yellow keys include:

LAW F1 Global law and regulation, litigation, legal analysis, news, etc.
GOVT F2 Securities issued by national governments and securities by quasi-governmental agencies
CORP F3 Corporate bonds
MTGE F4 Mortgage market instruments
M-MKT F5 Money market securities
MUNI F6 U.S. Municipal bonds
PFD F7 Preferred securities
EQUITY F8 Common stocks, American Depository Receipts (ADRs), mutual funds, rights, options, warrants
CMDTY F9 Commodities & associated futures and options
INDEX F10 Equity indices and economic indices
CRNCY   F11 Foreign currencies
CLIENT F12 Portfolio & Risk Management

Source: Bloomberg

Any and all historical or current information related to these market sectors is available through this system. Because of the breadth and depth of availability, it's always a good idea to target in on specific functions and information. Doing so can make the terminal less overwhelming. 

The system also has innumerable capabilities. Users can pull up technical and fundamental graphs of all types including money flows and margin trends, data comparing companies to each other or indices, and company-specific information related to every part of the capital structure. 

Bloomberg's first keyboard, called The Chiclet, was hand-assembled and released in 1983.

In an attempt to dwindle down the tremendous information base into available functions that are typically used every day, we compiled a list of five key categories. 

1. News

Type "N" then hit <GO> for general news. To access the top business or general headlines, type TOP and hit <GO>. The screen will appear with a toolbar at the top, a command line where new commands can be typed, the main or function area which contains the information required, and an information panel at the bottom. 

bloomberg screenshot

2. Company Information

In the EQUITY function (F8), a command can be entered to locate a description of the company, its price or trade data (current and historical), news, graphs, corporate structure, valuation, credit ratings, capital structure, comparison companies, and regulatory filings. You can also review analyst recommendations, earnings estimates, and bond information. 

For example, to look up a company's earnings estimates, click the ticker symbol, EQUITY, then type in EE, and hit <GO>.

bloomberg screenshot

3. M&A Data

Deal data and specifics can be found using the MA <GO> function. If you're looking for a specific company, type the company name in the "Company Search" box at the top. The output provides all the terms of the deals. 

bloomberg screenshot

4. Investment Screening

To build a list of securities that meet specified criteria, type EQS then hit <GO>. From here, you can select a list of criteria with specified parameters. Available criteria are listed under categories related to exchanges, sectors, indices, domicile, descriptions, geography, and fundamental characteristics. An output of results will be generated, and these results can be changed by selecting Edit Criteria. This output, like many outputs in Bloomberg, can also be exported to Excel. 

bloomberg screenshot

5. Industries

To analyze industries from a top-down perspective, type BI and hit <GO>. Everything from high-level news, industry primers, earnings, and valuations, to more specific data can be found here. 

bloomberg screenshot

How to Get Bloomberg-Like Data without Bloomberg

The Bloomberg terminal is a costly system and primarily available to professional investors. Most individual investors don't have access to it. But you may be able to find a terminal at a public or university library. If you can't get your hands on one, though, there are publicly available substitutes that provide similar data. Keep in mind that the depth and breadth of the information these alternative sources offer may be lacking. That means you may have to put together your own mosaic of information. 

1994

The year the first Bloomberg Terminal was released that ran on a customer-provided PC.

For example, you can easily find financial news on many financial websites. Company information can be located via the SEC Edgar system for regulatory filings or company websites. Investment screening can be accomplished using websites like finviz.com or msn.com. M&A information, on the other hand, is a bit more complex to locate. Some deal data can be found on free sites like http://www.mandaportal.com/, but most require a subscription fee. Similarly, industry data can be compiled from different sources including independent analysts for a fee.

The Bottom Line

Bloomberg is an invaluable tool for investors primarily because it provides data in one place and allows users to configure the data in various ways to analyze and review trends, compare to other companies and industries and most importantly to follow a historical path so that analysis of an investment can be detailed and all-encompassing.