Google launches its challenge to financial news websites in US

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The Independent Online

Google is making a bid for the eyeballs of private investors with the launch of a personal finance website. The company is mounting a challenge to online financial news sites by launching Google Finance in the US today.

The website will bring together corporate news, information and graphs, and allows users to search blogs for the opinions of other private investors. The project threatens to break down the stranglehold on bulletin board stock commentary currently exercised by member-only sites.

A test site was being launched in North America overnight, and insiders said the project could be extended to Europe as soon as it has proved its worth.

In the initial stages, there will be no advertising sold on the Google Finance site. "It is a very Google-esque project in that sense," one insider said. "At the moment it is all about pulling together information that is out there but is often in a bit of a mess. Private investors are a growing part of the online world, and working out how to make money from the project will come later."

Mutual fund managers and stockbrokers are keen to use the internet to reach private investors, and are sure to demand advertising space. Last week, Amazon opened its "financial store" selling investment products and advice from Fidelity.

Google Finance is trumpeting features that will allow users to monitor their portfolio and get access to chief executives' pay details without wading through annual reports. It is the latest in a string of developments at Google, which is using its position as the world's most popular search engine to expand into new areas.

The company's shares, though, have come under pressure as Wall Street frets about likely returns from the new ventures. Google's costs are set to grow more quickly than expected, and the company has suffered embarrassment for missing profit forecasts and releasing internal financial information by mistake.