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    1. Behind Morningstar's Economic Moat Rating

      Morningstar's Paul Larson outlines the five sources of wide economic moats, our research team's moat-rating process, and the performance of the Morningstar Wide Moat Focus Index.

    2. Full Valuations Drive 3 Sales for StockInvestor

      StockInvestor editor Matt Coffina recently sold out of Charles Schwab and trimmed Visa and Lowe's as current prices offer little margin of safety for the wide-moat names.

    3. Finding the Right Fit for Fundamental Indexing

      Schwab's Tony Davidow says active factor-based investment strategies complement passive index strategies to help enhance portfolio durability over time.

    4. New Energy Outlook Brings Fair Values Down

      After lowering our forecast for oil and gas prices, fair values across the energy sector have generally dropped, but some E&P and midstream names are reasonably valued, says Morningstar's Matt Coffina.

    April/May 2012 Picks

    Four offerings deemed to be right for right now.

    Morningstar Analysts, 04/06/2012

    This article originally appeared in the April/May 2012 issue of MorningstarAdvisor magazine.  To subscribe, please call 1-800-384-4000.

    Stock: Charles Schwab Corp. SCHW
    Fair Value Estimate: $23
    Morningstar Rating: 5 Stars
    Uncertainty: High
    Economic Moat: Narrow
    Average Credit Quality: High
    Market Cap: $17.7 billion

    Charles Schwab Corp. is perhaps still best known for its discount-brokerage roots, but these days the company is about much more than just a cheap trade. Since its beginning, the firm and its eponymous founder have spread the gospel of investing across the U.S. Today, Schwab remains a potent force in personal investing, but the company has complemented its trading-fee revenue with asset-based income. We like the corporation’s strong position in the personal-investing business, which we think holds the potential for added growth as individuals will continue to turn to investing to fund their future needs.
    Gaston F. Ceron

    Mutual Fund: Artisan Global Value ARTGX
    Category: World Stock
    Investment Style: Large Growth
    Morningstar Rating: 5 Stars
    Total Assets: $103 million
    Expenses: 1.50%
    Turnover: 32.3%

    Run by David Samra and Dan O’Keefe, managers of the closed Artisan International Value ARTKX, this four-year-old fund has become an excellent holding as well. At each fund, the duo will hold companies of all sizes that trade at significant discounts to their estimated private market values yet have decent balance sheets and growth prospects. They run concentrated portfolios of 40–50 stocks and hold their picks for years. The result has been superb returns and muted volatility. Lately, the managers have moved further up the quality spectrum to take advantage of their relatively modest valuations. This fund has beaten 90% of its world-stock peers since its December 2007 launch.
    Greg Carlson

    Separate Account: Harrison Associates Equity & Income
    Category: Moderate Allocation 
    Total Number of Holdings: 109
    Morningstar Rating: 4 Stars
    P/B Ratio: 2.37
    Assets in Top 10 Holdings: 30.38%
    Average Turnover Ratio: 40%

    Comanager Ed Studzinski recently retired after 12 years on board, but Clyde McGregor has run this strategy for more than 16 years, so it shouldn’t lose a step. He’s a wide-ranging value investor who buys firms at steep discounts but is willing to own growth stocks when they look cheap. The equity slice of the portfolio is capped at 75% of assets, and the remainder goes into highly rated government bonds. While the latter stake can be a drag when Treasuries trail lower-rated debt, McGregor has posted very strong risk-adjusted returns over the long haul.
    Greg Carlson

    Exchange-Traded Fund: Barclays S&P 500 Dynamic VEQTOR ETN VQT
    Morningstar Category: Multialternative
    Expense Ratio: 0.95%
    AUM: $332 million
    NAV: $132.57
    1-Year Return: 17.53%
    Average Daily Volume: 31,205

    Many alternative funds seek to mitigate volatility by going long and short at the same time. This strategy usually reduces volatility but can also weigh on potential returns. The Barclays S&P 500 Dynamic VEQTOR ETN VQT takes a different approach by dynamically shifting its exposure among the S&P 500 Index, S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index, and cash, depending on market volatility. When market volatility is low, this ETN will track the performance of the S&P 500. As volatility rises, the ETN will decrease its exposure to the S&P 500 and increase its exposure to the S&P VIX Short-Term Futures Index (as a proxy for market volatility) to reduce downside risk. Volatility exposure is a compelling portfolio diversifier because volatility spikes when markets fall. The overall effect is a portfolio with below-average risk that can actually rise in a down market. In its short history, VQT has outperformed the S&P 500 with less overall risk. The main downsides to VQT are the above-average expense ratio and the credit risk you assume because it’s an exchange-traded note.
    Timothy Strauts