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Investing Specialists

Weekly Wrap: The Ultimate Stock-Pickers First-Quarter Picks and Inflation in 2021

We recap the week on and note the most popular stocks, funds, and exchange-traded funds.

Editor's note: Read the latest on how the coronavirus is rattling the markets and what investors can do to navigate it.

Earlier this week, my colleague Christine Benz and I spoke at an “Ask Me Anything” session for the editorial team at Morningstar. These monthly events--which we’re holding virtually for now--allow team members to get to know each other a little better.

I, for instance, learned that Christine makes a mean salad dressing. (That’s of course in addition to being Morningstar’s leading voice on retirement planning.)

As someone who’s incapable of “winging it,” I prepared for the event by ruminating on my career--specifically, on the changes I’ve seen in the investment industry during that time. My conclusion? Being a successful, reasonably hands-off investor is much easier today than it was in 1991 when I started at Morningstar.

The reasons are many. For one, low-cost index funds have proliferated and been embraced by investors, and for good reason: Index funds provide cheap access to entire stock and bond markets--around the globe, if you’d like--in a single investment. Easy to buy, easy to sell exchange-traded products debuted. And target-date funds became staple one-stop solutions for 401(k) plan participants.

Also on that list of innovations that have made investing easier: 529 college savings plans. Not only do they offer federal (and in some cases state) tax advantages to college savers--they also feature age-based portfolios whose asset allocations shift as the child approaches college age. Hands-off and tax-friendly--that’s a winning combination. To celebrate National 529 College Savings Plan Day on Saturday, May 29, we’ve pulled together a guide to 529 College Savings Plans featuring Morningstar’s ratings on the largest plans, a primer about whether to stay in-state or shop elsewhere, and tips for getting started.

And speaking of celebrations, this Monday, May 31, is Memorial Day. While enjoying the start of summer--perhaps with a barbeque and a well-dressed salad--let’s also remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

--Susan Dziubinski

Editor's Picks

Should You Diversify Your Equity Holdings by Factor?
A case can be made for owning a dedicated factor fund, but a broad market index likely has at least some exposure to most factors.

Our Ultimate Stock-Pickers' Top 10 High-Conviction Purchases
Several funds see value in technology, energy, and communication services.

Using History's Lessons to Evaluate Today's Investments
The odds favor equities.

2021 Inflation Forecast Heads Higher
Supply-side pressures are behind our increase for this year.

Who's Influenced by Behavioral Biases? Everyone
There's a financial impact to investing biases.

These Charitable Investment Strategies Deliver a 'Three-fer'
These three maneuvers will tend to deliver a higher tax benefit than writing a check and deducting it, and may even improve your portfolio.

Portfolio Planning and Personal Finance With Christine Benz

Which Charities Deserve Your Dollars?
Charitable giving offers valuable tax breaks, but it's also worth checking up on a charity's effectiveness.

Wondering About Withdrawal Rates?
Noted retirement researcher and financial planner Jonathan Guyton visits to discuss his take.

Charitable Giving Strategies in 2021
Donor-advised funds, gifting appreciated stock, and qualified charitable distributions are just some of the options.

Mutual Funds and Exchange-Traded Funds

Medalist Managers Buy SPACs, Airlines, and Oil in 2021's First Quarter
Top managers looked ahead to a post-pandemic economy.

Are Equity Managers Ready for Inflation?
How highly-rated active managers are positioning their portfolios today.

Looking Under the Hood at Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund
We take a close look at the ongoing fees and underlying investment options for the biggest donor-advised fund in the U.S.

How to Balance ESG and Market Representation
Pure ESG investments require trade-offs.

Should You Shop Around for a 529 Plan?
Some states offer a tax benefit that outweighs their plan's investment fees, tempting investors to stay close to home.

Are Crypto ETFs Coming?
The SEC continues to sort out its regulatory concerns.

A Terrific, Time-Tested Dividend-Growth Fund
An upcoming organizational change isn't a concern for Silver-rated T. Rowe Price Dividend Growth.


Why Amazon Is a Prime Investment
We expect it to continue to dominate its served markets.

Does Factor Profile Diversification Still Work?
Correlations for the major factor profiles are relatively high, but they can still show different returns in different types of markets.

Brick-and-Mortar Retail Isn’t Going Away
Robust e-commerce sales by traditional retailers during the COVID-19 pandemic create a lasting role for physical stores.

Considering Crypto? Here's What to Think About
As the investment world goes crazy for crypto, Morningstar Investment Management's Dan Kemp explains what to consider before putting it in your portfolio.

Stock Analyst Updates

Amazon Expands Video Library With MGM Acquisition
Our fair value estimate remains at $4,200 per share.

Nvidia Still Enjoying Record Revenue; FVE Up to $515
It continues to execute well in expanding its data center business.

Shell to Appeal a Court Order to Reduce Emissions
The court-ordered targets are well beyond Shell’s current plans of reducing carbon intensity by 20% in 2030 and moving to net zero by 2050.

Activist Wins Two Exxon Board Seats
Despite the victory for Engine No. 1, we do not expect a wholesale change in strategy.

Is Chevron's Plan to Reduce Scope 3 Emissions Feasible?
Shareholders support the narrow-moat company's proposal, however, Scope 3 emissions present a different challenge.

Rekenthaler Report

Vanguard Steps Further Into Private Equity
From institutions to individual investors.

Advisor Insights

Helping Clients With an ESG Investing Policy Statement
How can you help them define "enough"?

Is Your Succession Plan Future-Focused?
Here are some best practices for developing the next generation of leadership for your firm.

Sustainability Matters
The Battle at Exxon Was About More Than Board Seats
It brings shareholder-driven climate governance to the forefront.

The Long View Podcast

Andrew Biggs: Create a Thrift Savings Plan for the Masses
The economist and Social Security expert discusses whether or not there's a retirement crisis, and how the U.S. government's retirement plan could be a model for how low- and middle-income workers save.


Expanding Social Security to Improve Retirement
Labor economist and retirement expert Teresa Ghilarducci unpacks the U.S. retirement crisis and discusses potential solutions.

Most Requested Stock Quotes

AT&T Inc
Alibaba Group

Most Requested Fund Quotes

Vanguard 500 Index
Dodge & Cox
Fidelity 500 Index
Vanguard Total Stock Market Index
Vanguard Dividend Growth

Most Requested ETF Quotes

Schwab US Dividend Equity ETF
Vanguard S&P 500 ETF
Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF
SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust
Invesco QQQ Trust

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