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What Investors Were Researching in February

Investors continued their search for income and equity bargains last month.

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Despite some volatility, the market managed to eke out modest gains in February.  The broad-based Morningstar US Market Index was up 1.4% in the month. Many major indexes, including the Dow Jones Industrial Average, remain very close to record highs.

The market's contained upswing comes against a background of mixed economic news. Inconclusive Italian elections led to worries that the country might be ungovernable and wouldn't be able to return to growth. Congressional leaders in Washington also failed to mitigate the sequester cuts and looked poised to embark on a bruising battle to pass a budget in March. Earnings kept coming generally in line with or above expectations, but many management teams provided disappointing outlooks. Economic data generally showed the recovery was continuing, but there were some disappointing retail and housing reports.

The month also saw the resurgence of merger and acquisition activity with a number of fairly sizable deals being announced. American Airlines parent AMR (AAMRQ) and  US Airways (LCC) agreed to create the world's largest airline;
 OfficeMax (OMX) and  Office Depot (ODP) are coming together to battle rival
 Staples (SPLS); Warren Buffett and a Brazilian private-equity firm are teaming up to take  H.J. Heinz (HNZ) private; and Michael Dell is leading a buyout of
 Dell (DELL) with an assist from  Microsoft (MSFT).

So what were investors checking out on during the month? Below are the 25 most viewed stock, mutual fund, and exchange-traded fund reports in February.

Most Viewed Stock Analyst Reports in Feb 2013
Name Ticker Moat Star Rating February Return
National Oilwell Varco NOV Wide -8%
Apple AAPL Narrow -3%
Western Union WU Wide -1%
Ultra Petroleum UPL Narrow -6%
Exelon EXC Wide 0%
Apache APA Narrow -11%
DVN Narrow -5%
Intel INTC Wide 0%
Berkshire Hathaway BRK.B Wide 5%
France Telecom FTE Narrow -14%
General Electric GE Wide 5%
Deutsche Telekom DTEGY None -13%
WellPoint WLP Narrow -4%
Baidu BIDU Narrow -16%
ArcelorMittal MT Narrow -13%
J.C. Penney JCP None Under Review -14%
General Motors GM None -3%
Ford F None -3%
Cisco Systems CSCO Wide 1%
Microsoft MSFT Wide 2%
Koninklijke KKPNY Narrow -40%
Vodafone Group VOD Narrow -8%
Johnson & Johnson JNJ Wide 4%
CenturyLink CTL Narrow -14%
3D Systems DDD Narrow -4%
Source: Morningstar, Data as of Feb. 28

 National Oilwell Varco (NOV) moved up to the top spot this month. This isn't that surprising, given that it (along with another top-researched name,  Western Union (WU)) is one of the few wide-moat firms left with a Morningstar Rating for stocks of 5 stars. It's also apparent that Morningstar users were bargain-hunting in the month, as many of the top stocks saw fairly large declines in February.

Most Viewed Open-End Fund Analyst Reports in Feb 2013
Name Ticker Morningstar Category Star Rating February Return
Vanguard Div Growth VDIGX Large Blend 2%
Vanguard Wellington VWELX Mod Allocation 1%
Fidelity Sm Cap Disc FSCRX Small Blend 2%
Fairholme FAIRX Large Value 0%
Fidelity Sm Cap Value FCPVX Small Value 2%
T. Rowe Health Scns PRHSX Health 1%
FPA Crescent FPACX Mod Allocation 1%
Vanguard Wellesley VWINX Conserv Allocation 1%
T. Rowe Cap Appr PRWCX Mod Allocation 1%
Dodge & Cox Stock DODGX Large Value 1%
Vanguard Inf-Pr Sec VIPSX Inflat-Prtct Bond 0%
POGRX Large Growth 1%
Yacktman YACKX Large Blend 2%
T. Rowe Equity Inc PRFDX Large Value 2%
T. Rowe Real Estate TRREX Real Estate 0%
Templeton Global Bd TPINX World Bond 1%
Oakmark International OAKIX Foreign Lg Blend -1%
Fidelity Contrafund FCNTX Large Growth 1%
Fidelity Flt Rt High Inc FFRHX Bank Loan 0%
Vanguard Equity Inc VEIPX Large Value 2%
Vanguard PRMCP Cor VPCCX Large Growth 2%
Dodge & Cox Balanced DODBX Mod Allocation 1%
PRIMECAP Od Agg Gr POAGX Mid-Cap Growth 1%
Vanguard Health Care VGHCX Health 1%
Vanguard S/T Bd Idx VBISX Short-Term Bond 0%
Source: Morningstar, Data as of Feb. 28.

 Vanguard Dividend Growth (VDIGX) and  Vanguard Wellington (VWELX) remained the top two most researched funds this month. Investors seem to be increasingly checking out equity-focused or allocation funds and spending less time researching pure-play fixed-income investments.

Most Viewed ETF Analyst Reports in Feb 2013
Name Ticker February Return
Vanguard Dividend Appreciation VIG 1%
PowerShares Intl Div Achievers PID -1%
Vanguard REIT Index ETF VNQ 1%
Vanguard High Dividend Yield Indx VYM 2%
Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US ETF VEU -1%
Schwab U.S. Dividend Equity ETF SCHD 2%
WisdomTree Emerg Mkt Equity Inc DEM -2%
SPDR Gold Shares GLD -5%
PowerShares Senior Loan Port BKLN 0%
Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets VWO -2%
Vanguard Total Stock Market VTI 1%
WisdomTree E/M SmallCap Div DGS 2%
PIMCO Total Return ETF BOND 1%
PowerShares S&P 500 Low Vol SPLV 3%
Vanguard Small Cap Value ETF VBR 2%
iShares MSCI E/M Min Vol Index EEMV 0%
iShares Gold Trust IAU -5%
Vanguard Global ex-US Real Estate VNQI 0%
JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index ETN AMJ 1%
SPDR Dow Jones Global Real Estate RWO 1%
SPDR S&P Dividend SDY 2%
Vanguard Extended Market Index VXF 1%
Vanguard MSCI EAFE ETF VEA -1%
iShares Barclays TIPS Bond TIP 0%
Source: Morningstar, Data as of Feb. 28.

The search for income is alive and well among exchange-traded funds.  Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG) was the most researched ETF this month, just as it was in January. A number of other of income-focused funds such as  PowerShares International Dividend Achievers (PID) and  Vanguard High Dividend Yield Index ETF (VYM) were close followers.

Jeremy Glaser has a position in the following securities mentioned above: MSFT. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.