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Commentary

What Investors Were Researching in March

As the market shrugged off new eurozone worries in March, investors remained focused on finding cheap, wide-moat stocks and income-producing investments.

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The market shrugged off eurozone worries and a handful of less-than-stellar earnings forecasts from bellwethers like  FedEx (FDX) and  Oracle (ORCL). The broad-based Morningstar U.S. market index rose 3.4% in March while the both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 hit record-high levels.

Europe came back into focus during the month as Cyprus searched for a bailout and Italy searched for a government. After a few false starts, Cyprus and the European Union, International Monetary Fund, and European Central Bank reached an agreement to ring-fence bank deposits of less than EUR 100,000 and take a slice out of amounts higher than that to pay for the bailout. Even though Cyprus was not forced out of the common currency, fears that the bank deposit levies would be used a template for other indebted European countries, and that depositors would start pulling money out of banks causing a bank run, briefly sent some ripples through equities. The failure of Italy to form a government also forced investors to take another look at the eurozone crisis.

In the United States, Congress passed a continuing resolution funding the government until the fall, avoiding a potential showdown over a shutdown. The Federal Reserve stood pat in its commitment to keep its foot on the accelerator despite data showing the slow but steady improvement in the labor market and the broader economy. 

Against this backdrop, what were investors checking out on Morningstar.com during the month? Below are the 25 most viewed stock, mutual fund, and exchange-traded fund reports in March.

 Most Viewed Stock Analyst Reports in March 2013
Name Ticker Moat Star Rating March Return
Apple AAPL Narrow 0%
National Oilwell Varco NOV Wide 4%
General Electric GE Wide 0%
Intel INTC Wide 5%
Wells Fargo WFC Narrow 5%
Western Union WU Wide 8%
Berkshire Hathaway
BRK.B Wide 2%
Microsoft MSFT Wide 3%
NII Holdings NIHD Narrow -10%
Oracle ORCL Wide -6%
Rio Tinto RIO Narrow -10%
C.H. Robinson CHRW Wide
4%
Bank of America BAC Narrow Under Review 8%
Exxon Mobil XOM Wide 1%
Exelon EXC Wide 11%
Gentex GNTX Narrow
7%
eBay EBAY Wide -1%
ArcelorMittal MT Narrow -13%
Abbott Labs ABT Narrow 5%
Apache APA Narrow 4%
Costco COST Narrow 5%
Energy Transfer Eq ETE Wide 10%
Johnson & Johnson JNJ Wide 7%
Chevron CVX Narrow 1%
Expeditors Intl EXPD Wide 1%
Source: Morningstar, Data as of March 31

Unsurprisingly, the closely watched and widely held  Apple (AAPL) topped the list again this month. But investors were also looking at a number of wide-moat stocks, many of which we think are reasonably priced right now.  National Oilwell Varco (NOV) had a Morningstar Rating for stocks of 5 stars for part of the month, while  Western Union (WU) still carries that rating.  Costco Wholesale (COST) made its first appearance in the most researched list this month. It isn't screamingly cheap, but our analysts think it is the best bet in the consumer defensive sector.

 Most Viewed Open-End Fund Analyst Reports in March 2013
Name Ticker Morningstar Category Star Rating March Return
Vanguard Div Growth VDIGX Large Blend 4%
Vanguard Wellington VWELX Mod Allocation 3%
PRIMECAP Ody Agg Gr POAGX Mid-Cap Growth 6%
Yacktman YACKX Large Blend 4%
Wasatch Sml Cap Gr WAAEX Small Growth 4%
Fairholme FAIRX Large Value 4%
Vanguard Wellsly Inc VWINX Conserv Allocation 1%
T. Rowe Cap Apprec PRWCX Mod Allocation 2%
Oakmark International OAKIX Foreign Lg Blend 0%
Met West Tot Ret Bd MWTRX Interm-Term Bond 0%
Dodge & Cox Income DODIX Interm-Term Bond 0%
Dodge & Cox Stock
DODGX Large Value 5%
FPA Crescent FPACX Mod Allocation 2%
Sequoia SEQUX Large Blend 3%
T. Rowe Health Scien PRHSX Health 5%
PIMCO Total Return PTTRX Interm-Term Bond 0%
Amana Income AMANX Large Blend 3%
Vanguard Equity-Inc VEIPX Large Value 3%
Matthews Asia Div MAPIX Divers Pacific/Asia 2%
Templeton Glbl Bd TPINX World Bond 0%
PRIMECAP Odysy Gr POGRX Large Growth 7%
Fidelity New Mkts Inc FNMIX Emerg Mkts Bond -1%
Vanguard Cap Opp VHCOX Large Growth 6%
Dodge & Cox Intl Stk DODFX Foreign Lg Blend 1%
Vanguard PRIMECAP VPMCX Large Growth 5%
Source: Morningstar, Data as of March 31.

The most researched funds were little changed in the month.  Vanguard Dividend Growth (VDIGX) and  Vanguard Wellington (VWELX) were again the most researched funds. Investors still are closely evaluating their fixed-income options and also looking for ways to eke out extra income from equity funds, as well. That being said, investors remain interested in concentrated equity funds like Gold-rated  Yacktman (YACKX) or Silver-rated  Fairholme (FAIRX).

 Most Viewed ETF Analyst Reports in March 2013
Name Ticker March Return
Vanguard Dividend Appreciation VIG 3%
Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF VTI 4%
PIMCO Total Return ETF BOND 0%
PowerShares S&P 500 Low Vol SPLV 5%
iShares Barclays TIPS Bond TIP 0%
Vanguard High Div Yield Indx ETF VYM 4%
Vanguard REIT Index ETF VNQ 3%
PowerShares Senior Loan Port BKLN 1%
SPDR Gold Shares GLD 1%
SPDR S&P Dividend SDY 5%
JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index ETN AMJ 4%
Vanguard FTSE Emerg Mkts ETF VWO -2%
iShares MSCI EM Min Vol Idx EEMV -1%
PowerShares Intl Div Achievers PID 3%
WisdomTree EM Eq Inc DEM -1%
PowerShares DB Comdity Idx Trkng DBC 1%
Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF VDC 5%
iShares Core S&P 500 ETF IVV 4%
Vanguard Glbl ex-US Real Estate  VNQI 2%
ALPS Alerian MLP ETF AMLP 4%
iShares Dow Jones Select Div Idx DVY 5%
Market Vectors Wide Moat ETF MOAT 2%
iShares S&P U.S. Prfred Stk Idx PFF 1%
WisdomTree LargeCap Dividend DLN 4%
Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US ETF VEU 1%
Source: Morningstar, Data as of Mar. 31

The search for income was evident in the ETF data, too. Investors were looking everywhere from dividend-paying stocks ( Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG) ) to fixed income ( PIMCO Total Return ETF (BOND)) to master limited partnerships ( JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index ETN (AMJ)) to preferred shares ( iShares S&P U.S. Preferred Stock Index (PFF)).

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