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Investing Specialists

Morningstar Runs the Numbers

We take a numerical look through this week's Morningstar research. Plus, our most popular articles and videos for the week ended Oct. 13.

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Inspired by Harper's Index (with a tip of the hat to FiveThirtyEight's Significant Digits blog), Morningstar Runs the Numbers uses a numbers-based approach to highlight recent Morningstar research, along with some outside news stories.

As part of our 21 Days to Improve Your Financial Life special report, director of personal finance Christine Benz outlines five key steps to take to help you formulate your strategy for claiming Social Security. 

"As more and more workers approach and enter retirement without the benefit of pensions, the lifetime income stream of Social Security--and the enlarged benefits that can be obtained with savvy benefits-claiming strategies--has received newfound attention."

 Wells Fargo (WFC) shares slumped after the bank reported a 19% profit decline Friday and weaker than expected revenue during the third quarter. This was a bit of a setback for the firm, especially compared with peers, as a drop in loan balances and a relative lack of leverage to rising interest rates took a toll on revenue, said senior equity analyst Jim Sinegal. Though there are no quick fixes, Sinegal thinks the continued growth of the bank's low-cost funding base the company's efforts to overhaul its sales practices will prove capable of reviving revenue growth over a reasonable time frame. He thinks the shares are undervalued at the current price.

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Financial Times markets editor Robin Wigglesworth observed on Twitter that there are now over 1 million financial indexes, but only about 43,000 stocks globally.

Director of manager research Russ Kinnel examined five Medalist small-cap funds that still have additional capacity. He lists medal-worthy funds with total asset bases below the median closing point and below the average closing point. (He notes that the median small-cap fund closed at $1.3 billion and the average was $2.2 billion.) 

Vice president of research John Rekenthaler explored the work of economist Richard Thaler, recipient of the 2017 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. It was at one time estimated that 20% of employees didn't enroll in 401(k) plans because there were faced with too many choices, overwhelming potential investors and leading to inertia. In response Thaler came up with a simpler solution: Why not drop new employees into a 401(k) plan, in specified funds at a specified rate, and be done with the decisions?

"Automated-enrollment programs and their successors, auto-escalation features (which gradually increase the employee’s contribution rate), have been smash successes, helping 401(k) programs increase their reach and boost employee balances. In explaining its decision to award Thaler its 2017 prize, the Nobel committee mentioned, among other items, the practical effect that his work has had on 401(k) plans."

The FRED blog by the St. Louis Fed examined nonprofit growth and found that total output by nonprofits has increased, even during recessions. According to a survey, nonprofit revenue grew 33% faster than overall U.S. GDP over the 10-year period from 1997-2007.

"Nonprofits promote the public good. So, during economic downturns, they may have greater opportunity to increase their output. In fact, nonprofits can play a central role in economic recovery, for example, by directly remediating problems associated with recessions (such as unemployment) through welfare spending and expanding economic opportunities through education."

In this video, our manager research analysts share three of their top emerging-markets stock fund picks on the heels of a strong year for the category.

Most Popular Articles

    Most Popular Videos

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    T. Rowe Price International Discovery
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    SPDR S&P 500 ETF
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    Most Requested ETF Analyses
    Vanguard Short-Term Inflation-Protected Securities ETF
    Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF
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    Vanguard Short-Term Corporate Bond ETF does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.