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Morningstar Review – Find & Evaluate Stock Investment Ideas


FEATURED PROMOTION

Morningstar Logo

Our rating

4.2/5

Pros

  • thumbs-up7-day free trial to start
  • thumbs-upEasy to cancel Investor membership
  • thumbs-upLots of free content and tools

Cons

  • thumbs-downLots of ads in both plans
  • thumbs-downAuto-billing begins after free trial ends
  • thumbs-downNot very mobile-friendly


Additional Resources

There are plenty of investment research resources like Morningstar, but few with Morningstar’s reputation or reach.

Unlike CNBC and investing blogs with more limited or narrow focuses, Morningstar is a reliable resource for sober, insightful analysis touching pretty much every cranny of the traditional investing world.

You won’t find much about cryptocurrencies and other alternative investments here, but that’s fine for most retail investors and traditionalist portfolio managers, not to mention a positive thing for less-experienced folks without the capacity to sort hype from reason.

What Is Morningstar?

Morningstar reserves its best content and research tools for members, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay. The free Basic plan is plenty beneficial, and it may be all you need to stay on top of your investments. The pricey Investor plan has some added bells and whistles for higher-asset investors for whom it’s worth the cost.

Morningstar has two consumer-facing plans: Basic and Investor. Investor, a paid plan, adds exclusive features and content to Basic’s impressive-enough menu.

All in all, Morningstar is a great resource for retail investors. Read on to learn more about what it offers.

Morningstar Markets

Morningstar Basic Plan

Basic is Morningstar’s free plan. All you need to sign up is an email address and password — no credit card or personal details required.

Basic comes with a slew of Morningstar- and partner-generated content, including the following.

Market Data

Morningstar offers a ton of real-time and historical market data:

  • Market Indexes. This is a snapshot of the daily and historical performance of major and lesser-known global market indexes.
  • Market Barometers. This block chart helps investors visualize the relative performance of various market sectors and equity classes. It covers small-, mid-, and large-cap equities in multiple segments. For example, it might show that, on any given day, small-cap value stocks outperformed their large- and mid-cap peers.
  • Morningstar Sectors. This chart shows the relative performance of equities in Morningstar-curated sectors, such as Basic Materials, Consumer Cyclicals, and Real Estate.
  • Movers. This set highlights securities with the greatest percentage moves on a given day.
  • Performance. This section contains a seemingly endless array of data for various market indexes and sectors, from the benchmark S&P 500 and Dow 30 — and their associated index funds — to closed-end funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tracked by Morningstar.

Market News

Morningstar curates market news from around the Web. Most of the content appears to come via Dow Jones, a major financial wire service, and covers both U.S. and international markets.

At a glance, it’s a great place for investors looking to scan headlines before drilling down into a few stories of interest at the start of the day.

Quarter-End Reports

Morningstar’s original quarter-end reports cover trends in specific sectors and the general market. This section appears thinner than Market News, but its content is far more detailed — reading that’s probably best left for a quiet evening or weekend, rather than a quick morning scan.

Market Calendars

Morningstar broadcasts key upcoming market events via third-party calendars from Briefing.com, Zacks, and others. Here, you can peek ahead at pending economic reports, company earnings reports, stock splits, initial public offerings, and more.

Portfolio Management

After importing a preconstructed portfolio from another financial site (supported partners include Yahoo! Finance and Quicken) or entering your portfolio securities manually, use the Watchlist tool to track the day-to-day and historical performance of your portfolio’s contents.

To see how your actual holdings have performed since day one, enter transaction data for each security in the Portfolio tab.

Research Tools

Morningstar’s lineup of market research tools features:

  • Screeners. Morningstar’s basic screeners help investors sort ho-hum funds and equities from rare opportunities. Use them to find appropriate stock and fund investments. The Fund Compare tool is a screener-like product that’s listed separately but achieves similar results.
  • Research Reports. Notable reports include the Target-Date Series Reports, which evaluate various funds in the increasingly popular category of target-date funds, and the Rekenthaler Report, a roundup of financial and political commentary from Morningstar expert John Rekenthaler.
  • Morningstar Ratings (Star Ratings) and Stock Picks. This is the place to find Morningstar experts’ takes on the best funds, segmented by sector, fund quality (star rating on a 1- to 5-star scale), or both. The Fund Quickrank tool is a separately listed, DIY-friendly product that quickly sorts funds by category and quality, letting users find similar funds that may be appropriate for their investment portfolios.

Planning Tools

Morningstar’s planning vertical covers five broad topics: tax planning, college planning, saving for retirement, investing in retirement, and personal finance. Each topic includes articles, detailed guides, worksheets, and other resources. For instance, personal finance resources include budgeting and net worth worksheets.

Educational Resources

Morningstar has a rich education vertical (“Learn”) geared toward beginner and intermediate investors. The beginner-centric “Start Investing” modules are available only to Investor subscribers, but Basic members have access to dozens of courses in the Investing Classroom.

Investing Classroom courses cover five topics: individual stocks, investment-grade and high-yield bonds, mutual funds with expense ratios ranging from minimal to above-average, ETFs, and portfolio (detailing portfolio-building and -management strategies).

Sponsor Center

Morningstar serves old-fashioned display and banner ads throughout the site, especially on the homepage. Actual “sponsors,” mostly brokerages such as TD Ameritrade and E*Trade, get their own real estate in the Sponsor Center, lower down on Morningstar’s homepage.

It’s unlikely that the sorts of savvy investors Morningstar caters to aren’t already aware of the company’s high-name-ID sponsors, but they’re on the site regardless.

Email Digests

Morningstar curates a number of regular email digests — basically, themed newsletters with exclusive news and analysis.

  • Advisor Digest. This is a weekly roundup of market analysis from top Morningstar analysts.
  • Stock Analyst Notes. This is a weekly, company-specific analysis digest with forward- and backward-looking components.
  • Fund Spy. This newsletter features deep dives into the mutual fund industry from Morningstar fund experts.
  • SmartInvestor. This is a weekly roundup of the top financial content and market analysis sent on Friday afternoons.
  • Personal Finance Tips. This is a compilation of beginner- to advanced-level portfolio and cash management tips for retail investors.
Morningstar Top Investment Picks

Morningstar Investor Membership

For $34.95 per month or $349 per year, you’ll enjoy these Investor-exclusive benefits. When you sign up for an Investor subscription, you must provide a credit card, but you won’t be charged until your free seven-day trial ends.

Investor Email Digests

Morningstar Investor members get two exclusive email digests at no additional charge:

  • Morningstar Digest. This is a rundown of the latest insights and analysis from Morningstar experts. Members get a first look at this content before it’s disseminated publicly.
  • 5-Star Stock Update. Every time Morningstar identifies a new 5-star stock, members get an exclusive heads-up.

Premium Articles

Premium articles offer additional insight into the same topics and themes as Morningstar’s free articles. The difference between Basic and premium articles is one of quantity, not scope.

Premium Video

Morningstar appears to offer exclusive video content for Morningstar Investor members, although it’s difficult for members to tell which videos (if any) are for their eyes only and which appear to Basic members too.

Topics range from topical (“What Happens If Everyone Indexes?”) to perennial (“3 Stock Ideas From the Ultimate Stock Pickers”).

Premium Screeners

Premium stock and fund screeners provide more granular detail and allow for more customization, helping sophisticated investors sort the wheat from the chaff with minimal effort.

Premium Education

Morningstar’s “Learn” modules, geared toward inexperienced investors seeking actionable advice for their DIY portfolios, are exclusively for Morningstar Investor members.

Morningstar Paid Content

Morningstar regularly publishes subscription-only newsletters for paying subscribers. This content isn’t available for free to any Morningstar members, so you’ll want to make sure you find the topic valuable enough before signing up. Each comes with a free trial issue.

  • FundInvestor. Drawing on Morningstar’s industry-leading mutual fund database, this newsletter delivers fund-related insights and analysis you can’t find anywhere else.
  • ETFInvestor. This regular newsletter draws on Morningstar’s vast ETF database, with exclusive insights from Morningstar experts.
  • StockInvestor. This newsletter is built around two Morningstar-managed portfolios, The Tortoise and The Hare. Issues highlight over- and underperformers from each portfolio.
Morningstar Track Your Investments

Advantages of Morningstar

Here’s why Morningstar might be a good addition to your investing content rotation.

  • Lots of Original Content in Both Plans. Morningstar’s value-to-content ratio is off the charts. Basic and Investor members enjoy exclusive access to a wealth of content generated by Morningstar experts and trusted third parties, without the conflicts of interest inherent in contributor-driven financial media outlets like Seeking Alpha.
  • No Obligation to Sign Up for Email Newsletters. Morningstar members are under no obligation to receive the platform’s email newsletters. When you first open your account, you’ll be invited to sign up for as many as your plan level permits, but you won’t be penalized for passing. That’s great news for members who disdain inbox clutter.
  • 7-Day Free Trial With Morningstar Investor. New Morningstar Investor members get seven days free before they’re required to pay for the service. That should be more than enough time to get a feel for whether Morningstar Investor is worth the expense for you.
  • Easy to Cancel Morningstar Investor. Before or after the end of the free trial, Investor is easy to cancel. Just visit your account dashboard and click the “Cancel Membership” button under the “Plan” tab. You’ll then need to call the number on the following page and let the associate on the other end know you’d like to cancel — a two-minute task if you’re not placed on hold.
  • Less Commercial Than Financial Entertainment Alternatives. As market resources go, Morningstar is pretty straitlaced, with none of the sensationalism or manufactured drama of financial entertainment outlets like CNBC. Sure, “Mad Money” and “Shark Tank” are fun to watch every now and then, but an hour on Morningstar’s website is apt to be far better for your investing IQ.

Disadvantages of Morningstar

Consider these drawbacks carefully before opening a Morningstar account — and especially before paying for Morningstar Investor.

  • Lots of Ads, Even in Morningstar Investor. Morningstar has what I’d charitably call an ad-rich interface. Old-school display ads appear on page margins and occasionally between homepage sections, hawking products and services from Morningstar and its partners. That’s rare for a pricey premium product. It would be nice for users paying for something of value not to endure more marketing from its publisher.
  • Morningstar Investor Is Pricey. Morningstar’s paid plan is pretty pricey — annualized, it costs more than the monthly payment on a new economy car. For high-dollar investors who actually incorporate Morningstar’s insights into their market-making strategies, that may be a small price to pay. But for low-asset hobbyists and those who prefer passive investing, it’s overkill.
  • Investor Sign-Up Requires a Credit Card. Despite the free trial, you’ll need to enter your credit card information to sign up for Investor. If you don’t want to pay for the first month (or year, depending on your chosen payment frequency) after your trial ends, you’ll need to remember to cancel within seven days.
  • Cluttered Interface. Morningstar’s interface doesn’t look terrible, but it’s a bit cluttered, especially on a small screen. That’s an impediment for on-the-go investors who prefer to access information on their smartphones.
Morningstar Funds

How Morningstar Stacks Up

Morningstar isn’t the only information-rich online resource for serious investors. It competes against blue-chip market intelligence firms like S&P Global as well as more “casual” platforms like The Motley Fool.

Let’s see how Morningstar compares against one of its closest competitors: Seeking Alpha.

MorningstarSeeking Alpha
Free Version?Yes, Basic planLimited amount of free content and tools
Other PlansInvestor, $249/yearPremium, $19.99/mo when billed annually; PRO, $199.99/mo when billed annually
NewslettersPaid newsletters available for an additional feeIncluded with paid plans
Free Trial?Yes, 7 daysYes, 14 days

Final Word

Investors have countless legitimate sources of market data, news, and analysis at their fingertips. What makes Morningstar so special? And is Morningstar Investor worth the hefty price tag?

Morningstar has two real differentiators: a well-founded reputation for impeccable and unbiased insight and analysis and a deep well of valuable content. In other words, Morningstar delivers a ton of excellent content for investors, without the irrelevant fluff common to CNBC or the esoteric and often biased niche dives common to Seeking Alpha.

If you’re a no-nonsense investor looking to get smarter about the securities in your portfolio — or learn how to build a portfolio for the first time from experts who aren’t trying to sell you anything — then Morningstar Investor is for you. If you don’t have the disposable cash or investable assets to make Investor cost-effective, there’s always Basic.

FEATURED PROMOTION

Morningstar Logo

Our rating

4.2/5

Pros

  • thumbs-up7-day free trial to start
  • thumbs-upEasy to cancel Investor membership
  • thumbs-upLots of free content and tools

Cons

  • thumbs-downLots of ads in both plans
  • thumbs-downAuto-billing begins after free trial ends
  • thumbs-downNot very mobile-friendly
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

FEATURED PROMOTION