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  • Moat Investing

    Reflect and Move Forward

    Brandon Rakszawski, Senior ETF Product Manager
    January 23, 2019
     

    For the Month Ending December 31, 2018

    The Morningstar® Wide Moat Focus IndexSM (MWMFTR, or "U.S. Moat Index") ended the year with a loss of -0.74% versus -4.38% for the broad U.S. equity market as represented by the S&P 500® Index.

    Strong performance for the year was driven in large part by the Index’s overweight to healthcare stocks, such as Eli Lilly and Co (LLY), Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK), and Express Scripts Holding Co. (ESRX). The communication services sector also saw success in 2018, driven largely by Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOXA), which was also among the index’s top performers.

    Not all positions benefited the U.S. Moat Index in 2018. L Brands, Inc. (LB) and General Electric (GE) were the most high profile performance detractors for the year as both saw their Economic Moat Ratings downgraded from wide to narrow by Morningstar’s equity analysts. But, in the aggregate, the index impressed in 2018.

    New Year, New Positioning

    The U.S. Moat Index is reviewed quarterly to ensure the Index is allocated to companies that Morningstar believes possess a sustainable competitive advantage and, just as importantly, are among the most attractively priced of those companies. Following the market sell-off in the fourth quarter, the U.S. Moat Index’s December review resulted in its most dramatic sector allocation shifts of the year.

    U.S. Moat Index December Repositioning

    U.S. Moat Index December Repositioning Chart

    Source: Morningstar. Index positioning not representative of fund positioning.

    The Index pared its exposure to healthcare and consumer staples companies while adding to its information technology, financials, and industrials exposure.

    Healthcare was the top sector contributor to returns of the U.S. Moat Index for the year and saw its weighting adjusted in December accordingly as several companies no longer represented a valuation opportunity. Interestingly, communications services and consumer discretionary companies were the second and third best contributors, respectively, in 2018 but both maintained similar exposure in the Index.

    The most notable shift in the portfolio was the increase in information technology exposure. The U.S. Moat Index weighting of roughly 20% to information technology is now back to market weight relative to the S&P 500. Information technology was a significant underweight for most of 2018.

    Clearly, valuation opportunities among wide moat companies changed as the year came to an end. The strategy locked in gains in several positions, exited some laggards, and allocated to several new companies with potential upside in the eyes of Morningstar equity analysts.

    Click here for the full U.S. Moat Index reconstitution results.