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Moat Investing Stays in Style

October 12, 2021

Read Time 4 MIN


Once again, September lived up to its billing as the most difficult month of the year for U.S. equities. The S&P 500 Index finished the month in negative territory (-4.65%), which was its first monthly loss since January 2021, and the worst monthly return since March 2020, when economies across the world closed to address the early spread of COVID-19. U.S. equity markets had plenty to navigate in September, from debt ceiling negotiations and the prospect of Federal Reserve (Fed) tapering to persistent uncertainty surrounding the global pandemic and its potential trajectory. The Morningstar® Wide Moat Focus IndexSM (the “Moat Index” or “Index”), though not immune to market pressures, proved somewhat resilient with a -4.17% return.

Few areas of the market escaped the month unscathed, with both growth stocks and value stocks in negative territory. The Russell 1000 Growth Index posted a -5.60% return in September and the Russell 1000 Value Index was only down -3.48%. After a long run of growth outperforming value, the two styles have exchanged blows in 2020, with value outdoing growth for a few months and growth then bouncing back. Despite this push/pull environment, the Moat Index has managed to outperform the S&P 500 Index, Russell 1000 Growth Index and Russell 1000 Value Index in 2021 through September.

Moat Index Still in Style

As of September 30, 2021

Moat Index Still in Style: Performance vs. S&P 500 Index, Russell 1000 Value Index and Russell 1000 Growth Index

Source: Morningstar. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Individual company and index performance is not illustrative of fund performance. For fund performance current to the most recent month-end, visit

Tech Selections Boost Moat Index in September (CRM) was a standout for the Moat Index in September and its overweight compared to the S&P 500 Index boosted relative performance. Shares of Salesforce spiked following its investor day in late September. Subsequently, Morningstar raised its fair value estimate from $292 per share to $312, leaving shares attractively priced despite gains for the month. Morningstar noted encouraging increases to 2022 and 2023 guidance as well as an emerging margin story and intense interest in all things Slack following the completion of its acquisition of Slack Technologies this summer.

Blackbaud Inc. (BLKB) and Guidewire Software (GWRE), both software companies, also provided strong relative returns in October and both owe their wide moat rating to high customer switching costs. Both operate in niche areas (Blackbaud in the non-profit ecosystem and Guidewire in the property and casualty industry) and both have entrenched their products and services in their customers’ business models. Both remain modestly undervalued according to Morningstar.

Health Care Detractors Cause Portfolio Pain

Biogen Inc. (BIIB), Veeva Systems Inc. (VEEV) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (BMY), all overweight in the Moat Index vs. the S&P 500, were the three largest relative detractors from returns for the month. Biogen and Bristol-Myers Squibb have been forced to navigate upcoming congressional proposals and a plan from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that are putting drug pricing policy back in the spotlight. However, Morningstar has not seen a proposal to date that appears moderate enough to pass the razor thin Democratic majority in the Senate. Therefore, Morningstar does not anticipate any near term changes to fair value estimates or moat ratings for its biotech and pharmaceutical coverage. They expect innovative drugs will carry strong pricing powers, a core pillar in moat ratings and valuations for the industry.

Index Review Yields Modest Changes

The Moat Index underwent its third quarter review in late September. While eight companies were added and removed from the sub-portfolio under review, there weren’t any major shifts in sector or style exposure. Value stocks remained the largest exposure in the Index at approximately 43%, followed by core stocks at approximately 32% and growth stocks at nearly 25%.

The tech sector saw its prominence in the Index increase, driven mostly by semiconductor companies KLA Corp., Lam Research Corp. and Microchip Technologies re-joining the Index this quarter. Health care, a long-term overweight in the Index saw a modest decrease to its exposure.

View the full review results here.

VanEck Morningstar Wide ETF (MOAT) seeks to replicate as closely as possible, before fees and expenses the price and yield performance of the Morningstar Wide Moat Focus Index.

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Important Disclosures

The information presented does not involve the rendering of personalized investment, financial, legal, or tax advice. Certain statements contained herein may constitute projections, forecasts and other forward looking statements, which do not reflect actual results, are valid as of the date of this communication and subject to change without notice. Information provided by third party sources are believed to be reliable and have not been independently verified for accuracy or completeness and cannot be guaranteed. The information herein represents the opinion of the author(s), but not necessarily those of VanEck.

This commentary is not intended as a recommendation to buy or to sell any of the sectors or securities mentioned herein. Holdings will vary for the MOAT ETF and its corresponding Index. For a complete list of holdings in the ETF, please click here:

An investor cannot invest directly in an index. Returns reflect past performance and do not guarantee future results. Results reflect the reinvestment of dividends and capital gains, if any. Certain indices may take into account withholding taxes. Index returns do not represent Fund returns. The Index does not charge management fees or brokerage expenses, nor does the Index lend securities, and no revenues from securities lending were added to the performance shown.

Fair value estimate: the Morningstar analyst's estimate of what a stock is worth.

Price/Fair Value: ratio of a stock's trading price to its fair value estimate.

The Morningstar® Wide Moat Focus IndexSM was created and is maintained by Morningstar, Inc. Morningstar, Inc. does not sponsor, endorse, issue, sell, or promote the VanEck Morningstar Wide Moat ETF and bears no liability with respect to that ETF or any security. Morningstar® is a registered trademark of Morningstar, Inc. Morningstar® Wide Moat Focus IndexSM is a service mark of Morningstar, Inc.

The Morningstar® Wide Moat Focus IndexSM consists of U.S. companies identified as having sustainable, competitive advantages and whose stocks are attractively priced, according to Morningstar.

The Russell 1000 Growth Index measures the performance of the large- cap growth segment of the US equity universe. It includes those Russell 1000 companies with higher price-to-book ratios and higher forecasted growth values.

The Russell 1000 Value Index measures the performance of the large-cap value segment of the U.S. equity universe. It includes those Russell 1000 companies with lower price-to-book ratios and lower expected and historical growth rates.

The S&P 500® Index consists of 500 widely held common stocks covering industrial, utility, financial and transportation sector; as an Index, it is unmanaged and is not a security in which investments can be made.

Effective June 20, 2016, Morningstar implemented several changes to the Morningstar Wide Moat Focus Index construction rules. Among other changes, the index increased its constituent count from 20 stocks to at least 40 stocks and modified its rebalance and reconstitution methodology. These changes may result in more diversified exposure, lower turnover and longer holding periods for index constituents than under the rules in effect prior to this date.

The S&P 500® Index is a product of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and/or its affiliates and has been licensed for use by Van Eck Associates Corporation. Copyright © 2021 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global, Inc., and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Redistribution or reproduction in whole or in part are prohibited without written permission of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. For more information on any of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC’s indices please visit S&P® is a registered trademark of S&P Global and Dow Jones® is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. Neither S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC, their affiliates nor their third party licensors make any representation or warranty, express or implied, as to the ability of any index to accurately represent the asset class or market sector that it purports to represent and neither S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC, their affiliates nor their third party licensors shall have any liability for any errors, omissions, or interruptions of any index or the data included therein.

An investment in the VanEck Morningstar Wide Moat ETF (MOAT®) may be subject to risks which include, among others, investing in equity securities, consumer discretionary, consumer staples, financials, health care, industrials and information technology sectors, medium-capitalization companies, market, operational, index tracking, authorized participant concentration, no guarantee of active trading market, trading issues, passive management, fund shares trading, premium/discount risk and liquidity of fund shares, non-diversification and concentration risks, which may make these investments volatile in price or difficult to trade. Medium-capitalization companies may be subject to elevated risks.

Investing involves substantial risk and high volatility, including possible loss of principal. An investor should consider a Fund's investment objective, risks, charges and expenses carefully before investing. To obtain a prospectus and summary prospectus for VanEck Funds and VanEck ETFs, which contain this and other information, call 800.826.2333 or visit Please read the prospectus and summary prospectus for VanEck Funds and VanEck ETFs carefully before investing.

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