Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Can Morningstar's analysts be the new stars?

Morningstar has introduced a new ratings system called the Analyst Ratings in an effort to improve on their not-at-all-predictive Star Ratings.  They use qualitative factors to rate funds as either Gold, Silver, Bronze, Neutral, or Negative.  Morningstar should be applauded for try to reach beyond their Star Ratings based on past performance, but Analyst Ratings probably won't be any better.

Analyst Rating concerns:
  • As the Motley Fool points out in their cleverly-named post on the subject, the analyst ratings may suffer from the same systematic positivity as stock analysts.
  • This article from Dan Wiener at InvestorPlace points out several inconsistencies in the ratings, such as rating two Vanguard funds that follow the S&P 500 differently.
  • The Wall Street Journal points out that the analyst picks and pans, on which the new Analyst Ratings are based, have a pretty poor record.  Only 46% of picks beat their index benchmark.
  • They started by rating only about 350 funds, and hope to expand to about 1,500.  Given that there are over 7,000 US mutual funds, it is unclear how they will decide what to rate in a way that is fair.
Analyst Ratings is shaping up to be just another way sell past performance analysis.

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