I attended a Morninstar Webinar on Thursday 8/4/11, and here's what I learned.
Morningstar is an investment database. They offer information on Companies (Stocks), Funds (Mutual Funds), ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds), and Markets. Information includes (where relevant): price – current and historic, analysis, comparison, ranking, bond ratings, etc. I love that you can check out executive compensation under the Insiders tab on Companies, and you can get SEC filings. All the information you’d expect to see on an investment site, plus the value added feature of Morningstar analysis and opinion.
To find historic stock prices, after the upgrade on 8/9/11, go to the Performance tab, and then click on “Price History.” Fill in the requested information, and away you go.
The “Screen for” option under Companies, Funds, and ETFs leads to screening tools to help you narrow down your options from thousands of possibilities. First “Select Data to Screen on” (you can select “General” and then click the Morningstar Screens button to the right. Answer the resulting questions and Morningstar will help you find options that meet your criteria.
This database will also help you with your portfolio. There’s a Portfolio X-Ray that, when you enter all your portfolio information and what your goal is, will analyze your portfolio and tell you where you might want to make amendments. There are also calculators for college and retirement to help you figure out a figure to use as a goal.
One of the real strengths of this database is all of the educational opportunities. Under the Portfolio section, you can learn about asset allocation and there are a series of Goal Primers to teach you the “ins and outs of goal-based investing.” There’s also an Investing 101 video here that the instructor highly recommended.
The “Help and Education” tab offers many more learning opportunities, including guides for using the database, a second set of Goal Primers, a glossary of investment terms, and information on “Morningstar’s proprietary ratings and measures.” They’ll soon be launching a Tutorial Center with 3-5 minute videos. There’s also an Investment Classroom which includes Stocks, Funds, and Portfolio curriculums, each including a number of 10 minute lessons at different levels, each of which ends with a quiz. So Morningstar is a great alternative to books for patrons who want to learn about investing.
Under the Newsletters tab, Morningstar offers “PDFs of the most-popular newsletters from our mutual fund, stock, and ETF strategists.” This includes the basic Mutual Fund paper that we get in print.
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Current news is not part of the database. The Market Overviews in the Market tab will include financial news of the past quarter or year – whichever time period you pick. That would include things like the Debt Ceiling issue. Morningstar.com offers the current financial news, and you can get a market news feed. You do have to register for Morningstar.com to get the good stuff, but you can do it for free.