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Monday, July 29, 2002

Morningstar Makes Style Switch

by: Tony Pennino

Morningstar has added new style and analytic features to DataLab, its research platform for industry professionals, Michael Rittmann, senior product manager at the firm, told the MutualFundWire.com. The modifications are available starting today.

"The new style profile module allows us to create what I like to call granularity," Rittmann reported. "We now can place a scatter plot on top of our current style boxes. It will not only show you that you are looking at a large cap value fund, but the centroid of that fund in its quadrant. It may end up being closer to something else."

Morningstar is looking to provide its clients with more data than they had previously. There is a second style chart that creates a scatter plot of the individual holdings of the funds. "A fund's ownership zone may spread over the various quadrants of the style box. A fund that is primarily large cap value may have one or two holdings that belong in large cap growth," the executive continued.

The modifications will also allow clients to monitor style drift. "Right now, it is just a snap-shot," he contended. "But down the road, we will actually plot the centroid over time. We will create a snail trail so that the user can see how much the fund has drifted or, conversely, how much it has remained consistent. When we look at a number of funds, we can make distinctions between funds that have been classified as the same. You can really start to see the different strategies. Some funds may stay focused to their style box while others may be much more diversified." The firm further states that it has developed new and easy-to-understand graphics for this new data. Morningstar will provide extensive customer support -- on-site or online -- to help clients transition to the new module.

Currently, the module can only be utilized for open-ended funds. But in six months, it can be used for variable annuities and separate accounts. 

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