By Brandon Rakszawski, VanEck Senior ETF Product Manager
The Morningstar® Wide Moat Focus IndexSM (MWMFTR, or “U.S. Moat Index”) outpaced the broad U.S. equity markets as represented by the S&P 500 Index (3.66% vs. 3.21%) in February. Tech companies became a more prominent exposure in the U.S. Moat Index following the December index review, and the sector represented an outsized portion of the U.S. Moat Index’s return for the month, similar to the broad market. Consumer staples companies were also strong contributors for the month, and all sectors posted positive returns.
Small Exposure Packs Big Punch
The lone real estate company in the U.S. Moat Index, Jones Lang LaSalle, Inc. (JLL, +15.14%) was the largest contributor to returns in February. JLL’s stock price surged in mid-February after the release of 2018 earnings results that beat consensus estimates. Morningstar’s equity research team believes the company is better prepared to weather potential downturns now than it was during the Great Recession.
This is not the first time JLL has been in the index portfolio. As recently as 2016, (JLL) was viewed by Morningstar as undervalued and was added to the index. It was later removed as its rising stock price moved more inline with its declining fair value estimate. JLL returned to the U.S. Moat Index in September and December 2018 after a sell-off that began in early August.
Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL): Three Year Price and Fair Value as of 2/28/2019
According to Morningstar, JLL benefits from intangible assets, the leading source of moats, due to its brand. A positive brand can play a key role in helping companies stay ahead of competitors by promoting sales, building trust, and inspiring customer loyalty. Morningstar’s analysts believe JLL’s brand helps the company attract both clients and talent.
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