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By Jason Stipp | 03-23-2013 09:00 AM

Deciphering the Big Picture

In Session 1 of the 2013 Morningstar Individual Investor Conference, Northern Trust's Katie Nixon, Charlie Bobrinskoy of Ariel, and Morningstar's Bob Johnson tackle today's macro questions on government policy, economic growth, inflation, and more.

The following is a replay from the 2013 Morningstar Individual Investor Conference.

Jason Stipp: Hello, and welcome to Morningstar's 2013 Individual Investor Conference, a full day of panels and presentations designed to help you get the most out of your portfolio in a challenging market. I'm Jason Stipp, Site Editor for

We've a great lineup for you today. We've got several panels and presentations designed to really help you secure stronger returns. We're going to start out big. We're going to talk about those big-picture issues that have investors concerned, that are on investors' minds.

Later today, we're going to delve into individual investment selection, get some top ideas from Morningstar's experts. We're going to take a trip overseas, we're going to learn about some global opportunities, potentially uncover some global values for investors. We're also going to dig into your fixed-income portfolio; there is no shortage of bond topics today, as you well know.

And retirement income, maximizing retirement income, both from your Social Security benefits and your investment portfolio--a hot topic among Morningstar readers to be sure.

And Christine Benz, our director of personal finance will be walking you through a portfolio checkup today to make sure your accounting for all those timely issues that could be affecting your underlying holdings, so that's something you won't want to miss.

In all, we've got seven sessions for you today. Here is how it's going to work. We're going to go straight through. We're going to take 10-minute breaks between each session. You'll have a chance to stretch your legs. And at midday we're going to take a brief break for lunch, and at that time we'll recap some of the big takeaways from the morning sessions, and we'll also preview what's to come this afternoon in some of those important sessions we will be bringing to you later.

Before we get started, a couple of important notes. So, this is a live webcast. We're streaming live to you right now; that means we can take your questions in real time. To the right of this webcast viewer, there is a "submit-a-question" box. So, we would love to hear from you. We will try to get to as many of those questions as we can.

And below your webcast viewer, there is a chat module where you can interact with your fellow conference attendees, also in real-time, definitely two big advantages of joining us live today. So, be sure to take advantage of those during the day.

But no break for now, let's get right into it. Our first panel, "Deciphering the Big Picture."

Inflation, valuations, ultra-low yields, a slow growth economy, concerns and woes overseas: These are the issues that are powering the headlines today, driving all of the news, and seemingly driving the market activity up and down on a day-to-day basis.

So, how should a smart investor account for these big picture ideas? Well, I'm pleased to be joined today by three stellar panelists to give their insights. To my left here is Katie Nixon. Katie is chief investment officer of personal financial services at Northern Trust, where her responsibilities include investment policy development with a focus on portfolio construction and implementation. She also directs the investment management activities of more than 200 Northern Trust portfolio managers. Thanks for joining me, Katie.

Katherine Nixon: Thanks for having me.

Stipp: Next to Katie is Charlie Bobrinskoy; he is vice chairman and director of research at Ariel Investments, where he oversees Ariel's investment and trading teams, as well as all of the firm's proprietary research. He is also a co-manager of Ariel Focus Fund, and a member of Ariel's investment board of directors. Charlie, thanks for being here.

Charles Bobrinskoy: Thanks for having me, Jason.

Stipp: And next to Charlie is Bob Johnson. You'll recognize Bob as Morningstar's director of economic analysis. Bob has more than 20 years of investment industry experience, including both buy-side and sell-side assignments as a research analyst, and prior to assuming his current role as director of economic analysis he was associate director of equity analysis for the tech team here at Morningstar.

Bob, thanks for being here.

Robert Johnson: Nice to be here.

Stipp: So, let's get going. I have several things I'd love to touch base with you. But the first one, I think, that is on everybody's mind is from the recent headlines of Cyprus, and we have been seeing those over the past week, week and a half. The markets seemed to be really concerned. This is a pretty small island nation. I think it's 0.2% of the eurozone's GDP. What's the big deal? Charlie, there seems to be a lot of concern about this small island nation. The markets are moving up and down. Should investors be concerned about what's going on?

Bobrinskoy: I have to say upfront, I am a Russian. So this is a special place. The island of Cyprus, which is a tiny place, plays a very important role in the Russian economy; it always has. It's where Russians sent their money to get it away from the government, to get it away from the taxman. In modern times, it's been, unfortunately, sort of like Swiss bank accounts. It's where people who wanted to hide their money sent their money. And, unfortunately, what that means is that finance and banking are much more important to Cyprus than they are to most countries--much more important, for example, than the banking industry is to the United States. So think of this as sort of like Switzerland. And, unfortunately, it's Switzerland with a little bit of a Russian mafia overlay.

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