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The 10 Most Popular Stories on Morningstar.com in 2019

Our readers’ tastes can be summed up in two words: income and Vanguard.

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The stock market set new records in 2019. Growth stocks, in particular, thrived. And highly anticipated IPOs from Uber (UBER), Lyft (LYFT), and Beyond Meat (BYND) made headlines.

But our readers didn't seem to care. Instead, they chose to read about dividend-paying stocks and funds, bonds, and a little fund company named Vanguard. 

Today, we’re sharing the most-popular stories on Morningstar.com for 2019. We’re defining “popular” as total page views to a piece of content from the start of the year through Dec. 10.  

Before we dig in, we'd like to take a moment to thank you for your readership this year. We’re fully aware that there are many places you can go for investment ideas and insights; we’re grateful that you’ve chosen Morningstar.com as one of those places.   

On to our top 10 stories of 2019. 

10. Our Ultimate Stock-Pickers’ Top 10 Dividend-Yielding Stocks  
Each quarter, we peek into the latest portfolios of two dozen of our favorite managers, who we've dubbed “Ultimate Stock-Pickers.” Our roster of managers includes representatives from Oakmark, Primecap, Yacktman, American Funds, Berkshire Hathaway, and Dodge & Cox, among others. The series typically reviews the latest purchases and sales among this talented group, as well as their highest-conviction ideas for the prior quarter. 

The most popular installment in the series--and one of the most popular articles of the year--focused on the widely held dividend-paying stocks among these managers. Although not expressly dividend-stock investors, most of these managers own at least some equity-producing securities. Wells Fargo (WFC) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) were the two most widely held dividend-payers; find out what other stocks made the top 10.  

9. The Best Bond Funds  
Some might be surprised to see an article about bond picks make the list of most-popular stories. After all, aren’t bond funds those set-and-forget kind of investments--the snoozers in our portfolios? Perhaps. But given the tremendous inflows we’ve seen for bond funds this year, this article’s popularity makes sense. 

Moreover, the article is a workhorse: It features bond funds across Morningstar Categories--both taxable and municipal--that earn Morningstar Analyst Ratings of Gold. It’s an impressive bunch. Here’s the complete list

8. 10 Superior Dividend Stocks
At Morningstar, we think good stock ideas can come from a lot of places. Sometimes, we cull ideas from managers we respect, as in our Ultimate Stock-Pickers series. Other times, we turn to Morningstar’s indexes for a fresh perspective. 

This particular article shared the 10 largest positions in the Morningstar US Dividend Growth Index. The index focuses on companies with a history of dividend growth and an ability to sustain it. (Learn more about the index’s methodology.) When the article published back in August, a handful of the top 10 names were undervalued by our metrics; today, just two stocks--Chevron (CVX) and Pfizer (PFE)–-are. 

7. 35 Great Investments
In May, Morningstar celebrated its 35th anniversary. Since the company’s start in Joe Mansueto’s apartment in 1984, we’ve expanded our mission from bringing transparency to the U.S. mutual fund universe to empowering investor success worldwide.  

To celebrate the milestone, we shared 35 of our favorite core investment ideas. Those ideas included undervalued wide-moat stocks and large-cap equity funds that earn our highest rating of Gold. See the full list.  

6. 4 Excellent Dividend-Growth Funds and ETFs  
Our readers aren’t only interested in dividend stocks; you're eager for dividend fund ideas, too. At Morningstar, we divide dividend funds into two camps. One camp, the “yielders,” in our parlance, targets high-yielding stocks, those that offer high payouts in absolute terms. "Growers,” meanwhile, may not offer the highest yields in the marketplace, but they’ve exhibited consistent dividend growth over time. 

As its title suggests, this article focused on the latter group. Dividend-growth funds have much to recommend them. For starters, they’re chock-full of high-quality, financially stable companies, which makes them fine choices as core holdings. Moreover, their quality focus provides ballast when times get tough. And finally, the dividend growth their holdings deliver can offer some inflation protection for retirees specifically--what director of personal finance Christine Benz calls a “little raise” when a company increases its dividend. Read about our favorite dividend-growth funds

5. 3 Funds With Tantalizing Dividend Yields  
Unlike the prior dividend stock fund article on our list, this one focuses on the “yielders”--those stocks delivering yields that are high in absolute terms. Interestingly, it edges out its “grower” counterpart in terms of popularity among our readers--and perhaps that isn’t surprising. After all, as Christine notes, “These are the types of companies that get income-minded retirees licking their chops.”  

But Christine suggests that those investing in high-dividend funds go in with eyes wide open to their risks. For one, many companies paying high dividends operate in economically sensitive sectors; they therefore might be vulnerable in an economic slowdown. Such stocks can also be sensitive to interest-rate changes. That being said, there are some terrific funds concentrating on these stocks: We focus on three of our favorites

4. 30 Undervalued Stocks  
You seem to like cheap stocks. And we enjoy bringing them to you. One example: Each quarter we round up some of our equity analysts’ favorite undervalued ideas and feature them in our “Undervalued Stocks” series. (Watch for our next installment after the new year.) 

This series is popular with readers--so it’s not surprising that one of the installments made the list. Although this article originally ran in early April, many of the stocks are still undervalued from our perspective--Cameco (CCJ), Kraft Heinz (KHC), and CVS Health (CVS) among them. Find the complete list of 30

3. When Vanguard’s Retirement Income Calculator Stopped Making Sense  
We’re coming up on our top three most-popular articles for 2019, and there's only one comment to make: Boy, do you like to read about Vanguard! Whether we’re talking about Vanguard’s funds, its position in the industry, or latest news from the firm, you’re interested. And no wonder: Vanguard’s total open-end and exchange-traded fund market share tops 26%--greater than that of its three largest competitors combined. 

In this particular article, vice president of research John Rekenthaler uses limits in Vanguard’s retirement income calculator to teach a valuable lesson to investors: Retirement calculators serve middle-income earners well. But they don’t work as well for those whose incomes fall on either of the extremes.  

2. Vanguard Dividend Growth Reopens
During the summer, investors generally disengage from investing, at least a little bit. There are vacations to take, picnics to attend, and baseball to watch. What gets the attention of our readers during the dog days of summer? A great fund reopening--especially when that fund focuses on dividend stocks. And when it’s from Vanguard. 

After more than three years of being closed, Vanguard Dividend Growth (VDIGX) reopened to new investors in early August. Subadvised by Wellington Management and run day-to-day by Don Kilbride, the fund has built a terribly successful record with a somewhat compact portfolio of reasonably priced dividend-paying stocks. It earns an Analyst Rating of Gold. “Investors who have been on the outside looking in should consider it," says senior analyst Alec Lucas.  

1. Vanguard Won the Loser’s Game
Our most popular story of the year is about the most popular fund company. Reader (and personal) favorite John Rekenthaler explains how Vanguard came to become the behemoth it is.

“That Vanguard might eventually become the largest fund company is not startling,” he writes. “Thirty years ago, when Vanguard wasn't among the 10 largest mutual fund sponsors, it had nonetheless established the industry's strongest brand. Competitors advertised their mascots--lions here, bulls there. Vanguard didn't bother with such fluff. Instead, it painstakingly differentiated its contents.” 

Vanguard avoided complexity in favor of conservative, straightforward strategies. It dominated equity fund inflows and has made significant inroads with bonds.  

“The struggles of actively run funds that had made grand promises highlighted the virtues of Vanguard's comparatively modest approach,” John notes. “Bland became fashionable.” 

Vanguard's place on this top 10 list certainly proves that.

Susan Dziubinski does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.