Morningstar Launches Bond Rating System
Using a system similar to its stock ratings, Morningstar is creating a credit rating system in order for bondholders to gauge a company's ability to pay its obligations in a timely manner.

The bond rating system, available for free, will apply to companies that have a large amount of outstanding bonds and will describe a corporation's creditworthiness within a broad universe of issuers, using a rating system that ranges from AAA to D.
Initially, Morningstar will issue ratings to only 100 companies, and top grades have so far been assigned to Exxon, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft because of these companies' impeccable balance sheets and their ability to generate copious amounts of cash, Morningstar said. More firms will be rated in the future, and the goal is to evaluate about 1,000 global issuers. In its ratings analysis, Morningstar performs a competitive analysis on each company, weighing each one's advantages and the "economic moat" around its business (the features its competitors cannot recreate). Morningstar also examines the size and sustainability of a company's free cash flow and looks for any possible problems with a firm's operations and future profitability. The methodology is forward looking, as is Morningstar's equity research.

These corporate credit ratings can be found at or can be obtained by using the stock ticker on the Morningstar Web site. The site also offers information on the criteria for assigning ratings.

Lord Abbett Launches Advisor Web Site
Lord  Abbett & Co. LLC, Jersey City, N.J., an independent, privately held investment management firm, is launching a new interactive Web site for financial advisors, The site offers access to investment solutions, market insights and business-building tools. It also marks Lord Abbett's first foray into social media with a new presence on Twitter at Here, the company will make market insights available from experts through the Twitter link, as well as through an RSS feed, giving advisors instant access to new information.

Sigma Financial Streamlines Case Planning
Sigma Financial Corp., Ann Arbor, Mich., is introducing a new Case Plan System, a Web-based process to streamline requests from representatives for assistance with financial plans, asset allocation reviews, needs analyses, third-party research reports and concept and strategy documents.

The Case Plan System will have a single, secure access point for representatives to submit requests 24/7. It will allow advisors to upload confidential client documents, and it provides real-time progress on individual case plans, among other things. Additional information is available at

Fidelity Cuts College Savings Fees
Fidelity Investments is making improvements to its seven state-sponsored 529 college savings plans. Among other things, the firm will cut program management fees from one-third to one-half for plans sold directly and through the advisor channel. The company is also making changes to some investment products by increasing international equity allocations and adding new investment strategies.

The plans are offered in New Hampshire, California, Massachusetts, Delaware and Arizona (California and New Hampshire offer two plans apiece).

Barclays Introduces Indian Fund
Barclays Global Investors N.A., one of the world's largest exchange-traded fund providers, has launched a new ETF, the iShares S&P India Nifty 50 Index Fund.

The fund is designed to track the S&P CNX Nifty Index, which represents the 50 largest and most liquid Indian securities listed on the National Stock Exchange of India. Barclays now has 18 regional and single-country emerging market funds.  

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