Financial advisors may be able to call their own shots, but that doesn't mean they don't need help. When they make those decisions, they are typically also reviewing tons of investment reports for ideas and insights.
Morningstar's information, which analyzes risk, return and performance in the mutual fund market, is relatively standard. Beyond that, each advisor gravitates to his or her favorite sources.

Mike Martin, president and chief investment officer of Financial Advantage Inc. in Columbia, Md., can't live without the Outstanding Investor Digest, Grant's Interest Rate Observer and Strategic Economic Decisions. Martin, a former director of research at T. Rowe Price, the Baltimore-based investment company, invests in individual stocks, cash and a short-term bond fund. He also hedges his clients' equity positions during periods of overvaluations with ProFunds and Rydex bear market mutual funds for short periods.

Martin, who has $260 million in assets under management, is an active manager. So Outstanding Investor Digest helps him identify trends. This publication prints a series of long interviews with excellent investment managers such as Bill Ruane of Sequoia Fund and Charlie Munger of WESCO.
"You get different points of view in the publication and can identify themes," he says. The publication "gave me the courage to invest in gold bullion a few years ago."

Martin also likes to read Grant's Interest Rate Observer because he likes the analysis of the credit markets. James Grant, the editor, gives readers a historical perspective and provides timely information on the money supply data. (Martin says he is keeping about 30% to 40% of his clients' fixed-income investments in cash, and in the Loomis Sayles short-term bond fund. He thinks rates could rise and long-term bonds could decline.)
Martin also reads Strategic Economic Decisions, published by Horace Brock, Ph.D. Brock specializes in applications of the modern economics of uncertainty. The publication helps Martin forecast risk assessment. It also gives him ideas about economic trends and offers credit insights and information about structural changes in the economy.

Another financial advisory firm, United Capital Financial in Newport Beach, Calif., uses high-power research to arm its 26 registered investment advisors, who are spread out in 15 U.S. cities. These offices collectively manage $2 billion.

Mike Capelle, United Capital's senior vice president of investment management, accesses Ford Equity Research for data on the intrinsic value of stocks held by mutual funds as well as individual stocks of interest. Reuters Knowledge provides forecast information on 16,000 companies and fundamental data on 39,000 companies. It also provides a global company screener and fixed-income and credit data, as well as news.

"We use [the] Morningstar [and] PSN [tools] to evaluate and draw our own conclusions about mutual funds," Capelle says. "But Ford gives intrinsic value models. We can input the XYZ mutual fund and get the intrinsic value, price-to-intrinsic value of individual holdings and the weighted average price-to-intrinsic value. These measures are more helpful than classic price-to-book values."

Ben Jacoby, president of Brinton Eaton Wealth Advisors, a Morristown, N.J., firm with $600 million in assets under management, takes a long-term investing approach. He does not rely on any investment newsletters, reports or market insights. Instead, he largely uses Morningstar to track mutual fund information and data, and finds its bond fund information helpful. Jacoby's company prefers well-managed bond funds rather than individual bonds.     He also invests in exchanged-traded funds to diversify into commodities and international small-cap asset classes.
Because he is on the Fidelity platform, he gets tons of market information from Fidelity Investments and Lehman Brothers research. He also uses the Standard & Poor's Stock Reports to help identify stocks that represent long-term growth and value. The S&P reports highlight companies' financial statements as well as their earnings growth and valuations.    

Jacoby developed his own investment tools to manage client money that use a number of fundamental and financial variables, and with his in-house program, he can allocate and rebalance assets.

"We started out with a good collection of tools," he says. "Others use commercial systems. But we monitor 600 different portfolios for 200 clients. We have the ability to rebalance portfolios, do tax-loss harvesting, and buy and sell assets ... based on our systems."

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