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Decade of Dominance: The ETF that Quietly Beats the S&P 500

April 11, 2023

Read Time 2 MIN

MarketWatch spotlights VanEck Morningstar Wide Moat ETF (MOAT), consistently outperforming the S&P 500 by targeting companies with long-term competitive advantages or "economic moats."

In the piece, Brandon Rakszawski, Director of Product Management at VanEck, explained that the MOAT ETF can choose to invest in a select group of about 145 companies with economic moats identified by Morningstar analysts. These companies are narrowed down based on intrinsic value, which is calculated using a long-term discounted cash flow model. The MOAT ETF currently holds 49 stocks, focusing on undervalued companies. Morningstar analysts assign economic moat ratings based on five competitive advantages: switching costs, intangible assets, network effect, cost advantage, and efficient scale. By prioritizing these factors, the MOAT ETF aims to create a well-rounded portfolio that can consistently outperform the S&P 500.

The Five Sources of Economic Moats

Economic moats are durable competitive advantages expected to allow companies to fend off competition and sustain profitability into the future. Morningstar has identified five sources of economic moats:

Switching Costs Intangible Assets Network Effect Cost Advantage Efficient Scale
Switching costs give a company pricing power by locking customers into its unique ecosystem. Beyond the expense of moving, they can also be measured by the effort, time, and psychological toll of switching to a competitor. Though not always easy to quantify, intangible assets may include brand recognition, patents, and regulatory licenses. They may prevent competitors from duplicating products or allow a company to charge premium pricing. A network effect is present when the value of a product or service grows as its user base expands. Each additional customer increases the product’s or service’s value exponentially. Companies that are able to produce products or services at lower costs than competitors are often able to sell at the same price as competition and gather excess profit, or have the option to undercut competition. In a market limited in size, potential new competitors have little incentive to enter because doing so would lower the industry’s returns below the cost of capital.

Are the Companies' Moats Built to Last?

Companies may demonstrate one or a combination of the five sources of moat. Evaluating a company against these attributes is a key part of how Morningstar’s equity research team measures the strength of a company’s competitive advantage. Based on this assessment, Morningstar assigns a company one of three economic moat ratings: none, narrow or wide.

In turn, these ratings help inform Morningstar analysts’ long-term forecasting decisions, which impact bottom-up fair value estimates. A wide moat rating is given to a company that is more likely than not to sustain its competitive advantage for at least the next 20 years, while a narrow moat rating means a company is more likely than not to do so for at least 10 years into the future. A company with no moat has either no advantage or one expected to dissipate relatively quickly.

When companies are successful and earning excess profits, they often become targets for competitors, which may threaten their profits. Companies with a wide moat tend to be best equipped to hold off competitors, which may help defend profitability over the long term.

Over time, this approach has led to attractive long-term returns, making moat strategies an effective component of core portfolio stock allocations.

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Important Disclosures

This is not an offer to buy or sell, or a recommendation to buy or sell any of the securities/financial instruments mentioned herein. The information presented does not involve the rendering of personalized investment, financial, legal, or tax advice. Certain statements contained herein may constitute projections, forecasts and other forward looking statements, which do not reflect actual results, are valid as of the date of this communication and subject to change without notice. Information provided by third party sources are believed to be reliable and have not been independently verified for accuracy or completeness and cannot be guaranteed. VanEck does not guarantee the accuracy of third party data. The information herein represents the opinion of the author(s), but not necessarily those of VanEck or its employees.

Holdings will vary for the MOAT ETF and its corresponding Index. For a complete list of holdings in the ETF, please click here:

An investor cannot invest directly in an index. Returns reflect past performance and do not guarantee future results. Results reflect the reinvestment of dividends and capital gains, if any. Certain indices may take into account withholding taxes. Index returns do not represent Fund returns. The Index does not charge management fees or brokerage expenses, nor does the Index lend securities, and no revenues from securities lending were added to the performance shown.

The Morningstar® Wide Moat Focus IndexSM was created and are maintained by Morningstar, Inc. Morningstar, Inc. does not sponsor, endorse, issue, sell, or promote the VanEck Morningstar Wide Moat ETF and bears no liability with respect to the ETF or any security. Morningstar® is a registered trademark of Morningstar, Inc. Morningstar® Wide Moat Focus IndexSM is a service mark of Morningstar, Inc.

Effective June 20, 2016, Morningstar implemented several changes to the Morningstar Wide Moat Focus Index construction rules. Among other changes, the index increased its constituent count from 20 stocks to at least 40 stocks and modified its rebalance and reconstitution methodology. These changes may result in more diversified exposure, lower turnover, and longer holding periods for index constituents than under the rules in effect prior to this date. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

The Morningstar moat-driven indexes represent various regional exposures and consist of companies identified as having sustainable, competitive advantages and whose stocks are attractively priced, according to Morningstar.

The Morningstar® Wide Moat Focus IndexSM Intended to track the overall performance of attractively priced companies with sustainable competitive advantages according to Morningstar's equity research team.

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An investment in the VanEck Morningstar Wide Moat ETF (MOAT®) may be subject to risks which include, among others, risks related to investing in equity securities, consumer discretionary sector, health care sector, industrials sector, information technology sector, financials sector, medium-capitalization companies, market, operational, high portfolio turnover, index tracking, authorized participant concentration, no guarantee of active trading market, trading issues, passive management, fund shares trading, premium/discount risk and liquidity of fund shares, non-diversification and index-related concentration risks, all of which may adversely affect the Fund. Medium-capitalization companies may be subject to elevated risks.

Investing involves substantial risk and high volatility, including possible loss of principal. An investor should consider the investment objective, risks, charges and expenses of a Fund carefully before investing. To obtain a prospectus and summary prospectus, which contain this and other information, call 800.826.2333 or visit Please read the prospectus and summary prospectus carefully before investing.

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