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By Jason Stipp | 10-15-12 | 11:00 AM | Email Article

Given ETFs' continued asset growth (about $137 billion in year-to-date U.S. ETF inflows, according to Morningstar Asset Flows data), there's no denying the persistent popularity of this investment vehicle. But what may be less clear is how exactly investors are using ETFs to build better portfolios and position themselves in today's uncertain market.

Jason Stipp is Site Editor for Morningstar.com

Morningstar's third-annual ETF Invest Conference, Oct. 4-5 in Chicago, shed some much-needed light on ETF investors' best practices today, including discussions about investing in  low-volatility and high-dividend ETFs, unraveling the current market correlation conundrum, fending off the inflation boogeyman, implementing tactical commodity strategies, tapping the alternative ETF toolkit, and forging new frontiers in fixed income.

Among the conference keynotes, PIMCO's Vineer Bhansali discussed how the bond titan become comfortable with the active ETF structure ahead of launching the game-changing  PIMCO Total Return ETF , as well as the firm's vision for the future of active ETFs.

In addition, Russ Koesterich, global chief investment strategist for BlackRock's iShares business, discussed the increasingly intertwined relationship between the government and our economy, and Schwab chief investment strategist Liz Ann Sonders kicked off the conference with her take on the state of the economy.

And new this year: We heard from several ETF managed portfolio strategists. These registered investment advisors focus on building portfolios, mostly of ETFs, aimed at accomplishing specific investment strategies in one of the fastest-growing segments of the managed account space. We heard about where they're seeing opportunity today, when they're utilizing alternatives, and how they're employing tactical fixed-income strategies. (Click here to learn more about ETF managed portfolios or visit MorningstarAdvisor.com's ETF Managed Portfolios Center.) 

For those who couldn't attend this year's event, Morningstar.com offered on-the-spot coverage and commentary, including analyst blogs on conference sessions and video interviews with panelists and presenters. Click here to see the full conference agenda and be sure to bookmark this page and check in over the next few days as we continue to post all the latest insights from the event.

Exclusive Videos: Premium Members can watch two panel sessions in their entirety:  "Low Volatility vs. High Dividend: Which One Is Better?" starting Saturday Oct. 6 and  "The Inflation Boogeyman: How Do I Protect My Portfolio?" on Tuesday Oct. 9. If you're not a member, you can watch the videos and test drive other Premium benefits if you start a 14-day trial now.

Special Announcement
The Inaugural Morningstar Awards for ETFs We're pleased to announce the ETF Provider Awards and the 74 Retail and Institutional category winners for 2012.

Premium Panel Replays
 Low Volatility vs High Dividend: Which One Is Better?
Premium Member Exclusive: Morningstar ETF Invest Conference panelists discuss the similarities, differences, and appeal of these two strategies in today's low-growth, low-return, and high-volatility market.

 How Can I Protect My Portfolio From the Inflation Boogeyman?
Premium Video Replay: Northern Trust's Mark Carlson, State Street's Chris Goolgasian, and Merk Investments' Axel Merk discuss ways investors can hedge against rising inflation concerns.

Conference Coverage
U.S. Budget Woes Not a New Story
BlackRock iShares global head of investment strategy Russ Koesterich sees some parallels between the U.S. and the Roman Empire, but says our problems are fixable. (video)

Three Keys to Deficit Turnaround Other countries that have stepped back from deficit brinks have faced pressure from the bond market, experienced a change of government, and delivered a mandate to truly deal with fiscal issues, says iShares BlackRock global chief investment strategist Russ Koesterich. (video)

Is the Stock Market Priced for the Fiscal Cliff? There is a much higher probability of at least temporarily going over the cliff than is appeared to be baked into stock prices, says BlackRock iShares global head of investment strategy Russ Koesterich. (video)

Navigating the Fiscal Cliff
Russ Koesterich of iShares tackled a timely topic of how the current political climate affects economic growth and offered some defensive strategies for investors.

Sonders: Avoid the Error of Pessimism
Charles Schwab's senior vice president and chief investment strategist Liz Ann Sonders finds the current risk aversion all the more reason to be bullish on U.S. stocks.

Sonders: The Real Driver of a Housing Recovery
The real mortgage rate--the nominal mortgage rate minus the rate of appreciation or depreciation in homes--is one of the most important housing statistics to watch, and it recently went negative again, says Schwab's Liz Ann Sonders. (video)

Sonders: Baby Boomers Not the End of the Line for Markets
A closer look at the echo boom and younger generations requires investors to take a more balanced view on the potential future effect of demographics on the markets, says Schwab's Liz Ann Sonders. (video)

A Hangover for China
Baochuan's Kevin Carter and Morningstar's Dan Rohr debate China's future and the investment implications after the country's decade-long investment-fueled boom.

Should You Be Scared of the Inflation Boogeyman?
State Street's Chris Goolgasian, Northern Trust's Mark Carlson, and Axel Merk of Merk Funds are bracing for a rising dollar and hedging against inflation risk.

Volpert: Diminishing Returns From Fed Action
Ken Volpert, head of Vanguard's Taxable Bond Group argues that the Fed's earlier stimulus efforts were much more effective than "QE3" is going to be, and also discusses why we're likely to go over the fiscal cliff--for a little while. (video)

PIMCO's Bhansali on Today's Most Dominant Risk Factor All asset classes are currently being driven by central bank policy measures, and understanding the risks are critical for portfolio construction, says PIMCO's Vineer Bhansali. (video)

PIMCO's Bhansali: Bond Indexes Are Distorted by Central Banks
Are we entering a long period of 'financial repression'?

PIMCO Getting Comfortable With ETFs PIMCO's Vineer Bhansali says investors should consider active ETFs over traditional indexed vehicles because the latter are carrying very low yields and few prospects for price gains. (video)

Worries in the Fixed-Income Sector
Vanguard's Kenneth Volpert and iShares' Matthew Tucker talk about key issues for bond investors amid QE3, the Fiscal Cliff, and Europe.

Not Your Grandpa's Bond Market
Panelists tackle how to best improve fixed-income returns by looking to what they see as underutilized asset classes.

Managed Portfolio Strategists Wary of Bonds, Eye Europe
Experts from the growing ETF managed portfolio industry address a range of topics, including the state of the market, their portfolio-assembly processes, and the necessity of advisor education.

How a Go-Anywhere Manager Gets His Bearings
A 'price matters' discipline combined with a momentum process can help investors avoid falling knives in a down market or leaving money on the table in an up market, says RiverFront Investment Group chairman and CIO Michael Jones.

Vanguard Index Swap All About Cost The switch from MSCI to FTSE and CRSP indexes for 22 Vanguard funds is all about three things, says Vanguard principal Joel Dickson: cost, cost, cost. (video)

All Zig, No Zag: What to Do When Correlations Rise
As performance patterns become more similar across asset classes with the rise in passively managed products, what are some way investors can diversify their portfolios?

Time for High-Net-Worth Advisors to Expand to Alternative ETFs
ProShares' Joanne Hill says it's time for advisors to start considering alternative investments, which will diversify and protect their clients' portfolios from bad weather.

Alternatives--Beyond Long/Short
Alternatives experts weigh in how to evaluate your options when exploring exchange-traded products in this space. 

Flexibility: An Unexercised ETF Option?
An ETF options strategy may be less risky than pursuing the same strategy on an individual stock.

Strategies for Commodity Investing
Three players in the commodity ETF space discussed contango and backwardation, liquidity and the uses for commodities, how storage costs play a role in physically owning the assets, and whether ETNs are "evil." 

Momentum: Exploiting Human Emotions
The most important aspect of trend-following strategies is that you will survive to fight another day, but such strategies are not for everyone.

Bhansali on the Benefits of Price Momentum
PIMCO's Vineer Bhansali sees price momentum as a means to enhance portfolio construction as well as hedge against risk. (video)

Answering ETF Concerns
Vanguard principal and ETF strategist Joel Dickson responds to worries that increased passive investing has led to more market volatility and that ETFs cause investors to gamble with their portfolios. (video)

ETFs Deserve Their Own Rules and Regulations
As it stands today, the major industry regulators, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, still don't have a dedicated ETF division.

Is the Role of Fixed Income Changing?
In this yield environment, bonds may be moving from a risk reducer to a risk enhancer, says RiverFront's Michael Jones.  (video)

Conference Preview
Putting ETFs to Work 
Morningstar's third annual ETF-focused event will help both strategic and tactical investors better harness these vehicles in today's uncertain marketplace. (video)

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Jason Stipp does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar's editorial policies.
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