"As we do with conventional open-end funds, we call them as we see them," says Dan Culloton, an analyst at Morningstar.
One possible reason for the perception of a negative ETF bias is that "you've had a gold-rush mentality where providers have been launching funds in a lot of very narrowly defined sectors," the Morningstar analyst says. "We tend to be more skeptical of narrowly defined, sector-oriented vehicles, ones that are more volatile, expensive and harder to use.
"If we tend to say a lot of negative things about ETFs, I think you'll see we are consistent with the negative things about conventional funds," Culloton adds.
TheStreet.com compared Morningstar's comments on core, diversified domestic, large-cap blend ETFs (i.e. not narrowly defined, concentrated assets) and their mutual fund counterparts. The comparison revealed more negative comments about the ETFs than the mutual funds, even though several of the mutual funds were underperforming the market. Consider the following:
The first ETF on the list described above, ranked by assets, the
Vanguard Total Stock Market
gets a nice write-up. "Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF has it all, literally," Culloton writes on Morningstar's Web site. "It may look a bit sluggish in the future if small stocks surrender the market leadership [but] this fund can still serve as an excellent core holding."