$550 billion index-fund titan


introduced a new socially responsible index fund and a new international index fund on Monday.

Social Index

will track



Social Choice Index

. The index is comprised of

S&P 500

stocks that don't damage the environment, manufacture weapons, produce or market alcohol or tobacco, produce nuclear power, have Northern Ireland operations or fail to follow equitable hiring practices.

Developed Markets Index

will be a fund-of-funds, spreading its assets among Vanguard's

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European Stock Index,

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Pacific Stock Index, and

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Emerging Markets Stock Index. The funds' modest expenses are expected to be 0.25% and 0.30%, respectively.


previewed the social index fund on

Dec. 20 and the international fund on

TST Recommends

Feb. 15.

Merrill Mailings Propose Fund Tweaks

If you own a

Merrill Lynch

fund, you might soon get a proxy in your mailbox, asking you to approve some tweaks.

In each case, the changes broaden the fund's scope, but shouldn't change its personality drastically. Most of the proposed prospectus edits will make the funds look more like their average competitor, not set them apart. Each fund's board of directors has approved the changes, but shareholder approval is needed to make them final.

On April 26


noted that

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Strategic Dividend will be asking shareholders to let the fund's managers buy stocks that don't pay a dividend.

Americas Income

is currently required to invest at least 25% of its assets in bonds issued by financial services companies and 80% of its assets in bonds issued in North, South and Central America. If shareholders approve changes to the fund's investment policy, the fund will invest in emerging markets debt issued anywhere in the world, without any required investments in debt issued by financial services companies.

If shareholders approve these changes, the fund's name will become

Merrill Lynch Emerging Markets Debt




Healthcare fund currently can't invest more than 25% of its assets in any of the sectors' subindustries. If shareholders approve the fund's policy changes, manager Jordan Schreiber will be able to invest more than a quarter of the fund in pharmaceutical stocks, which are typically larger and less volatile than the sector's other pockets like biotechnology.

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Developing Capital Markets wants to alter its focus too. Currently the emerging markets stock fund can invest anywhere except the four largest equity markets: U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan. If shareholders approve the proposed changes, the fund will primarily focus on markets included in the

Morgan Stanley Capital International Emerging Markets Free Index


The proxy materials are dated May 5 and are due July 5.