With hedge funds booming -- and investors worried about getting burned -- mutual fund tracker Morningstar and bond rater Moody's Investors Service plan to launch hedge fund research tools next year and make them available to individual investors.
For an as-yet-undetermined fee, Morningstar plans to give individuals who qualify to invest in these partnerships access to a database -- currently of 2,400 hedge funds -- that it maintains for institutional clients. The data will be similar to what Morningstar supplies on mutual funds, including performance, fees, and risk.
Moody's, on the other hand, will scrutinize only those funds that request -- and pay for -- a rating. The firm will take a hard look at the "downside risk" of these funds, says Gary Witt, a managing director. In particular, it will size up the reputation of the funds' auditors, administrators, and prime brokers and will verify that those firms are indeed on the job. Moody's will also perform background checks on managers and assess the adequacy of the funds' policies in areas ripe for fraud, such as the pricing of illiquid holdings. The ratings will be free and available to the public, Witt says, although the research that went into them won't be.
Seniors can finally start to sign up for both the long-awaited Medicare drug program and for new Medicare managed-care plans. The enrollment period runs until next May, and it may take that long to sort through the options. In some states, seniors have to choose from more than 40 policies.
Need some help in making a decision? For a good overview, check out the Medicare Rights Center site, medicarerights.org/drughelp.html. To see what kind of coverage may be best for you, try benefitscheckup.org, run by the National Council on the Aging. For details on specific plans, go to medicare.gov. Talk to your state's senior health insurance information program for specific info on plans in your state. You can find yours at eldercare.gov. Remember, you'll need to decide whether to sign up for a drug-only plan or a comprehensive managed-care plan that includes doctor and hospital care as well.
Tool belts are handy for holding everything you need for home-repair or gardening projects. But bulky leather or canvas models can really weigh you down. The Toolster Pro, the lightest tool belt we've seen, is made from just six ounces of nylon and neoprene, and Velcro closings at both the waist and thigh keep it snug to your body. There's also a clever stick-on pocket that lets you carry small items, such as screws or plant spikes, only when you need them ($30 at toolsterbelts.com).
Call it a refresher course in the oeuvre of Alfred Stieglitz. Missouri's Saint Louis Art Museum has selected 11 prints from the career of the American photographer, who lived from 1864 to 1946 and was married to painter Georgia O'Keeffe. Included are scenes of European rural life, views of New York industry and architecture, and studies of clouds and landscapes near his summer home in Lake George, N.Y. The exhibition runs from Nov. 25 through Mar. 26 in the museum's Gallery 321 (slam.org).