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Markets

Main Street Stocks

A new index gives amateur stock pickers a benchmark.


Coming soon to an investment shop near you: a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund based on a collection of stocks favored by America's investment clubs. Each year, BetterInvesting, a nonprofit umbrella group for the nation's 13,000 investment clubs, lists the 100 stocks held by the largest number of clubs. Last April, the list became the BetterInvesting 100 index, quoted daily on Nasdaq. Expect derivative trading products by year-end, says Peter Breen, a consultant to BetterInvesting.

The index is equal-weighted, meaning that all companies count the same. Two returns are calculated daily: One reflects price changes only (symbol BIXX) and the other represents the total return BIXR), including cash dividends. The index will be updated annually to reflect club members' current favorites. That's often enough, considering that clubs typically hold stocks for five to nine years. This year's top picks include Home Depot (HD), General Electric (GE), Walgreen (WAG), Lowe's Cos. (LOW) and Microsoft (MSFT).

The index has appeal, given the organization's focus on sound investment principles. But an academic study in the '90s found that the majority of investment clubs lagged the market for most of that decade. Okay, a lot of us did. Still, the clubs' recent history isn't perfect, with eight of the ten most-popular stocks trailing the market this year. Since its debut, the index is up 4% to June 11, even with the S&P 500 but behind the Dow Jones industrial average, up 7%.