It may seem to investors that every mutual fund or exchange-traded fund is an “ESG fund” these days. ESG money management aims to limit investment choices to companies that meet certain standards for the environment, social responsibility and corporate governance .

But the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating DWS Group, which is majority-owned by Deutsche Bank AG, for possibly overstating its commitment to following ESG criteria, according to a Wall Street Journal report. .

ESG investing can be tricky. What if a company makes solar panels, but has been accused of using slave labor to do so? Debbie Carlson covers this topic and the fine line ESG investors must walk.

More on sustainable investing:

Another stock-market record, but these companies have been left behind

Activision Blizzard, Take-Two Interactive Software and Electronic Arts are all included in a list of stocks that are down this year, for which analysts see considerable upside.

Activision, Take-Two, EA

The S&P 500 index

hit its 51st record high of 2021 on Aug. 25. Half of the component stocks have performed even better than the index this year, but some others have not just lagged the gains but are actually in the red. Here are 20 ‘left behind’ stocks analysts expect to rise up to 59% over the year next.

More on the stock market’s records:

Market Extra: What the S&P 500 ringing up 50 record highs in 2021 says to stock-market historians

Opinion: The S&P 500 will keep going up this fall — for these 9 reasons

Can we move to San Diego?

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Jacob Passy writes The Big Move column. This week he helps a family considering a shift to San Diego from Arizona to relocate near beautiful beaches. They will have plenty of money for a large down payment, but that won’t save them from higher expenses in their new home. Passy names several alternative beachside towns.

More from The Big Move: I have a $250,000 mortgage, with 24 years left on the loan. Should I sell stock to pay off the mortgage before I retire in a few years?

ETF Wrap — the push for more actively managed exchange-traded funds

MarketWatch illustration/iStockphoto

Exchange-traded funds have traditionally been passively invested to track stock indexes while charging low fees. But the number of actively managed ETFs seems to be growing daily. As part of this week’s ETF Wrap, Mark DeCambre explains how a $2.5 trillion asset manager is jumping into the fray.

Saving for retirement? Don’t panic, read this

If you are saving for retirement in an employer-sponsored account, you already have a head start because of the time value of your employer’s contributions. But you may feel intimidated by the choices you need to make. Alessandra Malito explains how to make your investment allocation easier.

She also has plenty of advice for people saving for retirement and people living off their nest eggs in her Retirement Hacks and Help Me Retire columns.

Social Security’s future

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An annual report about the health of the Social Security system will soon be released. In the last report, government actuaries wrote that the system would be solvent — that is, able to pay full benefits — until 2034, if no changes were made. But Brenton Smith explains why the problems run deeper and lays ultimate blame for a looming Social Security crisis on all of us.

Why hasn’t the delta variant hurt the economy or the stock market?

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Heading into the summer, it seemed the reopening would continue unabated with reduced COVID-19 infections and even a return to school with students and teachers not having to wear masks. The delta variant reversed that trend, but the stock market kept roaring ahead and there have been few signs of economic weakness. William Watts explains why the delta variant hasn’t hurt the market.

More about the economy: What’s driving the dollar rally? It’s more about China than the Fed, analyst says

Inflation and investing

For 12 months through July, the U.S. inflation rate was 5.4% according to Labor Department figures — a 20-year high. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell expects this to be a temporary phenomenon resulting from the unleashing of pent-up consumer demand in the U.S. and from government and central-bank stimulus efforts. Meanwhile, U.S. households and businesses have hoarded a record amount of cash.

Mark Hulbert explains why inflation isn’t even higher.

Here’s how real-estate investment performance has compared with stocks and bonds during periods of high inflation, according to BlackRock.

For daily developments in the economy, markets and related government policy, see The Tell.

A great 2021 for retailers, so far, but now a holiday-season warning


The SPDR S&P retail ETF

is up 49% this year, which may not be surprising, in light of the recovery of the U.S. economy. More impressively, the ETF has more than doubled since the end of 2019 and has greatly outperformed the SPDR S&P 500 ETF

But Tonya Garcia explains why a supply-chain problem is setting up a major challenge for retailers in the coming holiday season.

More retail news: Best Buy CEO applauds workers who had to deal with ‘disrespectful’ customers

A grim warning for stock investors

Mark Hulbert looks at the phenomenon of stretched stock valuations to companies’ earnings and sales and explains why this can lead to poor stock-market performance over the coming decades.

Then again, Jim Ayres and Larry Hood of Pacific Portfolio Consulting believe today’s high stock valuations are justified.

A different warning about Chinese stocks listed in the U.S.

MarketWatch photo illustration/AP, iStockphoto

Shares of Chinese companies have been pummeled as China’s government has cracked down on certain sectors, including online education, consumer finance, videogame distribution and ride-sharing. But there’s another threat to stocks of Chinese companies listed in the U.S., as Chris Matthews explains.

Pumpkin-spice season is already here

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Starbucks Corp. is selling its seasonal pumpkin spice latte earlier than ever this year. Many love both it and the many spinoffs.

Charles Passy is not one of them. He admits not being a fan of Starbuck coffee, but claimed to go in with an open mind (as a food and drink critic with decades of experience) when he decided to revisit the drink six years after panning it. He sampled multiple drinks and food offerings — and there was one item he loved.

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