Markets in Africa and the Middle East were mixed in U.S. dollar terms in the second quarter. Gulf Cooperation Council markets generally benefited as oil prices bounced from first-quarter lows. Qatari shares were flat, however, and Kuwaiti stocks fell slightly. In sub-Saharan Africa, Nigerian shares rose 5%, but stocks in Kenya slumped almost 11%. In northern Africa, Egyptian and Moroccan shares fell moderately. South African stocks slipped less than 1% in dollar terms.
The Africa & Middle East Fund returned 1.22% in the quarter compared with 0.68% for the Lipper Emerging Markets Funds Average and 1.71% for the S&P Emerging/Frontier ME & Africa BMI ex IL. For the 12 months ended June 30, 2015, the fund returned 2.08% versus −7.00% for the Lipper Emerging Markets Funds Average and −3.47% for the S&P Emerging/Frontier ME & Africa BMI ex IL. The fund's average annual total returns were 2.08%, 10.01%, and 2.38% for the 1-, 5-, and Since Inception (09/04/2007) periods, respectively, as of June 30, 2015. The fund's expense ratio was 1.42% as of its fiscal year ended October 31, 2014.
For up-to-date standardized total returns, including the most recent month-end performance, please click on the Performance tab, above.
Current performance may be lower or higher than the quoted past performance, which cannot guarantee future results.
Share price, principal value, and return will vary and you may have a gain or loss when you sell your shares.
The Africa & Middle East Fund charges a 2%
redemption fee on shares held 90 days or less.
The performance information shown does not reflect the deduction of the redemption fee;
if it did, the performance would be lower.
Stock selection in Egypt and Qatar helped the fund's performance. Our UK holdings that operate in Africa or the Middle East also did well. However, stock selection in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates detracted from our relative performance. Overweighting Egypt and Kenya also worked against us. During the quarter, we increased our exposure to Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, Egypt. We trimmed our allocations to South Africa and Kenya and eliminated our small positions in Kuwait.
The long-term outlook for the African and Middle Eastern region remains robust, driven by favorable demographics, rising urbanization and infrastructure investment, and a strong asset base in natural resources. While growth in emerging markets is decelerating, many African and Middle Eastern markets are continuing to grow at attractive rates, driven by domestic demand. In the Middle East, we believe the major oil producers can weather the downturn in oil prices. Saudi Arabia, which has just opened itself to direct investment from foreign institutions, enjoys abundant natural resources, a young population, a new king with reformist intentions, and a big and growing regional economy. As for South Africa, the macro picture remains weak, with persistent inflation and unemployment rising to a 10-year high. As always, we would like to remind our investors that this fund can be extremely volatile and should represent only a small portion of a well-diversified portfolio.