Most major African and Middle Eastern markets produced good returns in the third quarter. In the Gulf Cooperation Council, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, which are now emerging markets, led with strong returns. In North Africa, Egyptian stocks surged 28% amid signs of a pickup in the economy, whereas Moroccan stocks rose about 5% in dollar terms. In the sub-Saharan region of Africa, Kenyan stocks climbed 6%, but Nigerian shares fell about 1%. South African shares fell more than 6% in dollar terms as the rand weakened and the economic outlook remained poor after a five-month-long platinum strike earlier this year.
The Africa & Middle East Fund returned 6.88% in the quarter compared with −3.42% for the Lipper Emerging Markets Funds Average and 3.44% for the S&P Emerging/Frontier ME & Africa BMI ex IL. For the 12 months ended September 30, 2014, the fund returned 24.47% versus 4.80% for the Lipper Emerging Markets Funds Average and 19.61% for the S&P Emerging/Frontier ME & Africa BMI ex IL. The fund's average annual total returns were 24.47%, 10.18%, and 3.30% for the 1-, 5-, and Since Inception (09/04/2007) periods, respectively, as of September 30, 2014. The fund's expense ratio was 1.47% as of its fiscal year ended October 31, 2013.
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.
Fund performance during the quarter was helped by good stock selection in South Africa and Saudi Arabia and by an overweight in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Our significant underweight in South Africa, which continues to struggle with high inflation and unemployment and anemic economic growth, was also beneficial. However, our allocation to stocks of UK companies with operations in Africa detracted from our results. Roughly half of the fund is invested in Gulf Cooperation Council countries and half in African companies. During the quarter, we decreased our exposure to South Africa in favor of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Our long-term outlook for the region remains favorable, driven by attractive demographics, rising urbanization and levels of infrastructure investment, and a strong asset base in natural resources. While many emerging countries are experiencing decelerating growth, many African and Middle Eastern markets continue to grow at high rates, driven by structural domestic demand. This is translating into strong corporate earnings growth that we believe can be sustained by various businesses in the years ahead. 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.