Mideast And US Dominate World Regional Equity Returns In 2018

Stock markets in the Middle East and the US continue to hold a clear performance edge over the rest of the world this year, based on trading through July 24 for a set of exchange-traded products. Whereas those two slices of the global equity pie are posting solid gains, the rest of the field has lost ground so far this year.

WisdomTree Middle East Dividend (GULF) is the clear leader at the moment. The ETF is currently posting a strong 14.0% return year to date. As of yesterday’s close, the fund is near its highest level since late-2014.

US equities are the second-best performer for the regional ranking so far in 2018. SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) is up 6.4% this year through Tuesday’s trading.

The remainder of regional returns are in the red. The biggest loser in 2018 at the moment: stock markets in Africa. VanEck Vectors Africa (AFK) is down 6.6% so far in 2018. Although the ETF edged higher yesterday, AFK is close to its lowest level year to date, as of Tuesday’s close.

One school of thought says that equities in Africa are suffering more than most from the escalating trade war that’s unfolding for the US vs. Europe and China. As AfricaNews.com noted recently, “Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa’s stock markets were largely impacted by Trump’s protectionist wave. South Africa is concerned that the US is considering a new wave of tariffs that could be extended to the auto industry, which is one of the cornerstones of country manufacturing.”

Latin American equity markets until recently had been the worst regional performer year to date, but the recent rally in this corner has lifted the prices sharply. The iShares Latin America 40 (ILF) jumped nearly 14% through yesterday from a one-year low in late-June. The rebound leaves stocks in Africa as the weakest performer so far this year.