Global and international stock mutual funds have mushroomed from 23 funds to 168 in a decade, based on a philosophy of investment diversification.
The recent visit by President Bush to Asia underscored the fact that all of the world's economies do indeed operate in their own unique ways. Yet in 1991, portfolios which stayed closer to home -- meaning the good old United States -- fared considerably better than those that took their money overseas. Total return for the average global/international fund was 13.81 percent, or less than half the return of this country's Standard & Poor's 500.
In a similar vein, it was much better to be in a "global" fund, which invests both in the United States and internationally, than to be in a purely "international" fund, which invests only outside the United States.
Five Templeton funds ranked among the top 10 funds with overseas investment in 1991, and all included a heavy weighting of U.S. stocks. They were also underweighted in Japanese equities.
"Mexico and Hong Kong were two countries with stock markets that performed well for us in 1991, and we also had 30 percent of our portfolios in U.S. stocks," explained Mark Holowesko, co-portfolio manager of the Templeton funds. "This year, I expect small capitalization stocks, especially those in Indonesia and Hong Kong, to do best, and I'm staying away from the Japanese banking industry because of the real estate mess over there."
Templeton stock holdings include 30 percent in the U.S. market; 11 percent in the United Kingdom and 10 percent in Italy. In order, the next largest group consists of Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Australia and France. Other significant holdings encompass Japan, Spain, Sweden, New Zealand, Mexico and Norway.
Favorite stocks are Telefonos de Mexico, AMR Corp. (parent of American Airlines), Singapore Aire and British Airways.
Top global/international mutual funds in 1991, according to Morningstar, were:
* Templeton Smaller Companies Growth Fund, St. Petersburg, Fla., $913 million in assets, 8.5 percent load (initial sales charge), $500 minimum initial purchase, up 39.14 percent.
* Smith Barney International Equity Fund, New York, $58 million in assets, 4.5 percent load, $3,000 minimum, up 37.81 percent.
* Founders Worldwide Growth Fund, Denver, $21 million in assets, no load, $1,000 minimum, up 34.80 percent.
* Templeton Global Opportunities Fund, St. Petersburg, Fla., $201 million in assets, 5.75 percent load, $500 minimum, up 33.16 percent.
* Smallcap World Fund, Los Angeles, assets not listed, closed to new investors, up 32.96 percent.
* Templeton Value Fund, St. Petersburg, Fla., $132 million in assets, 8.5 percent load, $500 minimum, up 32.95 percent.
* Keystone America Global Opportunities, Boston, $4.5 million in assets, 4.75 percent load, $1,000 minimum, up 31.67 percent.
* Templeton Growth Fund, St. Petersburg, Fla., $3 billion in assets, 8.5 percent load, $500 minimum, up 31.33 percent.
* Templeton World Fund, St. Petersburg, Fla., $4.2 billion in assets, 8.5 percent load, $500 minimum, up 29.77 percent.