Most U.S. equities advanced during the first quarter in a volatile session characterized by a sell-off in emerging market currencies, increased geopolitical tensions, and the transition of leadership at the Federal Reserve. Economic data were mixed, influenced by unusually cold weather across the country. Investors grew concerned about potential deflation in Europe and a larger-than-expected slowdown in the Chinese economy. Sector performance was uneven, as some areas that provided leadership in 2013 pulled back while others rose. The utilities sector was strongest, with investors seeking income-producing stocks, while health care, information technology, and financials also did well. Consumer discretionary, energy, and industrials and business services shares were laggards.
The Equity Income Fund returned 1.59% in the quarter compared with 1.81% for the S&P 500 Index and 2.04% for the Lipper Equity Income Funds Index. For the 12 months ended March 31, 2014, the fund returned 18.55% versus 21.86% for the S&P 500 Index and 18.76% for the Lipper Equity Income Funds Index. The fund's average annual total returns were 18.55%, 21.26%, and 7.52% for the 1-, 5-, and10-year periods, respectively, as of March 31, 2014. The fund's expense ratio was 0.68% as of its fiscal year ended December 31, 2012. Continue Reading »