Ottawa Investment Advisor John Bruce

A look back at 2012, a look forward at 2013

January 23, 2013

Global financial markets provided strong returns in 2012, despite a litany of negative headlines about government debt problems in Europe and the United States and the slowing pace of growth in many regions. In the end, the global economy has continued on its path of gradual recovery from the financial crisis of four years ago, with improvements seen in key areas such as U.S. employment and housing.

World stock markets started 2012 on an encouraging note before declining through the spring and then recovering to post impressive gains. In the U.S., the S&P 500 Index reached 1,426 points, an increase of more than 100% from its low of March 2009. It was up 13.4% for the year. The MSCI World Index also rose, returning 14.0%. Despite persistent debt concerns in the Eurozone, the MSCI Europe Index returned 17.3%. (All index returns are reported in Canadian dollars.) Stocks in Asia also posted healthy increases, although China’s Shanghai Index proved to be one of the weaker performers, as slower growth rates and a change in political leadership in that country helped to cool stock prices.

Here at home, Canadian equities as measured by the S&P/TSX Composite Index finished the year with a gain of 4%. This result, though very positive, meant that the Canadian market underperformed many of its global counterparts for the second year in a row, underscoring the importance of a globally diversified portfolio. The moderate pace of global growth kept more defensive sectors such as health care, consumer staples and financials in favour, while the more cyclical industries that dominate the Canadian market, such as materials and energy, lagged.

Much of the optimism in financial markets during 2012 was fuelled by significant announcements from central banks in the U.S. and Europe. In the first quarter, the European Central Bank’s long-term refinancing operation provided more than one trillion euros to support Europe’s banking system and boosted investor confidence. Later, the ECB announced a plan to buy vast amounts of government bonds to support indebted countries such as Spain and Italy. The U.S. Federal Reserve also made several key stimulus announcements. In mid-December, it said it would keep interest rates near zero by purchasing US$45 billion in Treasury securities each month until the U.S. unemployment rate fell below 6.5%.

While major policy announcements sparked market rallies, investors nonetheless remained relatively cautious. Government bond yields in Canada and the U.S., which move inversely to prices, reached historic lows in July and remained low towards the end of the year, reflecting the continued popularity of this asset class. Investment-grade and high-yield corporate bonds also recorded good returns, as investors continued to seek income-producing investments.

Looking ahead, the global economy appears set to continue its modest growth in 2013. Interest rates and inflation are expected to remain low. However, significant economic challenges remain. Although U.S. politicians reached a compromise in early January to soften the impact of the “fiscal cliff,” difficult decisions over government spending must be made in the coming weeks and months. Similarly, policymakers in Europe must continue to work to contain and resolve the region’s ongoing sovereign debt problems.  What we have seen, however, is that businesses can grow and create wealth and capital markets may continue to provide gains, despite such overhangs.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for your business and trusting in me during these turbulent and volatile times. Should you have any questions about your investments or the outlook for the coming year, please contact me directly, toll free at 866-860-4190 or direct at 613-425-3732. In the meantime, I wish you and your family all the best for the coming year.

 

Sincerely,

John S. Bruce

Senior Financial Advisor

The information in this letter is derived from various sources, including CI Investments, Signature Global Advisors, Globe and Mail, National Post, Financial Times, Bank of Montreal Economics, Trading Economics and Morningstar Canada. Index information was provided by TD Newcrest and PC Bond. This material is provided for general information and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources; however, no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. Before acting on any of the above, please contact me for individual financial advice based on your personal circumstances.

The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are those of the author as of the date hereof and are subject to change without notice and may not reflect those of Mackie Research Capital Corporation (”MRCC”). The information and opinions contained herein have been compiled and derived from sources believed to be reliable, but no representation or warranty, expressed or implied, is made as to their accuracy or completeness. Neither the author nor MRCC accepts liability whatsoever for any loss arising from any use of this report or its contents. Information may be available to MRCC which is not reflected herein. This report is not to be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation for an offer to buy any securities. Member-Canadian Investor Protection Fund / member-fonds canadien de protection des épargnants.

 

 

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