Who’s short on Genworth MI?

Genworth MI has 57.2% of its shares outstanding held by Genworth Financial (NYSE: GNW). This leaves approximately 39.3 million shares outstanding in the public float. Q4-2016 in the following annotated chart refers to the quarterly earnings report at the end of February 7, 2017:

On January 31, 2017 there was a reported short position of 2,844,353 shares and on February 15, 2017 that position increased to 3,188,297. This is a 343,944 share increase in short interest since their earnings report (which means that somebody is taking on a position to profit from their presumed downfall).

Borrow rates on MIC are relatively modest, at around 2.75%.

That said, when the price increases and short interest rises it will raise volatility – is the entity with deeper pockets the one that is accumulating shares and driving up the price, or are they the ones that are selling shares and applying downward pressure on the price? It is impossible to say without the benefit of retrospect, but if either party exhausts its funds or changes the pace that they are accumulating or distributing, it will result in higher price volatility. Imagine if those 3.2 million shares that are shorted decide that it is time to cover their position. Could there be a short squeeze? Share volume has been higher than normal lately which suggests that there is interest in both sides of this price battle to see who breaks first. Right now, clearly the winning side is the one accumulating shares and slowly raising the bid – I noticed the same price trend post-Presidential election, where the algorithm was simply “accumulate shares at whatever rate that it is sold to you and raise the bid by a nickel each trading hour until you hit some sell pressure”.

Technical analysis these days is simply about guessing the competing algorithms at work and who has the most money behind them – almost no institutions use non-algorithmic trading anymore as such manual trading leaks information like a sieve which increases frictional costs (you’ll get front-runned).

Teekay Offshore’s common units are not going anywhere

Reviewing Teekay Offshore’s financial results (NYSE: TOO), it strikes me as rather obvious that they have missed their initial early 2016 targets when they proposed a partial equitization (issuing common units, preferred units, and some refinancing) of their debt problems. They also borrowed $200 million from the Teekay parent entity (NYSE: TK).

In Q1-2016, they delivered a presentation with this chart:

In subsequent quarters, the company has generally not referred to progressing tracking to this projection, mainly because their debt to cash flow through vessel operations ratio has not met these targets. While the underlying entity is still making money, revenues are eroding through the expiration and renegotiation of various contracts, couple with some operational hiccups (Brazil) that is not helping matters any.

Putting a lot of the analysis away from this article, while in 2017 the future capital expenditure profile is going to be reduced (which would greatly assist with the distributable cash flows), the company doesn’t have a lot of leftover room for matters such as debt repayment and working on improving their leverage ratios in relation to cash generation ability. This leaves them with the option of continuing to dilute or depend on the parent entity for bridge financing. Indeed, one reason why I believe management thinks the company is still open for dilution is due to them employing a continuous equity offering program – they sold nearly 1.9 million units in the quarter at an average of US$5.17/unit. If they don’t think the company is worth US$5.17/unit, why should one pay more than that?

I don’t believe that they are a CCAA-equivalent risk in the current credit market (this is a key condition: “current” credit market), and I also believe that their preferred units will continue to pay distributions for the indefinite future, I don’t believe their common units will be outperforming absent a significant and sustained run-up in the oil commodity price. Note that there is a US$275 million issue of unsecured debt outstanding, maturing on July 30, 2019, which will present an interesting refinancing challenge. Right now those bonds are trading at around a 10% yield to maturity.

I have no positions in TOO (equity or debt), but do hold a position in the Teekay Parent’s debt (thesis here).

Pengrowth Energy Debentures – cash or CCAA

A quick research note. Pengrowth Energy debentures (TSX: PGF.DB.B), something I have written in depth about in the past as being one of the easiest risk/reward ratios in the entire Canadian debt market, has reached the “point of no return” with regards to its redemption. They are to be redeemed on March 31, 2017 for cash (and an extra half year of accrued interest at 6.25% annually). For the company to exercise its option to redeem them for shares (of 95% of TSX VWAP), they needed to give 40 to 60 days of notice from the redemption date.

(Update, February 21, 2017: Pengrowth announced they will be redeeming the debentures on maturity at March 31st. Also on their senior debt covenants, it looks like somebody is trying to steal the company… they might be forced into making an equity offering.)

My math says that the next market opening, February 20, 2017, will be 39 days before March 31st.

Barring some sort of mis-interpretation of the legalese, this means that the company must redeem this debt (CAD$126.6 million) for cash. The alternative is CCAA, which I do not deem is likely considering Seymour Schulich would likely have something to say about that particular option (he controls 109 million shares or 19.9% of the company at present). There is no longer any time to negotiate an extension with debenture holders.

This debenture issue was acquired as a result of the NAL acquisition back in 2012. It was originally CAD$150 million but they company repurchased some at a considerable discount to market earlier this year.

Pengrowth is in the middle of a silent negotiation with their senior creditors as they are in covenant troubles. Their senior creditors will no doubt be unhappy with the fact that some company cash is going towards a junior creditor.

Sadly I have no good candidates for re-investment at this time. Suggestions appreciated.

Genworth MI reports Q4-2016

Genworth MI (TSX: MIC) reported their fourth quarter a couple weeks ago. This post is a little late in the game (and irritatingly, a conference call transcript has not been made available and I have had to suffer the indignity of actually listening to the conference call). By virtue of the Canadian housing market not imploding over the quarter, the company likely exceeded market expectations, which registered a 10% price spike since their announcement.

Here are some of my takeaways:

* Loss ratio is exceptionally low, at 18% for the quarter. Management projects 25-35% for 2017 as they identified that Fort McMurray and Quebec were abnormally low in Q4-2016 and that a more normalized loss ratio is to be expected in BC and Ontario (which have been quite dormant in terms of mortgage defaults).

* Book value is up a little bit to $39.28, which is $2.46 more than the previous year. The market value continues to converge to book.

* Premiums written, Q4-2015 to Q4-2016, was down about 20%. Portfolio insurance is down as expected per the rule changes, and transactional insurance is down due to the changes in the mortgage rules. The new capital requirements and new premium changes will kick in at the end of March which will offset reduced volume with price increases.

* Investment portfolio continues to be managed in line with previous quarters, in addition to the losses incurred by the preferred share portfolio seemingly normalizing (and if rates continue to rise, discounted rate-reset shares should fare quite well in that environment).

* Regulatory ceiling for private mortgage insurance was raised from $300 billion to $350 billion, which makes this a non-factor for the next while (a low risk that did not materialize).

* New capital requirements result in a “recalibration” of the minimum capital test ratio. The company is internally targeting 160-165%, and each percentage point is about $25 million in capital. Once they head over 165% then the surplus will likely be distributed via buybacks or dividends – it does not look like anything special is going to happen on this front in 2017 as they will be using retained earnings in order to buffer the capital levels. The new OFSI regulations have grandfathering components with respect to the capital requirements which should mathematically ease in the new capital requirements (especially with the evaluation and testing of the mortgage books acquired 2016 and earlier), but the MCT ratio is not likely to materially climb higher to the point where one can start thinking of extra dividends or buybacks.

* Insiders have exercised options and dumped stock after the earnings release, which is a negative signal.

I will warn readers that I have also lightened my own position in Genworth MI in the days ahead (i.e. after they announced) of the earnings announcement, my first sale since the second half of 2015. The last quarter was undoubtedly a good one for the company. I still have a large position in the stock, but I was reducing my position strictly for reasons that it had gotten too concentrated and I want to reduce my overall portfolio leverage. There is still a lot of runway for Genworth MI to run up to the low 40’s as they have everything going correct for them fundamentally and are generating a lot of cash in a semi-protected business environment. The whole country has been so bearish on Canadian housing that they forget to realize there are considerable pockets of profitability and Genworth MI is one of the spaces where there is money that continues to be made – I am guessing that the short sellers have gotten killed on this one.

Most surprising chart of the month

January has generally been proceeding to plan (i.e. nothing really exciting going on in my neck of the financial woods!). But the real surprise to me to date is the following chart:

The strength of the Canadian currency has been quite impressive in light of what is going on (coupled with a general lack of rise in the fossil fuel commodity market rate). I am generally agnostic about the strength of the Canadian currency (i.e. I rarely have strong feelings about its primary direction), but lately I have been getting pessimistic about it strictly due to various macroeconomic factors (including the fiscal situation, Canadian/US monetary policy, geopolitical, commodity situation, etc.).

Macroeconomics for me is a complete crapshoot so I don’t place too much of a stake on my own predictions in terms of currency. I generally keep a balance between 30-70% USD exposure (the exact amount depends on appreciation/depreciation of CAD/USD components in the portfolio as well).

Market is predicting Genworth Financial’s merger with China Oceanwide will fail

The market is projecting that Genworth’s (NYSE: GNW) US$5.43/share cash merger with China Oceanwide will fail:

The issue revolves around the insurance unit that contains their long-term care insurance liabilities – the theory would be that the Genworth is unlikely to obtain state approvals without taking the full burden of the LTC division.

The salient part of a piece of nearly unreadable verbiage from the finalized merger proxy form is the following:

In addition, it is a condition to the obligations of Asia Pacific and Merger Sub to consummate the merger that certain affiliates of Genworth shall have received regulatory approval (or non-disapproval, in certain instances) from the Delaware Department of Insurance and the Virginia Bureau of Insurance to effect the U.S. Life Restructuring, including the unstacking and the following intercompany reinsurance and recapture transactions between GLAIC and GLIC: (i) a reinsurance transaction pursuant to which GLIC will reinsure certain long-term care insurance business from GLAIC (which we refer to as the “Long Term Care Reinsurance Transaction”); (ii) separate reinsurance transactions pursuant to which GLAIC will reinsure from GLIC (A) certain universal life insurance business and term life insurance business, (B) certain company-owned life insurance business and (C) certain single-premium deferred annuity business, single-premium immediate annuity business, structured settlement annuity business and fixed annuity business (which we refer to as the “Life Restructuring Reinsurance Transactions”); and (iii) a transaction pursuant to which GLIC will recapture from GLAIC certain single-premium deferred annuity business that is currently reinsured by GLAIC from GLIC (which we refer to as the “Recapture Transaction”). GLIC and GLAIC have received approvals for the Long Term Care Reinsurance Transaction from the Delaware Department of Insurance and the Virginia Bureau of Insurance and completed the transaction effective November 1, 2016. Genworth made regulatory filings with respect to the unstacking with the Delaware Department of Insurance on December 21, 2016 and the Virginia Bureau of Insurance on January 3, 2017. Genworth made regulatory filings with respect to the Life Restructuring Reinsurance Transactions and the Recapture Transaction with the Delaware Department of Insurance and the Virginia Bureau of Insurance on December 16, 2016. In addition, the merger agreement provides that Genworth, in consultation with China Oceanwide and applicable insurance regulators, may explore the feasibility of the transfer of GLAIC’s 34.5% ownership interest in GLICNY to GLIC and, if approval from such regulators is received, to pursue such transfer.

If, for whatever reason, you believe these applications will succeed, then there is a very easy method to turn $3.30/share into $5.43/share in less than six months. Won’t tell you what I think, but I’ve been digging.

What’s happening in Canadian energy?

I’m looking at the charts of several high-quality energy companies in Canada and their trajectory is down.

Looking at the raw commodity prices first:

Spot Natural Gas is down about 15% from December highs (recall that natural gas pricing is seasonal, for comparison the July futures are down less than 10% from the December highs):

West Texas Intermediate spot prices have not done anything over the past month and a half:

So why are the following down?

Peyto and Birchcliff (both very well managed natural gas producers) – Peyto appears to be down disproportionately in relation to natural gas prices:

However, despite that crude has gone nowhere, why are the oil producers starting to drop?

Crescent Point Energy:

Pengrowth (they have liquidity issues with an upcoming debt covenant that they may or may not blow in mid-2017) and Cenovus (another SAGD firm):

There are numerous other examples, but the only one unhurt to date appears to be Encana.

Makes me wonder what is going on. Something geopolitical coming with pipeline access to the USA?

CMHC increasing mortgage insurance premiums

CMHC announced this morning they will be increasing mortgage insurance premiums on March 17, 2017.

The changes are significant for those interested in mortgages with a 10-20% down-payment:

Loan-to-Value Ratio Standard Premium (Current) Standard Premium (Effective March 17, 2017)
Up to and including 65% 0.60% 0.60%
Up to and including 75% 0.75% 1.70%
Up to and including 80% 1.25% 2.40%
Up to and including 85% 1.80% 2.80%
Up to and including 90% 2.40% 3.10%
Up to and including 95% 3.60% 4.00%
90.01% to 95% – Non-Traditional Down Payment 3.85% 4.50%

The changes were a result of the OFSI changing the capital holding requirements of mortgage insurance institutions in Canada (affecting CMHC, Genworth MI and Canada Guaranty) and I have telegraphed this well in advance in my previous analyses of Genworth MI.

It is quite probable that Genworth MI will follow suit and this will result in a substantial increase in premiums written for the company in the 2nd to 4th quarter of 2017. The market has not picked up on this at all.

2016 Year-End Report

Portfolio Performance

My very unaudited portfolio performance in the fourth quarter of 2016, the three months ended December 31, 2016 is approximately +3.1%. The year-to-date performance for the year ended December 31, 2016 is approximately +53.6%.

Portfolio Percentages

At December 31, 2016:

48% common equities
27% preferred share equities
44% corporate debt
1% options
-20% cash and cash equivalents

USD exposure: 42%

Portfolio is valued in CAD (CAD/USD 0.7420);
Equities are valued at closing price;
Values include accrued corporate bond interest;
Corporate debt valued at last trade price.

Portfolio commentary

What an interesting year, both in the portfolio and in the overall investment climate. The climate back in February 2016 was with much more peril than it is now. Prices are now reflecting the decreased amount of peril, hence they are higher. Much higher.

The TSX composite also had a good year – about 20% with dividends invested. This was undoubtedly on the back of the recovery in the energy sector – most issuers are all up over this year-to-year.

From the previous quarter, several positions appreciated, I bailed out in one position entirely, and also also added to another position. All of my common equity that I hold are in companies that are trading under tangible book value and generating cash.

My preferred share portfolio is mostly unchanged. They are half rate-reset and half of them have a fixed rate. I did do some slight additions of one issuer that was very temporarily trading about 10% lower than its ambient price for no good reason, but this addition was slightly less than 1% of the portfolio (which is too bad, since I wanted whoever was selling it to continue hitting the bid – I was willing to go another 4% or so). I am generally content with my holdings in these categories, and I will also note that my preferred share holdings of Birchcliff Energy (both TSX: BIR.PR.A and BIR.PR.C) have remained quite close to a point where I would want to liquidate and head for greener pastures. I am demanding a price, however, that prices in the circumstance that they will continue to pay out dividends for a very long time (and indeed, given how their common shares have performed this year, I should have just bought them to begin the year instead of the preferred shares). If my price gets hit, great, if not, I will keep collecting the cash flows since my cost of capital is cheap.

I have six issuers of corporate debt that I hold. One will mature early in 2017 (Pengrowth Energy, PGF.DB.B) which will add a not-inconsiderable amount of cash back to the portfolio. I was happy to see my analysis come to fruition back in March 2016 on this issuer. The underlying company will do well if oil continues to rise in price, but at the US$45-50 range they will not do so well as they have a series of debt maturities coming up and refinancing will not be trivial, although they seem to have taken good steps to mitigate the issue with a royalty sale.

The rest of the debt portfolio (minus Pengrowth) has an average weighted term of 3.2 years. One of the features of investing in debt directly instead of through an ETF is that over time, your interest rate exposure decreases. I am concerned that interest rate risk will continue to rise, hence a decreasing term to maturity of the portfolio will mitigate that risk. As long as solvency is not an issue (i.e. bondholders get paid), it should present no problem if rates do rise. In addition, some of the debt is callable and while this will decrease the interest payout over time, it would give me the opportunity to redeploy capital.

Teekay Corporation’s unsecured 8.5% debt maturing on January 15, 2020 has been behaving to thesis. Considering that the parent and daughter entities have been raising equity pursuant to a continuous equity offering, this can only be good for bondholders.

Currency-wise, the exchange rate differed a little bit – the CAD started the year at 72 cents, and closed the year at 74 cents, so this had a slightly negative impact on the portfolio performance.

Performance-wise, obviously this was a very good year for me. This seems to happen once every three years in generally market-positive years. I don’t have any specific insight why it happens when it does.

Finally, I will make a comment on the level of margin in the portfolio. It looks heavily leveraged at the moment (and historically this is quite high amounts of leverage for myself, who has been accustomed to holding significant amounts of cash in the past – up to half at times). Most of the margin is directly linked towards specific fixed income investments that have rather predictable cash outlay profiles. When considering the inexpensive (and tax deductible) financing provided, it makes a lot of financial sense to park idle capital into vehicles that can predictably give off stable streams of income and principal payments.

When looking strictly at the fixed (non-equity) component of the portfolio and offsetting it against the margin debt, the only conceivable scenario where there will be fast stress is if there is some sort of 6-sigma type event (such as a WMD (nuclear, chemical, biological) event in a major metropolitan center in the USA) that will fundamentally change variables. Despite the margin, there is quite a layer of safety embedded.

Reviewing the predictions of 2015

It is a time to look back at the predictions I made back in the 2015-year end report and see what I got right and what I didn’t.

1. Canadian Dollar, Canadian interest rates, Canadian Economy: Mixed bag. I was wrong on the trough on the Canadian dollar (I thought it would go to 65 cents), but I was right about the interest rates being fixed at 0.5%, and the general impact of natural resource extraction in Canada, although the late-year pipeline approvals from the federal government surprised me.

2. Crude Oil and natural gas: These were both a failed prediction. A lid was not kept on the price of crude, and natural gas, while performing better, was also considerably higher.

3. Canada Real Estate: Successful prediction, although BC enacting a foreign buyer transaction tax, coupled with the federal government’s change on mortgage financing is slowly putting a lid on credit conditions on this market.

4. Canada Federal Budget: Correct. The forecast deficit was higher than initial projections. Not a surprise considering the existing spend-everything government.

5. US Federal Reserve: Correct.

6. Next US President: Yes, I predicted Trump would win by a considerable margin. The definition of “considerable” can be debated, but a 304-227 margin, in presidential terms, is a very healthy victory. My prediction was 295-243.

Outlook

Similar to the Presidential election, 2016 was a unique year in that there were some very defined amounts of stress applied as a result of the oil and gas market reaching the trough of its leverage issues. Once this was done, there has been relatively little of opportunity in terms of reasonable risk/reward ratios. Most of my trades this year were done before April and the rest of it has served as a mild detriment to my own performance. Trading because one is bored and looking for thin value situations should only be limited to the smallest of percentages and thankfully I obeyed this rule.

I am projecting a rising price environment over the next couple months of the calendar year. My hunch is reliant on inflows of capital into the equity markets primarily as a result of past performance. While pension funds will have to execute on an equity-to-bond rebalancing, this will probably be offset by hordes of cash that will be dumped into robotic management (so called robo-investors).

Psychologically, it is one thing to invest in something and lose 20% of your capital. It hurts. It is even worse for an investor to have cash sitting in their bank account earning 1% (if that) and seeing the rest of the market rise 20%. Consider the vantage point of somebody prospectively wanting to buy real estate in the Vancouver area over the past decade (link to Teranet) – there was no decent time to not pull the trigger (until perhaps now).

I was fortunate enough to employ leverage at the best time possible, but it is time to harvest gains and bunker down a little.

Fiscal policy in Canada remains very deficit-driven. Politically-speaking, now that the Liberals have gotten their feet wet again in government, they will know that this year will be the year to enact the most publicly unpopular policies. They are also facing an issue of trying to raise money since they inherently have an inability to contain spending. An interesting document to scour is the report on tax expenditures (specifically this table), where you can be a finance minister and ask yourself what the best ways to net the government money would be. There already have been trial balloons floated on the taxation of health insurance plans for employers, and also an increase to the capital gains inclusion rate.

Predictions about how the Canadian government’s Budget 2017 tax proposals with my confidence factors:

1. (50%) Flow-through share deductions will be eliminated.
2. (75%) Employee stock option deduction will have a full, instead of half inclusion rate, OR the amount will be capped to some nominal amount (e.g. CAD$50k allowed or something).
3. (40%) Taxation of capital gains on principal residences is going to have some restrictions (time, or value) placed.
4. (75%) Partial inclusion of capital gains will rise. Using the year 2000 model, Canadians should consider crystallizing gains in early 2017 before the budget. The only question is whether this will apply to individuals or corporations, or whether there will be a limited dollar value applied to this condition.
5. (90%) I do NOT believe the non-tax exemption for private and public health plans will be scrapped. This would be a political nightmare for the government compared to the rather esoteric notions on the items.
6. (50%) The GST will rise (probably to 7%, but this prediction will be judged a success if it is simply raised at all).
7. (50%) Corporate income taxes, on large corporations, will rise.

Fiscally speaking, I see another CAD$25-40 billion deficit year coming ahead, with the low end only coming to fruition if they raise the GST. The budgetary projections will show a slow return to surplus, but in actuality I will be writing here in January 2018 and the same forecast will occur.

Switching to Canada’s largest trading partner: the election of Donald Trump everybody has been trying to figure out the impact, but until January 20 comes rolling around, it is all imagined at the moment. If he is able to execute on even half of his economic policies, it would suggest that the best analogy to be applied is what happened when Ronald Regan was elected – although the initial starting conditions between Jimmy Carter today are vastly different – unemployment in the USA is at record lows and the economy, despite everything the existing administration has tried, is not in bad condition.

The power of hope is something that is not easily captured in forward-looking economic statistics, but the messaging of the Trump administration (which has still yet to officially take power) is that domestic US concerns will “trump” all others, especially with respect to employment.

That said, I shudder to think about the application of the business acumen of Trump’s administration versus Canada’s government (think about the trade minister crying after the EU agreement broke off) and the simple fact that Canada is in a very poor negotiating position in relation to the USA.

It is clear that Canada will not be able to negotiate a favourable deal on softwood lumber, nor will it be able to with automobiles, energy, or anything else for that matter simply because our country’s primary export had been real estate, which will soon be evaporating. Also by pre-emptively stating that we are willing to renegotiate NAFTA after Trump got elected has to be one of the top damaging statements to make in 2016 (and there was a lot coming from the government in this category, thinking about the completely incompetent Minister of Democratic Reform). Once the counter-party knows that you’re willing to negotiate, you’re in deep trouble.

The net result of this is that the USA is going to obtain much higher benefits out of NAFTA than Canada in historical context. Once the USA also reduces their corporate tax rate, one of the only advantages that Canada has will evaporate and you can be pretty sure that capital that was previously slated for deployment here will be heading down south. This clearly will have a negative effect on the Canadian dollar.

The only predictable event that would save us is the re-emergence of high energy pricing, but this event would not be of the existing government’s actions – it would be by pure luck.

About 80% of Canada’s oil production comes from Alberta and the provincial government is as hostile to fossil fuels as it gets and will only be replaced in 2019 by a government very likely to be lead by Jason Kenney. So while this is still at least a couple years away, investors are not going to be putting anything but maintenance money into the Alberta oilpatch even if the federal government gets its act together.

Our economic malaise is amplified by the case that our second largest export (energy) is hampered by the inability to actually get the product to market – alternatives (such as crude by rail) costs a lot more than pipeline.

Outlook – broader markets

As it relates to the market, however, most of the price appreciation seems to be baked in. When scanning the equity markets and the preferred share markets and debt markets, most of everything appears to be trading at relatively lofty valuations. There is little out there that appears to be trading with distress, which typically means that one will only get market-sized gains as opposed to making extraordinary gains.

I face the confusing notion that even if I am able to appreciate my portfolio by 10% in 2017, that it results in a drop in overall performance! I manage my portfolio for absolute returns, so I do not take this into consideration. If I have to sit the year out mostly in cash because I don’t see good opportunities, I will. Ideally, however, short-duration bonds with likely payouts fit the bill for idle cash, but those have been difficult to find at acceptable risk-reward ratios.

Just like how Costco is a great corporation, their stock is another story. The US economy will likely be roaring in 2017, but will this result in stock market success? Has it already been priced in after the November election of Trump? It is difficult to say. I am not very good with macroscopic forecasts of stock markets, and can only concentrate on the microscopic – and I don’t see a lot of stocks out there trading at 52-week lows which leads me to think a lot has been priced in already, but think there is going to be plenty of cash inflows for “follow-alongs” that felt like they missed the party.

Scanning the Canadian corporate debenture market, just as an example, leads me to precisely zero leads. It is a great time for issuers to be issuing debt.

I’m afraid I don’t have much insight other than that when in this state, raising cash and being patient for opportunities is the order of the day. I intend on de-leveraging and doing just that. I might have to wait an extended period of time until stress is visible in the marketplace.

Currency-wise, while I usually don’t have any grand prognostications and as a result, I tend to keep a balance of CAD and USD in the portfolio, I’m generally of the belief that the US dollar is going to continue to strengthen. This will continue to keep a lid on commodities.

Outlook – Portfolio in 2017

If absolutely everything works in 2017, the gains should be in the low teens. It is more probable that it will be a mid-single digit percentage year for me. My research pipeline is relatively thin at the moment (not a good sign for gains). Keeping my past 11 year record of 17% right now is a pipe dream.

Predictions for 2017:

1. The 1st half of the year will contain the high water mark for the S&P 500, Nasdaq and TSX. (The TSX’s high water mark was on the last trading day of the year!).
2. The Bank of Canada will not raise the short-term interest rate (0.5%), UNLESS if the 10-year bond yield rises above 2.5% (right now it is 1.72%).
3. The Canadian dollar will depreciate below 70 cents USD at some point during the year.
4a. Kevin O’Leary becomes the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, first-ballot victory with around 60% of the vote.
4b. He will speak better Français better than the media expects (think about Facebook’s Zuckerberg speaking Mandarin).
5. The 2017 Budgetary proposals as written above (I’ll consider this prediction successful if at least 4/7 occur).
6. Spot WTIC pricing will spend the majority of its time around the USD$50-65 price band.
7. If China experiences something akin to Japan’s early 1990-type economic malaise, there will be significant ripple-down effects on Vancouver real-estate (let’s define this as a Teranet average of less than 220).
8. The US federal reserve will raise interest rates once to 1%, but will relax the interest re-investment policy on their balance sheet assets during the year and retain a tightening bias.
9. “Canada Recession” will register a Google Trends search index rating of higher than 10 sometime in 2017. This is basically a prediction that by year-end that it should be fairly evident that we are close or going into recession.
10. Minister of Democratic Reform Maryam Monsef will get shuffled out of her portfolio (in addition to others from theirs) during 2017. There will be some “face-saving” measure applied for the justification (e.g. she suffered an injury, or something to explain it other than her performance).
11. In the May 2017 BC election, the BC NDP win 20 seats or less (down from the 35 they currently hold). I note polling now has them neck-and-neck with the governing BC Liberals.
12. There will be at least one volatility spike (VIX index) that will take it above 30 as a result of some geopolitical (not economic) event.
13. (Added January 2, 2017) Canopy Growth Corp (TSX: CGC) trades below CAD$9.14/share (2016 year-end closing price) at 2017 year-end (background info).

Portfolio - Year-End 2016 - Historical Performance

Performance and TSX Composite is measured in CAD$; S&P 500 is measured in US$. Total returns indices are with dividends reinvested at time of receipt.
YearDivestor PortfolioS&P 500 (Price Return)S&P 500
(Total Return)
TSX Comp. (Price Return)TSX Comp.
(Total Return)
11 Years (CAGR):+17.2%+5.5%+7.7%+2.8%+5.8%
2006+3.0%+13.6%+15.6%+14.5%+17.3%
2007+11.7%+3.5%+5.5%+7.2%+9.8%
2008-9.2%-38.5%-36.6%-35.0%-33.0%
2009+104.2%+23.5%+25.9%+30.7%+35.1%
2010+28.0%+12.8%+14.8%+14.5%+17.6%
2011-13.4%+0.0%+2.1%-11.1%-8.7%
2012+2.0%+13.4%+15.9%+4.0%+7.2%
2013+52.9%+29.6%+32.2%+9.6%+13.0%
2014-7.7%+11.4%+13.5%+7.4%+10.6%
2015+9.8%-0.7%+1.3%-11.1%-8.3%
2016+53.6%+9.5%+12.0%+17.5%+20.4%

AMA (Ask me anything)…

The irreverent (but not irrelevant!) Nelson has linked to me in the past, so I will link to his post on something non-finance related and repeat the theme here.

I’m compiling the year-end (as today was the last trading day in the markets for 2016) and doing some year-end reflections, in addition to some projections of what we will be seeing in 2017.

In the meantime, I invite readers here to “ask me anything” via the comments below, and I will endeavor to answer in a timely fashion.

Happy New Year.