Headline Deflation Number Not Worth Reporting

Media outlets have been reporting that inflation was -0.9% for the last 12 months in Canada. Many people will listen to that one number and not look any further.

The headline number includes food and energy prices with energy prices being the main reason for the decline since a barrel of oil in July 2008 was trading as high as $147 a barrel compared to $70 today.

As a result, gasoline prices dropped 28%. The decline in energy prices was quick and steep and will quickly disappear from the deflationary number being reported.

Core inflation which excludes these items was 1.8% and right in line with the 2% target of the Bank of Canada. There was nothing in this report to indicate a change in Bank of Canada interest rate policy.

Going forward, expect energy prices to contribute to the headline inflation number. Just like my post of a couple of weeks ago disecting the jobless numbers, it is always important to read more than the headline in order to say informed.

Your comments and inquiries are always appreciated.

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Bonds Are Not Stocks

Bonds are not stocks.

The title of this post seems quite obvious in nature yet the amount of calls we received after Manulife cut the dividend on its common shares and how it affected the pricing and interest payments on their corporate debt was quite astounding.

Earnings per share for the company increased to $1.09 in the second quarter compared to $0.66 for the same quarter last year which is a positive.

The dividend cut will save the company $800 million per year. The savings is a positive for bondholders as there is more money available to make interest payments on their debt and pay principal back at maturity.

Unlike common shares or stock where a company can cut the dividend as it sees fit, the company cannot decide to stop making interest payments as part of a change to its strategic plan.

This is why bonds of a corporation are safer than common shares of the same corporation. There is limited upside but you have layers of downside protection. So what happened to the bonds on the day of the announcement? Not much. Manulife’s 10 year bonds dropped about 1% compared to 15% on their stock.

Corporate bonds move up and down in value based on several factors including interest rates, creditworthiness, and the spread between government bonds moving up or down. To learn more about bonds and how they differ from stocks, you can click on the following link HERE on our website that has an educational piece on bonds.

Your comments are always appreciated.

Jobs Numbers Better Than Headlines Suggest

The latest monthly job numbers in Canada showed a 44,500 decline while the economic consensus was a 15,000 exepected decline. The National Bank Financial Economic & Strategy Group pointed out some figures that suggest some very good takeaways.

Half the job losses were in the food and accomodation area in Quebec. The decline was also among 15 – 24 year olds in the province as harsh weather conditions contributed signficantly to the decline.

Ontario on the other hand created 13,700 jobs, the best number since September 2008. The other very interesting number is that total hours worked in Canada increased for a third consecutive month by a robust 0.3% contradicting the job loss number.

These number suggest that Canada is on track to show 3% GDP growth for the quarterand National Bank expects the employment situation to improve in the next couple of months.

The moral of this post is that it is important to read more than the headline. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated. Have a good weekend.

Fundamental Indexing Outperforms in Last Year

Fundamental Indexing is a strategy which ranks and weights companies, not by market capitalization but instead by four fundamental financial data points (cash flow, dividends, book value and revenue).

The portfolio gets rebalanced annually and typically overweights companies that are considered value oriented vs. growth oriented.

The strategy was developed by Rob Arnott and his company Research Affiliates. Many have argued that fundamental indexing is a flawed form of indexing. This post is not going to get into the case for or against fundamental indexing but the returns have been compelling against major indexes.

As of June 30, 2009, the TSX Total Return Index was down 25.69% while the FTSE RA Fundamental Canada Index was down only 12.22% outperforming the market by more than 13%.

The US equivalent outperformed the S & P 500 Total Return Index by more than 5% and the global equivalent outperformed by just under 2%.

The 10 year numbers are also quite compelling with fundamental indexing outperforming its benchmark by 2% – 4% in each of these markets. With these results, ignoring fundamental indexing as a viable strategy can cost you performance over the long run.

To learn more, you can click on the following link here.

To find out how to add fundamental indexing to your portfolio, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Your comments are always greatly appreciated.