Alberta Capital Bonds On Their Way

Albertans are sure to be inundated with marketing on Alberta Capital Bonds in the coming weeks as the Alberta government looks to individuals to raise capital to fund their current deficits. Details of the offering were provided to financial institutions such as ourselves this week. The bonds will go on sale February 16th until March 1.

Unlike Canada Savings Bonds, Alberta Capital Bonds are not redeemable and must be held until maturity except for some very limited circumstances. The bonds will be dated March 15, 2010 and have a 5 year term. Interest can be paid annually or compound annually.

The minimum purchase amount will be $1,000 with a $25,000 maximum regardless of how the bonds are registered. You would not be able to buy $25,000 for yourself, $25,000 for your RRSP account and $25,000 jointly with your spouse. The government will not provide certificates which is also a different format compared to Canada Savings Bonds.

While the bonds are not CDIC insured, they do have the full backing of the Alberta government. They will be eligible for RRSP’s within a Self Directed Plan. The only thing that we don’t know about the bonds is probably the most important number.

What are they going to pay? The highest 5 year GIC is currently 3.30%. Expect the announcement to come in around that level.

If you are interested in higher rates, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have access to some Alberta Capital Finance Authority which is a government agency accrual notes yielding over 5%.

Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.

Life Settlements in Difficulty in Canada

I have seen some ads in the Calgary Herald advertising life settlements yielding 10%. The ads definitely peaked my interest as this was something different than real estate, commodities, equities or even the bond market.

To have a different asset class paying a 10% yield would be quite attractive. Of course, with the rash of real estate deals going south and ponzi schemes rearing their head, one can only be skeptical.

The underlying concept behind life settlements is that a company offers an individual that is diagnosed with a life threatening illness a lump sum while they are alive in return for the proceeds from a life insurance policy upon death.

The company raises money from individuals paying them the 10% interest rate. They are supposed to pay the individuals from the proceeds of the policies which is difficult to pinpoint as they cannot guarantee when a policyholder will die.

The industry is growing in the US with about $12 Billion in policies sold in 2007 according to an article in this weeks investment executive. In Canada, the purchasing of policies is illegal in most provinces so the ones being offered for sale are from jurisdictions outside of Canada.

The main issue that is now plaguing this sector is similar to other unregulated industries. The individuals selling the policies are not registered to do so and are not offering proper documentation to potential investors outlining the risks.

Two companies in Ontario selling these policies have been shutdown while one in Alberta is currently being investigated.

All one needs to do is visit the Ontario Securities Commission or Alberta Securities Commission websites and do a search on life settlements to get more details on some of the issues.

If you have had any positive or negative experiences in this area, your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Buffett Hits Home Run with Goldman Sachs

A short eight months ago, the media was asking whether Warren Buffett, the worlds most astute investor according to many had lost his touch after placing large bets on Goldman Sachs through his investment fund, Berkshire Hathaway.

Goldman Sachs reported a record profit for the quarter as its stock has gone from a low of $47.41 to its current high of $165  giving Berkshire investors a return of 44% in just  a few months. Ordinary investors shunned the thought of sinking funds into a US based financial firm and financial advisors would be fired by their clients for recommending such action.

Give credit to Buffett for placing his money where his mouth was. He was one of the few and these bets are why he continues to do well. On one of my previous blog postings, I attached a New York Times article that Warren Buffett wrote outlining his conviction for investing and Buying American which you can read by clicking here.

Only time will tell if he is right but 60 years of following his conviction and being one of the richest men in the world because of it provides some backing.

Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated. Have a good weekend.

The Week Ahead

It will be a busy reporting week on the economic front with month over month Producer Price Index and Consumer Price Index numbers coming out early in the week.

Initial jobless claims and continuing claims are being reported Thursday while Housing starts and building permit numbers will be reported on Friday.

On the earnings front, not many companies will be reporting next week. Alimentation Couche-Tard reports on Tuesday with consensus estimates coming in at .118 per share.

Corus Entertainment reports on Wednesday with expectations at .429 per share and Nexen reports Thursday with expected earnings per share of .284.

US earnings can be found by going to www.earnings.com

Have a great weekend

General Motors IPO….Any Takers?

As GM gets ready to emerge from bankruptcy protection a  much leaner organization with less debt and less product lines, the largest shareholder, the US government and taxpayers, intend on getting some if not all of their money back  in 2010.

An initial public offering has been discussed for the middle of next year which would allow the government to sell off part of the company and allow them to exit this investment in an orderly fashion. The biggest question one should ask is whether there will be any takers?

With the brand tainted and the car industry potentially still in shambles, how many investors will there be? With the overhang of pension costs, health care costs, higher than average salaries, and uneconomic factories, all being disposed of, GM could become an attractive investment with its better selling brands remaining in its fold.

What are your thoughts? Would you consider investing in a new GM without all the former legacy costs? Your comments are greatly appreciated.