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Frank Mueller

Weekly Update – January 19, 2018

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants” – Epictetus

TSX Marginally Up for The Week

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index rose on Friday by 68.99 points (0.42 per cent) to finish up at 16,353.46, a gain of 45.28 points (0.28 per cent) for the week. Though modest, the weekly gain put the index back in the right direction after last week’s loss.

Nine of the 10 main sectors posted wins on Friday. Financials and industrials led the way. The Energy sector was weighed down by an oil pullback. A barrel of Crude Oil fell by 38 cents (USD) on Friday to settle at $63.57 USD per barrel, a down-tick of 86 cents for the week (1.33 per cent).

The oil decrease also affected the Loonie, which weakened compared to the Greenback on Friday. As of 3:59pm EST, the Loonie had dropped 0.64 per cent versus the American Dollar, and sat at 80.01 cents USD.

Investors have now set their sights forward to next week’s NAFTA talks. Some analysts feel NAFTA is a risk, and could pull the Loonie down, should NAFTA be abandoned. Said Mark McCormick, North American head of Foreign Exchange Strategy at TD Securities: “The market is really going to have to price in a negative risk premium on the Canadian dollar, driven primarily on the breakup risks of NAFTA”.

Gold retreated from $1,339 USD per ounce to begin the week back to finish at $1,331.10 USD per ounce, shaving off $7.90 USD per ounce (0.59 per cent).

U.S. Markets Advance, Again

Another week, another plateau hit for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). This week, it rose above 26,000 for the first time. On Friday, it gained 53.91 points (0.21 per cent) to close at 26,071.72. On the week, the DJIA was up 268.53 points (1.04 per cent).

The S&P 500 hit its own record closing high, gaining 12.27 points (0.44 per cent) on Friday to close out 2,810.30 (up 0.86 per cent for the week).

The NASDAQ also set a record closing high, climbing to 7,336.38 on the back of a 40.33 point, 0.55 per cent, Friday gain. NASDAQ gained 1.04 per cent for the week.

Disagreements between U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans could lead to a government shutdown. The deadline is midnight Friday night (tonight). Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and U.S. President Donald Trump met to negotiate an end to the impasse on Friday. The potential shutdown had a minor effect on U.S. markets, but these days, it seems nothing can impede their advance.

As Expected, Bank of Canada Raises Key Rate

As widely expected, the Bank of Canada raised its benchmark interest rate on Wednesday morning. As with the previous two rate hikes, this was an increase of 25 basis-points from 1.00 per cent to 1.25 per cent. This makes three rate hikes in a little over six months after the BoC held rates steady at 0.50 per cent for nearly nine years. Strong employment figures were among the main reasons that the BoC felt comfortable enough to enact the rate hike.

Two further rate increases are expected by the end of 2018.

As mentioned last week, the rate rise will affect new home purchasers (who didn’t have rate holds in place) and those who carry credit balances on their Home Equity Lines of Credit, regular lines of credit, or home owners with variable mortgage rates.

 

Sources: Globe Advisor, Yahoo! Finance

Frank Mueller

Weekly Update – January 12, 2018

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston S. Churchill

TSX Winning Streak Snapped

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index rose on Friday but still posted a weekly loss. Friday saw a 21.24-point rise, good for a 0.13 per cent gain. However, the TSX was down 41.26 points on the week, closing at 16,308.18 (down 0.25 per cent week-over-week). This was the first weekly decline in a month, after three consecutive weekly gains.

Cannabis producers were down sharply, but their losses were offset by resource, gold and lumber gains.

U.S. Crude Oil rose by $2.99 USD per barrel or 4.87 per cent this week, closing at $64.43 per barrel.

Gold rose to $1,339 USD per ounce this week, as the US Dollar depreciated.

The December jobs report once again showed strong growth in Canada, with 23,700 full-time jobs and 78,600 total jobs added. Canada’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest mark in 41 years, from 5.9 per cent in November down to 5.7 per cent for December.

However, David Rosenberg, Chief Economist and Strategist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates opined “at face value the (unemployment) number looks great, but… there are question marks beneath the surface that has me thinking it is overstating the strength in the economy”.

Undaunted, the Loonie took the jobs numbers and moved upward to settle at 80.24 cents to the Greenback. Should the Bank of Canada raise their key rate next week (more on that below) we can expect the Loonie to jump again.

U.S. Markets Continue to Rise

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) continued to skyrocket this week. Last week, the DJIA rose above 25,000 for the first time; this week, after a rise of 228.46 points (0.89 per cent) on Friday, the major index rose to 25,803.19, good for a weekly gain of 507 points, an even two per cent gain.

The S&P 500 rose 18.68 points (0.67 per cent) on Friday to close out the week at 2,786, good for a weekly gain of 1.57 per cent.

NASDAQ gained 49.29 points (0.68 per cent) on Friday to close at 7,261, a weekly gain of 124 points (1.74 per cent).

Bank of Canada Expected to Raise Rates Next Week

This coming Monday, January 15th is the dreaded “Blue Monday 2018”, where the perfect storm of poor weather, short days and long nights, the realization of how much was *actually* spent over the holidays, the fact the holidays are now firmly in the rear-view mirror, low motivation levels, and finally, the realization that most or all of our New Year’s Resolutions have failed to take hold all combine to create the saddest day on the calendar year.

For those who haven’t managed to keep spending in check over the holidays (or otherwise), this Wednesday may add to the misery. The Bank of Canada is overwhelmingly expected by analysts to raise its benchmark rate to 1.25%, up from 1.00%, this coming week. Many big banks such as RBC, TD and CIBC have already raised their mortgage rates in anticipation.

As rates climb, you can expect credit balances with variable rates, such as variable rate mortgages, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and secured & unsecured credit lines to increase their rates accordingly. As a result, borrowers will now pay more interest each month on these balances. Credit card rates (which are generally sky-high at 19.99 – 28.99 per cent) won’t be affected, but the rates are so high that you shouldn’t carry balances anyway.

Bottom line: pay down those credit lines where possible to avoid paying more interest each month.

WEEKLY MARKET WRAP-UP

North America
The TSX closed at 16308, down -41 points or -0.25% over the past week. YTD the TSX is up 0.61%.
The DOW closed at 25803, up 507 points or 2.00% over the past week. YTD the DOW is up 4.39%.
The S&P closed at 2786, up 43 points or 1.57% over the past week. YTD the S&P is up 4.19%.
The Nasdaq closed at 7261, up 124 points or 1.74% over the past week. YTD the Nasdaq is up 5.19%.
Gold closed at 1339, up 14.00 points or 1.13% over the past week. YTD gold is up 2.21%.
Oil closed at 64.43, up 2.99 points or 4.87% over the past week. YTD oil is up 6.64%.
The USD/CAD closed at 0.80239, down -0.0044 points or -0.55% over the past week. YTD the USD/CAD is up 0.89%.

Europe/Asia
The MSCI closed at 2172, up 15 points or 0.70% over the past week. YTD the MSCI is up 3.28%.
The Euro Stoxx 50 closed at 3613, up 5 points or 0.14% over the past week. YTD the Euro Stoxx 50 is up 3.11%.
The FTSE closed at 7779, up 55 points or 0.71% over the past week. YTD the FTSE is up 1.18%.
The CAC closed at 5517, up 46 points or 0.84% over the past week. YTD the CAC is up 3.84%.
DAX closed at 13245, down -75.00 points or -0.56% over the past week. YTD DAX is up 2.53%.
Nikkei closed at 23654, down -61.00 points or -0.26% over the past week. YTD Nikkei is up 3.91%.
The Shanghai closed at 3429, up 37.0000 points or 1.09% over the past week. YTD the Shanghai is up 3.69%.

Fixed Income
The 10-Yr Bond closed at 2.55, up 0.0700 points or 2.82% over the past week. YTD the 10-Yr Bond is up 6.25%.

Sources: Globe Advisor, BNN.ca, Yahoo! Finance

Frank Mueller

Weekly Update – January 5, 2018

“Every accomplishment starts with a decision to try” – Anonymous

New Year, Same Rally

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index dropped 63.50 points (0.39 per cent) on Friday to finish at 16,349.44. Resources weighed on the TSX on Friday, with oil, gold, copper and other metals pulling back on the day.

However, the TSX enjoyed a gain of 0.9 per cent on the week as the extended market rally continued into 2018.

Statistics Canada announced the December jobs numbers, with 79,000 new jobs being added. One caveat, however, is that most of them were seasonal, part-time positions. However, Canada’s unemployment rate of 5.9% in November was a full percentage point lower than in November 2016.

Retail sales data, housing starts, and consumer confidence levels were all higher year-over-year as well.

U.S. Crude Oil dropped by 42 cents USD per barrel to finish the week at $61.59 USD.

Gold dropped by $1.30 USD per ounce on Friday, and finished at $1,320.30 per ounce.

The Loonie rose by 56 basis points on Friday to finish at 80.61 cents to the Greenback, a rise of 0.6989 per cent.

U.S. Markets Hit More Record Highs

The S&P 500 rose 19.08 points (0.70 per cent) on Friday to close out the week at 2,743.07.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) rose above 25,000 for the first time ever on Thursday, and jumped by 220.74 points (0.88 per cent) on Friday to finish at 25,295.87.

NASDAQ also had a good day on Friday, with a gain of 58.64 points (0.83 per cent).

Some encouraging global economic data helped to propel markets upward. US unemployment figures for November – like Canadian unemployment – were lower than a year prior.

2017 Market Recap

It was, in some ways, a strange year for the Canadian investor. Early in the year, Canadian markets were relatively flat, while south of the border, U.S. markets were (and still are) very hot. Overseas markets advanced. However, as the Canadian dollar appreciated relative to the Greenback, U.S. and many overseas gains were mitigated.

As the year progressed, the Bank of Canada raised rates twice, and the Fed also raised rates. The BoC raising rates led to a dampening of fixed income returns. Luckily, the TSX rebounded late and was able to post a decent, if unremarkable, 6% increase on the year.

Most major international indexes posted double-digit returns; in fact, even factoring the appreciating Loonie, global markets outpaced Canadian markets.

So, what is the lesson here? In our opinion, this information reinforces the benefit of sound diversification, not only between equities and fixed income, but also regional diversification. Canadian investors have the reputation of being the most biased toward domestic markets, and, at least in 2017, the Canadian investor who invested heavily in Canada at the expense of other regions certainly missed out on some significant gains.

If you have questions about your asset allocation or would like to come in for a review of your portfolio, please let us know!

2017 Market Recap: By The Numbers

North America
The TSX finished at 16,209, up 6.0% for 2017
The DOW finished at 24,719, up 25.1% for 2017, or 17.0% in $CDN
The S&P 500 finished at 2,674, up 19.4% for 2017, or 11.7% in $CDN

The NASDAQ finished at 6,903, up 28.2% for 2017, or 19.9% in $CDN
Gold finished at $1,303 USD per ounce, up 13.1% for 2017
Oil finished at $60.42 USD per barrel, up 12.5% for 2017
The USD/CDN finished at 0.7955, up 6.9% for 2017
The CDN/EUR finished at 1.5089, up 6.8% for 2017

Europe/Asia
The MSCI World finished at 2,103, up 20.1% for 2017, or 12.3% in $CDN
The MSCI EAFE finished at 2,051, up 21.8% for 2017, or 13.9% in $CDN
The MSCI EM finished at 1,158, up 34.3% for 2017, or 25.7% in $CDN
The FTSE 100 finished at 7,688, up 7.6% for 2017, or 10.3% in $CDN
The DAX finished at 12,918, up 12.8% for 2017, or 20.4% in $CDN
The Nikkei finished at 22,765, up 18.9% for 2017, or 15.3% in $CDN

Sources: Globe Advisor, TD, Yahoo! Finance

Anthony Sabti

2017 Financial Planning Checklist

Until the end of the year, we’ll be deviating from the usual “weekly brief” format. We believe it is a good time to take a final stock – pardon the pun – of your overall financial planning situation. Below is a checklist of some of the items we try to cover with you at your meeting. If you want to confirm an item on this list has been addressed, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our office will remain open during the holidays.

Investing

  • Portfolio mix. Different investments are taxed at different tax rates. If you invest in both registered and non-registered accounts, ensure you optimize your portfolio mix to ensure maximum tax-efficiency
  • The amount added to the TFSA room on January 1st, 2018 will be $5,500. This will bring the lifetime amount to $57,500. Consider putting funds into your TFSA to the extent you can make contributions (or via a transfer from your non-registered account). Ensure you don’t exceed your contribution room due to the significant penalty on over-contributions. If you have authorized us for CRA access, we can confirm your TFSA limit.
  • If you were planning on withdrawing from your TFSA, do so by the end of the year. The amount you withdraw will be added to your TFSA room at the start of 2018. If you withdraw in January 2018, you won’t get the room back until January 2019.
  • If you have investments in a non-registered account in a capital loss position, consider triggering the capital loss to offset capital gains realized during the year.
  • For non-registered accounts, delay purchases until January 2018 to minimize your allocation of taxable income for 2017 (after year-end distributions). For similar reasons, consider selling your mutual fund in a non-registered account before year-end as well (prior to year end-distributions).

Taxes

  • Any donations you want to claim on your 2017 tax return must be made by December 31, 2017.  Donations must be made to a registered charity. Contributions above $200 result in a 29% federal tax credit. Keep the donation receipts! The CRA was more aggressive in requesting documentation to prove the donations were actually made.
  • If you are a first-time donor, you can claim an additional 25% credit on up to $1,000 of donations made after March 20, 2013.  2017 is the final year in which this credit can be claimed.
  • Public transit tax credit. This credit will be eliminated following the 2017 tax year. You can claim on your 2017 income tax return, only the cost pertaining of monthly passes for transit services for the period January 1 to June 30, 2017.
  • If you are over 65 with no private pension, consider withdrawing $2,000 from a RRIF account to trigger the $2,000 pension credit.
  • Home accessibility tax credits. If you incur eligible expenses of up to $10,000 to increase the mobility or safety of a senior, you will be able to claim the federal home accessibility home credit and BC senior’s home renovation tax credit.

RRSP

  • The deadline to make an RRSP contribution for the 2017 tax year is March 1, 2018. If you have authorized us for CRA access, we can confirm your RRSP limit, factoring in any contributions you’ve made with us. An RRSP contribution has a tax savings potential of anywhere between 20%-47.7% for BC residents.
  • If you turned 71 this year, this is the final year you can contribute to an RRSP. Consider making an RRSP contribution in December of the year you turned 71 if your income in 2017 is higher than what you expect in later years.
    • If you turned 71 this year, you must wind up your RRSP by the end of the year. For most people, this means a conversion to a RRIF account with minimum annual withdrawals starting the following year.
  • Consider withdrawing funds from your RRSP if you have low income for the year.

Self-Employment / Business / Corporations

  • Consider 2017 income splitting opportunities (spouse, children, parents, etc.) as the rule changes that are likely to come for corporations in 2018 may eliminate this strategy moving forward.
  • The new rules will grandfather any existing passive investment income currently held in a corporation.  They will also allow passive income of up to $50,000 not subject to higher taxation. This means that under the new regime, you could add $1,000,000 (in addition to any grandfathered assets) generating income of 5% a year and be exempt.
  • If you are self-employed, consider purchasing capital assets before year-end. If the asset is available for use before the end of the year, you can claim one-half of the usual tax amortization for the year.
  • Consider paying a salary or bonus from your corporation to yourself in December. Usually, the payroll tax for this is due by January 15th (may be sooner depending on your remitter type).

Children

  • If you have an RESP and your child has turned 17 in 2017, this is the final year of his/her grant eligibility.  If you have grant room remaining, you can contribute up to $5,000 in the final year, generating a $1,000 grant.
  • Pay child-care expenses for 2017 by December 31st, 2017 and get a receipt. Remember that boarding school and camp fees qualify for the child care deduction.
  • If your child qualifies for the disability tax credit, and if RDSP assets or income will not disqualify him/her from receiving provincial income support, consider setting up an RDSP to qualify for the Canada Disability Savings Bond (CDSB – lifetime maximum of $20,000 per child). Contributions to an RDSP qualify for the Canada Disability Savings Grant (CDSG – lifetime maximum of $70,000 per child)
  • Children’s fitness and art credit. Sadly, these tax credits have been completely phased out, and you won’t receive a credit for these costs on your 2017 return.

Other

  • Note that MSP premiums will be cut in half for all taxpayers in 2018. The provincial government intends to eliminate all MSP premiums within four years.
Frank Mueller

Weekly Update – November 24, 2017

“This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt” – Earl Wilson

TSX Posts Modest Increase on the Week

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index, helped by broad gains, finished up on Friday by 33.79 points (0.21 per cent) to finish the week at 16,108.09. For the week, it was up 0.7 per cent (87.93 points) over last Friday’s finish at 16,039.26.

The energy and financial sectors gained on Friday.

Gold prices jumped this week overall, although it fell on Friday by $4.90 USD per ounce to $1,287.30. The $11.70 USD per ounce was good for a 0.92 per cent week-over-week increase.

U.S. light crude oil closed at a two-year high mark of $58.95 USD per barrel, while Brent crude oil gained 31 cents USD to finish at $63.86 USD per barrel. OPEC countries have once again been dancing around a potential supply cut, but nothing has been set in stone.

The Loonie gained 2 basis points on Friday, and stood at 78.68 cents USD as of Friday at 3:03pm PST. On the week, the Loonie dropped 25 basis points from last Friday’s finish of 78.93 cents to the Greenback, a drop of 0.32 per cent.

U.S. Markets See Dow Jones, S&P 500 Break Mini-Losing Streaks; NASDAQ Jumps

Black Friday, the famous shopping day that immediately follows the U.S. Thanksgiving – and for all intents and purposes, signals the green light for holiday shopping – meant a half-session on Wall Street. All of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), S&P 500 and NASDAQ posted gains on Black Friday.

U.S. Thanksgiving Thursday saw three things: football, turkey and online shopping. According to Adobe Analytics, U.S. shoppers spent nearly $3 Billion online on Thursday.

Some heavyweight online retailers saw boosts on Friday, as optimism over the holiday shopping season is expected to bode well for 4th Quarter Earnings. Bricks & mortar stores with strong online presences fared quite well on Friday.

The Dow Jones rose 31.81 points (0.14 per cent) to finish at 23,557.99; the S&P 500 rose a modest 5.34 points (0.21 per cent) to finish at 2,602.42; the NASDAQ jumped 21.80 points (0.32 per cent) to settle at 6,889.16.

Lastly, the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), dropped to a 3-week low of 9.67.

Canadian Household Debt Levels Highest Amount 35 Developed & Developing Countries

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Canada’s household debt ranks as the highest among 35 developed & developing countries that are monitored by the OECD. Read our blog post on the subject here.

Sources: Globe Advisor, Yahoo! Finance, Adobe Analytics, CNBC.com

Frank Mueller

OECD: Canadian Household Debt Levels Highest Among 35 Developed/Developing Nations

According to a recent report by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, aka the OECD, Canada now has the highest household debt level per GDP in the world.

Canadian household debt is now greater than the national GDP, at 101% of GDP. As a brief refresher, GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is the total of all goods and services – essentially everything – that is produced by a country; that is, everything produced within a nation’s borders.

The gap between Canada and the next-highest country on the list (South Korea), is roughly 8 per cent, as South Korea’s Debt-to-GDP mark of 93 per cent.

Economic powerhouses United Kingdom and United States post Debt-to-GDP levels of 88 per cent and 80 per cent, respectively; meanwhile, Germany’s Debt-to-GDP is below 60 per cent.

Why does this matter, you might ask? After all, this means that Canadians are spending money and driving the economy! This is only partly true. Yes, spending is good (to an extent); however, spending at this level can be risky.

Think about it like this: when stock markets like the TSX, S&P 500, NASDAQ, etc are increasing (recovery and expansion periods of the economic cycle), carrying debt is helpful. Debt allows companies the liquidity needed to purchase inventory, make capital investments (new bricks & mortar locations) and hire employees. But when the market starts declining and recessions hit, the companies that have over-extended themselves generally are hit the hardest.

Increasing interest rates heavily affect companies that are carrying debt, as all debt has a set interest rate. Revolving credit, such as lines of credit and credit cards, generally has an interest rate set as “prime + some additional amount”. So, when revenues start to decrease, during contractionary periods, while debt payment requirements begin to increase, companies carrying heavy debt loads can find themselves with a cash crunch.

The average family, in many ways, is synonymous with an average company, in that they have revenue (net income), they have debts (mortgage, car loan, line of credit, etc) and they must ensure they have liquidity to make it all work. The risk to families is camouflaged when things are going well, everyone is employed, and rates are low; however, the risk presents itself when rates increase (as they have twice since July), the economy slows down, and perhaps one – or both – of the family breadwinners suddenly find themselves out of work.

With all of this said, it is no surprise that the OECD has pointed out that such high indebtedness levels across the country is a risk to the economy. It is also no surprise that the soaring Debt-to-GDP has been linked to the red hot real estate markets across the nation.

The OECD stated in their report: “research points to a number of links between high indebtedness and the risks of severe recessions.” We are only about a decade removed from the U.S. housing crisis and resulting “Great Recession.”

Former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill famously said: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” So, how can we learn from the past?

One of the most important things a family can do is create a budget. The budget must be feasible, it must be achievable, and it must allow for some fun.

A good budget should include some liquid savings account for emergency funds, travel funds, and the like. This way, when that emergency strikes, and you need cash in a pinch, there is a pool of money ready to deploy. Many people who do not have an emergency savings fund have to resort to drawing upon a line of credit. This will add to your debt load in a hurry.

If you do not have a budget in place, we can work with you to create one that is customized to your unique situation. If you have an interest in getting a budget on paper, please don’t hesitate to let us know!

Sources: CNBC.com