Canadian ETFs: March’s Launches and Terminations

In this research report created this week for The Globe And Mail, we look at Canadian ETF’s: March’s launches and terminations

The industry recovered from a tumultuous year end, finishing the first quarter of 2019 with assets under management of $172.7-billion.

RBC iShares introduced their first suite of ETFs since they announced a strategic alliance earlier this year. The offering provides equity or fixed income exposure to environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments. Socially responsible investment has been taking off as investors become more socially conscious.

The ESG equity ETFs seek to track MSCI ESG Focus Indices. The indices are designed to target companies with positive environmental, social and governance (ESG) characteristics while closely representing the risk and return profile of the MSCI Canada Investable Market Index, the MSCI USA Index, the MSCI EAFE Index or the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, respectively.

The ESG fixed income ETFs seek to replicate Bloomberg Barclays MSCI ESG Fixed Income Indices, designed to reflect the performance of Canadian investment-grade bonds, emphasizing bonds from issuers generally evaluated for favourable ESG practices, while exhibiting risk and return characteristics similar to those of the Bloomberg Barclays Canada Aggregate Bond Index or the Bloomberg Barclays 1-5 Year Canada Aggregate Bond Index, respectively.

Equium Capital exited the industry by closing its only ETF, the Equium Global Tactical Allocation Fund ETF Series (“ETAC”). The ETF struggled to attract sufficient assets since it was introduced back in November 2017 with AUM under $15 million. In an investment commentary, Equium Capital attributed the termination to “intensifying competition in the ETF market”.

Competition is indeed fierce in the market. ETF product line-up almost doubled, and the number of ETF providers tripled in the past five years. The arrival of the remaining biggest banks, Scotiabank and CIBC, and their massive distribution network exacerbate rivalry. More ETF terminations are expected with a few ETF providers exiting the industry this year.

Read more in this article written by Kimberly Yip Woon Sun, ETF Analyst at Inovestor Inc.

StockPointer® Canadian Equities Model Portfolio Transactions – April 2019

We have rebalanced the Nasdaq Inovestor Canadian Index based on our Canadian Model Portfolio, which will be effective on April 18th after market close. Here are the details:


  1. Great-west Lifeco inc. (GWO) – Market Trend. Increase in Financial sector as seen in the Top 100 index therefore increasing our position in the portfolio.
  2. Norbord Inc (OSB) – Market Trend. Increase in Materials sector as seen in the Top 100 index therefore increasing our position in the portfolio.
  3. Open Text Corporation (OTEX) –  Market Trend. Increase in Information Technology sector as seen in the Top 100 index therefore increasing our position in the portfolio.


  1. THE NORTH WEST COMPANY INC (NWC) – Market Trend. Decrease in the Industrials sector as seen in the Top 100 index.
  2. Parkland Fuel Corporation (PKI) – Market Trend. Decrease in the Energy sector as seen in the Top 100 index.
  3. CAE Inc. (CAE) –  Market Trend. Decrease in the Industrials sector as seen in the Top 100 index.

You can also find the transactions on Inovestor For Advisors, in the Model Portfolios – StockPointer Canada section.

Please contact us for more information.

The Inovestor Team

Fifteen U.S. stocks to play defensively amid the latest market volatility

In this week’s filter created for The Globe and Mail, we screened for U.S stocks that can act defensively amid the recent volatility.

Last Friday, the U.S. yield curve inverted, causing some panic in the stock market. On Monday, the curve stabilized but still remained inverted, prompting caution from investors. An inversion, resulting from uncertain economic growth, is often seen as a leading indicator of recession. In order to protect themselves, investors may choose to re-allocate some of their assets to non-cyclical sectors, which act defensively during market volatility. Today we look into two of them: utilities and telecommunications. We screened the U.S. universe by focusing on the following criteria:

  • Market capitalization greater than US$10-billion;
  • Positive 12-month change in the economic value-added (EVA) metric – a positive figure shows us that the company’s profits are increasing at a faster and greater pace than the costs of capital. The EVA is the economic profit generated by the company and is calculated as the net operating profit after tax minus capital expenses;
  • Positive 12-month change in the economic performance index (EPI) and a current EPI greater than one – this ratio is the return on capital to cost of capital;
  • Future-growth-value-to-market-value ratio (FGV/MV) is between 40 per cent and minus 70 per cent. We chose this range to eliminate stocks that trade at an exaggerated premium or discount because that would increase the risk. This ratio represents the proportion of the market value of the company that is made up of future growth expectations rather than the actual profit generated. The higher the percentage, the higher the baked-in premium for expected growth and the higher the risk.

Read more in this article written by Noor Hussain, Analyst & Account Executive at Inovestor Inc.

Canadian ETFs: February’s launches

In this research report created this week for The Globe And Mail, we look at Canadian ETF’s: February’s launches

Middlefield Group is the latest asset manager to join the ETF industry.

Middlefield Group is a specialty investment manager that creates and manages specialized investment products for individual and institutional investors. The new ETF issuer converted two closed-end funds, together representing more than $150-million in assets, into ETFs. The Middlefield Healthcare & Life Sciences ETF (LS) focuses on securities of issuers operating in the health care, life sciences and related industries, while the Middlefield REIT INDEXPLUS ETF (IDR) provides low-cost exposure to the global real estate sector through a combination of indexing and active portfolio management.

Desjardins expanded its suite of responsible investment ETFs with the launch of the Desjardins RI Emerging Markets Multifactor Low CO2 ETF (DRFE) and the Desjardins RI Global Multifactor – Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF (DRFG).

DRFE seeks to replicate the performance of the Scientific Beta Desjardins Emerging RI Low Carbon Multifactor Index. The index is composed of securities selected based on a multifactor approach: size, valuation, volatility, momentum, profitability and investment. These securities are also selected to significantly reduce the weighted average carbon intensity and ensure that all constituent issuers meet predetermined environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. It charges a management fee of 0.65 per cent.

DRFG tracks the Scientific Beta Desjardins Global RI Fossil Fuel Reserves Free Multifactor Index. The index is composed of securities selected based on a multifactor approach. These securities are also selected to significantly reduce the carbon asset stranding-risk exposure and ensure that all constituent issuers meet predetermined ESG standards. The management fee on DRFG is 0.6 per cent of net asset value.

Following the steps of other major ETF providers, Bank of Montreal launched a suite of risk-based asset allocation ETFs. Each ETF charges a management fee of 0.18 per cent and invests in global equity and fixed income ETFs, according to their risk specifications. The BMO Conservative ETF (ZCON) targets a 60-per-cent fixed income and 40-per-cent equity exposure, the BMO Balanced ETF (ZBAL) targets a 40-per-cent fixed income and 60-per-cent equity exposure, and the BMO Growth ETF (ZGRO) targets a 20-per-cent fixed income and 80-per-cent equity exposure.

In addition to the one-ticket solution ETFs, BMO also introduced three U.S. equity ETFs: the BMO Covered Call US Banks ETF (ZWK), the BMO Equal Weight US Health Care Index ETF (ZHU) and the BMO Nasdaq 100 Equity Index ETF (ZNQ). The BMO Ultra Short-Term US Bond ETF (ZUS.U) was also added to BMO’s product lineup. It provides exposure to short-term U.S. fixed income asset classes, with a term to maturity of less than one year or reset dates within one year. The ETF is also offered in accumulating units under the ticker ZUS.V.

Read more in this article written by Kimberly Yip Woon Sun, ETF Analyst at Inovestor Inc.

Portfolio Manager Commentary – February 2019

The S&P/TSX Total Return Index increased by 3.1% in February, adding to the strong January returns (8.1%) and leading to a YTD return of 12.2%. This gives the Canadian market a very strong start so far in 2019 which has actually slightly outperformed the MSCI Global (11.2%) and the S&P 500 (11.8%). Most sectors of the Canadian market were positive contributors in February, with Information Technology being the strongest one at an 8.4% increase.

The Canadian central bank & the FED comments have remained highly constructive for the equity markets. Although some analysts were expecting a more hawkish tone for the future, central banks have not indicated such act. Furthermore, the overall earnings and guided earnings have been positive over this period.

In addition, commodity prices, including energy and metals, have been stable which is crucial for the Canadian market. Finally, Canadian banks’ results were in-line to slightly below expectations, except for BMO, that came higher than expected.

Our Nasdaq Inovestor Canadian Equity Index (NQICA) rose by 2.1% in February, leading to a YTD positive return of 10.7%, slightly underperforming the market.  Looking at contribution factors to the NQICA returns, the best performing stock up 14.6%, was Constellation Software (CSU), that outperformed earnings expectations. On the contrary, the worst performer was CCL industries (CCL.B) which was down 3% in February as a result of weaker than expected results.

Portfolio Manager Commentary – February 2019

Horizons Inovestor Canadian Equity ETF (INOC)

The S&P/TSX Total Return Index ended the month of January up 8.1% offsetting in one month most of last year decline of 8.9%, making it one of the best month in the last 20 years. This upturn has been driven by several catalysts including a softening in the tone of last minutes of the FED, relatively strong results from earnings releases of large North American corporations, and the end of the US government shutdown. Meanwhile, prices of most key commodities including crude oil and gold were stronger in the month. Our Nasdaq Inovestor Canadian Equity Index (NQICA) rose 8.1% for the same period, 60bps below the benchmark. Our sector allocation removed 110bps as our decision to underweight Energy and underweight Healthcare proved to be unfruitful in January. However, our stock selection contributed a positive 50bps as a several of our stocks outperformed.

INOC’s constituents were changed on January 18th





  1. NFI GROUP Inc. (NFI)


The Inovestor Asset Management Team

Canadian ETFs: January’s launches and terminations

 In this research report created this week for The Globe And Mail, we look at Canadian ETF’s: January’s launches and terminations

Three new ETF providers entered the industry in January. CIBC Asset Management introduced a suite of two actively-managed fixed income ETFs and two multifactor equity ETFs, which seek to replicate CIBC’s in-house indices. The indices consider the following factors in selecting equity securities: low volatility (low sensitivity to market fluctuations), quality (high profitability and low financial leverage), value (low price to earnings and price to book), and high price momentum characteristics.

SmartBe Wealth Inc. launched the SmartBe Global Value Momentum Trend Index ETF (SBEA) listed on NEO exchange. The ETF tracks the Alpha Architect Value Momentum Trend for Canada Index, which is based on three factors: value, momentum and trend-following. The index is designed by Alpha Architect LLC, a research-intensive asset management firm that delivers concentrated factor exposure.

National Bank Investments Inc. joined the herd of ETF sponsors with the launch of four ETFs. Its initial suite includes the NBI Active Canadian Preferred Shares ETF (NPRF), the NBI Canadian Family Business ETF (NFAM), the NBI Global Real Assets Income ETF (NREA) and the NBI Liquid Alternatives ETF (NALT). NALT’s investment objective is to provide a positive return while maintaining low correlation to, and lower volatility than, the return of the global equity markets. The ETF will seek to achieve this objective by investing primarily in long and short positions on financial derivatives that provide exposure to different major asset classes, such as government bonds, currencies, equities or commodities.

Another ETF Issuer has filed a preliminary prospectus to issue liquid alternatives ETFs. Accelerate Financial Technologies Inc., established by a team with a track record of successfully managing award-winning hedge funds, intends to launch a suite of exchange traded alternative funds.

Accelerate’s initial suite consists of the Accelerate Absolute Return Hedge Fund (HDGE), the Accelerate Enhanced Canadian Benchmark Alternative Fund (ATSX) and the Accelerate Private Equity Alpha Fund (ALFA). The ETFs’ fee structure will be similar to that of hedge funds. They have a 0% management fee and will only earn a performance fee if they outperform their high-water mark. For instance, HDGE will charge a performance incentive fee of 20% of the excess NAV in between quarters, ATSX’s performance incentive fee is 50% of the positive amount by which ATSX’s performance exceeds the performance of the S&P/TSX 60 TR Index for the quarter and ALFA will charge a performance incentive fee of 15% of the excess NAV in between quarters.

Read the full report here.

This article is written by Kimberly Yip Woon Sun, ETF Analyst for Inovestor Inc.

Canadian ETFs: December’s launches and terminations

In this research report created this week for The Globe And Mail, we look at Canadian ETFs: December’s launches and terminations

Despite December’s volatility spike and stock-market gains for the year completely wiped out, the industry’s AUM grew from $147.1-billion at the end of 2017 to $156.8-billion at the end of 2018, according to data from the Canadian ETF Association (CETFA). 2018 has been a hectic year and we saw trends that contributed to the ascending of the Canadian ETF market:


More than a hundred ETFs were launched in 2018, including some innovative products like Vanguard’s ETF suite that provides a single-fund portfolio solution to investors according to their risk tolerance. Thematic ETFs were also among the popular products launched last year. They cover themes such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and environmental, social and governance (ESG). These new ETFs make investing more accessible, whether it is through a one-stop fund or through themes that investors believe in.


The competitive market drove down fees. In 2018, 35 ETFs had their management fee reduced by two to 35 basis points (bps). Horizons even launched zero-per-cent-management-fee ETF portfolio solutions. In Canada, exchange-traded funds remain considerably cheaper than their mutual fund counterparts. Investors slowly turn to these cheaper solutions as they become aware of the impact of fees on their return.


Last year, nine ETF issuers joined the market, bringing the total count of providers to 33. The new players include Scotiabank, one of the five largest banks in Canada, and iA Clarington, whose parent company is Canada’s fourth-largest life and health insurance company. Asset managers are joining the ETF bandwagon at a time when asset flows are moving away from traditional mutual funds toward ETFs. Unfortunately, not all of them are able to make the transition. Five sponsors exited the industry, which were mostly through acquisition by bigger players. For instance, WisdomTree Investments acquired Questrade ETFs, Evolve Funds took over Sphere Investments’ ETFs, Redwood Asset Management was amalgamated into Purpose Investments and Sun Life Global Investments acquired Excel Funds before exiting the market altogether.

While we expect some of the above trends to persist into the new year, the following catalysts will likely have an impact on the industry in 2019:


Liquid alternatives are available to retail investors as of Jan 3, 2019. Liquid alternatives (or liquid alts) are funds that aim to provide diversification and downside protection through exposure to alternative investments. Up until now, alternative strategies were limited to institutional or high-net-worth individuals due to their complex nature. Several liquid-alts ETFs – for example, NBI Liquid Alternatives ETF and Desjardins Alt Long/Short Equity Market Neutral ETF – are waiting to be approved by regulators.


The Canadian ETF product lineup has increased significantly over the past few years. Some of the new ETFs have been very lucrative, attracting more than $300-million in AUM in less than a year of existence, while others did not attract enough assets to break even. Profit to an issuer is determined as a percentage of assets invested in the ETF. ETFs without enough AUM to cover costs will presumably be terminated.


While the industry remains heavily concentrated, the market share of the three largest ETF sponsors plunged from 86.8 per cent to 78.2 per cent over a three-year period in December. In 2019, the arrival of new entrants like National Bank Investments and CIBC will cause even more disruption. We are also anticipating consolidations and exits during the year. BlackRock Canada and RBC Global Asset Management, the first and fifth largest ETF providers, already announced that they are being brought together under one new brand – RBC iShares.

Read the full report here.

This article is written by Kimberly Yip Woon Sun, ETF Analyst for Inovestor Inc. 


Portfolio Manager Commentary – December 2018 – Horizons Inovestor Canadian Equity ETF (INOC)

The S&P/TSX Total Return Index ended the month of December down 5.4% and the year of 2018 down 8.9%, making it the worst year for stocks since 2015. This downturn has been driven by signs of a global economic slowdown, concerns about the direction of the US monetary policy, inflation fears from a strong job market, ongoing trade tensions between the US and China and the political dysfunction causing a US government shutdown. Meanwhile, the price of crude oil plunged 9.6% to $45.81, its lowest settle since August 2017, on fears of a weak oil demand from lower global growth. Our Nasdaq Inovestor Canadian Equity Index (NQICA) fell 6.8% for the same period, 143bps below the benchmark. Our sector allocation contributed 50bps as our decision to overweight staples and underweight energy proved to be fruitful. However, our stock selection contributed a negative 193bps as a couple of stocks underperformed. You will find below the top three and bottom three contributors to performance. (Download)

The top three contributors to performance were:

1.       Metro (MRU:CN), a food & staples retailer, rose 3.4% following the approval of the TSX for its Normal Course Issuer Bid (NCIB) program to repurchase 2.7% of its outstanding shares.

2.       Stella Jones (SJ:CN), a paper & forest producer, declined -1.3% after the company announced it would pursue its own NCIB program to repurchase 4.3% of its outstanding shares.

3.       West Fraser Timber (WFT:CN), a paper & forest producer, fell -2.5% after implementing a temporary production curtailment in BC over the holiday period at four of its BC sawmills.

The bottom three contributors to performance were:

1.       Canadian National Railway (CNR:CN), a railway operator, declined -11.1% as investors fear a global growth slowdown might impact the firm’s crude-by-rail and commodities shipments.

2.       Equitable Group (EQB:CN), mortgage and thrift company, fell -14.7% as Canada’s mortgage credit growth continued to decelerate in Q3 2018, on pace to weakest growth in 22 years.

3.       TFI International (TFII:CN), a transportation company, dropped -19.5% as price increases in the trucking market are leveling off. This could prove difficult for operating margins in 2019.


The Inovestor Asset Management Team