April 2019 Portfolio Manager Commentary

The S&P/TSX Total Return Index increased by 13.3% in the first quarter. This gives the Canadian market a very strong start in 2019 which has actually slightly outperformed the MSCI Global (10.4%) and is performing in line with the S&P 500 (13.7%).

The stock markets are currently on the rise due to positive economic expectations. Over the past couple of weeks, the depth and longevity of constructive global perspectives have increased in importance following the most recent economic comments and political statements made by major central banks including that of China, Europe, and the United States.

This staggering global economic bull cycle over a longer horizon has a principal effect on the anticipations of investors in the stock market and it has clearly overcome the contradictions related to the softening of the short-term growth. Even though economic growth and corporate profits growth are presently lower than they were a year ago, their persistence and resilience over the long run are the key factors affecting investors’ psychology.

Our Nasdaq Inovestor Canadian Equity Index (NQICA) rose by 0.6% in March, leading to a YTD positive return of 11.4%, slightly underperforming the market. Looking at contribution factors to the NQICA returns, the best performing stock up 11.16%, was Parkland Fuel Corporation (PKI). On the contrary, the worst performer was The North West Company (NWC), down 9.3% in March.

The most recent rebalancing required the sale of three titles, The North West Company, Parkland Fuel and CAE. They were replaced by Great-West Life Co, Norbord, and Open Text. North West Company saw its ROIC decrease because of an increase in assets without being offset by a corresponding increase in its NOPAT. The catalyst for the sale of Parkland Fuel was the rise in stock prices. The sale of CAE was due to the significant decline in economic value added (EVA) as determined by our quantitative model. Great-West Life Co experienced a substantial increase in NOPAT and that is why we decided to add it to the portfolio. Many cyclical commodity companies have had strong bullish profits for a while and our approach is to increase the sector weights in those cases. Norbord is a holding which entered the portfolio for this reason. Finally, the entry of Open Text is explained both by a high fundamental rating and by an attractive valuation.