Speaking to the recent International Economic Forum of the Americas held in Montreal, World Bank President Robert Zoellick commented on how lots of countries around the world would like to trade places with Canada, even though we did not escape the effects of the global economic downturn (our higher resource–driven “beta”.) He added: “Canada has had a fiscal policy managed in its budget pretty soundly over the years”.
The continuing test of this fiscal soundness lies ahead. In the meanwhile, Goldman Sachs singles out Canada as among the first of the advanced economies to emerge from recession. Respected David Rosenberg, now returned home to be the chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates, sees us not having the structural fiscal deficit problems of the U.S. and being well positioned as the economic power shifts towards Asia and China. Reflecting its confidence, the Fidelity mutual fund group has set up an on-site research Team Canada. Expressions of confidence like these keep on growing.
Inflation and its possibly devastating consequences may seem a distant problem at a time of still-serious recession and economic slack. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney do not seem unduly worried shorter-term. At latest count the annual Canadian inflation rate had dropped to a 14-year low of just 0.4%, and four of the provinces, among them even Alberta, had sunk into deflationary territory. Nevertheless, while it may not be an immediate problem, no serious investor should ignore the elephantine inflation risk. Even if months or years early, it seems none to soon to begin taking precautionary action, adjusting investment strategies and re-examining asset mixes in this probability.
On the fixed income side, the renowned Bill Gross of PIMCO, the world’s largest bond fund, strongly recommends a shortening of term to maturity. For my part, I now prefer not going much beyond bonds (and bond ladders) of a five-year maturity – and always A-rated. For taxable Canadian investors in need of income there are now attractive resettable (5 year) preferred shares issued mostly by the banks, but also by others. And most definitely not to forget the inflation defence offered by companies that pay and continuously increase their annual dividend payouts.
Our guest blogger is Michael Graham. You can reach him at:
Michael Graham Investment Services Inc.
Tel: 416 360-7530 Fax: 416 360-5566
Website at www.grahamis.ca