Sep 272015

3 Year History

Usually when investors talk about expected market returns we like to look at historical averages. Over the past 115 years stock markets in the developed world delivered an annualized return of roughly 8.5%. This means we can probably assume that a normal range would be somewhere between 6% and 11%.

I use TD as my discount brokerage at the moment. It has a useful tool to help me gauge my portfolio performance over the years. Most of my stocks are held in registered accounts such as TFSAs or RRSPs, which have preferential tax benefits. :) Here is a quick overview of how my securities in those accounts have performed over the last 3 years. The green line represents my portfolio performance.


As we can see my overall stocks have achieved a 7.33% annualized rate of return since Sept 2012. This is not that surprising and falls within the 6% to 11% range of a normal market return. :) Also since I can’t use margin to borrow and invest inside these registered accounts, none of my stocks in this chart uses any leverage.

The blue line represents the Canadian stock market index, which has only returned 8.65% over the last 3 years, or 2.8% annualized. This means I technically beat the market here in Canada by more than 4% a year, which is just peachy keen! 😀 But that’s probably because I hold some U.S. stocks in my RRSP and TFSA.

The purple line represents the S&P 500 index in the U.S. The graph shows it has climbed 80.22% since 2012. But keep in mind that this factors in the currency exchange. Otherwise, the return in $USD is closer to 47%, which is still pretty dope. The U.S. currency has become very strong over the past couple of years. Any Canadian who held U.S. stock would have seen double-digit returns even if the price of their stocks didn’t change domestically in U.S. dollars. 😀

Here are a few things I learned from this performance chart. I’ll be keeping these things in mind going forward.

  • It’s possible to pick and choose individual stocks without underperforming the market index, as long as you have the discipline to buy and hold most of the time.
  • Canadian stocks rely too much on commodity prices. Whenever oil and metal prices fall the market really struggles. :(
  • Buy some foreign currencies to hold investments that are denominated in those currencies.
  • Diversify globally. Holding a Canadian equity index fund, like the Vanguard Canada All Cap Index ETF, (symbol VCN,) would have barely even beat inflation over the past 3 years, and even the past 5 years.

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Jul 202015

Experts worry that the recent interest rate cut in Canada will lure people to rack up even more debt. Bankruptcy trustee Doug Hoyes warns, “the more debt you have, the greater your chances of going bankrupt. It’s simple math.” He predicts bankruptcy numbers will “skyrocket when interest rates rise and people are saddled with ballooning debt payments.” Yikes. That doesn’t sound good. 😐

Anyway, last week I borrowed $1,420 from the bank to purchase 100 shares of Corus Entertainment (CJR.B) for $14.20/ share in my non-registered account. Normally I wouldn’t buy a stock with 100% borrowed money but with credit this cheap how can I say no? 😀 Besides, the dividend from CJR.B is twice as much as the interest I pay on the margin loan so it’s totally sustainable as long as the dividend doesn’t get cut, lol. :)

CJR.B Dividend Payout History


Corus is a large media company in Canada that operates both TV networks and radio stations. It owns brands including YTV, Treehouse, Nickelodeon Canada, W Network, OWN Canada, and Movie Central (including HBO Canada and Encore Avenue.)

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Jul 102015

You’ve probably heard on the news about the stock market correction in China. Last year, Chinese stocks experienced huge gains and surged more than 140%. Oh my Buddha, that’s insane! 😯 But since June 2015, the market has dropped by almost a third in value. Some people in the media claim this is some sort of catastrophic event comparing it to the Great Depression.

But we know better. 😉 First of all, a 33% drop, after a 140% gain is not such a bad thing. In fact that’s a net positive return of 60% in about 18 months, so who’s complaining? :) Secondly, due to strict foreign investment regulations only 1.5% of all the stock market shares in China are owned by foreign investors like Canadians and Americans. So this recent market decline has very little direct impact on investors outside of China. And lastly corrections inevitably happen after a parabolic upward trend, so this shouldn’t be a surprise to any informed investor. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~George Santayana

The Boom and Bust of China’s Stock Market

It all started a couple years ago when the Chinese government wanted to boost the country’s economy. It implemented policies making it easier for retail investors (average folks) to invest in the stock market. Things worked out even better than expected and the market quickly became detached from the fundamentals of the underlying economy. Last month the Shanghai Composite Index (SSE) started to fall. To make things worse many investors were investing on margin and had been forced to sell their stocks as their shares lost value which only perpetuated the downward momentum. 😕 Within a few weeks the SSE had dropped almost 33%. Here’s a comparison of stock markets over the last 12 months. (blue line = China, red line = Canada, yellow line = U.S.)


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Jun 282015

Earlier this month I blogged about my plan to help make this world a greener place by supporting renewable energy initiatives. One way to do this profitably is to invest in green companies. On Thursday this past week I purchased 50 shares of Brookfield Renewable Energy, (BEP.UN) for $38.05 CAD each for a total cost of roughly $1,900. It also trades as BEP on the New York Stock Exchange for interested investors in the U.S.


This is my first investment in a pure-play renewable energy company. Brookfield Renewable develops, owns, and operates renewable power generation facilities. It’s one of the largest and most diversified publicly traded green companies in the world. BEP has a diversified portfolio of high quality assets and over 100 years of power generating history. :)

The Business of Brookfield Renewable Energy

I’ve always like the idea of investing in B.C. Hydro or Ontario Hydro because the idea of creating electricity through the power of nature itself (water and gravity) and then selling that electricity to make money sounds like a great business model. The profit margin must be very profitable because once a hydro dam is built it doesn’t cost much to maintain it. But there’s no practical way for me to invest in crown corporations and government operated hydro facilities. Luckily, Brookfield Renewable has the solution. :)


BEP has over 7,000 MW of installed capacity, predominantly from its large hydroelectric portfolio. This means I can invest in water dams via BEP. :) 80% of the company’s assets is hydro projects, the highest quality renewable asset class. The other 20% is split between solar farms and wind farms with a compelling total return profile. In total Brookfield Renewable has $20 billion of assets under management (AUM,) mostly in North America, as the map below shows.


Investment Returns

But ultimately what I really want to know is will this company be profitable in the future. First let’s look at its historical returns. Thanks to the experienced management team at the Brookfield Asset Management company (BAM), the parent company of Brookfield Renewable, BEP was able to return to its investors 16% compounded annualized return since inception in 1999. Hey not bad at all! 😀 It outperformed both the Canadian and U.S. stock market indexes.

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Jun 122015

When choosing a potential investment to put our money in it’s important to look at all the usual financial metrics like profitability, management, history, and forecasts. But a less conventional measurement to consider and is usually harder to quantify, is employee sentiment. 😀

The world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, which has more than $4.65 trillion of investments under management, includes employee happiness data into its models for evaluating holdings and investment prospects. “We look for companies that have solid employee rankings and want to buy companies that have improvements in employee opinions,” says Paul Ebner, a portfolio manager at BlackRock. “Happy and engaged employees lead to more wins and more sales opportunities.”


It makes sense from a practical point of view. People who enjoy their work tend to be better at what they do and are more focused. And companies that are known to keep their workers happy will naturally attract the best talent in the industry. Research appears to back up the findings. Alex Edmans, an associate professor of finance at Wharton School of Business, discovered that companies that made Fortune Magazine’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For in America,” outperformed their peers by more than 2% on average annually between 1984 to 2009 (25 years.)

I have looked at the most recent Fortune list of best companies to work for. The top 3 publicly traded names are Google, Salesforce, and Roche (Genentech.) Over the last 5 years (from June 2010 to now) the stocks of all 3 companies have outperformed the Dow and the S&P 500 indexes. :)

  • GOOG = +118%
  • CRM = +197%
  • RHHBY = +115%
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average = +75%
  • S&P 500 = +92%

However other studies have shown there is little to no correction between employee happiness and the profitability of a company. Some critics say it’s an imperfect and unreliable indicator, arguing that the idea of happy workers is just fluffy. I’m not sure if we should gauge a stock by how happy its workers are, but I do think that disgruntled employees can create a toxic work environment which could lower a business’s earning potential.

Random Useless Fact