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Dec 31, 2019

We’re #68! TSX erases three years of gains with dismal 2018

TSX lows provide ample opportunities for investors: Money manager

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There were few places to hide on global markets in 2018, with almost every major asset class ending the year in negative territory. Canada’s benchmark S&P/TSX Composite Index was no outlier to the overall negative trend, capping the year 11.64 per cent lower, leaving it in 68th spot among 93 major global stock exchanges, sandwiched between South Africa's FTSE/JSE Africa All Share Index and Portugal's PSI-20. After this year's wipeout, the TSX has now erased the entirety of its gains since the beginning of 2015, making it a lost three years for Canadian investors.

Worst Performers:

Energy: -21.48 per cent

Consumer Discretionary: -17.74 per cent

Health Care: -16.56 per cent

Utilities: -13.38 per cent

Financials: -12.61 per cent

Energy:

Canadian crude producers found a floor for crude prices just in time to find a ceiling. Pipeline bottlenecks pushed Western Canadian Select prices to historic discounts against West Texas Intermediate early in the fall – with Canadian crude trading at a US$50 discount in early October – only to rebound after Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced the province plans to enforce production curtailments.

The narrowing of the discount back to historic norms, however, came just as the WTI and Brent global benchmarks came under pressure due to concerns over global growth and oil output, putting a quick end to the rosier picture for Canadian energy producers. Of the 43 members of the energy subgroup – the second-largest weighting on the TSX Composite, at 17.8 per cent – only five ended the year in positive territory, with only one of those five being an upstream producer.

Consumer Discretionary:

It was a reversal of fortunes for the TSX Composite’s most diverse sub-sector. The consumer discretionary group, which counts companies as disparate as Tim Hortons’ owner Restaurant Brands International Inc. (QSR.TO) to the trio of major Canadian auto parts manufacturers, went from the second-best performing group of 2017 to the second-worst this year. Former high-fliers Sleep Country Canada Holdings Inc. (ZZZ.TO) and Dollarama Inc. (DOL.TO) headlined the declines, joined by parts manufacturer Linamar Corp. (LNR.TO) and turnaround story Hudson’s Bay Co. (HBC.TO).

Health Care:

The cannabis boom went bust for much of the healthcare index – now dominated by pot producers – in 2018. A steep decline in the share prices of the major pot companies amid legal recreational use in October (and the ensuing supply woes) sent the group to the third-worst showing among subgroups for the year. Aphria Inc. (APHA.TO) – now the target of short-sellers and a potential takeover offer from Ohio-based Green Growth Brands Ltd. – was the worst-performer of the group, with Aurora Cannabis Inc. (ACB.TO) shedding the third-most ground. Of the major cannabis producers, only Cronos Group Inc. (CRON.TO) and Canopy Growth Corp. (WEED.TO) were able to buck the trend. 

Top losers:

Maxar Technologies Ltd. (MAXR.TO): -79.84 per cent

New Gold Inc. (NGD.TO): -74.58 per cent

Aphria (APHA.TO): -58.02 per cent

Crescent Point Energy Corp. (CPG.TO): -56.78 per cent

Eldorado Gold Corp. (ELD.TO): -56.04 per cent

Maxar:

Investors in Maxar got a doozy of a trick on Hallowe’en. Shares of the company, formerly known as MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, plunged 44.55 per cent on Oct. 31 after the satellite-maker badly missed third-quarter profit and revenue estimates and booked a US$383.6-million impairment and inventory obsolescence charge tied to its large telecom satellite manufacturing operations.

According to Bloomberg data, all ten of the analysts who cover the stock either cut their ratings on Maxar or reduced their 12-month price targets on Oct. 31 or Nov. 1 in the wake of the Q3 results.

New Gold:

Shares of New Gold slumped about 30 per cent over the course of two trading sessions in late July after the precious metals company booked a US$383.7-million impairment charge, slashed its full-year production outlook and offered a gloomy view of a key operating metric. The company forecast it would produce as few as 415,000 ounces over the course of fiscal 2018, down from a range of 525,00 to 595,000, and said it expected all-in sustaining costs to be as high as US$1,120 per ounce – up from a range of US$860 to US$900.

Much of the trouble is centred around the company's Rainy River project in northern Ontario, which was dogged by issues with production start-up. The company has made a slew of management changes, including bringing in former Richmont Mines Inc. CEO Renaud Adams as its new chief executive, in the wake of its setbacks in 2018.

Eldorado Gold:

Eldorado Gold is officially a penny stock. The miner, which once commanded a valuation north of $10 billion, is now worth about $600 million as its shares sit south of one dollar per share. Those shares had a slow bleed lower over the course of the year, after getting smacked in 2017 by headaches in Turkey and Greece.

In spite of twice increasing its full-year production forecast, a steeper than expected third-quarter loss and 15 per cent revenue decline continued to push shares lower in 2018. Eldorado also announced plans to invest US$520 million in a mill project at the key Kışladağ Mine in Turkey, which ran into problems with ore grade in 2017.

Top Gainers:

Nevsun Resources Ltd. (NSU.TO): +95.75 per cent

Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd. (KL.TO): +84.74 per cent

OceanaGold Corp. (OGC.TO): +54.18 per cent

Canada Goose Holdings Inc. (GOOS.TO): +50.29 per cent

MEG Energy Corp. (MEG.TO): +50.00 per cent

Nevsun:

Takeover target Nevsun Resources took top spot among the 241 constituents of the TSX Composite Index in 2018. The miner found a white knight in the form of Zijin Mining Group Co. in September, when the Chinese firm stepped in with a $1.86-billion bid, trumping a hostile offer from Lundin Mining Corp. (LUN.TO). Nevsun was put in play when Lundin and Euro Sun Mining Inc. (ESM.TO) formed a partnership to pursue the firm, which operates the Bisha copper-zinc mine in politically-fraught Eritrea and the development stage Timok copper-gold project in Serbia.

Kirkland Lake Gold:

Shares of Kirkland Lake just keep cruising higher. Shares of the miner, which counts the Fosterville mine in Australia and the Macassa operation in Northern Ontario as its crown jewels, have risen more than 350 per cent over the past two years as the company continues to increase production and drive down costs. The company is now forecasting its annual production could eclipse 1 million ounces in 2021 at a time when many gold industry heavyweights are grappling with production declines.

OceanaGold:

Shares of mid-tier gold producer OceanaGold were having a strong, if unspectacular, year well into the fall before surging in December to cap off 2018. In its third-quarter earnings release, the company, which operates in the U.S., Philippines and New Zealand, boosted its full-year production forecast and maintained its all-in sustaining costs per ounce outlook. Just before Christmas, OceanaGold’s Waihi mine was granted another decade-long lease on life, when New Zealand lawmakers gave the company permission for a new underground mine development. Barring appeals, work could begin on the new project by the middle of 2019.

Best Performers:

Info Tech: +12.54 per cent

Consumer Staples: +0.58 per cent

Real Estate: -2.76 per cent

Industrials: -3.91 per cent

Communications Services: -5.27 per cent

Info Tech:

The info tech basket was the sole group of stocks to break solidly into positive territory for 2018, paced by market darling Shopify Inc. (SHOP.TO), IT consulting firm CGI Group Inc. (GIBa.TO) and enterprise-software consolidator Constellation Software Inc. (CSU.TO). In spite of the outperformance, it was a mixed picture for the internals of the group, with an even split of five constituents up, and five down – with BlackBerry Ltd. (BB.TO) the lead laggard, losing more than 30 per cent of its value.

Though the group held up well through a year of red on the TSX, it’s a relative minnow on the composite, accounting for only 4.1 per cent of the weighting in Toronto.

Consumer Staples:

The consumer staples group finished 2018 barely in the green, but that was enough for it to nab the second-best showing on the TSX Composite. Canada’s trio of big grocers led the way, with Metro Inc. (MRU.TO), Sobeys parent Empire Company Ltd. (EMPa.TO) and Loblaw Companies Ltd. (L.TO) pacing the group. It was the packaged food stocks that kept the group from a better showing, with Premium Brands Holdings Corp. (PBH.TO) and Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (MFI.TO) as the biggest drags on the sub-sector.

Real Estate:

In spite of rising interest rates, the TSX Composite’s newest subgroup managed to hold up as the third-best performing basket of stocks through 2018. But not all real estate investments are created equal – only six of the group’s 22 constituents finished the year in positive territory.

Canada’s residential vacancy crunch appears to have given a boost to the group’s three top performers – InterRent REIT (IIP_u.TO), Canadian Apartment Properties REIT (CAR_u.TO) and Killam Apartment REIT (KMP_u.TO) led the pack. According to Canadian housing watchdog CMHC, Canada’s rental vacancy rate fell to 2.4 per cent from three per cent a year earlier, with particular pressure – and rising prices – in Toronto and Vancouver.

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