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  • Category: Becoming a Better Investor

    Protecting your portfolio against currency changes

    In our conversations with clients, one question keeps coming up these days:

    “The Canadian dollar has dropped a lot. How is this impacting my investments?”

    You may have wondered this yourself so we thought to address it here. To clarify, when the Canadian dollar falls, as it has by 7% against the U.S. dollar in 2015, the value of U.S. holdings in a portfolio rises. The reverse is also true. For example, from 2002 to 2007, when the Canadian dollar climbed from about $0.63 to over $1.02, the S&P 500 returned over 6% annually in U.S. dollars, but lost about 2% a year in Canadian-dollar terms. Many investors have seen otherwise solid returns wiped out by currency fluctuations.

    Predicting currency patterns is one of the most challenging tasks in the field of investing. Today, more than ever. And while we are the first to remind clients that we are not currency traders, you can’t ignore exchange rates when investing internationally. There are two ways to look at the issue:  first as owners of U.S. assets and second as potential buyers.

    Those who have been following our strategy know that since 2010 we’ve been putting a lot of money to work in the U.S., predominantly in the stock market and private real estate (e.g. apartment buildings). For much of this time, the Canadian dollar was close to par and the beat-up U.S. market was giving us an opportunity to buy quality assets at reduced prices. This strategy played out nicely given both the loonie’s decline and the uptick in the U.S. economy over the past four years.

    The challenge before us now is to protect these gains should the Canadian dollar recover. Because while it may fall further in the short-term, it is unlikely to stay at current levels over the medium to long term.

    The second issue is with respect to potential new investments in the U.S. In front of our investment committee currently are several U.S.-based real estate investments that look attractive. Yet, if we are buying U.S. assets with 80 cent dollars and the dollar rebounds to, say, 90 cents, we need to be comfortable that our target return is still attractive. This is a regular point of analysis and discussion at our investment committee meetings.

    There are a number of factors that impact exchange rates and we believe it is best for us to avoid predictions. From our perspective, the answer is to put a hedge on a portion of our U.S. dollar-denominated holdings. (To hedge is to enter into a financial contract to protect against unexpected, expected or anticipated changes in exchange rates.) We recently hedged one third of our U.S. exposure and will continue to manage this risk going forward to protect client returns and capital.

    Currency hedging is not a panacea – there is a cost, it is imprecise and it only protects the value within a certain range and for a certain period of time under the contract. And there’s the possibility the Canadian dollar could go lower still. (The pundits’ forecasts range from 70 to 90 cents over the next year.) However, in this volatile, low-interest rate investment climate, where every percentage of return is hard won, we think it makes sense to lock in some of our gains. It’s all part of our approach to protecting capital first — especially when we can buy that protection at a cost that is reasonable – and above all, to be prudently diversified.

    Is the U.S. market due for a correction?

    Is the U.S. stock market poised for a correction? Is January’s decline of 4% the start of a bigger correction?

    These are perfectly understandable questions. In fact, we hear them repeatedly when meeting with our clients here at Newport Private Wealth. And they are being heavily debated within our Investment Committee and by investment experts whose opinions we value. After all, the S&P 500 has increased by almost 50% in the last two years including 30% in 2013.

    The pessimists are arguing that:

    • the S&P 500 has increased for five consecutive years and a six-year streak has only happened once before (1982-89); and
    • market returns after two consecutive years of double digit returns have typically been modest; and
    • the stock market is expensive at 16x earnings.

    (Source: BMO Nesbitt)

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    10 tax saving tips to do before year end!

    clock 150x150 10 tax saving tips to do before year end!With the arrival of December, our attention often turns to holiday preparations — but it’s not too late to save money on your taxes if you act soon.

    Here are ten tax planning ideas to consider before year end:

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    The 3 most common portfolio woes — and how to fix them

    tools 12Apr 150x150 The 3 most common portfolio woes    and how to fix themEarlier this year, our Managing Director and Chief Wealth Management Officer, David Lloyd published a month-by-month Personal Finance Checklist to help readers organize and optimize their financial affairs and it’s been a popular post on this blog.

    April is a good month to review your portfolio after first quarter results are in: Perhaps a little ‘spring tune-up’ if you haven’t revisited your strategy in awhile?

    On that very subject, here’s a link to an article by Stephen Hafner, one of our Managing Directors & Portfolio Managers, written for the website Accretive Advisor. Stephen identifies the three
    most common portfolio problems we see — and how to fix them.