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Brooke Thackray is research analyst, Horizons ETFs (Canada) Inc. His focus is technical analysis and seasonal investing.

Top Picks:

Horizons S&P 500® Index ETF (HXS-TSX)

As we move closer to the six month unfavourable period that starts at the beginning of May, increasing a broad market position helps to mitigate risk. Although some sectors of the market have strong seasonal trends, the volatility of results from year to year make it prudent to increase a core broad market position. The S&P 500 is the preferred market over the TSX composite in the month of April, as it has on average from 1990, produced larger returns and been positive more often.

Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLY-NYSE)

The consumer discretionary sector has been strongly outperforming the S&P 500 as investors have favoured the sector due to its smaller exposure to foreign currency risk compared with the consumer staples sector. The sector has held up, even with weaker retail numbers coming in. On average, the seasonal period for the sector ends on April 22, at which time it often better to switch into the consumer staples sector.

Sysco Corp. (SYY-NYSE)

Sysco is a multinational American food distribution company. On a seasonal basis, Sysco tends to outperform the S&P 500 from April 23 to May 30. Sysco is showing signs of consolidation a few weeks before the start of its seasonal period, potentially starting its seasonal run early. Sysco is often a good investment in the transition time when the stock market transitions from the favourable six month period for stocks, which is from October to the beginning of May, into the unfavourable six month period, which is the other six months. As investors become unsure of the market conditions, they tend to gravitate to stocks such as Sysco with stable earnings. Currently, Sysco is trying to merge with U.S. Foods and the Federal Trade Commission is trying to block the trade. A lot of the potential impact has already been priced into Sysco's stock price.

Past Picks: December 23, 2014

iShares Russell 2000 (IWM-NYSE)

CURRENT COMMENTARY: The small cap sector underperformed the large cap sector for most of 2014, setting up the sector to outperform during its seasonally strong period from December 19 to March 7. This year the small cap sector received an additional benefit from a strong U.S. dollar, as most of the sectors revenues are generated domestically. The seasonal trade was successful and the small cap sector continued to outperform after the end of its seasonally period. Recently the sector has started to show intra-day signs of weakness relative to large caps and as a result, large caps have a better risk reward profile.

Then: $119.86; Now: $125.88 +5.02%; Total return: +5.41%

Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF-NYSE)

CURRENT COMMENTARY: After a difficult start to its seasonal period in December, the financial sector started to outperform at the beginning of March. Investors should be looking to exit the sector in mid-April when the sector's period of seasonal strength ends.

Then: $24.99; Now: $24.57 -1.68%; Total return: -1.32%

Walt Disney (DIS-NYSE)

CURRENT COMMENTARY: Walt Disney has outperformed the S&P 500 over the last two years. It strongly outperformed the S&P 500 during its seasonal period of October 1st to February 15th. It has continued to perform well, but investors should look to exit the stock when it starts to underperform the S&P 500. Recently, the U.S. has produced weak retail numbers. So far the consumer discretionary sector, of which Walt Disney is a constituent, has not been affected. If the consumer discretionary sector starts to falter, this will also be a supporting signal to exit Walt Disney.

Then: $94.69; Now: $108.22 +14.29%; Total return: +14.29%

Total return average: +6.13%

Market outlook:

The S&P 500 has been in a trading range of approximately 2,000 to 2,100 since November. Investors should expect short-term volatility as the S&P 500 looks for stimulus to remain above 2,100. Other than the recent Federal Reserve decision to delay raising interest rates, there is a lack of support for the stock market to move strongly higher. Economic numbers have been mixed to slightly negative and other than stronger than expected employment numbers, most economic releases have surprised to the downside. In addition, 2015 Q1 earnings are expected to contract by 3 per cent and there have been 92 negative EPS pre-announcements issued by S&P 500 companies compared to 17 positive EPS pre-announcements for Q1 earnings (Thomson Reuters March 13). The negative to positive pre-announcement ratio of 5.4 is much higher than the long term average. Despite the negative backdrop, investors should still be maintaining a bullish bias as earnings can still surprise to the upside. In addition, April has historically been one of the stronger months of the year with the S&P 500 producing an average gain of 1.5 per cent and has a positive frequency of 69 per cent since 1950.