We're halfway through 2015 and so far it has been a blah year for investors. Making a buck has rarely been this tough.
As of the close of trading on July 6, the S&P/TSX Composite was showing a year-to-date loss of 2.4 per cent, and was still tracking down. U.S. indexes were faring better, with the Dow 0.8 per cent for 2015 while the S&P 500 had added a fractional 0.5 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite was ahead a healthy 5.4 per cent.
There were no huge losing sectors on the TSX – certainly nothing to compare to the metals and minerals debacle of the past couple of years. The biggest shock has been the 10.5 per cent decline in the normally staid S&P/TSX Preferred Share Index as investors fled amid concerns over rising interest rates and maturing reset preferreds.
The two largest sectors on the TSX, financials and energy, are down 3.2 per cent and 9.5 per cent respectively so far this year. Industrials have lost 7.4 per cent while utilities are down 5.9 per cent. The biggest gainer, by far, is the healthcare sector with an advance of 33.9 per cent. But that doesn't mean much since there are only three stocks in the group: Catamaran Corp., Extendicare, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Valeant is up more than 60 per cent from the start of the year. Other winning sectors were consumer discretionary stocks (+8.5 per cent), real estate (+6.4 per cent), and gold (+6.1 per cent).
In the U.S., healthcare stocks are among the best performers with the S&P Healthcare Index ahead 9.3 per cent so far this year. Internet stocks were also strong, with the Dow Jones Internet Commerce Index gaining 9.7 per cent. On the other side of the scale, the Dow Transportation Index is down 11.6 per cent year-to-date. Some analysts believe the Transportation Index is a harbinger for the course of the Dow Jones Industrials. If that's the case, watch out.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei Index is in rebound mode with a year-to-date advance of 15.3 per cent. Despite the Greek crisis, European markets have done surprisingly well, with the German Dow ahead 8.6 per cent, France's CAC 40 up 10.3 per cent, and the Amsterdam market ahead 11.6 per cent.
As for bonds, they are still in profit territory. The FTSE TMX Canadian Universe Bond Index is showing a gain of 2.7 per cent at this stage.
In the light of what has transpired so far, let's look back at the predictions I made in January and see how they are faring.
Oil will drop further, then recover. I said that the price could drop to the $40 a barrel range but wouldn't stay there for long. I wrote: "A rebound to the $60+ level is likely by spring followed by a lengthy period of consolidation which will give stock markets time to pause and stabilize." Well, it got back to $60+ but this week's big drop has taken it back closer to $50.
New York will record modest gains. Correct so far for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq. The Dow isn't behaving.
Toronto will struggle. Yep.
Tough times overseas. Actually, foreign markets have been the leaders so far. Who would have expected such big gains in Europe?
Interest rates will stay low. I said the Fed would probably delay raising rates until later in the year. That's how it still looks.
Bonds will be positive. Everyone was expecting the bond market to tank. I didn't believe it. In fact, bonds started the yearly strongly. They gave back some of those early gains but the FTSE TMX Canada Universe Bond Index is still beating the TSX, by a wide margin.
The loonie will fall, rebound. It fell all right. We're still waiting for the rebound. It's not likely to happen any time soon.
Gold will falter. I wrote that only dedicated gold bugs should invest in the metal. Gold stocks have recorded a small gain but bullion is in a rut, pulling back every time it creeps over $1,200 an ounce. Even the Greek mess can't seem to lift it.
So now it's on to 2015, part two. Hold on to your seats, it's likely to be turbulent.
Gordon Pape is Editor and Publisher of the Internet Wealth Builder and Income Investor newsletters. For more information and details on how to subscribe, click here. Follow Gordon Pape on Twitter and on Facebook.