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In this Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, photo, ornaments hang on a Christmas tree on display in New York. (AP Photo/Swayne B. Hall)

The Globe and Mail

It's only 17 days until Christmas, when many of us pause for a moment to spend time with family and friends and celebrate the year that's past and look towards the year ahead.

For investors, we know what the past year brought but looking ahead to 2018 brings uncertainty. Here's just a few issues on the horizon:

--A blazing bitcoin -- is it real or just another crazy investment bubble?

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--Tax changes in the U.S. and small business tax changes in Canada and what the real impact will be on business and investment;

--Sky high markets reaching ever-higher heights amid warnings of an imminent correction;

--Ongoing political instability in various parts of the world and ongoing threats from North Korea.

National Bank of Canada takes looking ahead to the holidays and the new year to a whole new level. The bank has mined its inner poet and created a song/poem to the tune of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. So sing along while you ponder the latest investment woes and what 2018 might bring.

The Most Uncertain Time of the Year

It's the most uncertain time of the year

With the markets flip-flopping/And everyone telling you what's to be feared

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It's the most uncertain time of the year

It's the scar-scariest season of all

With high leverage readings and job seeker pleadings / When debtors come to call

It's the scar-scariest season of all

There are trade deals for tweaking / GDP growth is peaking

And governments short lots of dough / There are overseas worries

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Prompting tales of the glories of / Stability long, long ago

It's the most uncertain time of the year

There'll be much bond trading / And our faith may be fading

When key votes come near / It's the most uncertain time of the year

There'll be data head shaking / Positions for taking

Sly winks by those in the know / There'll be scary Trump stories

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And recalling the glories of / Administrations long, long ago

It's the most uncertain time of the year / There'll be banker jaw-boning

And stocks could be moaning / When rate hikes come near

It's the most uncertain time

Yes the most tentative time

[Could it be] the most wonderful time / Of the year?

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-- Gillian Livingston, deputy editor, Globe Investor

This is the twice a week Globe Investor newsletter. If someone has forwarded this e-mail newsletter to you, you can sign up for Globe Investor and all Globe newsletters here.

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Stocks to ponder

Pollard Banknote Ltd. Amid the relentless march to all things digital, a 110-year-old Canadian company has found a golden ticket in its printing presses. Pollard Banknote Ltd. has more than doubled this year as demand for its instant scratch-and-win lottery tickets surges. The company, the world's second-largest producer of instant tickets, expects the boom to continue as it eyes expansion in the U.S. and explores new markets such as Brazil. Jen Skerritt from Bloomberg News reports.

Laurentian Bank of Canada. When Laurentian Bank of Canada revealed during a conference call with analysts on Tuesday afternoon that it had discovered some problems with its mortgage underwriting standards, investors didn't take the news well at all. Before you could say "Home Capital Group," Laurentian shares plunged nearly 11 per cent from their intraday high, for their worst one-day dip since 2009. The shares have retreated nearly 10 per cent since Tuesday. Is this a dip worth buying? David Berman explains.

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Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. Two years ago, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. shares plunged off a cliff. Now, some investors are starting to pick them up and dust them off. Smart-beta pioneer Dimensional Fund Advisors LP more than tripled its stake in the beleaguered pharmaceutical company during the third quarter. The bulk of that buying was done for the firm's value portfolios. Brandon Kochkodin from Bloomberg News reports.

The Rundown

Five stock picks from a dividend growth manager

Where is the Canadian dollar heading? What about oil prices? And is the next leg in interest rates up or down? Renato Anzovino is the first to admit he doesn't know. But the manager of the $60-million Heward Canadian Dividend Growth Fund says his investing strategy doesn't rely on making such predictions. Instead, he tries to identify companies that can thrive in any environment. John Heinzl outlines five of Mr. Anzovino's stock picks.

Canada now has a third pot stock worth more than $2-billion

There's another cannabis stock that has breached the $2-billion mark in market capitalization. Shares of grower Aphria Inc. soared 16 per cent and to new highs on Tuesday, closing at $13.53. The rally pushed Aphria's market cap to just over $2-billion. The Leamington, Ont.-based company is joining the likes of Canopy Growth Corp. and Aurora Cannabis Inc., whose stocks are worth $3.6-billion and $3-billion, respectively.Investors piled into Aphria's stock a day after the company said it will supply Canada's largest pharmacy chain with medical marijuana. The deal will see Aphria supply both dried bud and oils to Shoppers Drug Mart, which is owned by retailer Loblaw Cos. Ltd. Christina Pellegrini reports.

Bitcoin goes mainstream as Wall Street warns of risks

The hottest investment on the planet is about to take a major step toward legitimacy – but Wall Street believes that is a risky move. In just days, bitcoin will complete its journey from the obscure corners of the internet to the heart of modern finance. Two large commodity exchanges, Cboe Global Markets Inc. and CME Group Inc., are set to begin offering futures contracts linked to the cryptocurrency – much as they do for oil or stock indexes – on Dec. 10 and Dec. 18, respectively. Joanna Slater reports.

Bitcoin enthusiasts should remember that bubbles always burst

In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "It's déjà vu all over again." Throughout human history, there have been bubbles in markets. From Tulipmania in the Netherlands in the 1600s to the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today, we may be witnessing another bubble in the making – bitcoin. Sam Sivarajan, a senior vice-president of wealth solutions at Great-West Life, gives his view.

A professor of value investing warns about the future of bitcoin

I have been watching bitcoin's price advance with trepidation. Its value has quintupled in just six months; it has risen more than 10-fold since last December. Bitcoin started 2017 at just below $1000 and hit $10,000 by the end of November 2017. It then proceeded to surpass $11,000 less than 24 hours later. This is reminiscent of two other asset classes that also had a meteoric growth that eventually did not end well. Like bitcoin, both asset classes were hard to value. They are gold, which quadrupled in value between 1979 and 1980, and dot-com companies, that reached astronomic values in 2000. In both cases, we all know what happened. George Athanassakos explains.

The easy way to lower your investment advice fees

Near the top of your investing to-do list for 2018 should be a note to schedule a meeting with your investment adviser to discuss fees. A recent survey of investors suggests your meeting could be productive. The study was commissioned by the Canadian Securities Administrators, an umbrella group of provincial securities commissions, and covered a variety of investing issues. One of them was the impact of the new disclosure statements that investment dealers must annually send clients to document advice fees paid and personalized rates of return. Rob Carrick explains.

A strong tax case for early RRSP drawdowns

While it's tempting to "bask" in the low tax rates that may prevail between the years of full employment and full-stop retirement, in the long run you may be better off paying a little more tax now in order to avoid a lot more tax later. The latter can happen once you're required to annuitize or convert your RRSP to a RRIF. Jonathan Chevreau explains the strategy.

Canada has a strong foundation for financial happiness. So why is the mood so dark?

There's lots to celebrate in Canada from a financial point of view as we head into the final weeks of 2017. Unemployment is down, wages are up, stocks are chugging along and houses have held the value they've built up in the past decade. We have a strong foundation for financial happiness, but people aren't responding. It's not just Canada – people in several other well-off countries don't feel satisfied with where they are financially, either. This discontent may simply be part of a long readjustment following the global financial crisis that began a decade ago. Or, it could be an early warning that the traditional measures of prosperity in the industrialized world don't work as they used to. Regardless, it's a problem when large numbers of people are unhappy with their financial position. Rob Carrick reports.


Wednesday's Insider Report: Companies insiders are buying and selling

Proposed changes around passive income create big concerns

Why blockchain stock listings are set to explode in Canada

The boldest market call for 2018? The consensus

Five ways to make your nest egg last

Robo-advisories lure wealthy investors with ultra-low fees

Number Crunchers

Value hunting across the globe? Here are some top investment ideas

Ten consistently profitable Canadian companies

Seven U.S. investment-services firms poised to benefit from rotation away from tech

Ask Globe Investor

Question: My wife has a mix of Canadian and U.S. stocks held in her taxable account. If we sell some of the U.S. stocks at a loss, could the losses be used to offset gains on her Canadian or U.S. winners?

Answer: Yes. It also works the other way around: Losses on Canadian stocks can be used to offset gains on U.S. stocks. Just be sure to calculate the loss or gain on your U.S. stocks properly. To do this, you must calculate both the cost and the proceeds in Canadian dollars, using the exchange rate that was in effect at the time of the purchase and the sale, respectively. Any brokerage commissions can be added to the purchase cost or subtracted from the sale proceeds.

--John Heinzl

Do you have a question for Globe Investor? Send it our way via this form. Questions and answers will be edited for length.

What's up in the days ahead

The democratization of online investing with affordable stock-trading commissions for all has hit a speed bump. Buying and selling stocks and ETFs can be economical if you have a small account because it costs as little as $4.95 to trade online, and no more than $10 in almost all cases. The problem is the account fees that brokers may apply to small registered and non-registered accounts with less than $5,000 to $25,000 in them. Rob Carrick explores all of this in Saturday's Globe Investor.

Click here to see the Globe Investor earnings and economic news calendar.

More Globe Investor coverage

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Compiled by Gillian Livingston

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