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Pipelines and the decline of the west, the top financial stock, and tricks to keep track of your portfolio

Follow this step-by-step guide to get your portfolio back on track.

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I like historical fiction, history books and historical surveys covering long periods of time best of all. Jacque Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life is among my favourites.

The late Mr. Barzun wrote the book as a summation of all he learned in over 80 years as an academic. In the prologue he writes,

"To secular minds, the old ideals look outworn or hopeless and practical aims are made into creeds sustained by violent acts: fighting nuclear power, global warming, and abortion … proclaiming disaffection from science and technology…  Such causes serve to concentrate the desire for action in a stalled society … most of what government sets out to do for the public good is resisted as soon as proposed. Not two, but three or four groups, organized or impromptu, are ready with contrary reasons as sensible as those behind the project. The upshot is a floating hostility to things as they are."

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The Macleans article released Tuesday, It's time for environmentalists to move on from the Trans Mountain pipeline , immediately connects to Mr. Barzun's dour perspective. Author Geoff Salomons writes,

"The problem [in the debate on the pipeline] is that both sides feel that they are right. What's worse, in this particular instance, is that they are. The immediate, short-term loss in revenue is a significant hit to Alberta and the oilsands companies that will ultimately do little to affect global oil demand in the long term. And the long-term consequences of climate change and the need for aggressive, immediate action is needed."

This form of competing intransigence on important political issues is visible well beyond environmental issues – residential NIMBY-ism is another good example.

The pattern, for Mr. Barzun, was a primary symptom of the exhaustion of Western ideals, but we don't need to take things that far. There are more optimistic, well-grounded scenarios like that of London School of Economics professor Carlota Perez . Ms. Perez believes we are in an economic period roughly mirroring the 1930s which will lead to what she terms A New Golden Age where technology works to the benefit of both people and the environment (hopefully without a world war, importantly).

I have no particular axe to grind here, except to note there's a real danger of stagnation using a no-compromise form of debate on economic issues that's not really a debate at all but more like the pointless shield wall battles of early Christian England.

I'm reasonably optimistic that beneficial solutions will be found, albeit after a lot of vitriol. But recent signs indicate it might be a near thing.

-- Scott Barlow, Globe and Mail market strategist

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

Stocks to ponder

TMX Group Ltd. (X-T).  This stock is the top performing financial stock in the S&P/TSX composite index year-to-date. The share price has been steadily rising and is just $1 away from setting a new record closing high. If the positive price momentum continues, the stock may appear on the positive breakouts list in the near-future. The TMX Group operates the Toronto Stock Exchange and the TSX Venture Exchange and other exchanges. Jennifer Dowty reports.

The Rundown

The idea that could save Canadians' retirements

There is a big idea that could improve Canadians' retirements. All that's needed is a politician willing to tackle the issue. The right leader could open the doors to a category of financial products known broadly as longevity insurance. These products could be offered either by government or by the private sector. In either case, they would remove much of the guesswork from planning your golden years. Ian McGugan explains.

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Canadians are taking on less debt -- and that's bad news for the loonie

The Bank of Canada sounded a cautionary note in its latest update on monetary policy and, if this translates into fewer interest-rate hikes, the effects will be visible in a weaker loonie. Scott Barlow explains.

Quality isn't what it seems when it comes to bonds

In the traditional corporate bond world, year to date returns have been ugly. For example, the largest corporate bond ETF, the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD), has delivered a negative 3.5-per-cent return so far this year. Investors are likely asking themselves, "I was only expecting a 3-per-cent return, why should I be down 3 per cent to 4 per cent already?" Indeed, this is a good question. Sure, it's been a difficult ride in fixed income since rates started to rise in 2016, but it is important to pay attention to the encouraging fact that not all parts of fixed income have responded to rising rates in the same way. Randy Steuart explains.

Tips and tricks for staying on top of your portfolio of stocks

Successful investing doesn't have to be complicated or require a lot of effort. Buy a handful of low-cost exchange-traded funds or mutual funds, make regular contributions and watch your money grow. Simple. But if you want to keep your expenses as low as possible and have complete control over what you invest in, there's no substitute for owning a portfolio of individual stocks. But there is one main drawback: It requires work. John Heinzl compiled a list of the top tips and tricks to help you stay on top of the companies you've invested in.

Proceed with caution: Why the U.S. bull market is unlikely to reach its 10th anniversary

The bull market hit its ninth anniversary on Friday, making it the second-longest in U.S. history. Don't bet on it reaching the age of 10. The caution lights are flashing. It has been a remarkable run. On March 9, 2008 the S&P 500 hit a low of 676.53, marking a drop of about 50 per cent from its pre-financial crisis high. Since then it has pretty much all upside, with a few blips along the way. During that time, the index has more than quadrupled in value, making a lot of people very wealthy in the process. Potential trade wars could be the event that topples the bull market, suggested Gordon Pape.

Three stock recommendations ahead of marijuana legalization

Legalization of recreational cannabis is potentially just three months away. As such, this is a market with robust long-term growth potential. Matt Bottomley, the Alternative Pharmaceuticals research analyst at Canaccord Genuity, recently spoke with The Globe and shared his thoughts on the cannabis market and provided three stock recommendations in this sector. Jennifer Dowty reports.

Don't be so quick to bite into FAANG stocks

Drew Barrymore reprises her role as real estate agent turned bloodthirsty zombie in the second season of Netflix Inc.'s Santa Clarita Diet. New episodes of the dark comedy promise toothsome fare for fans of the show this month. While waiting, investors can think about sinking their teeth into Netflix and the other FAANG stocks. The acronym is admittedly a little past its best-before date and encompasses Facebook (FB), Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), Netflix (NFLX) and Google, now Alphabet (GOOGL). They're all high-tech monsters of the market with transformative businesses run by bright and able people. Unfortunately, most are trading at valuations that are similarly gargantuan. But one clawed its way into the portfolio of a famous value investor. Norman Rothery takes a look at the FAANG stocks.

Your index is changing and you may not even know it

The largest index providers have recently announced changes that could have big implications for investor portfolios, and even on the markets, at least in the short-term. Now that technology is really a part of every company and the lines between "tech" companies and "other" becomes increasingly blurred, the S&P and MSCI indexes are altering the classifications of companies within the industries. Ryan Modesto explains.

This investor will soon retire – should he chuck his blue chip stocks and buy an ETF?

You'll have more time to work on your investment portfolio when you retire, but will you want to spend your leisure time that way? A reader who is three or four years from retirement has asked whether he should stay with an individual blue chip dividend stock portfolio, or replace it with an exchange-traded fund holding blue chip stocks. As an observer of people more than someone who write about investing for a living, Rob Carrick tilts toward keeping the stocks.

Top Links

Report: Canada, Hong Kong and China most at risk of new financial crisis

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Globe Investor Watchlist gets upgrade

The Globe's stars and dogs for last week

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

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

Number Crunchers

Twelve growing Canadian dividend stocks

Ask Globe Investor

Question: Do I have to buy at least 100 shares of a stock? Will a smaller order cause price volatility?

Answer: In the old days, investors usually had to buy shares in multiples of 100 – called board lots. But thanks to modern trading systems, you can purchase as many, or as few, shares as you desire. Indeed, for stocks such as, Priceline and Alphabet that trade for more than US$1,000, most people have no choice but to purchase fewer than 100 shares.

As long as you are buying liquid stocks that trade frequently – as most large companies do – you should be able to enter a "market order" for less than a board lot without moving the price.

With thinly-traded stocks that have a large spread between the "bid" price (what buyers are willing to pay) and the "ask" price (what sellers are willing to accept), however, you may want to use a "limit order" specifying your price. Otherwise, you could end up paying more than you expected.

Just remember that with a limit order there is also a risk that the stock won't hit your desired price and the order won't get filled.

--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

Tim Shufelt will take a look at the 10 best performing TSX stocks over the nine-year bull market. The big winners may surprise you.

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

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Compiled by Gillian Livingston

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