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The past year has offered a stern test for investments considered to be strong inflation-fighters.

Last summer, I asked seven exchange-traded fund companies to highlight what they considered to be their best ETF for investors seeking inflation protection. An early April check-in finds some big winners, some modest results and some misses.

The last normal year of inflation was March 2021, when the cost of living increased 2.2 per cent. Since then, the inflation rate steadily increased to 6.7 per cent in March. We haven’t seen inflation like this since the mid-1990s, which means an ideal laboratory for measuring the effectiveness of various assets in protecting against inflation.

Here are the seven ETFs that were highlighted, with three- and 12-month total returns to March 31.

-BMO Equal Weight Oil & Gas Index ETF (ZEO-T): The clear winner here, and it’s not even close. Up 71.6 per cent in the past 12 months and 30.4 per cent in the past three months. A lot of this gain has to do with a spike higher in oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

-iShares S&P/TSX Global Base Metals Index ETF (XBM-T): Commodity exposure produced another strong showing, with a 12-month gain of 50.6 per cent and a three-month increase of 28 per cent.

-CI Gold Bullion Fund C$ Hedged Series (VALT-T): Gold’s a traditional inflation hedge and it delivered reasonably well. Up 14.3 per cent in the past year and 6.7 per cent in the past three months.

-Invesco Nasdaq 100 Index ETF – CAD hedged (QQC-F-T): The thinking here was that stocks are a good place to be in inflationary times, and the Nasdaq 100 is home to some of the most innovative and disruptive companies. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 was up almost 14 per cent for the past 12 months, but a reversal has taken it down close to 9 per cent in the past three months.

-Mackenzie US TIPS Index ETF CAD-Hedged (QTIP-NE): U.S. government-issued Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS) seem a natural inflation-fighter, but the results thus far have been inconsistent. The 12-month gain is 4.9 per cent, while the three-month result is a loss of 2.5 per cent.

-Horizons Active Preferred Share ETF (HPR-T): The 12-month gain to March 31 was 8.9 per cent, but the three-month result is a loss of 2.7 per cent.  Most preferred shares these days have dividends that get reset every five years so that the yield reflects increases or decreases in bond yields. Investors don’t seem satisfied with that level of protection against rising rates.

-Vanguard Balanced ETF Portfolio (VBAL-T): The 40 per cent weighting in the broad bond market resulted in a 12-month gain of 3.4 per cent and a three-month loss of 4.8 per cent. This turnaround reflects a sharp decline in the bond market lately in response to inflation and the outlook for rising rates.

One more thought for protection from inflation, or at least the kind of inflation we’re seeing right now, is to invest directly in the S&P/TSX Composite Index or other broad Canadian equity ETF. The S&P/TSX Composite, with ample exposure to oil, metals and gold, delivered a total return of 20 per cent in the year to March 31 and almost 4 per cent in the previous three months.

-- Rob Carrick, personal finance columnist

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Stocks to ponder

Netflix Inc. (NFLX-Q) Shares in the streaming giant lost more than a quarter of their value in Wednesday trading after the company reported its first drop in subscribers in a decade, leaving Wall Street questioning its growth in the face of fierce competition and post-pandemic viewer fatigue. At least a dozen analysts rushed to temper their views on a stock that has been a red-hot market performer in the past few years.

Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS-T) Year-to-date, the share price has declined 4 per cent, making it the worst performing “Big 6″ bank stock. On Monday, the stock entered oversold territory with its share price dipping to its lowest level in 2022 before bouncing off its 200-day moving average - a strong technical support level for the stock. Does this then make the bank an attractive buy right now? Jennifer Dowty looks at the investment case.

The Rundown

ESG funds have gotten an easy ride, despite their ineffectiveness

Changing the world for the better is an admirable idea. But doing it through your investment portfolio? Not so much, writes Ian McGugan. Despite what the marketing hype says, the growing number of investment funds that proclaim a higher moral purpose are doing little that will actually promote virtue.

Valuations of public tech companies have plunged. Experts predict a wave of privatizations is coming

The pandemic-era boom in technology initial public offerings is set to give way to a reverse trend: a re-privatization of many companies that went public but have since seen their share prices crash, as private equity giants eager to put their money to work lead a wave of buyouts. Sean Silcoff reports.

Amid the last gasps of globalization, an unsettling outlook for markets

With events in Ukraine auguring a new Cold War, deglobalization and resultant rising inflation and increasing real interest rates create a bleak outlook for the stock, bond and real estate markets, argues value investing professor Dr. George Athanassakos. The outlook appears particularly unfavourable for growth stocks, which will be hurt the most by deglobalization and inflation.

For China investors, COVID lockdowns are the clear and present danger

Prolonged lockdowns in Shanghai, as China doubles down on its zero-COVID policy, have become the predominant risk to its economy and markets, forcing money managers to cut holdings or turn defensive on stocks.

Others (for subscribers)

Wednesday’s analyst upgrades and downgrades

Tuesday’s analyst upgrades and downgrades

Wednesday’s Insider Report: Director invests in this soaring stock with cash flow forecast to nearly double

Tuesday’s Insider Report: Large shareholder makes a $25-million investment in this dividend stock

Globe Advisor

Is now the time to invest in emerging markets or to proceed with caution?

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Ask Globe Investor

Question: In a recent column, Gordon Pape recommended the Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Technology ETF (RYT-A), a U.S. ETF. Is there an equivalent ETF on the TSX? – Ian B.

Answer: There are none with exactly the same parameters as RYT but there are some Canadian high-tech options to consider – some good, some questionable.

There’s the iShares S&P/TSX Capped Information Technology Index ETF (XIT-T) but it only invests in Canadian tech stocks and is hugely overweighted to Shopify Inc. (almost 29 per cent of the portfolio) and Constellation Software Inc..

The BMO Covered Call Technology ETF (ZWT-T) does hold U.S. stocks but it’s barely a year old so we don’t have any history with which to work. As well, the covered call aspect enhances distributions but limits capital gains. BMO also has a series of innovation ETFs, but these are very specialized.

The CI Tech Giants Covered Call ETF (TXF-T) operates in much the same way as ZWT but has a longer history. Most of the portfolio (92%) is in U.S. stocks. The fund was launched in October 2011 and has an average annual gain of 15.4% since inception.

The Harvest Tech Achievers Growth and Income ETF (HTA-T) invests in 20 large cap tech stocks including Apple, Alphabet, and Microsoft. It also employs a covered call strategy. The fund was launched in 2015 and has generated an average annual return of 16.4% since inception.

I do not recommend the iShares entry because of its heavy overweighting in just two stocks. The three covered call tech funds are worth a look but remember the covered call strategy will limit capital gains.

--Gordon Pape (Send questions to gpape@rogers.com and write Globe Question in the subject line.)

What’s up in the days ahead

The big names in Canadian pipelines report their first-quarter results in the next couple of weeks. These were solid performers when oil was down, because they didn’t have direct exposure to commodity prices. But are they any better investments as oil prices rise? David Berman will share his thoughts.

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

A callout to readers

Are you interested in being interviewed about your first stock purchase? Globe Investor is looking for Canadians to discuss their experience as part of this new, ongoing feature. If you’d like to be interviewed, please write to: jcowan@globeandmail.com with “My First Stock” in the subject line and include a short description of your first stock purchase.

Compiled by Globe Investor Staff