Canada’s capital outflow has been the fastest in the developed world over the last year. According to Kamal Sharma, a foreign-exchange strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (NYSE:BAC), in the 12 months to June 2015, The country’s basic balance, which covers everything from trade to financial market flows, plummeted from a 4.2% surplus of GDP to a 7.9% deficit. During this time period, Canada’s rapid decline for this measure of national accounts was the most dramatic among 10 major developed nations.
The rout in commodity prices, especially oil, since the second half of last year has underpinned the investment exodus, with the stock price of Canada’s oil producers and commodity miners suffering as a result. The price collapse has forced oil and mining companies to cut back on investment and hiring, as well as to reject potential future projects. What is also of major concern is that no other industry looks set to replace commodities as Canada’s main economic driver, despite recent government statements suggesting that a shift to growth generated by the non-resource side is taking place.
Energy companies make up nearly one-fifth of the weight of the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index, while the materials segment, which includes mining companies and fertilizer producers, accounts for roughly 9%. Given the S&P/TSX’s heavy weighting towards commodities, and given that commodity prices have significantly underperformed throughout the year, the benchmark index has consequently fallen by over 8% during the year (to November 20). This means that Canada’s stock markets have been among the worst performing in the world. The strong US dollar, expectations of a US interest rate hike and slowing demand from China have only compounded matters for Canada’s commodity companies.
For instance, the stock price of Barrick Gold (TSE:ABX), the world’s biggest gold mining company, has fallen by 23% in 2015. This is principally due to holding several high-cost mining projects which were purchased when the gold price was near its peak, as well as having to incur losses on its Zambian mine projects. Meanwhile, oil producer Canadian Oil Sands (TSE:COS) has seen its shares drop by 16%. The company has been the target of a takeover bid from Canada’s top energy company, Suncor Energy (SU).
The S&P/TSX also apportions substantial weighting to the financial services sector. Despite being ranked by the World Economic Forum for the eighth consecutive year as the world’s soundest, Canadian banks have also posted considerable declines. Royal Bank of Canada (TSE:RY) and Bank of Nova Scotia (TSE:BNS), for example, both posted slides of more than 7% this year on concerns of a slowdown in consumer lending. BNS in particular has high exposure to the oil and gas sector, which has certainly contributed to the lender being the worst performer in 2015 out of Canada’s “big five” banks.
Moreover, investors will no doubt be underwhelmed by the recent lowering of Canada’s growth forecast. On November 20 Finance Minister Bill Morneau specifically cited weak commodity prices as one of the key factors in the downward revision. Nonetheless, the negative sentiment could present an opportunity for investors looking for potential bargain investments.
Amidst the gloom, one of the few persistent bright spots in Canada for investors has been the real estate market. House prices have skyrocketed during the last decade, with the average price of a detached home now hitting $2.2 million in Vancouver and $1.05 million in Toronto. Many observers, including the IMF and OECD, have voiced concerns about the potential overvaluation in Canada’s housing market, citing the high level of consumer debt that makes real estate vulnerable in an economic downturn. Despite the warnings, however, Canada’s real estate market continues to experience steady year-on-year gains.