The year in review.....
December offers us the opportunity to look back on the events that formed the year that was and the chance to look ahead at the year to come. As we reflect back on 2011 we remember the promise in which the year began as equity markets continued their rally, and showed much resilience as they rebounded from their March 2009 lows. Since then, natural disasters struck Japan and revolutionary rumblings that started in Tunisia in December of 2010 spread throughout the Arab world. The revolution then moved to Algeria and then to Egypt, where youth-led masses in Tahrir Square brought the movement that would later be dubbed as the Arab Spring to a fever pitch. The Arab Spring continued into summer and autumn spreading into Yemen, Syria and Libya. It was also in the summer when both U.S. and European politicians struggled to come to terms with the mounting debt crisis. In doing so, policy makers couldn't muster the courage to enact the implementation of necessary austerity measures and were unable to create sound policies and actions which would bring calm and reassurance to financial markets. As a result of this indecisiveness, high levels of volatility not seen since the credit crisis of 2008 returned in the summer of 2011 and continued well into the autumn and as one North American occupy protester put it, into the winter of our discon(tents).
While debt continues to plague several southern European countries we are left with the fact that the sovereign debt issue is not going away anytime soon. In fact it will take several years to fully unwind and while a solution will eventually be agreed upon, the interim will see continued volatility as investors hang anxiously on every word uttered by policy makers while financial markets react instantaneously.
Yet, there are reasons for optimism as the old axiom proclaims "investors stop panicking when policymakers start panicking". Although the uncertainty in Europe has been the driving force in equity markets, closer to home things appear to be getting better. In the U.S., there are signs that the economy is coming back to life. Consumer confidence is improving, the economy appears to be creating jobs, and the housing market, while still very sluggish is showing some signs of life. Economic growth is positive and the likelihood of a recession in Canada or the U.S. appears to be remote in the near term. Corporate profits remain strong and company balance sheets are as fundamentally sound as they have been in recent memory. The expectation is that interest rates will remain low for the near to medium term.
Looking ahead, we must do what we can to maintain and grow our investment portfolios. One such way to do this is to ensure that we save in as tax efficient manner as possible. In recent years the Canadian government has created new account types aimed at helping us do just that, recognizing that strong households and bright futures are built on a sound foundation of savings and investment for the future.
We wish to thank you for your continued support and we look forward to working with you in the months ahead.
Many best wishes to you this holiday season.
Peter Richard Claudio