Heading into 2020, both advisors and investors are optimistic on equity investing across the globe
TORONTO – January 29, 2020 – Investors and advisors are beginning the new decade with confidence, signaling a strong sentiment rebound after a year of preference for defensive investments, according to the first-quarter 2020 Advisor and Investor Sentiment Surveys (“Q1 Surveys”) from Horizons ETFs Management (Canada) Inc. (“Horizons ETFs”).
Every quarter, Horizons ETFs surveys investors and investment advisors for their outlook on expected returns for 14 distinct asset classes. These expectations are expressed in terms of bullish, bearish or neutral sentiment. The Q1 Surveys cover the period beginning December 31, 2019, and ending March 31, 2020.
Canadian Equities and the Dollar
Among advisors and investors, there’s a reason to buy Canadian: nearly all of the measured Canadian indices posted performance growth, as well as increases in bullish sentiment from those surveyed.
After a 1.70% gain by the S&P/TSX 60™ in Q4 2019, advisors’ bullish sentiment on the index increased by 10 percentage points to 58%. For investors, bullish sentiment increased seven percentage points to 53%.
Canadian energy, as represented by the S&P/TSX Capped Energy™ Index, saw a positive sentiment increase among both investors and advisors. Advisors boosted their bullish sentiment on the index by 16 percentage points to 59% bullishness overall – their strongest position on a Canadian equity index. Investor bullishness also grew eight percentage points to 49%.
Canadian banks, as represented by the S&P/TSX Capped Financials™ Index, also drew bullish sentiment from investors, with a six percentage point increase in bullishness to 40%, while advisors bullishness decreased two percentage points to 43%.
Last quarter, advisors were 42% neutral on the Canadian dollar vs. the U.S. dollar, with a measured 26% bullishness and 32% bearishness. For Q1 2020, advisor sentiment has shifted, with bullishness increasing 11 percentage points to 37% overall, which exceeded the neutral and bearish sentiment categories. That sentiment was not shared by investors; 42% are still neutral on the loonie.
“With continued momentum in Canada’s energy industry, solid bank earnings and a stronger global trade outlook, both advisors and investors are optimistic about most Canadian equity categories,” said Steve Hawkins, President and CEO of Horizons ETFs. “Following negative performance in 2018, the S&P/TSX 60™ returned 21.93% in 2019 on a total return basis, which has clearly been encouraging for investors and impacted their 2020 Canadian outlook.”
U.S. and International Equities
The past year was a strong one for U.S. equities, with the S&P 500® Index topping 3,000 for the first time, and the NASDAQ-100® registering a one year total return of 39.46% for the 2019 calendar year. Investors and advisors responded in-kind to the U.S. indices’ record-breaking advances; advisor bullishness for the S&P 500® Index swelled nine percentage points to 57% bullishness overall following an 8.53% gain in the index in Q4 2019. Advisor bullishness for the NASDAQ-100® grew 10 percentage points to a commanding 61% bullishness after a Q4 2019 gain of 12.69%.
In tandem, investor bullish sentiment also grew nine percentage points to 55% overall on the S&P 500®, while their bullishness in the NASDAQ-100® increased 11 percentage points to 55%.
Emerging market sentiment has come roaring back, following an 11.35% performance growth by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index in Q4 2019. Advisors increased their bullishness 26 percentage points to 63% bullishness overall – their largest bullish rating and increase among all indices and asset classes surveyed this quarter. Investors followed suit, increasing their bullishness 18 percentage points to 48% bullishness overall.
“With increasing sentiment that a U.S.-China Phase One trade agreement could be a reality, we believe there is still more room for growth across the world,” said Mr. Hawkins. “The U.S. equity markets – notably, technology stocks – have continued to spearhead global market growth and have, in turn, fueled emerging market optimism.”
Advisors are seeing new opportunity for crude oil futures, increasing their bullishness by 13 percentage points to 54%, quarter-over-quarter. Investors are cautiously bullish, increasing their bullishness for the commodity by only one percentage point to 45%, after a 12.93% performance gain by crude oil last quarter.
While winter in Canada is still here – generally a seasonally strong period for natural gas futures – advisors have reduced their bullishness on the commodity by four percentage points to 35%, with investors reducing their bullishness by one percentage point to 44% bullishness, after a 6.05% return last quarter.
“From reduced North American production to heightened tensions in the Middle East, there are multiple factors that have contributed to rising oil prices globally,” said Mr. Hawkins. “Even with continued efforts towards a low-carbon future, oil will continue to be a volatile and in-demand commodity, meaning it will continue to be an attractive tactical investment opportunity for some investors.”
Defensive Asset Classes: Gold and Fixed Income
Another of the top investing stories of 2019 was Canadians’ preference for investing in fixed income and gold bullion, which are traditionally considered defensive asset classes.
Gold producers, as represented by the S&P/TSX Global Gold™ Index, enjoyed a strong final quarter in 2019, achieving an index return of 10.92%. Despite the strength, both surveyed groups lowered their bullishness on the asset class. Advisors reduced their bullish sentiment 12 percentage points to 45% and investors by 6 percentage points to 54%. Similarly, gold and silver bullion also saw retreats, despite their positive performance. However, the majority of investors and advisors still remain bullish on the precious metals overall.
Advisor and investor sentiment on U.S. Treasury bonds, as represented by the Solactive US 7-10 Year Treasury Bond Index, have fallen to new lows, according to the Q1 Surveys. Advisors marked their lowest sentiment score of the survey, at 17% bullishness, a 12 percentage point decrease from the Q4 2019 survey.
“Despite record-breaking equity performance in 2019, ETF investors preferred investing in fixed income and gold – a clear sign of the economic anxiety and recession fears that lingered through the year,” said Mr. Hawkins. “However, after a strong finish to the decade, it appears advisors and investors are moving away from their defensive posture and are signaling their confidence once again.”
For the nascent marijuana sector, as represented by the North American Marijuana Index, 2019 was a year marked by falling valuations and spurned investor expectations, with a negative performance of -17.49% in Q4 2019. Investors are hopeful for the sector’s recovery in 2020; they remain positive on cannabis companies, raising their bullishness three percentage points to 46% bullishness overall. However, advisors have grown more pessimistic: their bullishness on the sector fell six percentage points to 31% bullishness overall, with 55% of advisors bearish on the future of pot stocks.
About Horizons ETFs Management (Canada) Inc. (www.HorizonsETFs.com)
Horizons ETFs Management (Canada) Inc. is an innovative financial services company and offers one of the largest suites of exchange traded funds in Canada. The Horizons ETFs product family includes a broadly diversified range of solutions for investors of all experience levels to meet their investment objectives in a variety of market conditions. Horizons ETFs has approximately $10.5 billion of assets under management and 91 ETFs listed on major Canadian stock exchanges.
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