Earnings Optimism 

April 30, 2024

There are three things you should rarely ever bet against: the Leaf’s opposing team in the playoffs, the American consumer’s ability to spend, and corporate profits. As we are now about halfway through U.S. earnings season, once again, positive surprises remain the norm; 81% have beaten. It’s a bit better than the 20-year average of 75%. The fact is that companies are good at managing analysts’ expectations. At least enough to beat them when the numbers hit the tape. The size of the positive surprises have been encouraging as well, at just under 10%. The highest surprise magnitude in some time. 

One of our reservations on the sustainability of this market rally over the past couple of quarters has been the flat earnings revisions. In other words, global markets are up over 20% but earnings estimates have remained flat or tilted down slightly. More often than not, markets trend in the same direction as earnings revisions. Earnings get revised up when companies raise guidance and/or analysts become more encouraged about growth prospects. That is a good thing for markets. Obviously, downward revisions are bad. Yet estimates have remained very flat as markets marched higher, a challenging combination. 

Of course, the reason earnings matter so much is they are everything in the longer term. Sure, the market can move up a lot or down a lot as the optimism or pessimism about the future waxes and wanes. But all this tends to average out, leaving earnings growth as the real driver of market performance. We have used the chart below a few times over the years, but it really does highlight where market returns come from. In any single year, the red bar dominates as fear/greed causes the market multiple to rise or fall. Yet once you look at 10 or 20-year periods, the red bar disappears as it is all about earnings growth (yellow bar), plus some dividends. 

Given the importance of earnings, a good earnings season is a welcome boost to markets. The question is whether this good season will translate into rising revisions for forward estimates. So far, it has not. Global earnings from the earlier chart show 2024 still trending ever so slightly lower and 2025 more stable to ever so slightly higher. Looking at just the U.S. market, it is rather similar. 2024 earnings are forecast at $243, the same number as of January 1st. 2025 looks a bit better, with consensus estimates of $270 rising to $275 so far this year. 

Digging down to the sector level, it seems just a couple of sectors, including Energy, Info Tech, and Communication Services, are lifting the overall market earnings. Energy makes sense as commodity prices have been trending higher, tech too, given the excitement spending around AI. Communication Services is an odd one on the surface but is mainly Alphabet. Traditional telcos are seeing estimates fall. 

So where do earnings go next? There are some decent headwinds for U.S. earnings. One is a higher U.S. dollar, running a bit higher than last year. Given the amount of earnings that come from overseas, once translated back to USD, a strong dollar is a negative. The bigger drag may be interest expense. Last quarter, S&P 500 companies paid $68 billion in interest expenses, which is up from $59 billion a year ago. Variable interest obligations have already adjusted to the higher rate world, but the fixed-term obligations will only reset once they mature. In other words, even if yields/rates start to come down later this year, interest expenses will likely keep rising for many quarters to come. 

Wages and other corporate input costs are also a negative for future earnings. On a positive note, wage pressures have been trending lower. The Atlanta Fed Wage Growth Tracker peaked at 6% in 2022 but has been steadily falling for over a year down to 4.7%. That is not bad, considering that historical norms were in the 3-4% range. 

Despite these headwinds, there are some very positive factors as well. U.S. earnings tend to be highly correlated to manufacturing activity. S&P 500 year-over-year earnings growth tracks PMI (Purchasing Managers survey) with a six -month lead. Which means the uptick in PMI data we are seeing today bodes well for earnings growth in the coming months.

The economic data, globally, has been improving. This should result in further earnings growth and upward earnings revisions. The Citigroup economic surprise index for the world has been positive for most of 2024 so far. This means that economic data is coming in better than consensus estimates. And if you ask copper, with its honorary PhD in economics, maybe things are even heating up more so. Given how many areas of economic activity consume copper, its price moves are often a precursor for the move in the economy. Copper prices have recently risen through $4/lb, a level not seen since 2021/early 2022 as the economy emerged from the pandemic. 

The final good news may be inflation. Inflation sucks; it is a tax on your future spending power or the value of your wealth. But for earnings, inflation is good. It means companies are able to raise prices, and when Producer Prices (PPI) are rising slower than Consumer Prices (CPI), that is an earnings-healthy combination. 

Earnings probably have more going for them than against them these days, which is a good news story. Hard to say if it will be enough to maintain the gains of the past few quarters, but it certainly would be helpful. The U.S. earnings season is halfway through the Q1 season and it has been good. Hopefully this trend persists. And, hopefully, the Leaf’s playoff trend doesn’t. 

— Craig Basinger is the Chief Market Strategist at Purpose Investments 

Source: Charts are sourced to Bloomberg L.P. and Purpose Investments Inc. 

The contents of this publication were researched, written and produced by Purpose Investments Inc. and are used by Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. for information purposes only. 

This report is authored by Craig Basinger, Chief Market Strategist, Purpose Investments Inc. 

Disclaimers 

Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. 

The opinions expressed in this report are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. or its affiliates. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. We do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The comments contained herein are general in nature and are not intended to be, nor should be construed to be, legal or tax advice to any particular individual. Accordingly, individuals should consult their own legal or tax advisors for advice with respect to the tax consequences to them. 

Purpose Investments Inc. 

Purpose Investments Inc. is a registered securities entity. Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investment funds. Please read the prospectus before investing. If the securities are purchased or sold on a stock exchange, you may pay more or receive less than the current net asset value. Investment funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. 

Forward Looking Statements 

Forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections based on beliefs and assumptions made by author. These statements involve risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance or results and no assurance can be given that these estimates and expectations will prove to have been correct, and actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed, implied or projected in such forward-looking statements. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. Neither Purpose Investments nor Echelon Partners warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. These estimates and expectations involve risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance or results and no assurance can be given that these estimates and expectations will prove to have been correct, and actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed, implied or projected in such forward-looking statements. Unless required by applicable law, it is not undertaken, and specifically disclaimed, that there is any intention or obligation to update or revise the forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. 

Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. 

The particulars contained herein were obtained from sources which we believe are reliable, but are not guaranteed by us and may be incomplete. This is not an official publication or research report of either Echelon Partners or Purpose Investments, and this is not to be used as a solicitation in any jurisdiction. 

This document is not for public distribution, is for informational purposes only, and is not being delivered to you in the context of an offering of any securities, nor is it a recommendation or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any security.

Energy Stars Align 

April 23, 2024

The oil market has been interesting lately and, to the surprise of many, has been the biggest silent outperformer this year. There is no shortage of geopolitical events to choose from that’s leading to a higher risk premium in oil with Brent breaking $90, whether it’s the Houthis missile attacks in the Red Sea leading to a massive re-route of trade, Ukraine’s drone strikes on Russian refineries, and the latest escalation between Israel and Iran leading to some news outlets using WWIII as click bait-y headlines. Given the run-up in oil prices, Canadian oil equities have clearly benefitted from the much higher torque. But there is a layer of even better news: The Transmountain Expansion (TMX) continues to look to be in operation by May, which would lead to much better pricing on the Western Canadian Select (WCS). With the current setup for the oil markets, some key questions that we often get from investors are: How sustainable is the rally in Canadian energy names? 

To determine if the oil equities are overstretched, we can look at the debt-adjusted cash flow (DACF) multiples of the major integrated oil names and see how the valuation has shifted in light of the recent oil move. From Exhibit 1, the DACF multiples for the Canadian integrated have been fairly range-bound over the last year, also in line with WTI, which has been in the $70 – $85 range. As a starting point, we can infer that the valuations of the companies have been commensurate with the movements in the underlying oil price deck and in line with where the equities should trade in the cycle historically over the last couple of years. Typically, in the commodities cycle, higher prices are usually coupled with lower multiples as market participants will usually price in lower normalized prices and vice versa, so a cause of concern would be if valuation starts trending towards the 6.5x – 7.0x+ area if oil prices continue to stay in the upper bounds of the $70 – $90 range or higher. 

To gauge the broader valuation in the Canadian energy space further, we looked at the valuation of larger-cap integrated oils versus the intermediates and juniors. Interestingly, the valuation gap between the intermediate producers versus the large caps has widened since the 2021 lows. The valuation gap for junior producers is even more pronounced, with multiples virtually unchanged over the last few years, and the valuation spread to larger caps is the widest it has been in 25 years, excluding the COVID-19 years, as shown in Exhibit 2. We speculate the main reason for this valuation gap is due to many institutional investors divesting their oil & gas investments during COVID-19 in chasing clean energy/ESG names, so oil & gas specialists either were repurposed to other sectors or left the industry altogether. 

Fast forward to 2022, when the energy crisis was already happening even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and now we’re seeing a rush from investors to get back into the space as it becomes harder to justify to your constituents why you’re underweight energy. Given the need to get back into the space quickly, we can see the path of least resistance from many funds to simply buy into more liquid, larger cap names to capture the beta. As the saying goes, no one gets fired for buying Microsoft. The same is probably now true for Canadian Natural Resources or Tourmaline in the energy space. The key takeaway is while we think larger cap oil equities will likely be steady as she goes, given the numerous tailwinds in macro, we think investors will get paid with asymmetric risk-reward if they do the work on some of the intermediate and junior names in the space. 

Some have questioned whether the valuation gap between Canadian E&Ps and US E&Ps will tighten over time as we’ve seen a structural discount since pre-COVID. We certainly think there is a case to be made here given the impending commercial operation of the Transmountain Expansion pipeline, which will significantly increase the egress of Canadian oil, a pain point for many years that’s self-inflicted by Canadian politics. Improving egress means better pricing of WCS on the world stage, and lower volatility as a function of WTI price means investors will underwrite higher valuation multiples. Canada’s oil reserves, on a proven and probable basis, span decades. Sustaining capital expenditure to maintain an oil sands project is significantly lower than U.S. shale, where you’re on a constant treadmill to find new acreage and drill high-decline wells. Despite all this, we don’t think Canadian E&Ps should trade at parity to U.S. E&Ps. While TMX is certainly a positive, we take stock in the fact that the pipeline will likely be full by 2027 and we end up having to ship the marginal barrels via rail once again. We will certainly see a few optimization/compression-type projects along the way that improve capacity incrementally, but only time will tell whether we will get another huge step function in Canadian egress in the coming years. TMX project was first submitted to the regulators in 2013, so it’s been a long time coming, with the latest cost overrun estimate at $30B+, or ~$800 per capita. 

The bottom line for those looking at the Canadian energy space is to invest for the right reasons, and those are 1) step function increase in production, 2) lower volatility from better-realized pricing of WCS, 3) attractive (but not firesale) valuations for steady returns, and 4) outsized opportunities in the intermediates and juniors. Betting on the direction of oil, in our view, is not amongst the top reasons to invest in Canadian energy names, and we would rather focus on a sustainable approach where we pick producers that can generate outsized returns on a full-cycle basis at reasonable valuations. 

— Jeremy Lin, CFA is a Portfolio Manager at Purpose Investments 

Source: Charts are sourced to Bloomberg L.P. and Purpose Investments Inc. 

The contents of this publication were researched, written and produced by Purpose Investments Inc. and are used by Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. for information purposes only. 

This report is authored by Craig Basinger, Chief Market Strategist, Purpose Investments Inc. 

Disclaimers 

Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. 

The opinions expressed in this report are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. or its affiliates. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. We do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The comments contained herein are general in nature and are not intended to be, nor should be construed to be, legal or tax advice to any particular individual. Accordingly, individuals should consult their own legal or tax advisors for advice with respect to the tax consequences to them. 

Purpose Investments Inc. 

Purpose Investments Inc. is a registered securities entity. Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investment funds. Please read the prospectus before investing. If the securities are purchased or sold on a stock exchange, you may pay more or receive less than the current net asset value. Investment funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. 

Forward Looking Statements 

Forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections based on beliefs and assumptions made by author. These statements involve risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance or results and no assurance can be given that these estimates and expectations will prove to have been correct, and actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed, implied or projected in such forward-looking statements. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. Neither Purpose Investments nor Echelon Partners warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. These estimates and expectations involve risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance or results and no assurance can be given that these estimates and expectations will prove to have been correct, and actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed, implied or projected in such forward-looking statements. Unless required by applicable law, it is not undertaken, and specifically disclaimed, that there is any intention or obligation to update or revise the forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. 

Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. 

The particulars contained herein were obtained from sources which we believe are reliable, but are not guaranteed by us and may be incomplete. This is not an official publication or research report of either Echelon Partners or Purpose Investments, and this is not to be used as a solicitation in any jurisdiction. 

This document is not for public distribution, is for informational purposes only, and is not being delivered to you in the context of an offering of any securities, nor is it a recommendation or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any security.

Value in the Canadian Dollar 

April 16, 2024

The CAD vs USD exchange rate has certainly been on the move over the past few months, to the detriment of the loonie. After rising into year-end to finish 2023 at about 75 ½ cents, the CAD has fallen down close to 72 ½ cents. The CAD is trading near the lower end of its recent range. Ah, remember the days when the loonie was on par with the U.S. dollar? Disney trips felt cheap, cross-border shopping was all the rage, and oil carried an average price of $96/bbl. Huh, with oil moving from the $70s to the high $80s, that sure doesn’t match a 72 ½ cent loonie. Are we no longer a petrol currency? Maybe a decade of underinvestment and uncertainty around takeaway infrastructure can change a currency’s stripes. Or there are other factors that are bigger than the oil impact on our currency exchange with the almighty dollar. 

The weakness in the Canadian dollar is pretty easy to explain. U.S. inflation has ticked higher, as has the American economic data. Meanwhile, in Canada, the opposite trend is apparent. Just look at the Citigroup economic surprise indices for each country. This rolling index measures economic data releases relative to consensus forecasts, weighted based on the importance of each data release. Canada has averaged about -36, while the U.S. has been +40 so far in 2024. Not surprisingly, this has translated into a widening spread of 2-year yields, the tenor of yields most impactful on spot currency exchange rates. U.S. 2-year yields are 4.89% compared to 4.17% in Canada, roughly the widest spread over the past decade. This has also translated into expected central bank rate cuts. In January, the market consensus was pricing in a whopping seven cuts (25bps each) for the U.S. Fed Funds rate, while Canada was forecast to cut five times. Fast forward to today, they are tied at 2 ½ cuts each. 

Yet flying in the face of a weaker CAD is commodity prices. While perhaps not as strong as it was historically, the CAD dollar usually does well when commodity prices are rising, and global economic growth is improving. That is clearly not the case of late, and I would even argue this is a material disconnect. The chart below is the CRB commodity index and the price of oil compared to the CAD/USD. Normally, there is a pretty decent correlation between these factors, but not lately. 

One important consideration is that the recent currency move in the loonie is more about USD strength than CAD weakness. While the CAD has lost about 5% against the USD so far this year, it has been relatively flat against other major currencies, such as the yen and euro. This really points to USD strength due to higher inflation, tempering of rate cuts, and better relative economic growth data. 

But at 72 ½ cents, is there value in the loonie? It is starting to look that way. There is no denying the CAD is undervalued, as highlighted in the purchasing power parity chart below. This doesn’t mean it will fix this undervaluation anytime soon; there are fast drivers of currencies (most of the previously mentioned factors), and then there are slow drivers. Valuation is a slow driver, as are deficits. Sure, everyone runs deficits; that isn’t anything new. But the U.S. has taken deficits to new levels outside a recession/war/pandemic environment. At some point, that will be a negative for the USD relative to more fiscally responsible national currencies. We’re not saying Canada is fiscally responsible, but it is on a relative basis compared to the U.S. 

Currency exposure is an important component of managing multi-asset portfolios. We remain largely unhedged with our USD exposures, which has been the right call. Generally, we like being unhedged, as the USD can be a powerful diversification tool for Canadian portfolios. However, our conviction on this is waning; the further the CAD depreciates, the better the risk-return trade-off for hedging. We’re not there yet, but it is starting to look rather interesting. 

— Craig Basinger is the Chief Market Strategist at Purpose Investments 

Source: Charts are sourced to Bloomberg L.P. and Purpose Investments Inc. 

The contents of this publication were researched, written and produced by Purpose Investments Inc. and are used by Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. for information purposes only. 

This report is authored by Craig Basinger, Chief Market Strategist, Purpose Investments Inc. 

Disclaimers 

Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. 

The opinions expressed in this report are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. or its affiliates. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. We do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The comments contained herein are general in nature and are not intended to be, nor should be construed to be, legal or tax advice to any particular individual. Accordingly, individuals should consult their own legal or tax advisors for advice with respect to the tax consequences to them. 

Purpose Investments Inc. 

Purpose Investments Inc. is a registered securities entity. Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investment funds. Please read the prospectus before investing. If the securities are purchased or sold on a stock exchange, you may pay more or receive less than the current net asset value. Investment funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. 

Forward Looking Statements 

Forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections based on beliefs and assumptions made by author. These statements involve risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance or results and no assurance can be given that these estimates and expectations will prove to have been correct, and actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed, implied or projected in such forward-looking statements. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. Neither Purpose Investments nor Echelon Partners warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. These estimates and expectations involve risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance or results and no assurance can be given that these estimates and expectations will prove to have been correct, and actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed, implied or projected in such forward-looking statements. Unless required by applicable law, it is not undertaken, and specifically disclaimed, that there is any intention or obligation to update or revise the forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. 

Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. 

The particulars contained herein were obtained from sources which we believe are reliable, but are not guaranteed by us and may be incomplete. This is not an official publication or research report of either Echelon Partners or Purpose Investments, and this is not to be used as a solicitation in any jurisdiction. 

This document is not for public distribution, is for informational purposes only, and is not being delivered to you in the context of an offering of any securities, nor is it a recommendation or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any security.