Canada’s beleaguered oil and gas industry might finally catch a break later this year, said panelists at the CFA Society Calgary’s 39th annual forecast dinner, which took place Thursday.
“We see meaningful upside in oil,” says Ed Devlin, PIMCO managing director and head of Canadian portfolio management, predicting the price of oil will rise to US$55 by January 2017.
He’s equally optimistic when it comes to the overall markets, and does not expect the current downturn to persist. “While markets might go a bit lower, we think these dips are opportunities to buy assets,” Devlin says.
“As long-term investors, we think this current market volatility and downturn has given us some good opportunities to buy assets. We’re not at a point where the Fed, or any other central bank, is going to pull away the punch bowl any time soon. This will present opportunities for patient investors to make some money.”
A self-described “bond geek,” Devlin’s one big buy for 2016 is a 3.25%-coupon bond issued by Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras, which matures in March 2017 and yields 12.25%. “Brazil is on the radar screen, but it’s not for the faint of heart,” he says.
Panelist Jeffrey Goldenberg, managing director and director of portfolio strategy with Goldman Sachs’ Investment Management Division, is more cautious. He says the current financial market volatility will be here “a fair bit longer,” although he points to a number of hopeful signs.
Led by employment growth, the U.S. will continue to be reasonably strong, as will Europe, says Goldenberg, who describes Europe as “an interesting value opportunity.”
“The European Central Bank will continue to be accommodative, with interest rates remaining low.”
Goldenberg, who expects that global inflation will remain low, thinks the U.S. will see approximately 2% GDP growth this year. “The S&P 500 will end the year modestly higher, anywhere from 2,025 to 2,100.” Interest rates will also move slightly higher, he predicts, with the Fed raising rates by 25 basis points two to four times in 2016. The U.S. dollar will continue to be strong relative to the euro and Chinese renminbi.
For Canada, Goldenberg expects modest economic growth overall. “Further, all commodities are in oversupply, and are especially challenged by China’s transition from an investment-led to a consumption-led economy.”
But he says the loonie has bottomed.
“The Canadian dollar has seen the worst, relative to the U.S. dollar, and should find a bottom over the course of the next six months as energy prices begin to improve,” says Goldenberg, who also expects energy prices to be higher by year’s end — anywhere from US$40 to US$50 per barrel. “That would be the commodity that has the best outlook over the shortest period of time,” he notes.
As for investments, says Goldenberg, “A moderate portfolio is likely to hopefully deliver returns in the low single digits. We expect stocks to do better than bonds over the coming year. Investors should have ample liquidity to take advantage of potential opportunities that develop over the year.”
The third panelist, Sproglit CEO Todd Buchholz, is a former White House director of economic policy. He notes the world economy was led for years by natural resources. “With commodities collapsing, that baton has to be passed to another segment of the economy. Consumers have to pick up the baton, and the retail sector has to start driving the world economy,” he says.
“For 2016, investors should recognize that falling commodity prices, while creating great pain for Alberta and other parts of Canada, do provide upside for other segments of the economy. […] It’s a good thing Canada is part of NAFTA, because the U.S. and Mexico form one of the few regions in the world that’s enjoying decent growth.”
Buchholz says that as long as inflation stays low, interest rates can also remain low. “And as long as interest rates stay low, advanced economies will be able to crawl their way out of the financial ruins of December 2015 and January 2016.”