Canadian voters go to the polls next month to decide the fate of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government. While the pandemic alone provides plenty of issues for Canadians to consider ahead of the vote, investors may want insight on the federal government’s performance in the context of the stock market. National Bank provided such insight this week in a report entitled Taking stock: The equity market record of Canada’s PMs.
The report charts Canadian equities performance under the past 10 prime ministers, which means going back to the late 1940s.
Under Trudeau, equities performance is solid enough — at least in isolation. The report presents charts with the S&P/TSX composite index’s level under various Liberal and Conservative federal governments.
The result: “A near-50% cumulative gain in the S&P/TSX composite index since the Liberals were first elected is nothing to sneeze at,” the report said.
“As it stands, the TSX has traced out a relatively stronger arc under Trudeau than where things stood at the equivalent point of the Harper regime.”
Also, since the federal Liberal government was re-elected in fall 2019, the TSX’s total market capitalization increased by $700 billion, it said.
However, under Justin Trudeau the S&P/TSX has lagged the S&P 500 “big time,” the report said.
Accompanying charts show a cumulative difference of 70 percentage points between the Canadian and U.S. equities indexes during Trudeau’s two terms. The charts also provide comparisons with other Canadian prime ministers, as well as performance breakdowns by majority/minority governments.
In comparison with the TSX’s cumulative underperformance of 70 percentage points versus the S&P under Trudeau, Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s underperformance over three terms (two minority and one majority) was 44 percentage points, and Brian Mulroney’s (over two majority governments) was 107, said Warren Lovely, chief rates and public sector strategist at National Bank and one of the report’s authors.
However, because the prime ministers served for different lengths of time, a fairer comparison would use annualized rates, Lovely said: “You basically work out what that performance gap [between the indexes] looks like on a per-year basis.”
The annualized performance gap between the indexes is -7.3 percentage points for Trudeau (-7.4 when the report was prepared), -3.4 percentage points for Harper, -5.7 percentage points for Mulroney and 0.3 percentage points for Chrétien.
“On an annualized basis, the relative underperformance is more extreme than under Harper or Chrétien or Mulroney,” Lovely said.
When compared to his Liberal PM peers under both majority and minority rule, “Justin owns the worst performance” in terms of TSX vs. S&P 500, the report said.
“Liberal majorities — where polls hint we may be headed — have been characterized (on average) by solid annualized gains for the TSX, comparing favourably to Conservative majorities but falling short of U.S. gains,” the report said.
In the report, the authors said they weren’t making an endorsement but providing “statistical fodder” for voters and markets ahead of election day.
“It’s just letting the record speak for itself,” Lovely said when interviewed. “If we’re at all interested in relative equity performance, the past couple of prime ministers, actually, have left something to be desired — not just Justin.”
For details, including charts, read the National Bank report.