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Michael Sprung’s Outlook and Top Picks on BNN Bloomberg’s Market Call, March 17, 2020


The past few weeks have not been kind to investors. Markets around the world have been ravaged as a result of the deteriorating economic conditions that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 virus. We are now in a bear market. It is unclear as to the extent to which a recession may impede economic recovery.

michael sprung bnn bloomberg market call
The key is to stay focused on the longer term. Conditions will ultimately improve. Keep calm and carry on.

Under these conditions, it is important for investors to avoid the temptation to try to time the market. It is a time to seek investments in companies with strong financial conditions that can weather the storm of a prolonged recession and slow recovery if that is what occurs. In bear markets, prices fall rapidly and the securities of the financially stronger companies suffer with the weaker companies. The key is to stay focused on the longer term.

As Warren Buffett has stated: “The stock market is a device to transfer money from the impatient to the patient.” Conditions will ultimately improve.

Keep calm and carry on.

Top Picks:

Royal Bank, RY-T, Owned by clients, Last Purchase March 16,2020 at $84.45

The Royal Bank is Canada’s largest financial institution with a market capitalization around $130 billion. The scale of the bank is an advantage in mass-market banking. Management is intent on maintaining their lead and improving market share through investing heavily in technology and its distribution network. Investment is also being directed towards retail growth in the US. As these investments payoff, the bank should benefit from positive operating leverage leading to greater profitability and future dividend increases. The current yield of 5.1% is attractive and longer term capital appreciation will accrue to patient investors.

George Weston Limited, WN-T, Owned by clients, Last Purchase March 16, 2020 at $94.91

Weston’s operates fresh and frozen bakery operations in the US and Canada and food distribution through Loblaws; Canada’s leading food retailer. Volumes in the bakery business have been depressed as management goes through the process of rationalizing product offerings to be more in line with consumer trends and optimizing production processes. Going forward, we anticipate that margins in the bakery business will improve as a result of these efforts. Weston’s ownership of Loblaws has been creeping up to the 50% level as share buybacks in the market have reduced the float. Weston has a strong balance sheet. The current dividend yield is 2.3%.

Fortis Inc., FTS-T, Owned by clients, Last Purchase March 16, 2020 at $48.85

Fortis is a North American regulated electric and gas utility operating in five Canadian provinces, nine US states and three Caribbean countries. Over the next few years, Fortis is expected to significantly increase its rate base. The Company is currently carrying out a capital expenditure program in the order of $18.9 billion that should sustain a 6% to 7% growth rate through 2024. The company is extremely well diversified by asset type, geographic location and regulatory regimes. Going forward, management’s focus is anticipated to be more on organic growth within its existing markets as opposed to M&A. Fortis has a history of dividend increases that are expected to continue. The stock currently yields 3.9%.

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The opinions expressed here are ours alone. They are provided for information purposes only and are not tailored to the needs of any particular individual or company, are not an endorsement, recommendation, or sponsorship of any entity or security, and do not constitute investment advice. We strongly recommend that you seek advice from a qualified investment advisor before making any investment decision.