In this photo provided by the New York Stock Exchange, traders work on the floor, Monday Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-(Courtney Crow/New York Stock Exchange via AP

In this photo provided by the New York Stock Exchange, traders work on the floor, Monday Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-(Courtney Crow/New York Stock Exchange via AP

Holding on during stock market roller-coaster was key to success, experts say

Now, stock indexes have gone on to set record highs — the S&P 500 closed above 4,000 points

When the bottom fell out of North American stock markets a year ago, few investors would have imagined how unsettled the world would remain a year later, even after a massive financial rebound.

People were in panic mode back in February and March of 2020, recalls Candice Bangsund, portfolio manager for Fiera Capital.

“Investors were liquidating their portfolios aggressively in response to the uncertainty and the unprecedented nature of the pandemic,” she said in an interview. “As a result, a lot of investors likely missed the corresponding upturn that ensued.”

When Bangsund and other market-watchers look back at the past year, a reminder for nervous investors to hang on for the long term even during the wildest market gyrations is an often-repeated takeaway.

The The Toronto Stock Market lost 38 per cent of its value in four weeks in early 2020, including three days in which it fell by more than 1,000 points. On March 23, it plunged to a low of 11,172 points.

“March was particularly crazy,” said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at SIA Wealth Management. “It was hard to get a read on anything because markets were gyrating so much.

“Forget about day to day, from hour to hour.”

Unprecedented moves by global central banks to cut interest rates to rock-bottom levels and subsequent fiscal stimulus prevented a depression and provided needed support for the rebound and very lucrative market conditions that currently exist.

Investors were not expecting that type of unprecedented policy response, said Bangsund.

“The timing and the magnitude of the support completely exceeded expectations and has been a key source of that upswing that we saw through 2020.” By August of 2020, markets were well into rebound territory.

Now, stock indexes have gone on to set record highs — the S&P 500 closed above 4,000 points for the first time on Thursday — with analysts predicting continued growth throughout the year.

“At the end of the year things were actually positive and a relatively good year. Obviously it was a roller-coaster ride of a generation, or a lifetime,” said Allan Small, senior investment adviser at IA Private Wealth.

Technology led during the downturn as companies tied to people working from home prospected. Ottawa based Shopify Inc. became the most valuable company on the TSX as retailers rushed to open online versions of their stores. The technology sector also provided a defensive tool to offset declines when markets soured.

But like Bangsund, Small believes some Canadian investors missed out on the recovery by bailing out too soon or moving to defensive positions.

“I think those that bailed fully they were sorry they did. Those that hung into the market, obviously they were rewarded for doing so.”

Small said he was able to convince all of his clients to at a minimum stay the course, while many increased their investments.

“All my clients were happy they did and for those that added, they were even happier.”

The number of Canadian stock market transactions surged throughout 2020, according to monthly trading statistics from the TMX, which operates the Toronto Stock Exchange, TSX Venture Exchange, TSX Alpha Exchange and Montreal Exchange.

The number of transactions more than doubled to 57.5 million while their value surged almost 80 per cent to $350.8 billion in March from $195.4 billion in March 2019. For all of 2020, the value of transactions increased 34 per cent to $2.5 trillion.

Similar growth was seen across North American stock exchanges, particularly from retail investors interested in technology and life sciences.

Sales of mutual funds and ETFs (exchange traded funds) also increased, although they dipped during the depth of market sell-off, according to data from the Investment Funds Institute of Canada.

The past year reinforces why people were wise to invest throughout the turmoil, said Crystal Maloney, head of equity research at CIBC Asset Management.

“If you aren’t invested during these key times of recovery, you can give up a lot of your long-term returns as we’ve seen time and time again.”

The level of trading activity is a good indication that people were positioning more defensively last year and then switched to the reopening trade in anticipation of vaccine development and inoculations, she said.

While the financial market response to the onset of the pandemic was not typical, it would have been understandable if markets had fallen even more sharply than they did, said Eric Lascelles, chief economist at RBC Global Asset Management.

“Indeed, it was a source of some frustration for savvy investors that there was not a juicier buying opportunity last spring,” he said in an email.

The stock market normally significantly overreacts to economic shocks, but this time the response was more rational than usual.

That’s because the market learned important lessons from the prior decade when equities fell too far during the global financial crisis. And this time, the pandemic was inherently artificial, with governments restricting activities and providing unprecedented stimulus that curtailed distress.

While a market rebound well in advance of the underlying economy is normal, the degree of enthusiasm was unusual so soon after a recession, he said.

“We expect further rapid growth over the next few years, and ultimately little scarring,” Lascelles said, adding that while valuations are high by historical standards, they are attractive compared with the ultra low-yield bond market.

“In other words, the risk premium enjoyed by equity-holders remain sufficiently large to make current valuations tolerable and likely sustainable.”

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronaviruseconomy

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Delta character - and former White Rock resident - Pansy May Stuttard inspects a loaded revolver in the cover photo for Jim Dwight and Gary Cullen’s fascinating biography, Lord don’t want me Devil won’t take me. Contributed photo
West Coast’s ‘Pistol-packin’ Pansy’ lives on in colourful biography

Infamous Delta character ended her days in White Rock and South Surrey

A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary. March 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Reports of student attendance ‘dwindling’ at Surrey schools: teachers’ association

STA president said he’s heard from staff that students might not attend in-person for 4th quarter

(Photo: MOSAIC/Facebook)
Organization receives $10K from B.C. government to tackle racism in Surrey, White Rock

Funding to go toward forum for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

A police officer aims a radar gun at oncoming traffic during a school-zone speed trap traffic blitz outside Peace Arch Elementary in 2017. (File photo)
White Rock council heeds residents’ plea for better speed signage

Roper Avenue concerns note proximity of two elementary schools

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read