My wife and I were in Singapore last month. We sat at the dining room table to sketch out an adventure. We wanted to fly to Costa Rica, then explore the country (as well as Panama) from the seats of our tandem bicycle. But we nixed the trip and flew somewhere different.
It may sound strange, but my wife and I live nowhere and everywhere. We’re Digital Nomads. That means we can make our living from a hammock, as long as we have Wi-Fi and a laptop. We often watch global currency rates and travel to countries where our dollars go the furthest. That’s why we flew to Canada instead of Costa Rica..
Three years ago, Canada’s dollar was valued higher than the U.S. dollar.
By January 2016, it was 30 percent lower. Two weeks ago, I took U.S. dollars and bought a condo in Victoria, B.C. I also bought a Canadian stock market ETF.
Canadian stocks are cheap. The country’s economy depends on oil. According to the World International Energy Statistics, Canada is the world’s 5th largest petroleum producer. Few people think of Canadian oil. But in 2014, Canada produced more oil than most global heavyweights, beating the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Venezuela.
Two years ago, a barrel of oil cost more than $100 USD. As I write, it costs $38.50. Toronto’s stock market is heavily weighted with natural resource stocks. When oil falls, so do Canadian equities. Measured in U.S. dollars, the Canadian market (EWC) has fallen 28.23 percent since March 2011. Vanguard’s S&P 500 (VFINX) has gained 55.38 percent.
Canadian Stocks vs. U.S. Stocks Measured in USD March 14, 2011 – March 11, 2016
U.S. investors who are looking for a deal might consider Canada. I like to measure price levels using a cyclically adjusted price to earnings ratio (CAPE). It’s not a market-timing instrument. But it can show how expensive or cheap a stock market is, compared to historical levels. Joachim Klement, Chief Investment Officer at Wellershoff & Partners Ltd., compares global stock market CAPE levels every quarter. According to his data, the United States is overvalued. Its historical CAPE is 16.4 times earnings. Last quarter, it traded at 22.5 times earnings. That’s 37 percent higher than its historic valuation.
Canada trades 14 percent lower than its historical CAPE level. According to Yale University professor, Robert Shiller, when stocks trade well above their historical CAPE levels, they usually perform poorly in the decade ahead. When they’re priced at lower than average levels, they often do well.
So far, the 2016 returns for each of those ETFs are ahead of the U.S. market. The S&P 500 (VFINX) is down 1.6 percent. Singapore’s market (EWS) is up 2.18 percent. Russian stocks (ERUS) have gained 11.3 percent. The Emerging Market Index (VWO) is up 1.7 percent.
Canadian stocks (EWC) are getting up from the floor as well. They have gained 9.05 percent for the year so far.
Year-To-Date Stock Market Returns To March 11, 2016
I’m not suggesting that you pile your money into foreign stock market ETFs. But based on valuation levels, it may be their turn to shine. Build a diversified portfolio of index funds. Rebalance once a year. Include indexes or ETFs that represent U.S., International and Emerging Market stocks. Add a bond index for stability.
Then, if you want to roll the dice, set a small sum aside for a value play. I suggest Canada. Their dollar is low. Oil prices are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Current CAPE levels say it’s a fireside sale.
Andrew Hallam is a Digital Nomad. He’s the author of the bestseller, Millionaire Teacher and The Global Expatriate's Guide to Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat.