Fabrice Taylor

  • Environmental movement is just another dirty sham

    It's hard to imagine, but some investors are swayed by what environmentalists say and do. There are people who won't invest in the oilsands because they are either persuaded mining oil and degrading the earth in the process is evil, or who worry the environmental movement can actually hurt the industry and their investment. It doesn't help that industry seems to acknowledge this. Oil producers are extremely sensitive to criticism from the so-called environmentalists.
  • 'Secure' jobs certain to be hit by cutbacks

    They call it the "new normal," and what they mean is the western world had better get used to slow and less reliable growth rates. Economists who got used to gross domestic product expanding at a rate of three or four per cent over the past 25 years are now looking back over a longer period of history, and guess what? That growth rate was extremely unusual. In the United States, the long-run average is 1.9 per cent. How did we get to three or four? Some think it's productivity, which may have helped. But the most recent spurt in output was largely fuelled by debt. Now that debt is a four-letter word and asset prices, notably for homes, have collapsed, the trend is toward saving (including paying down debt).
  • Want more money? Get a(nother) job

    One of the most laughable things I've ever read about personal finance was a magazine feature written by an author advising readers how to save money. Besides the usual and obvious tips -- brown-bag your lunch, use coupons, don't drive too fast -- was the admonition not to flush your toilet more than once a day. To think this person charges for advice like this. Cost-cutting is quickly becoming an obsession as the economy struggles, housing prices soften (or stop going up) and people start realizing how much debt they have.
  • The best price is no deal at all

    One of my assignments as an investment analyst was to study Aeroplan, Air Canada's loyalty reward program. The airline had just carved Aeroplan out of the company and floated it as a separate business on the stock market.
  • Taking lessons from RIM's plummet

    The death knell is sounding loudly for Research In Motion after the company's latest news, which managed to disappoint even the most jaded analysts. RIM announced a loss of half a billion dollars this week. The company, which invented the smartphone but which has watched its once dominant share of the market collapse as competition from Samsung, Google, Apple and others gnawed at it, also said its sales fell by a third in the latest quarter.
  • Send Europeans to Asia to learn how to work

    It's staggering that Greece gave us modern civilization and now threatens to undermine it. That might be a stretch, but it is fair to say the Greeks, and Europe in general, are causing a lot of problems for the rest of us, as this week's plunge in stock values shows. It's not just the Greeks. Italy has 1.5 trillion euros of debt. The French have run deficits for decades. Spain has allowed its unemployment rate to reach 25 per cent, and yet the politicians still deny mining projects because a handful of environmentalists oppose them.
  • Facebook flop shows value is not a 'friend'

    And they say stock market investors are rational. Reality gives the lie to that notion on a regular basis, but few repudiations are as powerful as the public offering of Facebook. The world's biggest social media site started trading last month at a valuation of US$100 billion. It quickly sank to a mere $60 billion. Where did that $40 billion disappear to? Some of it went into the pockets of Facebook's big shareholders, who sold the stock to the public. That includes CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who pocketed $1 billion.
  • The trouble with experts is they're not always right

    I once read a book by a high-profile media financial-planning pundit, who gave an example of a man age 65 who wondered whether he should retire or keep working. Given his life expectancy was 80, wrote the author, he could afford to retire.
  • When renting is a better option than buying a home

    Canadians are obsessed with owning a home. So are Americans. It's part of the dream of success and family and happiness. In Europe, some people who have success and families go a lifetime without owning. They rent. But here, if you don't own, you feel like you're missing out, or making a mistake. Your friends tell you "you're throwing your money away" and that's embarrassing. That's not necessarily true. Renting isn't throwing your money away; you're getting a home in return for your money. Buying gas isn't throwing your money away either, although you literally turn your money into something you quickly burn. It gets you from point A to point B so it's money well-spent if getting there is important.
  • Banks pushing index products? You can do better

    The trouble with this country is while it looks big on a map, it's really quite small. Thirty-five million people is not a large number, and we pay for it in a variety of subtle ways, mostly by being beholden to a number of oligopolies, such as in airlines, cellphone providers and banking.
  • No better place to be than Fort McMurray

    If I were an ambitious young person looking to make my mark in life, I'd move to Fort McMurray, Alta. To really succeed in life takes a little talent, a lot of hard work and usually a smidgeon of luck. But your odds are much improved when you live and work in a place that's growing by leaps and bounds, and in Canada, you can't beat 'Fort Mac,' or 'Fort McMoney' as some people call it. I've visited the area three times over the last decade, and the city's growth is spectacular. The most recent tour was this past week. Here are some statistics:
  • Natural gas good for patient player

    I got bad news yesterday. A company I have invested in reduced its dividend to 3.5 cents from 4.5, and the stock price fell almost 20 per cent. It wasn't management's fault; it's just that the company produces oil and natural gas, and gas prices are at historical lows. So this is going to sound strange, but I believe natural gas represents a tremendous investment opportunity. The only caveat is I don't know when it will start to pay off.
  • Apple's unique quandary won't hurt bottom line

    Apple is the most valuable company in the world, with a value of US$540 billion and a share price of almost $600. You may find this strange, but although that's a lot of money, one could argue Apple's valuation isn't expensive.
  • New addresses costly; move only if needed

    Moving can be ruinous to your financial health. One of my good friend's parents used to move house every three years like clockwork. It's hard to imagine doing anything more foolish, but that's what they did, throwing away thousands of dollars in the process. I asked my pal's dad why he did it, and he said it was because he was a shrewd homebuyer and could make a good return by "flipping" houses this way. But no matter how hard I tried to crunch the numbers, I couldn't make it work. I think he must have failed math, although, naturally, I didn't say that.
  • Finding highest reward for cash investment can pay big

    Having excess cash is a nice problem to have, but it's still a problem. The difficulty with surplus money is it only loses value. Inflation is running, officially, at about two per cent. Unofficially, that is, in reality, it's higher. For most of us the cost of living is accelerating more quickly than that. So if you have cash in a bank account, whether personal or for your business, you are literally losing out because it's either earning no interest or something pathetically inadequate to offset the ravages of inflation.
  • Union actions deplorable

    Companies that have to buy lots of expensive, long-term assets are at a huge disadvantage in business life: They're acutely vulnerable to labour action. Look at Air Canada. The airline has an effective monopoly on lucrative business travel in Canada, and in economy travel enjoys an effective duopoly with Westjet.
  • Shares in small, medium firms juicy

    Investors have a unique opportunity before them, one I think is closing fast. It starts with interest rates; they are appallingly low, as far as income-seekers are concerned. But they aren't going up any time soon. The economies of the world are just too fragile, plus inflation is tame (at least the official inflation rate; I sometimes think the numbers are manipulated. Is the cost of living really only rising by two per cent?).
  • Winpak is very good at packaging success

    A little-known fact about Pringles: When you buy one of those convenient small plastic containers of the chips, you're paying more for the packaging than for the food. (I won't venture to comment on which has more nutritional value.) That's right: The package costs more to produce than the contents. Convenience has its price.
  • Avoid 'agent hazard' when trying to sell your home

    A house is your biggest investment, yet people spend more time shopping for a colour TV than on how they buy or sell a home. Just as a financial adviser can have a tremendous impact on your financial well-being, so can a real estate agent. And yet, most people choose them based on who they know. They might be a cousin, a friend of a friend or some vague acquaintance.
  • Sharing some wisdom on the value of stocks

    Many investors don't understand the stock market. I remember a friend, a financial editor at a big newspaper, telling me a stock was expensive because it cost $300. That makes no sense; the expensiveness or cheapness of a stock has nothing to do with its absolute price. It's the value of the stock (or the company, since a share is quite literally a fractional ownership in the company) compared to how much money that company can make and whether those earnings are going up or down. If a stock costs $300 and there's one share, the company is worth $300. If another share costs $1, but there are a million shares, it's worth $1 million. Which is more expensive? The answer is you don't know, because you don't know how much each company makes.
  • If all the experts say it, it could well be wrong

    Being a professional financial pundit, I'm often asked how the markets will do. If only I knew, I'd be sipping a Mai Tai and eating peeled grapes on my private island. But this is what I have learned: Markets never crash when everyone says they will. Take the stock market: How many people predicted in 2008 that stock prices would get crushed? How many predicted the housing market bubble would burst? How many saw a bubble?
  • Put your money where your house is... or not

    Pay your mortgage or contribute to an RRSP: How many times have you asked yourself or someone else which to do? The first thing you should do is condition your mind to filter out biased advice. The last thing in the world a bank wants you to do is choose to pay off your mortgage. Assuming you pay no penalties, the bank loses income if you pay your loan off early. But it also loses out on potential fees it might earn from selling RRSP-eligible investments.
  • Stand up to corporate gouging -- you will win

    The shareholder mandate is a powerful force that can cost you enormously as a consumer if you're not careful. I got a call from my cellphone provider in early November. A helpful agent asked if I wanted her to look into lowering my bill. Because I use my phone a lot for work and because I travel a lot, my bill is pretty high. So naturally I said yes. She went through my history and suggested a new plan that she said, based on my history, would save me money. Being reasonably savvy about marketing, I made her run through the changes, then asked point-blank if she was sure I'd be saving as much as she said, as long as my usage patterns didn't change. She said yes. So I made the change, and accepted the condition -- which is that my contract would be extended by a year and a half.
  • Mutual funds great deal -- for some

    The problem is inertia. The consequences are catastrophic. I'm talking about your finances. Some people are good at math. Others not. But they all tend to have one thing in common: They find numbers boring, eye-glazing, sleep-conducive. So they don't bother to think about what they're being charged for financial or other services.
  • Blame the board for RIM's woes

    Our country seems incapable of building a lasting technological world beater. Remember Nortel? At its peak, it turned out to be just an illusion and a fraud. Now we have Research in Motion, which once embodied perfectly what it takes to succeed in technology: a new idea that immediately appeals to a lot of people and a sound execution. The company invented the smartphone (although it didn't start out as a smartphone maker) and owned the market for several years. Today, it's on its knees. Apple has taken so much market share it now accounts for about half of global smartphone profits. Apple is clobbering RIM by understanding smartphones could be better; that they weren't just tools for executives; that the average person would want one; that web browsing was crucial to the evolution of the phones; that the phone was the centre of the digital lifestyle.

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