Appearing on moneysense.ca, in the May 19, 2005 issue. Presented here with the permission of Larry Macdonald
Best Canadian Investment Blogs .... by Larry MacDonald
“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” -- Samuel Johnson quoted in James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791).
One wonders what Samuel Johnston would say today. Without receiving any real monetary reward, hundreds of thousands of people now spend hours of their retirement or leisure time toiling away at a computer, writing down their thoughts (and/or compiling links to items of interest) in online personal journals called Web logs (or ‘blogs’). Mr. Johnston might observe that our era has more than its share of blockheads.
Actually, some of the blogs do make money if they happen to have large followings, such as The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century, and can collect advertising revenues. Other blogs exist to promote a commercial service such as a newsletter or consulting practice. But many, many blogs, it would appear, toil on in obscurity and penury.
Blogs now cover just about every subject imaginable. The topic of financial markets is no exception -- plenty of blogs have emerged in this category and it is a pleasant surprise to note that the bloggers tend to be of high caliber. It turns out they have advanced university degrees and/or extensive experience in the investment industry – as can be seen from the following guide to the best of Canadian Investment Blogs:
The Big Picture Speculator
Capsule comments on resource stocks provided by Jim Letourneau, a consulting petroleum geologist based in Calgary, Alberta. Good references to background studies on energy sector. This blog is used to advertise Letourneau’s subscription investment service.
Bill Cara: Capital Markets and Social Equity
Three to four observations a day, a weekly wrap-up, and recommendations on financial markets from Bill Cara, a retiree from the Canadian investment industry (where he developed the electronic quote service Star Data and set up regional branches for two Canadian brokerage firms). This Web site is for students of the markets, traders and technical analysts.
Dividend Based Investing
Don’t let the spartan design of this Web site put you off because it is a great place to learn about investing in dividend stocks as well as get ideas for your portfolio. It is run by 55-year-old Michael Higgs, who quit a job as a vice president in the operations department of a mutual fund to “go cruising full time” in a sailboat with his family for several years, and now lives in Peterborough.
This is another blog where the layout may at first put a reader off. But that would be a shame because it too is a good place to learn (and get ideas) about dividend investing. The author is Thomas. P. Connolly, publisher of The Connolly Report (deals with dividend-paying common stocks) since 1981.
Connolly has a great one-sentence summary of his approach: “When they are value priced, I buy common stocks of companies which have a good record of increasing dividend payments and hold them for the rising income.” Take the example of Terasen. He bought its stock in 1995 when the dividend was $0.45 a share. Since then, the dividend has been raised to $0.84, which now provides a yield of 12.3% his money.
Canadian stocks rated by Iain Fraser
This blog is published by Iain Fraser, a retiree from the Canadian investment industry where he was the founder of an advisory service (Fraser Research Ltd.) and “the lead analyst” in the 1980s and 1990s with investment dealer Midland Walwyn. His site provides interesting stock commentary and recommendations, based on a screening system (called Quantitative Analysis) that rates stocks by several fundamental and technical criteria.
This blog is a true gem and a must read. It is written by the dean of the value investing school in Canada: Irwin Michael, portfolio manager of the ABC Group of funds (have one of the best long-term records in Canada). On his site, Michael highlights the principles of value investing and provides a running commentary on a portfolio of stocks in which he has invested.
Founded in 1995 by Norm Rothery, (a Doctor of High Precision Atom Physics who left behind molecules to get a Chartered Financial Analyst designation and become a financial advisor), this Web site is the granddaddy of Canadian investment blogs. It is also one of the most visited: since 1999, the number of hits has surpassed 15.6 million. Attractively designed, its main feature is regularly updated linkages to articles about value investing and low-cost investing via index funds and exchange traded funds.
Last week’s column drew attention to some blogs that I thought deserved to be on a list of best Canadian investment blogs. This week’s column extends that list. As mentioned previously, I am using a broad definition of an investment blog – i.e. an independent and free-access Internet site that provides regularly updated investing commentary.
Several of the Web sites on the list are members of the Financial Webring, a linked collection of Canadian Web sites aimed at the do-it-yourself investor (replete with discussion forum). Our hats go off to the ‘ring': it’s a refreshing alternative to brokerage firms, newsletters, media and other sources of investment information.
The Market Guy
This is a personable blog with a sense of humor. It is focused on income trusts and authored by an Instructor at the Psychology Department of Carleton University with a specialization in behavioral finance. Market Guy says in his teenage years he looked like junior capitalist Alex P. Keaton (played by Michael J. Fox) in the TV sitcom Family Ties. Now he just looks like a grown-up nerd, he reports.
The Drip Investing Resource Center
Here you will find everything you ever wanted to know about dividend reinvestment plans (DRiPs), the cheapest way to invest. This site has extensive links to relevant articles, books, and Web sites. Webmaster George L. Smythe set up it after the Motley Fool boards terminated free access to their DRiP discussion boards. What a Foolish move: it looks like Mr. Smythe’s site is getting lots of traffic (at least judging from the active discussion board).
Canadian Fund Watch
Superb is the word to describe this site dedicated to the education and protection of mutual fund investors. The research is thorough and insightful. It’s investor advocacy run with the efficacy and drive of a business executive. Actually, that is what Ken Kivenko was (former CEO of a Canadian tech company) before he took up the cause and established this Web site.
Self-Regulatory Organizations in the Canadian Securities Industry
This is an excellent site for becoming informed on investor protection issues. The copious links provide readers with a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of how functional (or dysfunctional?) regulatory agencies are in the Canadian securities industry. The author is Robert Kyle, a former futures trader fighting a lengthy legal battle against the Investment Dealer’s Association (a SRO). Almost reminds one of Mel Gibson taking on “The Outfit” in the movie Payback.
Smart Mutual Fund Investing for Mutual Fund Investors
This site is run by an individual under the pseudonym Bylo Selhi and seeks to educate investors about the advantages of no-load index funds and exchange traded funds. It’s worth reading for this aspect alone, but the informative section on real return bonds makes it even more so. Just don’t say anything bad about index funds or Bylo will take you to task in his ‘Bylo Rebuts’ section.
Efficient Market Canada
Martin Gale is on a mission somewhat similar to Bylo Selhi. He says “the purpose of the financial services industry, on Bay Street and Wall Street, is not to enrich the customer. The purpose is to extract fees from the customer.” Site posts articles by Gale on low-cost investment vehicles such as exchange traded funds. Stop paying for your broker’s yacht now!
Written by a software developer with a keen interest in investing, this blog has a pleasing design and writing style. There are many links to, and reviews of, articles, books, blog pieces, etc, on investing (and personal finance). It’s good for drawing attention to items you might not otherwise notice. The author goes by the nickname Arbe and has an ‘About Me’ button but it’s been disabled – is Arbe playing it safe now that he has a new job with a big software firm in Ottawa?
Don Vialoux’s Tech Talk
This is not a blog about tech stocks. It’s about technical analysis of stocks. And a darn good one it is – quite professional, like what the top clients at a brokerage firm might receive. The author, Don Vialoux, has 37 years experience in the investment industry, including stints as past president of the Canadian Society of Technical Analysts and former technical analyst at RBC Investments. If anyone can make investors forget about random walks and efficient markets, it’s Don.
Written by a former math professor once accused of “gumming up” an investing discussion forum with mathematics, this site has a difficult lay out and is filled with mathematical equations. So it’s mainly of interest to investors with mathematical bents (any John Nash types out there scanning the financial pages for algorithms?). But the sense of humor and pictures of the prof’s darling grandchildren make the site worth a visit.