Monday, September 24, 2007

Oh Canada !

Whether or not the central banks of many of the world's developed nations acknowledge it or not, they will soon begin cutting interest rates. The reasons are plentiful but two stand out: the US economy will soon begin to trend lower and with it most of the rest of the G-7 nations.

Europe has already slowed, Japan is having one of its never-ending political upheavals, and China and India are attempting to slow their economies in the face of rising inflation.

Additionally, the recent cut in rates by the US Federal Reserve has spiked the US dollar lower against most of the other world currencies. This will give US companies a powerful competitive advantage in the global markets, and at the same time, make foreign exports to our nation more costly. Taken together, these forces will cause a string of interest rate cuts around the world, probably beginning with Canada.

In the picture I see forming, our Canadian neighbors may well come out looking very good for a period of time. They are a natural resource exporting nation, so their products will continue to be in demand, even if prices begin to stabilize.

Canada's banks are strong, with few of the subprime issues that will continue to nip at the heals of American banks, and finally, the country's Conservative government is finally beginning to deliver on some campaign promises. Importantly, as I said last time, Canada just cut corporate income taxes to near 30%, among the lowest in the developed world, and well under US corporate tax rates.

In running Canadian companies through our Dividend Valuation Model, I see many that are cheap. In the coming months, I will describe a few here.

The best valuation I see is Toronto Dominion Bank (see chart above). It is the second largest bank in Canada and has been making strategic acquisitions in the US. Its combination of a 2.8% dividend yield and low double-digit dividend increases over the past few years has made it a solid performer but has still left it significantly undervalued.

Our model says (I am showing TD in its local currency) that the stock may be as much as 15% undervalued, based on my estimate of next year's dividend growth.

Canada's natural resource oriented economy will insulate it from the economic slowdown that may hit most of the rest of the G-7 nations. Indeed, Canada and the US may be the only G-7 nations that will not experience any negative quarters of economic growth over the next six months to a year.