The Envelope Please: A Look Back at the 2023 Financial Winners, Losers and Everything in Between
Gordon Pape gives out his 2023 stock market awards, from the best and worst performers to the scapegoat and white collar crook of the year. Photo: Olena Koliesnik/Getty Images
With a new year upon us, everyone seems to have handed out their Best of ’23 awards. I decided to join the fun, so here are my financial picks for the last year – with a few “worst of” categories tossed in.
Stock of the Year: Cameco Inc. After the 2011 disaster at Fukushima, no one wanted to hear about atomic power plants. Germany even went so far as to cancel all further developments and promised to decommission existing facilities. Now nuclear is respectable again – in fact, U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry said at the recent UN Climate Conference that emissions targets cannot be reached without it. Cameco stock has doubled in value this year, and Canada happens to be the world’s second-largest producer of uranium.
Bust of the Year: Green Energy. It costs millions to build new renewable energy infrastructure. Most of the money comes from lines of credit. Interest rates rose. Borrowing became increasingly expensive. Bottom lines crumpled. So did share values.
Takeover of the Year: Twitter. Elon Musk decided he wanted to own Twitter so he could fix it and offered US$44 billion for the privilege. Twitter’s board agreed. On second thought, Musk decided, hmm, maybe not. Twitter sued. A court said: “It’s yours, Mr. Musk.” Elon paid up and changed the name to X, which may be how he signs cheques. He spent the rest of the year making questionable business decisions that seemingly tried to kill the business.
Rookie of the Year: Arm Holdings (ARM-N). The company went public on Sept. 14, with an IPO worth US$54.5 billion. That was the largest IPO since EV maker Rivian in 2021. Arm Holdings generates revenue from producing and designing chips and licensing its products to customers. IPO shareholders, who got in at US$51, are happy campers. The stock closed recently at US$77.47.
Collapse of the Year: Silicon Valley Bank. So, you thought a run on the bank only happens in movies? No such luck. SVB was shut down in March by the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation after its depositors discovered it’s a not so wonderful life and there was no Jimmy Stewart around to rescue them.
Best Sector of the Year: Technology. Second place goes to technology. Also, third.
Worst Sector of the Year. Utilities. High debt loads and rising interest rates are a toxic blend. It’s no surprise utility companies developed painful tummy aches.
White Collar Crook of the Year: Sam Bankman-Fried. Following the epic collapse of FTX, the one-time darling of the crypto world was convicted of seven counts of fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering in November. He’ll be sentenced in March.
Breakthrough of the Year: Artificial intelligence. Developers have been working on it for years and it all became real in 2023, as students used ChatGPT to write essays and Sports Illustrated used it to replace writers. Recently, Alphabet unveiled its new generative AI model, called Gemini. It accepts multiple types of data as inputs, combining text, images, audio, video, and programming code. Whose job is safe?
Scapegoat of the Year: Grocery CEOs. Rightly or wrongly, they became the face of greed for many Canadians in 2023. People were, ahem, “fed up” with price increases in produce, meat and just about everything else. Politicians saw easy pickings and hauled the CEOs before parliamentary committees to harass them – sacrificial lambs for an angry populace. Meanwhile, the folks who control dairy and poultry prices were left in quiet anonymity.
Comeback of the Year: Shopify. After the stock dropped about 80 per cent in 2022, investors were concerned they had another Nortel or BlackBerry on their hands. Not this time. The company’s innovative approach to empowering small businesses is resonating globally, making it a driving force in the ever-evolving world of online commerce. The stock rebounded, up 110 per cent for the year.
Influencer of the Year: Tiff Macklem. The Governor of the Bank of Canada presents a benign exterior. But underneath, he can seem like a finance villain. At least, that’s how homeowners with variable rate mortgages saw him every time the central bank ratcheted up rates another notch. Yes, it was all in the laudable fight to tame inflation. But that wasn’t much consolation when the monthly mortgage bill soared into the stratosphere.
Gordon Pape is Editor and Publisher of the Internet Wealth Builder and Income Investor newsletters. For more information and details on how to subscribe, go to www.buildingwealth.ca/subscribe.