Stock Market: First Quarter Winners, Losers, and Muddlers

Stock Market

Energy stocks were the number one performer on the TSX in the first quarter, with a gain of 17.79 per cent. Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

The first quarter of 2024 is in the books. Overall, it was a good one for investors, with the TSX Composite ahead 5.77 per cent for the three months to the end of March. But there were some surprises, both good and bad. Here’s a look at some of the TSX winners, losers, and muddlers. 




Conventional energy: I’ve had a few readers ask me to stop writing about energy stocks. I can understand their concern. We’ve just experienced the warmest year ever, many parts of the country are suffering drought or near-drought conditions, and the wildfire season has already started in Quebec. Global warming is real and worrisome.

But not writing about energy companies won’t make them go away. The world still needs fossil fuels to heat our homes, power our transportation systems, and create electricity. Much as we wish all that could be done by hydro/wind/solar, we are nowhere near that stage. 

In fact, energy stocks are surging, in large part due to geopolitical events that are putting upward pressure on oil prices. The sector was the number one performer on the TSX in the first quarter, with a gain of 17.79 per cent. No other sector was even close. Some stocks did even better than the average, including our Internet Wealth Builder pick ARC Resources with a year-to-date gain of 23.3 per cent. Other outperformers included Cenovus Energy, up 22.5 per cent, and Imperial Oil, which advanced 21.1 per cent. 

Information technology: We don’t have any Microsofts or Amazons, but our small technology sector is reasonably robust. It’s the best one-year performer on the TSX, with a gain of 33.05 per cent, and was up 5.42 per cent in the first quarter. 

We have several Canadian tech stocks on our recommended list. Number one in terms of market cap is Ottawa-based Shopify, which has gained 6.2 per cent so far this year. Constellation Software, which was added to our recommended list last fall, was ahead 13.9 per cent in the first quarter. Celestica, which we also added in the fall, has gained an amazing 61.6 per cent so far this year.




These are sectors that should be doing better but aren’t for several reasons.

Banks: When the Bank of Canada and the Fed paused their rate hikes and began signalling cuts were coming, it was expected bank stocks would take off. They are showing some improvement but it’s happening in slow motion. 

Financial stocks were up 4.39 per cent in the first quarter, which was worse than the Composite. It was the insurance companies, not the banks, that did most of the heavy lifting. Manulife Financial gained 16.3 per cent in the quarter while Sun Life advanced 8.1 per cent. 

The banks were a mixed bag. National Bank did well, gaining 13.5 per cent. Scotiabank also beat the sector average. But Royal Bank and Bank of Montreal were only slightly above breakeven while TD Bank lost ground. 

Gold miners: The precious metal has been setting new records all year and was up 7.5 per cent in the first quarter. But, as we’ve noted in the past, the miners aren’t keeping pace. The S&P/TSX Global Gold Index gained only 2.21 per cent in the first quarter. 




Telecoms: Right now, the telecom sector is about the worst place to invest, unless you’re willing to go dumpster diving. The sector was down 9.96 per cent in the first quarter and off 19.75 per cent in the past 12 months. All the major telecoms were down in the first quarter. The fundamentals suggest they should turn soon, but investors are getting increasingly nervous.

Utilities: These are usually dull, boring stocks that quietly churn out good cash flow without making waves in people’s portfolios. But when central banks rapidly hike rates, all that goes out the window. The sector lost 2.32 per cent in the first quarter and is down 11.47 per cent over the past year. As with telecoms, the fundamentals suggest we should see a turnaround in the second half. It can’t come soon enough.

REITs: Here’s another sector that was savaged by rising rates. REITs were down about 2 per cent in the first quarter and 7.3 per cent over the past year. But there are a few REITs that bucked the trend. Calgary’s Boardwalk REIT, which we recommended in September 2021, was ahead 9.4 per cent in the first quarter. But it’s one of the rare exceptions in a badly beaten-up category. 

Green energy: There is no specific TSX index that tracks green energy stocks but there is an ETF that does: the iShares Global Clean Energy Index ETF (XCLN-T). It was down about 11 per cent in the quarter. Green energy may be the wave of the future, but no one is getting rich from it yet. 

All these losing sectors have one thing in common: they’re populated by capital intensive companies. The rapid rise in interest rates hit their bottom lines and made new investments more expensive. We should see a recovery when interest rates start to drop. That time looks more elusive with each passing month, but it will eventually happen. I think telecoms, utilities, and REITs will be telling a different story a year from now. 

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