Canadian Pensions Returned 2.5% in the First Quarter

Equity returns were strong, but the plans’ fixed income investments lagged.  

Canadian institutional defined benefit plans returned 2.5% in Q1 2024, according to
the Northern Trust Canada Universe, a tracker which measures the performance of Canadian DB plans that are subscribed to Northern Trust’s performance measurement services.  

Inflation and monetary policy were front and center during the first quarter. “The transition through interest rate cycles within the economic ecosystem quite often can be a challenging path,” said Katie Pries, president and CEO of Northern Trust Canada, in the firm’s news release. 

The biggest driver of Canadian DB returns in the first quarter were U.S. equities, measured by the S&P 500, which returned 13.5% in Canadian dollars with the “magnificent seven”—the celebrated list of U.S. tech giantsdriving most of these returns.  

Canadian equities increased 6.6% in the quarter, as reflected by the S&P/TSX index, with health care the best-performing sector, followed by energy and industries. Of Canadian equities, communications and utilities were the worst-performing sectors, both posting negative returns.  

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International developed markets returned slightly better than the Canadian market, posting 8.7%, per the MSCI EAFE Index: information technology and consumer discretionary provided the strongest returns, while utilities and consumer staples had the lowest returns. 

In emerging markets (measured by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index) returned 5.1%. Information technology offered double-digit returns while real estate was the worst performing sector. According to Northern Trust, weakness in Chinese equities were responsible for lackluster returns. 

Canadian fixed income returned negative 1.2% in the first quarter, with provincial and federal bonds seeing declines, and corporate bonds posting small returns. Stronger-than-expected economic data and uncertainty over monetary policy pushed the yield curve higher, resulting in negative returns for Canadian bonds.  

Related Stories: 

Canada Pension Plan Investments Lose 0.7% in 1st Half of Fiscal 2024 

Canada Pension Plan Increases Green, Transition Investments by 20% to C$79B 

Canada Passes Pension Bankruptcy Protection Bill 

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