2023 stock market summary (and how it can help your portfolio in 2024)

2023 stock market summary (and how it can help your portfolio in 2024)

What a difference a year makes!  2022 was one of the worst years for investors in over 14 years.  Only the financial crisis in 2008 was worse.  The good news is markets, bonds and pretty much everything rebounded in 2023 and finished the year strong.  

In 2023, there were definitely some newsworthy concerns like the continued story of continued inflation and rising food prices, the war in Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflict.  Despite these concerns, the markets rallied strong in typical fashion following a down year.  The theory of elasticity definitely prevailed in last year.

When you consider that we are supposed to “buy low and sell high”, anyone that bought in 2022 would be pretty ecstatic with the results of 2023.  When investors see their 2023 statements, they should see double digit returns in their market based investments and even mid single digit returns in bonds and fixed income investments.

Below is a commentary on some of the activity that we saw in the stock markets last year along with some comments on what 2023 might bring and how last year’s returns might impact your approach to investing in 2023.

Finally positive returns in the Bond Market

For two years in a row, we saw the bond markets posting negative returns dropping ‐2.54% in 2021 and ‐11.69% in 2022.  The loss in 2022 was a historic low.  Finally in 2023, bonds reversed the trend and posted above average returns for bonds looking back 10 and 15 years.  Bonds finished 2023 with a very respectable 6.69% return and if interests rates fall a little in 2024, bond investors should continue to be happy.

DEX Short term Bonds5.02-4.04-0.935.293.101.910.081.01
DEX Bond Universe6.69-11.69-2.548.696.871.412.521.66

Up and Down in Canada

2022 was definitely an up and down year for Canadian markets with six positive months (Jan, Apr, Jun, July, Nov, Dec) and six negative months (Feb, Mar, May, Aug, Sep, Oct). The good news is the ups in the positive months overpowered the losses in the negative months.  A really strong finish in November and December ensured that Canada finished the year in the black (up 11.75%).

S&P/TSX Composite11.75-5.8425.095.6022.88-8.899.1021.08

Good news everywhere for investors

It wasn’t only the Canadian markets that gained ground in 2023. The US market had a stellar rebound posting a 25.96% gain. However, due to the weaker Canadian dollar, Canadian investors only saw a gain of 23.26%.

Outside of North America, the positive returns were echoed in the international markets with the MSCI EAFE posting a 16.16% gain.

S&P500 (in Cdn$)23.26-13.3424.5918.7724.844.2313.838.09
MSCI EAFE in (CDN$)15.71-8.2310.325.9216.45-5.5517.36-2.00
MSCI EAFE in16.16-7.0018.700.8422.31-10.4515.775.88

Market Predictions

So this time of year, we will find lots of predictions, forecasts, and guesses about what’s in store for 2024. Does any of this past information help us with managing our portfolios moving forward? My simple answer is probably not. Having been in the financial industry for over 30 years, I have participated in a lot of market forecasts and inevitably, I have been wrong just as often as I am right (maybe even more wrong than right). But what I can also tell you is that I am always eventually right . . . it’s just hard to get the time frame correct.

When it comes to managing my own portfolio, I employ a “Keep it simple” strategy. I try to avoid predictions and forecasts. All I do from time to time is re-balance my portfolio of ETFs. Given what happened to markets in 2022, my strategy of reducing cash and putting more into markets in Canada, US and international markets. turned out to be a good strategy.  I wont be doing much to my portfolio for 2024.

Related article: My portfolio of ETFs

Related article: The power of rebalancing a portfolio

Benchmarking performance for 2023

One of the reasons to look at the returns of the markets for the past year is not necessarily to help look into the future but rather to give you an idea if your portfolio is producing a reasonable return compared to benchmarks. For benchmarking purposes, these returns might help serve as reasonable benchmarks for 2023:

      • Conservative portfolio return = 8% to 9.5%
      • Balanced portfolio return = 10.0% to 12.0%
      • Growth portfolio return = 13% to 15%

Here are some benchmarks for longer time frames:

1 year3 year5 year
Conservative Portfolio (30/70)9.5%1.05%4.29%
Balanced portfolio (60/40)12.8%3.90%7.19%
Growth Portfolio (85/15)15.3%6.69%9.64%

Here are some of my personal returns for your interest

  • My RRSP portfolio of ETFs at Questrade made 21.6% in 2023. This was a really healthy rebound from my 13.7% loss in 2022.
  • My TFSA portfolio of ETFs at Questrade is much more growth-oriented and has some speculative investments to try to maximize free growth. 2023 was a stellar year for my TFSA up a whopping 101.8% largely because I held some Bitcoin through my BTCC ETF.
  • Liz’s RRSP portfolio is in a balanced mutual fund in a Group RRSP at Manulife. It finished the year with a gain of 9.5%.
  • Our RESP portfolio with JustWealth is also more conservative as two of my kids are in post-secondary education and the other two are just around the corner. The RESP grew over the year with a gain of 7.7%. 

Overall, I’m happy with the returns in my portfolio.  Although I underperformed the market benchmarks in 2022, I really rebounded well in 2023by not only making up the losses but also getting a bit ahead.  

How did you do it in 2023?


  1. Matt

    I agree with your approach of not trying to make sense of it all and just stick to the plan. Index investing within Canada, USA and overseas in equity markets will spread out the risk.

    However, for bonds, I just can’t get myself to take interest with the barely inflation returns on them.

    • Jim Yih

      Thanks Matt, I don’t think many people are excited about bonds. I view them as something needed for diversification and defense these days.

  2. Claude Mayrand


    None of us retirees are stock traders. We don’t have the skills, temperament and software to buy low and sell high to generate cash for a comfortable retirement.

    As to bonds, they’re a lost cause: a very poor return and a very poor taxation treatment.

    2016 was an extremely difficult year at its beginning. January and February were down months for all. The down trend was worse because most Day-Traders were also out of the market.

    I trade funds on the TSX, only; I’m just not smart enough to deal with currency issues and political shenanigans in other countries. The funds are managed by professionals who usually know what they are doing. I measure how well they are doing by the cash they pay me: their consistency and Yield are my initial criteria for choosing a fund; their tax treatment is another criterion and is why I avoid anything that pays me interest.

    In January and February 2016, I had to sell some funds and stocks because my Margin was too high. I was much busier than usual. I spent three times as many hours in those two months as I usually do to monitor and manage my portfolio during January. In March I bought back some of the sold positions and bought better ones.

    By December 31, my monthly income had increased .8% over January 1, and my portfolio value had increased by 26%. So far in 2017, my income is up 2.56% and my portfolio is up 6.13%.

    I used to study individual stocks and their Distribution experience. Now I search for funds (mutual, closed and open-ended) using TMXMONEY and Google Finance screeners.

    The funds are all managed by professionals: their websites are very informative, their Distributions are almost all very tax efficient, and the fund holdings are very diversified or very targeted.

    The focus of my investment strategy is monthly income. Nothing else matters, nothing, because I am one of the 60% of Canadians who don’t have a corporate or taxpayer funded pension.

    The stock market, specifically the TSX, is a barometer or benchmark of what’s happening to my portfolio value. Usually, these fluctuations don’t affect my monthly income from my funds. Remember: the focus of my portfolio is to provide me with monthly cash.

    • Jim Yih

      Thanks for sharing your story. I know a lot of people who feel the same way.

    • JohnR

      2022 was a year of concern Jim, as you stated. I did things I have never done before. I still feel a big recession might happen so throught the year as my stocks in tfsa dropped I sold them still making a profit. Yes, I would loose out of my dividends and I didn’t sell my 25% that are already in the red but still bringing in dividend moneys. So, I now have a big pile of cash (ready for when I feel things are turning around) and a few stocks that are in red but still making free dividend money. Last time in 2007 I held on to all stocks and it took a couple years to get back to even. This time I’m still 10% up and with cash ready to buy at bottom. Crystal ball question is “when will that be”. Always a gamble. Be well.

  3. Joe

    I beleive the rates of return you published for the S&P are incorrect. The 2020 should be 18.4% as per YCharts. The other years are the same as reported by YCharts.

  4. Sue

    Thanks! What is the source of the benchmark numbers?

  5. LH

    How did I do in 2020?
    I missed out.
    In general because I didn’t think the bottom was in April so I didn’t buy (I sold off early march)
    More specifically I went opposite on oil. Sold when I should not have and didn’t buy when I should have.
    Tesla I almost bought at $80 (was $400 before split) not $800.
    Held GME from $10 through $5 to 10 then sold it. Now it’s $300 …..oh I see it went to $500 lol 600 shares I had.
    Others like KIRK I held at $2 then sold for small profit. now $27. I don’t think anyone knows why.
    Blue (BLU) I still hold went from $12 to $3 , but that’s Bio, understandable. But the rest ?!
    Complete manipulation. Wonder if people are stressed out went they look back?
    We see the gains and forget that for all the gains there are losses for someone else.
    Do traders qualify for gambling anonymous? 🙂

  6. Lloyd Raskina

    The five year and three year returns noted are these per annum or are they the total returns over the 3 and 5 year periods ?

  7. Tony B.

    I have a couple of defined benefit pension plans due to my 20 years in the military and 15+ years in government, so I hold very little of my investment portfolios in fixed income. My general allocation across my wife and my RRSPs and TFSAs is about 80% equities and 20% cash (to ensure I have at least two years cash needs in case of market downturn). My equities allocation in general is split 1/3 Canadian (XIC), 1/3 US (VUS) and 1/3 International (VIU). My RRSP return with this structure was up 12.2%
    My wife’s allocation is more conservative with the TFSA in a single Mawer balanced fund (MAW104) (returned 11.7%) and her RRSP having a share of a balanced ETF (ZBAL) (returned 7.2%).
    My TFSA is a bit of a flyer, as I keep half in MAW104 for stability, and play with the rest. I got lucky investing in WELL Health Tech early, so it was up over 100%.
    Overall I have been very fortunate to have a solid cushion that allows me to be fairly growth oriented.

  8. Tony B.

    Forgot to mention, my overall return across all accounts last year (with 80% equities and 20% cash) was 12.4%. Five year annual average return was 9.96%

  9. ganesh

    I went out on a whim last year in Feb after a friend recommended me NASDAD (XQQ). Moved 20% and NASDAQ was up 48% 2020. Since I will retire in USA, I am heavy on US indexes. Happy so far

  10. Roy

    Maybe it’s not a bad idea to change our bond to a cashable GIC or a GIC ETF ( CASH.TO for example) for a while. Your thoughts please?

  11. Anmol

    Thanks! Which is the best investing tool for middle class men or low earnings individual.

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