SMALL BUSINESS REALISTS

The person paying the bills typically has a unique perspective on things and this came through loud and clear in the most recent survey of Small Business Optimism. 

 

The Index of Small Business Optimism gained 1.5 points in January, rising to 94.1 (the best reading since the economy peaked in 2Q 2007); the index has moved sequentially higher 5 out of the last 6 months.  The average reading before the recession started was 100.

 

Given the nearly almost 100% move in the S&P 500 since the bottom on March 9th, 2009, it is interesting to note that since its low of March 31st, the Small business optimism index is only up 16.2%.  There are some interesting trends that emerge from the most recent report as it relates to how small business plans the move ahead in trying times.

 

 

CREDIT MARKETS

 

The most amazing statistic in the survey was that 92% of respondents reported that all their credit needs were met or that they were not interested in borrowing; 52% said they did not want a loan, up two points (12 percent did not answer the question) and only 3% claim that financing is their top business problem.  Washington remains obsessed with the notion that small banks will not lend money to “creditworthy” firms and that this is holding back employment and economic growth.  In this vein, the bureaucracy of D.C. persists in creating new programs to spur lending to small businesses, ignoring the fact that small business owners, for the most part, do not want a loan.  

Hedgeye thought - Interventionist government policy is unwanted by the very parties it is touted to be aiding.

 

 

LABOR MARKETS WEAKNESS

 

According to the survey, the average employment change per firm was -4 down from a -1 in December.  The December reading was the best reading since January of 2008 when it hit 0.  The decline in small business hiring is consistent with the most recent number from the BLS, which showed the change in nonfarm payrolls of 36,000, significantly below the consensus expectation of 146,000. 

 

Referring back to my post from 2/3/11, “HIGHLIGHTING THE RISKS TO GDP GROWTH IN 2011”, 4Q10 GDP growth was a robust 3.2%.  However, this was accomplished with very little job hiring and can be completely explained by the by the fact that manufacturing and trade are leading the recovery, industries and activities that are not labor intensive.

Hedgeye thought - The labor intensive construction industry remains in a recession.  We continue to believe that housing will remain depressed for the balance of 2011.

 

 

SALES

 

The net percent of all owners, seasonally adjusted, reporting higher nominal sales over the past three months improved by five points to a net -11%, 23 points better than March 2009 (near the recession bottom) but still indicative of weak consumer activity.

Hedgeye thought - Despite what we see from the conflicted government data, the main street consumer remains challenged.

 

 

INFLATION

 

The big deflationary pressure seen in 2009 and for most of 2010 has subsided.  Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners raising prices was a -4, which improved from -5 in December and consistent with the 4Q readings.  Importantly, plans to raise prices rose four points to a net seasonally adjusted 19% of owners, the highest reading in 27 months.  As the theory goes, an improving economy (including rising stock prices), is likely to have more and more price hikes stick.  The intention to raise prices moved up significantly from 15% in December to 19% in January; the highest reading since 2008.

Hedgeye thought - The tipping point for the consumer will come when companies stat to raise prices to protect margins.   

 

 

EARNINGS

 

The need to raise prices is evident in the earnings trends.  Reports of positive earnings trends improved points in January, registering a net negative 28%.  More owners report that earnings are deteriorating quarter to quarter than rising. Part of this is due to price cutting and inflationary trends, but the overall environment is not supportive of employment growth. 

Hedgeye thought - There is little incentive to add incremental labor in a weak demand environment. 

 

 

CAPITAL SPENDING

 

The frequency of reported capital outlays over the past six months rose four points to 51% of all firms, higher than previous months, but historically low and far less than what is needed coming out of the Great Recession.  Small business remain in “maintenance mode”, unwilling to put new capital to work.  The percent of owners planning capital outlays in the future rose one point to 22%, but is still historically quite low.  The demand environment continues to keep the small business owner on the sidelines.

Hedgeye thought - This speaks to the lack of confidence among business owners.   

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Small business owners don’t need the free money from the Federal government.  Expectations improved, but not spending and hiring plans. Although, Main Street disinflation is dissipating, inventory is lean but the top line continues to be a struggle.  Small business need to raise prices despite a weak demand environment and are unwilling to add to their cost structure by hiring new employees. 

 

SMALL BUSINESS REALISTS - nfib

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director


Premium insight

[UNLOCKED] Today's Daily Trading Ranges

“If I could only have one thing of the many things we have it would be my daily ranges." Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough said recently.

read more


Cartoon of the Day: 'Biggest Tax Cut Ever'

President Donald Trump's economic team unveiled what he called last week, "the biggest tax cut we’ve ever had.” Before you get too excited about that hang on a sec. "Trump Tax Reform ain’t gettin’ done anytime soon," Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough wrote in today's Early Look.

read more

Neurofinance: The Psychology Behind When To Sell A Bull Market

"Most momentum investors stay invested too long, under-reacting and holding tight after truly bad news finally arrives to break the trend," writes MarketPsych's Richard Peterson.

read more

Energy Stocks: Time to Buy the Dip? | $XLE

What the heck is happening in the Energy sector (XLE)? Energy stocks have trailed the S&P 500 by a whopping 15% in 2017. Before you buy the dip, here's what you need to know.

read more

Cartoon of the Day: Hard-Headed Bears

How's this for "hard data"? So far, 107 of 497 S&P 500 companies have reported aggregate sales and earnings growth of 4.4% and 13.2% respectively.

read more

Premium insight

McCullough [Uncensored]: When People Say ‘Everyone is Bullish, That’s Bulls@#t’

“You wonder why the performance of the hedge fund indices is so horrendous,” says Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough, “they’re all doing the same thing, after the market moves. You shouldn’t be paid for that.”

read more

SECTOR SPOTLIGHT Replay | Healthcare Analyst Tom Tobin Today at 2:30PM ET

Tune in to this edition of Sector Spotlight with Healthcare analyst Tom Tobin and Healthcare Policy analyst Emily Evans.

read more

Ouchy!! Wall Street Consensus Hit By Epic Short Squeeze

In the latest example of what not to do with your portfolio, we have Wall Street consensus positioning...

read more

Cartoon of the Day: Bulls Leading the People

Investors rejoiced as centrist Emmanuel Macron edged out far-right Marine Le Pen in France's election day voting. European equities were up as much as 4.7% on the news.

read more

McCullough: ‘This Crazy Stat Drives Stock Market Bears Nuts’

If you’re short the stock market today, and your boss asks why is the Nasdaq at an all-time high, here’s the only honest answer: So far, Nasdaq company earnings are up 46% year-over-year.

read more

Who's Right? The Stock Market or the Bond Market?

"As I see it, bonds look like they have further to fall, while stocks look tenuous at these levels," writes Peter Atwater, founder of Financial Insyghts.

read more