The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 21st of February through the 25th is full of critical releases and events. Attached below is a snapshot of some (though far from all) of the headline numbers that we will be focused on.
POSITION: no position in SPY
Exhausted yet? I know the US stock market bears are exhausted with the bulls who sold at the exhausted March 2009 lows. As you can see in the chart below, that was 98% lower. The “flows” argument notwithstanding, US Equity market volume, breadth, and volatility readings finally look exhausted too.
Here’s another way to look at the exhaustion of immediate-term TRADE and intermediate-term TREND price momentum:
Interestingly, these lines are converging around the same price level. That multi-duration price momentum factor combined with an immediate-term TRADE breakout this week in volatility (VIX) and continued deterioration in our TREND duration volume studies has me exhausted looking at this.
What could go wrong from here to inspire a garden variety mean reversion correction of -7.7% to 1242 over the intermediate-term? Away from a potential crisis in US bond and currency market prices, probably nothing …
I guess the positive news for the bears who had it in them to short today’s highs in the SP500 (I haven’t yet), is that next week doesn’t have a merger Monday. Feels like a February in 2008.
Enjoy your weekend,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
Conclusion: We may be seeing the early stages of union busting in Wisconsin, which, if successful, could be a marginal positive for the municipal bond market.
Position: Covered our short position in the etf MUB on 2/16 in the Hedgeye Virtual Portfolio
The last couple of days have seen large scale protests on the Capitol in Wisconsin. As much as they are likely disgruntled, Wisconsin natives aren’t protesting the fact that Yale (the alma mater of Keith and myself) is ranked ahead of the University of Wisconsin in Division 1 hockey. Rather these are protests by government unions, in large part teachers, who are upset with the deficit cutting proposals currently set forth by Governor Walker to limit the ability of many public employees to negotiate their contracts on a go-forward basis. In effect, this would end 50-years of collective bargaining rights.
Governor Walker’s proposals are seen as aggressive by many on the left and, in fact, being called union busting tactics by much of the prominent union leadership in Wisconsin. The key proposals include:
- All public employees will be required to contribute 5.6% of their pay to their pensions (much more than now);
- All public employees will be required to pay 12.6% of healthcare premiums, up from 6% now;
- Public employees will only be able to negotiate pay raises that are on par with annual increases in CPI;
- Contracts will be established with a duration of one year; and
- Union fees will become optional and each year public employees will have the right to vote via a secret ballot to decide whether they want to stay in the union.
While the Republicans currently hold a majority in the Wisconsin Senate, with 19 seats of the 33 seat house, they are actually one short of a quorum needed to conduct business. So, while the debate on Governor Walker’s bill was set to begin yesterday, the Democratic caucus responded by, literally, leaving town. In fact, according to Democratic State Senator Jon Erpenbach, the Democratic State Senators had actually all left Wisconsin and assembled in Rockford, Illinois. According to Erpenbach:
“The plan is to try and slow this down because it's an extreme piece of legislation that's tearing this state apart.”
No doubt leaving Wisconsin and refusing to debate is a sure fire slow down tactic, albeit a theatrical one. Despite these theatrics in Wisconsin, the reality remains that heading into fiscal 2012, which starts for most States on July 1, 2011, States are collectively facing a ~$134BN budget deficit.
In the past couple of fiscal years, the stimulus program has paid almost $200BN to the States, which has allowed them to fund their budget gaps. As such, which we outline in the chart below, we have seen a very limited drop off in State and local government employment over the past three years compared to the dramatic drop off in private employment. No doubt, this is set to change and change dramatically in the coming quarters as State governments will be forced to make cuts. According to some studies, employment costs are as much as 50% of State budget expenses, so it is likely that the battle we are seeing in Wisconsin spreads nationwide.
The extent to which these new plans can be passed will be a function of the strength of the unions, and the extent to which they are willing to battle. Over the course of the past 40 years the unionization of State and local governments has gone up dramatically, while unionization in the private sector has declined steadily. Currently, more than 1/3 of these employees are unionized. So, this lobby is large and motivated.
We called this out in our Q1 Theme Presentation, but the risk of these large and well organized unions is that they delay much needed fiscal reform. Only time will tell the extent to which unions can impeded these fiscal reforms, but the gauntlet is being thrown down as highlighted by some recent quotes:
- Randy Weingarten, president of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers (January, 2011):
“ Governor Christie’s vilification of teachers and their unions is a cloak for all of the cuts that have been or about to be visited upon public education.”
- Gerald McEntee, President of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (January 19, 2011):
“The stakes have never been higher… We’ll be running ground operations, hitting the airwaves and taking on the forces allied against us.”
The battle lines have been drawn and the future of fiscal reform at the State and local level is in the crosshairs. But the reality remains, fiscal deficits loom and perhaps Governor Walker of Wisconsin summed it up best in a recent article in the New York Times:
“I’m just trying to balance my budget. To those who say why didn’t I negotiate on this? I don’t have anything to negotiate with. We don’t have anything to give. Like practically every other state in the country, we’re broke. And it’s time to pay up.”
Daryl G. Jones
Yeah...we know...VFC is one of the best managed companies in this industry. But one thing the company cannot manage is the share price. With a 10.8% move off the 1/28 near-term bottom, Keith got yet another shot at this one in the Hedgeye Portfolio,
Here’s our sense on VFC over three different durations:
Long-term: It’s hard for anyone to call VFC a bad company. This is not management’s first rodeo. They are pretty darn good at making the right business decisions to manage their portfolio, and then managing expectations accordingly.
The fact of the matter is that over the course of 10 years, VFC has…
I’d argue that we’re at the point of the ROI decision tree where the business will slow organically at the same time we’re seeing severe cost inflation -- -and that’s exactly when VFC will step on the accelerator with acquisitions. We’re already modeling stock repo in our model, so we may have to redistribute the cash to above the line if a deal happens. We also will not give the company a free pass that any deal will be a good one. The industry is at peak margins right now, and valuations do not represent that. VFC knows how to vet a deal, and even they have had their share of disasters (7 for All Mankind). Also, let's not forget that this company's long-term transformation happened when the industry had the biggest milti-year tailwind that it experienced -- ever.
R3: REQUIRED RETAIL READING
February 18, 2010
OUR TAKE ON OVERNIGHT NEWS
Brown Shoe Acquires American Sporting Goods - After weeks of rumors, Brown Shoe Co. announced on Thursday it had acquired American Sporting Goods. Brown reportedly purchased the Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based company for $145 million in cash plus assumed net debt. In a released statement, Brown said ASG in 2010 accrued $232 million in sales with earnings of $29.6 million. The acquisition is fully funded through borrowing under Brown’s revolving credit agreement. ASG’s brand portfolio includes Avia, Ryka and And 1. The privately held firm has been on the market since 2005. "Acquiring ASG adds the critical element of performance athletic footwear to our comfort and fitness offerings, better positioning Brown Shoe to meet consumer demand for products that support active and healthy lifestyles,” Brown President and COO Diane Sullivan said in a statement <WWD>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Crossing into athletic is one thing but acquiring assets tied largely to toning is another. Recall that Avia and Ryka both entered the toning scene in the past year at mid-tier prices.
Nordstrom Buys HauteLook - Nordstrom Inc. is acquiring HauteLook Inc., a leading Web site staging private, time-sensitive “flash” sales, in a stock deal valued at up to $270 million. The purchase marks the beginning of what is likely to be a pivotal year ahead for Nordstrom as it ventures deeper into cyberspace and advances its “multi-channel customer-centric model.” The retailer will also be testing mobile checkout, equipping sales people with other advanced point-of-sale tools, as it accelerates its mobile and social networking strategies. YiFi has already been added to the stores. According to Blake Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Inc., in two years as many people will be accessing the Internet via mobile devices as with computers. <WWD>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: While the price may appear steep for business with very few financial details publicly available, it is clear that JWN is very focused on being ahead of the curve with technology and the changing retail distribution landscape. Interestingly, HauteLook carries very little inventory instead relying on a “flow through” model.
Reebok Links with Swiss Beatz - It’s been a good week for Swizz Beatz. Fresh off his Grammy win with Jay-Z for "On to the Next One" on Sunday night, the artist-producer unveiled a collaboration with Reebok designed to breathe new life into the company’s Reebok Classics brand. During a press conference at its Project show booth here late Tuesday, Reebok said Beatz, who is married to singer Alicia Keys, will help develop sneakers and apparel for holiday and will lend his street cred to the brand beginning immediately. <WWD>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Remember Pharell’s Ice Cream shoes? Or what about Jay-Z’s S. Carter line?
Dolce, Gabbana Hearing Ends in Postponement - The first preliminary court hearing to determine whether Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana will have to stand trial for alleged tax evasion was held here Thursday. Judge Simone Luerti presided over the hearing, which was not conclusive and was postponed to March 25. A source said the hearing was deferred because “the defendants’ lawyers asked for more time to draw their conclusions.” Luerti will evaluate the evidence provided by Milan-based prosecutor Laura Pedio and has the option to dismiss the case if the evidence doesn’t justify moving forward. <WWD>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: With over a billion dollars in question here, this story is likely a close tie with the Berlusconi scandal in Italy.
NRF Forecasts 4% Retail Sales Growth for 2011 - The National Retail Federation projected retail industry sales, -excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants - will increase 4.0% from 2010. The cautiously optimistic outlook comes on the heels of seven consecutive months of retail sales growth and better than expected holiday sales. With retailers ending last year on a strong note, thanks to robust holiday spending figures, the prospects for economic growth are starting to look better. However, with small businesses continuing to hold back on hiring and expansion plans and consumers facing higher energy costs, questions remain about the speed and strength of the retail spending momentum. <SportsOneSource>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: A 4% growth rate would actually be pretty good if achieved. Expect the NRF to also offer numerous other bullish forecasts as the voice of the retail industry often does.
U.K. Retail Sales Surge - U.K. retail sales rose almost four times as much as economists forecast in January as consumer spending rebounded after the coldest December in a century. Sales gained 1.9 percent from the previous month, when they fell a revised 1.4 percent as snow and freezing temperatures kept Britons from shopping, the Office for National Statistics said today in London. The gain was the biggest since February 2010 and exceeded the 0.5 percent median forecast of 22 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. From a year earlier, sales increased 5.3 percent. Services and construction industries also rebounded last month after weather-related slumps, and today’s data add to evidence that the economy’s 0.5 percent contraction in the fourth quarter may have been a temporary setback to the recovery. <Bloomberg>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: A positive proxy after one of the snowiest January’s in recent history and consistent with what we are seeing thus far in terms of a February sales reacceleration across much of the country with a notable exception on the west coast.
Cotton Hits $2 - Cotton topped $2 a pound for the first time ever as accelerating global growth boosted demand for garments manufactured in China, the world’s biggest fiber consumer and importer, amid shrinking supplies. China’s apparel exports in January surged 34 percent to $13.38 billion from a year earlier, the Customs Bureau said this week. Cotton stockpiles monitored by ICE Futures U.S. have plunged 84 percent since June 1, and flooding in Australia and Pakistan reduced output. “The bulls have gone berserk, and it looks like they want prices to go higher,” said Sid Love, the president of Joe Kropf & Sid Love Consulting Services LLC in Overland Park, Kansas. “China’s demand still remains strong.” <Bloomberg>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: As prices continue to surge higher, expect the shake out of marginal players in the basics business to begin.
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