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Lower-Highs: SP500 Levels, Refreshed

POSITION: no position in SPY 


From the vantage point of my core 3-factor model (PRICE, VOLUME, VOLATILITY), the risk/reward tells me I’m best served to continue to managing risk towards the probability of the US stock market making lower-highs.


As a reminder, here’s where the SP500 price of 1320 fits across my core 3 risk management durations: 

  1. TRADE support = 1312
  2. TREND support = 1258
  3. TAIL resistance = 1343 

Meanwhile, here’s how the Volatility Index (VIX) looks 

  1. TRADE support = 18.11
  2. TREND support = 17.74
  3. TAIL resistance = 22.02 

Convergence of TRADE and TREND durations like this in the VIX could be a very bullish leading indicator for future volatility. Fundamentally, with Global Growth Slowing as Global Inflation accelerates, that risk management scenario makes perfect sense to me. And I don’t think consensus is positioned for it.



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Lower-Highs: SP500 Levels, Refreshed - 1

R3: WRC, SHOO, M, New Balance


March 1, 2011






  • For those who don’t believe shopping is an American pastime you may want to think again.  A study conducted by OnePoll discovered that the average woman spends 399 hours and 46 minutes shopping per year over 301 trips.  Interestingly apparel shopping edges out food shopping with average time spent at 100 hours on clothing vs. 94 for groceries.
  • Add New Balance to the list of athletic footwear companies looking to focus on new product and innovation in 2011.  The company launches its latest marketing campaign entitled “Let’s Make Excellence Happen” with a presence on TV, print, digital, viral video, and in-store visuals.  The effort focuses on a slew of new product intros and marks the end of the company’s “softer” marketing efforts via its “Made in the USA” campaign.
  • In one of the more optimistic views we’ve heard regarding pricing dynamics, WRC’s management suggested that in addition to expecting higher selling prices to largely offset increased product costs, unit volume is also likely to remain flat over the balance of the year providing a source of comp upside. Compared to the rest of retail that expects unit volume declines as an offset to price, WRC would be a clear standout in the space if they manage to grow both.  



Reliance Brands closes Deal with Steven Madden Ltd. -  India’s Reliance Brands has taken a step closer to its vision of becoming an apparel and lifestyle powerhouse in the Asian country with a new license for accessories and footwear under the Steve Madden brand. The license, with Steven Madden Ltd., brings the Madden collections to all major cities across India through monobrand and premium department stores.  Darshan Mehta, president and chief executive officer of Reliance Brands, said the firm aims “to [translate] the brand’s unique fashion sense into the mind-set of the Indian female consumer.”  Reliance has joint venture partnerships with Paul & Shark, Diesel and Ermenegildo Zegna, as well as distribution agreements with Timberland and Quiksilver. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  With foreign direct investment still up in the air, western brands are not sitting still.  Clearly sharing the cost of an Indian market entry with a partner like Reliance has its benefits to building a brand with very little, if any awareness at this point.


Sustainable Apparel Coalition Formed - Sustainability is on the road to standardization. After years of largely going it alone and producing a patchwork of overlapping efforts to reduce fashion’s social and environmental footprint, a group of major brands, nonprofit groups and the Environmental Protection Agency have banded together to form the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. Next month, the coalition, which was spearheaded by Patagonia and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., will begin testing the next generation of an index that measures the sustainability of apparel and footwear. That index is expected to evolve into a label or hangtag that would help shoppers understand the ramifications of their apparel or footwear purchases, from carbon emissions and water and chemical usage to conditions in factories. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:   For anyone interested in seeing where these efforts are headed take a look at Patagonia’s blog which actually tracks the entire production of its garments, component by component, factory by factory.  The complexity in coordinating the global supply chain to produce just one piece of outerwear is eyeopening.


Swiss Banker Buys Stake in JJB Sports - A Swiss investment bank acquired warrants convertible to a nearly 6% stake in JJB Sports last week as the insolvent British sporting goods retailer prepared to reorganize under protection from its creditors.  JJB Sports notified investors Feb. 25 that a group led by Adriano Agosti, chairman and  managing director for GoldenPeaks Capital Partners AG, acquired warrants convertible to 7.46 million shares, or 5.76% of the retailer. The retailer also said it had delivered a final draft of its revised business plan to Bank of Scotland detailing how it plans to restructure  under a "corporate voluntary arrangement," or CVA, which is the United Kingdom’s version of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.  <SportsOneSource>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Long rumored to be a potential “takeout” candidate, JJB looks to be heading more in the direction of survival mode.  Bonus points for anyone who can remember when sporting goods was actually a decent and money-making business in the UK. 


Macy’s Mobile Commerce - Macy’s is adding a little star power to its mobile channel. The retailer is using text messages and two-dimensional bar code scanning of the Quick Response, or QR, code variety to deliver video content to shoppers from the retailer’s celebrity designers, including Bobbi Brown, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Greg Norman, Rachel Roy, Irina Shabayeva and Martha Stewart. The program, called Macy’s Backstage Pass, was developed with the help of marketing firm JWT New York and lets in-store shoppers use a mobile device to scan a QR code on a product or send a text message to access videos about the designers and brands. <InternetRetailer>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Expect to see even more mobile marketing from Macy’s as the company overall digital budget expands at the expense of traditional media. 


Facebook will Surpass Yahoo! in Display Ad Revenues This Year -  For the first time, the largest share of US display ad revenues will go to Facebook, eMarketer estimates. The social network’s 80.9% growth in display ad revenues, to $2.19 billion this year, will mean Facebook sees 21.6% of all US display ad dollars. That will put it ahead of Yahoo!, where eMarketer estimates display revenues will be up 16%. Yahoo!’s market share will inch up to 16.4%, while display gains at Google push the site’s share of display spending to 12.6%. Meanwhile, AOL will drop from 5.3% of display ad revenues in 2010 to 4.4% this year. <eMarketer>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Definitely good for Facebook but probably not good for the Facebook user.  In other words, Facebook has quickly become the world’s largest billboard.


R3: WRC, SHOO, M, New Balance - r3 3 1 11



Counterpoint: Middle East Turmoil is Bullish for Oil

Lou Gagliardi is Hedgeye's Managing Director of Energy Research.  The following is a note he published yesterday in response to Daryl Jones' note "Could the Turmoil in the Middle East be Bearish for Oil?"


At Hedgeye, we emphasize risk management; that entails encouraging different perspectives and in-house debate to ensure our clients are presented with a breadth and depth of thoughtful research. In the pursuit of that goal, my colleague Daryl Jones, our Macro Managing Director, this past Friday wrote a compelling and thoughtful view titled “Could the Turmoil in the Middle East be Bearish for Oil?’


In the spirit of debate where reasonable men may disagree, I will present a counter view.


Daryl is right; “fear” is driving the price of oil in the markets. But it is a credible fear. As I wrote this past Friday, “The market has seized upon the reality that these Mid-Eastern regimes are vulnerable and could collapse, and to which political wind is uncertain. Who will control these significant global energy supplies is still unknown. This new realization breeds uncertainty in the market.” That uncertainty breeds oil price volatility.


Whether these political regimes collapse or not, and to which political view, is not my focus here, nor is whether political liberalization could actually support growing production. Indeed, incremental production can grow under any political persuasion. Political liberalization will be good for the people of the Mid-East, and for international relations. It will calm the oil markets and remove much of the “fear” premium recently baked into oil prices. It can also create a more positive environment to grow global production supplies. But political liberalization will NOT over the long run be a catalyst for lower crude prices. Why? Because incremental production from Mid-East is “insufficient” to arrest global crude oil production decline and meet growing global consumption. The next three charts highlight these points.


First, the major global crude oil basins are in significant decline: Mexico, Venezuela, U.K., Norway, Nigeria, Alaska North Slope, U.S. lower 48 conventional, and Canadian conventional.


Counterpoint: Middle East Turmoil is Bullish for Oil  - lg1


Global crude oil consumption continues to outstrip global production: global consumption since 2000 has averaged about 1.1% per annum; global production has grown at about 0.7% per annum.


Counterpoint: Middle East Turmoil is Bullish for Oil  - lg2


Lastly, the major global oil basins in decline are the major global crude oil exporters: since 2004 the combined average drop off in production for only the UK, Norway, Mexico, Nigeria and Venezuela has been over 622,000 b/d per year, or 3.1 MM b/d in total production lost, and increasing.


Counterpoint: Middle East Turmoil is Bullish for Oil  - lg3


On closer examination, Russia is not a clear example of what Iraq can do with production growth; its growth will depend on its reservoirs and the laws of physics. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy and the IEA, Russian oil production peaked in 1987 at 11.484 MM b/d, reached a low of 6.114 MM b/d in 1996, ramped up to 9.287 MM b/d by 2004, and hit 10.150 MM b/d in 2010 – a 1.5% per annum increase from 2004 to 2010. As I wrote in an energy note on Jan 7th, “Can Russia Maintain Oil Production at 10 MM b/d?” Russia has struggled to return to its production level of 10.45 MM b/d in 1990, and twenty years is a long time; Russia has never returned to Soviet era levels. Indeed, since 2005 Russia’s year-over-year crude production rate has steadily declined, as seen from the graph below.


Counterpoint: Middle East Turmoil is Bullish for Oil  - lg4


Why has Russia struggled despite its “political liberalization”? Recall Yukos and Mikhail Khodorkovsky as a prime example that Russia’s “democracy” is not exactly comparable to western standards.  First, Russian oil fields were opened up to Russian bureaucratic cronies, not to the Western Multinationals (IOCs). Secondly, Mother Nature, or the natural laws of physics, has hampered growth. Once Russian fields were privatized, albeit to Russian insiders, economic incentives became the production drivers; Russian fields registered a significant uptick in production growth as secondary recovery techniques were applied to Russia’s aging Western Siberian fields. The rate of production growth began to increase in 2000, peaked in 2003, and the rate of growth has declined ever since. The difficulty in sustaining an increasing rate of growth is due to the natural rate of decline in oil and gas fields, and economics. The marginal cost of investment begins to erode the marginal return from mature Russian fields, even at high oil prices.


These are the same issues that Iraqi production growth faces today. First, as to claims that Iraqi production could eventually hit 12 MM b/d: since 1965 the highest Iraq production has ever been is 3.489 MM b/d in 1979; no country produces at 12 MM b/d, not even Saudi Arabia (today at ~8.9 MM b/d). The last country to come close to 12 MM b/d, Russia, fell short by roughly 500,000 b/d and has taken over twenty years since 1990 to get back to 10 MM b/d.


Furthermore, higher production that leads to lower crude prices is not in Iraq’s national interest, and the country knows this. Their goal is not to maximize production, but to maximize revenue.  The dilemma the Iraqis will run into is dealing with a“mutually exclusive” choice: you maximize production or you maximize ultimate recovery, you cannot have both unless you alter the laws of physics. When you run the reservoirs hard to speed up production, in the long-run you impair reservoir pressure and limit ultimate resource recovery; and that, in the long-run, limits ultimate revenue as barrels are lost.


In the initial years, Iraq will see a significant uptick in production as the Russians did, coming off a low base and as the dramatic effect of secondary enhanced recovery techniques kicks in. But successive increases in growth rates will become increasingly difficult to maintain, as natural reservoir decline accelerates due to falling pressure. Increasing capital investment to increase reservoir pressure and arrest natural decline will run into the wall of the laws of diminishing returns, as the cost of the incremental barrel exceeds its incremental return.


Today, Iraqi production is at 2.7 MM b/d with 2.75 MM b/d targeted at the end of this year. To hit 12 MM b/d within a decade demands a ~16% per annum compounded growth rate, and if they could attain it, it would require massive inflows of capital. Most of the Majors have avoided Iraq’s initial offering of licenses, due to unprofitable terms. This is a prime example of“Resource Nationalism.” Will Iraq invite the Majors back by offering better terms? They may, but, that means less for Iraq which they will seek to offset through higher oil prices. Iraq will get higher prices through production cutbacks – basic supply/demand/price levers. Greater capital investment will flow to Iraq only if commensurate returns increase, and that demands higher oil prices.


Understanding what is at stake for Iraq and many of the other oil-rich Mid-East nations cuts to the heart of the issue. Higher production is to whose benefit? The West? Or the local people, for whom it is intended? The road through greater oil wealth lies through less oil supply, which drives prices higher; even the Iraqis understand this, despite public relations statements to the contrary.


In conclusion, supply will remain increasingly constrained due to natural global decline, higher costs, inadequate infrastructure, accelerating demand from the developing world, continued geo-political tension, and “national self-interest”; combined these catalysts will limit global oil production and inevitably fuel higher prices.


From the Oil and Gas Patch,


Lou Gagliardi


Kevin Kaiser

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Yesterday, government data showed that real spending slipped in January as rising prices and bad weather discouraged spending on nondurable goods. 


In aggregate, spending on durable goods increased more slowly and “real spending” was reduced across the major types of discretionary services. Importantly, real expenditures on “food served at restaurants and hotel accommodations” declined by 0.6%, which was the sharpest drop among all categories of service.


The consumer is better off today than in January 2010, but as the January data showed, spending remains sluggish.  Also, increasing food and energy prices create further risk, particularly on discretionary items.    In 2010, DPZ did an amazing job transforming the business in the USA, but the suggestion that DPZ is going to go on a 4-5 year run like MCD is very unlikely.  In fact, DPZ is likely to report negative same-store sales growth in 1Q11.




Howard Penney

Managing Director


Notable news items/price action over the last twenty-four hours.

  • DPZ reported EPS ex-items of $0.40 cents versus the street at $0.40.   Domestic, company-operated comparable restaurant sales came in at 5.4%, implying a sequential slowdown in two-year average quarterly trends of 175 basis points.
  • WEN’s for-sale concept, Arby’s, has introduced an Angus beef sandwich, the first in what the chain expects to be in a line of premium offerings.  I maintain my positive outlook on WEN, and view the sale of Arby’s as a positive move for the company.
  • PZZA announced that David Flanery is retiring as CEO and Lance Tucker will take over following a transitional period.  The stock traded up 60 basis points on strong volume yesterday.
  • An article on CNNmoney.com published yesterday discussed the increase in weatlhy consumers frequenting low-cost, fast food restaurants.
  • An article on the New York Times’ online “opinionator” blog shed some light on MCD’s oatmeal and the ingredients therein.  According to the article, “Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin.”
  • COSI outperformed the space yesterday, gaining 2.1% on the day.  I believe this stock price will gain further in the coming months.
  • In general, yesterday, restaurant stocks traded very thinly with volume down across the board.



Howard Penney

Managing Director


The Macau Metro Monitor, March 1, 2011



On 2/9/2011, LVS received a subpoena from the SEC "requesting that the Company produce documents relating to its compliance with the FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act). The Company has also been advised by the Department of Justice that it is conducting a similar investigation.  It is the Company’s belief that the subpoena emanated from allegations contained in the lawsuit filed by Steven C. Jacobs described above." 


The FCPA "generally prohibits U.S. companies and their intermediaries from making improper payments to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business."  LVS said any FCPA violation would have a material adverse effect on their financial condition.


Greek Mythology Casino in Taipa may complete a revamp by end of the year and will prioritize the development of VIP business to drive high‐end players.  The company expects monthly turnover will grow to MOP70 billion from the current
MOP15 billion.


February GGR came in at 19.28BN HKD (19.863BN MOP, 2.48BN USD).  This represents 47.7% YoY growth.



A Singapore Parliament member, Denise Phua, argued that over-reliance on gaming revenue would hurt Singapore over time.  She suggested that the casino entry levy (S$100) be tripled, the S$2,000 annual levy be abolished, and that a permanent a cap of 2 be placed on the on IRs.



According to the China Real Estate Index System, residential property prices in 100 major Chinese cities rose 0.48% MoM in February, slowing from January's 0.95% MoM growth data provider.


Flash estimates compiled by the National University of Singapore Institute of Real Estate Studies show the overall Singapore Residential Price Index rising by 2.6% MoM.  This is more than double the 1% MoM increase in December.