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RESTAURANT PERSPECTIVES

The following is a monthly look at restaurant trends, valuations, and key macroeconomic factors.  For a complete look at my overview of the restaurant space for February, please click here for a pdf, or copy and paste the link into your browser: http://docs.hedgeye.com/Hedgeye Restaurant Perspectives February 2011.pdf

 

 

FEBRUARY THEMES

  • The Consumer Discretionary sector performed well in February, outperformed only by Energy, closing up 6% on the month.  Tellingly, from the 18th through the 23rd, XLY declined sharply as oil prices jumped.  Further gains in the price of oil may put pressure on the XLY.
  • This month has seen a spate of earnings releases for the last quarter of CY10.  In the last edition of Restaurant Perspectives, I suggested that this year would likely be a turbulent year for restaurant stocks from a commodity cost perspective.  The outlook provided during earnings calls in February certainly suggests that commodity costs are the primary concern going forward.  There is a divergence between companies that have simplified their focus and operations and those that are less focused and, therefore, more exposed.
  • EAT, SBUX, COSI, and WEN (not in any particular order) are a few of the management teams that I think are focusing their energy in the right areas and best positioning their companies to navigate 2011.
  • I continue to believe that MCD faces serious challenges in 2011, as detailed in my Black Book released mid-January.  MCD has underperformed versus the S&P 500 since then.  It is interesting to note that while the Consumer Discretionary Sector has performed strongly in February, MCD has underperformed the XLY by almost 330 basis points despite being a larger component of the ETF than any other stock.
  • I still like where SBUX is going with its business model and that is good for PEET and bad for GMCR.  GMCR’s deal with Dunkin’ Donuts and the internal memo further convince me of this thesis.  See the numerous notes we published on this subject in February.

 

 

QSR VALUATION THOUGHTS

  • CMG continues to maintain its premium valuation, as it has been for some time.  While its “food with integrity” mantra resonates with consumers, concerns are emerging about the company’s commodity exposure.  Longer term it’s new focus on an Asian-style chain will likely be a negative, not positive, for the stock.
  • I expect GMCR’s multiple to contract as SBUX paves its own way through different channels of the coffee category.
  • WEN is cheap and set to improve returns with a more focused approach now that Arby’s is on the block.

 

 

CASUAL DINING VALUATION THOUGHTS

  • EAT remains one of the cheaper names in this category from a valuation perspective and the potential upside remains significant.  I expect a continued improvement in the relative fundamentals of the company on the top line as well as marked progress towards the net 400 bps of margin expansion management is targeting.
  • Like it or not, weather is an issue for the group.

 

 

CONSUMER OUTLOOK:

 

The negative:

  1. Inflation – wheat, oil, cotton.  Prices at the pump are climbing.  James Hamilton, professor of economics at UC San Diego, says that a 10-cents-per-gallon increase in gas prices takes away approximately $14 billion from consumers’ discretionary spending.      
  2. Unemployment – the jobs picture has been improving of late with rolling initial claims declining to a three handle.  The absolute level of joblessness, especially when the labor force participation rate is normalized, remains elevated.

The positive:

  1. University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index data came in positive for February and this offered some support to consumer stocks over the last few days of February.
  2. The Government continues to support consumer spending trends, but the impact will wane and even reverse as severe cuts are likely implemented as we move through 2011.  

Howard Penney

Managing Director


THE HEDGEYE DAILY OUTLOOK

TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP - March 3, 2011


Equity futures are trading above fair value as news emerged overnight that a peace deal, suggested by Venezeula's Hugo Chavez, had been agreed to by Libyian President Gaddafi and the Arab League's Secretary-General Amr Mouss.   As we look at today’s set up for the S&P 500, the range is 28 points or -1.33% downside to 1291 and 0.81% upside to 1319.

 

MACRO DATA POINTS:

  • 8:30 a.m.: Initial jobless claims, Feb.26, est. 395k vs prev. 391k
  • 8:30 a.m.: Net export sales
  • 9:45 a.m.: Bloomberg Consumer Comfort, Feb. 27, est. -40.2, prev. -39.2
  • 10 a.m.: ISM Non-Manufacturing, Feb., est. 59.3 vs prev. 59.4
  • 10 a.m.: Freddie Mac 30-yr mortgage rates
  • 10:30 a.m.: EIA Natural Gas, Feb.25, est. -85 vs prev.-81
  • 11 a.m.: Fed’s Kocherlakota speaks in Minn., later Q&A
  • 12:15 p.m.: Fed’s Lockhart speaks in Tallahassee

EARNINGS/WHAT TO WATCH:

  • News Corp wins U.K. government approval for its $12.7b bid to take full control of BSkyB after agreeing to spin off the Sky News channel.
  • First exchange-traded fund for leveraged loans begins trading today, FT reports, without citing its sources. Fund is based on the Standard & Poor’s/LSTA US Leveraged Loan 100 Index
  • Ontario review of LSE/TMX deal begins second day of public hearings
  • BlackRock, Banco Santander and  10 private-equity firms are forming groups to bid for Citigroup’s U.S. consumer-lending unit
  • Legislation that would bar U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gases to be introduced as early as today
  • The National Football League and players’ union will reconvene this morning in a final bid to reach an agreement on a new labor accord before the existing one expires at midnight

PERFORMANCE:


We have 3 of 9 sectors positive on TRADE and 9 of 9 sectors positive on TREND.

  • One day: Dow +0.07%, S&P +0.16%, Nasdaq +0.39%, Russell 2000 +0.47%
  • Month-to-date: Dow (1.30%), S&P (1.41%), Nasdaq (1.23%), Russell (1.52%)
  • Quarter/Year-to-date: Dow +4.23%, S&P +4.04%, Nasdaq +3.59%, Russell +3.48%
  • Sector Performance: - Energy +0.57%, Tech +0.61%, Industrials +0.47%, Consumer Disc +0.39%, Healthcare +0.30%, Materials +0.36%, Utilities +0.17%, Consumer Spls (0.27%), Financials (0.61%)

EQUITY SENTIMENT:

  • ADVANCE/DECLINE LINE: 803 (+2393)  
  • VOLUME: NYSE 1025.00 (-13.65%)
  • VIX:  20.70 -1.48% YTD PERFORMANCE: +16.62%
  • SPX PUT/CALL RATIO: 2.02 from 2.32 (-12.65%)

CREDIT/ECONOMIC MARKET LOOK:


Treasuries were weaker yesterday with the slightly better risk backdrop, stronger-than-expected ADP private payrolls data and somewhat more upbeat Beige Book.  

  • TED SPREAD: 19.19 +0.406 (2.161%)
  • 3-MONTH T-BILL YIELD: 0.13% -0.01%
  • 10-Year: 3.46 from 3.41
  • YIELD CURVE: 2.77 from 2.75

COMMODITY/GROWTH EXPECTATION:

  • CRB: 359.12 +1.11%; YTD: +7.91%  
  • Oil: 102.23 +2.61%; YTD: +9.62% (trading -0.56% in the AM)
  • COPPER: 449.80 -0.26%; YTD: +1.35% (trading -0.04% in the AM)  
  • GOLD: 1,437.05 +0.60%; YTD: +0.79% ( trading -0.61% in the AM)  

COMMODITY HEADLINES:

  • World Food Prices Climb to Record as UN Sounds Alarm on Further Shortages
  • Oil Declines Most in a Week on Arab League's Libya Crisis Resolution Plan
  • Cocoa Rises to 32-Year High on Ivory Coast Political Tension; Sugar Falls
  • Cotton Futures Advance by Exchange Limit Toward Record on Supply Shortage
  • Corn Rally Makes Farmers Switch to Cheapest Wheat in Decade: Chart of Day
  • U.S. Cotton Is `Sold Out,' Boosting Australian Demand, Shippers Group Says
  • Gold May Fall From Near-Record Price Following Report of Libya Peace Plan
  • Copper Fluctuates on Report of Libya Mediation, Stocks at Seven-Month High
  • Palm Oil Advances for Third Day on Outlook for Brazil, U.S. Soybean Crops
  • Khomeini, Chavez Examples Show Libya Oil Production Decline: Chart of Day
  • Wheat, Corn Fluctuate as Investors Weigh Demand Against Mideast Tension
  • Freeport-McMoran Lured in Equinox Lowball Bid for Lundin Mining: Real M&A
  • Rain Means Hydropower Is `Stealing' Share From Natural Gas: Energy Markets
  • Iran Uranium Program Unhampered by Sanctions, Stuxnet Virus: Chart of Day. 

CURRENCIES:

  • EURO: 1.3869 +0.46% (trading +0.01% in the AM)
  • DOLLAR: 76.671 -0.49% (trading +0.03% in the AM) 

EUROPEAN MARKETS:

  • FTSE 100: +0.98%; DAX: +0.97%; CAC: 0.75% (as of 06:15AM EST)
  • European markets mostly trade higher aided by a fall in the oil price on talk of a peace deal in Libya brokered by the Venezuelan President.
  • Gains in major indices remain ahead of the ECB rate decision at 7:45ET when it is expected to leave its bench market interest rate unchanged at 1%.
  • Economic data was mixed with service sector growth moderating in Feb across the region.
  • Trichet Faces Oil Shock as Inflation Above 2% Threatens to Strangle Growth
  • Rogoff Says Debt Restructuring in Greece, Ireland, Spain Is `Inescapable'
  • U.K. House Prices Fall as Supply of Properties Surges Most in Three Years
  • Poles in Germany May Force Rates Higher at Home 22 Years After Berlin Wall
  • France Q4 ILO Unemployment rate 9.6% vs prior 9.7%
  • Germany Jan preliminary Retail Sales +2.6% y/y vs consensus +1.6%

February Final Services PMI:

  • France 59.7 vs prelim 60.8
  • German 58.6 vs prelim 59.5
  • Eurozone 56.8 vs prelim 57.2
  • UK Feb services PMI 52.6 vs consensus 53.5

 

ASIAN MARKTES:

  • Nikkei +0.9%; Hang Seng +0.3%; Shanghai Composite (0.4%)
  • Most Asian markets rose today on bargain-hunting, encouraged by Wall Street’s rise.
  • South Korea rose on industrial-output data.
  • Japan rebounded from yesterday’s fall.
  • Hong Kong ended slightly higher on short-covering and strength in Chinese banks. Standard Chartered rose 4% on results.
  • Australia finished flat. ASX (ASX.AU) fell 1% when Australian regulators released guidelines indicating a second stock exchange could go live in the country by October.
  • China fell as fears about further monetary tightening outweighed any optimism and led to profit-taking in the afternoon. High oil prices sent industrial shares down, but banks rose on the perception that they are undervalued.
  • Japan Oct-Dec corporate capex +3.8% y/y vs consensus +5.9%. February diffusion index of business sentiment +1.7 pts m/m to 35.4.
  • China HSBC February PMI 51.9 vs prior 52.0.

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

THE HEDGEYE DAILY OUTLOOK - setup


WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR

In general, commodities continue to gain in price with this past week bringing a more broad-based gain in week-over-week growth.  Many restaurant stocks are hoping for an abatement or moderation in prices ahead of 2H11 (having given up on 1H in many cases).  That notwithstanding, prices march higher.

 

Cheese prices merit a mention once again this week not due to any major week-over-week move but because of both DPZ and PZZA reporting recently.  Below, I provide some commentary on cheese from both management teams provided during their most recent respective earnings calls:

 

DPZ:

Yeah, so the forward curve and kind of looking at about three different sources right now have cheese actually easing a little bit through the rest of the year. We're at almost $2 right now. And so, our expectation is that we're going to see a little bit of easing, to give you on cheese. We've talked about this in the past, we've got a contract in place that basically reduces the volatility on cheese moves by about a third. So about two thirds of increases or decreases in cheese are passed through to our system.

 

I think the kind of consensus forecast out there right now for cheese are in the $1.70 to $1.75 range. And – you know so what you're looking at is kind of a $0.25 to $0.30 move and I think we've said in the past a $0.40 move in cheese is equal to a point at the store level P&L.

 

PZZA:

We expect the favorable impact of early year sales results to substantially mitigate the unfavorable impact of currently projected commodity cost increases, most notably cheese, throughout the remainder of the year.

 

DPZ is 95% franchised and, as such, management claims a degree of insulation from commodity costs.  Of course, to the extent that price needs to be taken and royalties slow, the company is not immune from inflation.  Add to that the inevitable impact of higher gas prices (up 6% week-over-week!) and inflation is meaningful to company and franchise revenues alike.

 

Looking at the chart below, the trend in cheese prices seems to be levelling out.  Nevertheless, even if cheese prices were to trend horizontally throughout the rest of the year, at it’s most benign, cheese price inflation would be 13%. 

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR - cheese

 

Beef prices are a concern for almost all restaurant stocks.  Given the increasing demand for meat on a global basis, the impact of natural disasters,  the increase of corn prices and, of course, the downward trajectory of the dollar, beef prices look set to continue downward.  For steakhouse concepts like MRT, RUTH, and TXRH, this is a concern.  The concepts that are most able to pass on price to the customer will best weather this storm, while the concepts most dependent on price point and traffic for top line growth will likely suffer.

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR - live cattle

 

Chicken wing prices definitely deserve a callout again this week.  The 5% week-over-week decline in wing prices spells further good news for BWLD margins.

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR - chicken wing

 

Oil prices have been capturing all of the headlines of late and with good reason.  The obvious implications for retail gasoline prices in the United States impact consumer discretionary stocks and restaurants in particular.   As the chart below clearly shows, the inverse correlation between CBRL’s stock price and Oil over the past couple of weeks has been extremely high.  CBRL is especially sensitive to gasoline prices given that its customer is typically derived from highway traffic.  However, I suspect that other restaurant chains such as TXRH, CAKE, SONC, and many others will be impacted by this gain in prices at the pump.

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR - cbrl oil

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR - commodities  weekly 32

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

 

 


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FL: Slowdown Schmodown

Intraquarter speculation surrounding a meaningful slowdown in Foot Locker's sales trends is now confirmed to have been purely baseless.  This was another solid quarter with the reporting of 4Q EPS of $0.39 per share, a couple of pennies above the Street and a few pennies shy of our robust $0.43 estimate (our key difference came on the gross margin line where we were overly bullish). The key to the quarter was simply better sales in which comps came it at a robust 7.3% (Street: 5%, Hedgeye: 6%). Gross margins were up 214 bps, in line with guidance and expenses were leveraged against the strong topline.

 

Two highlights to note. First, management continues to control inventories, growing them at a fraction of sales growth. Inventory increased by 2.1% while total sales were up 5.1%. Recall that inventory growth is targeted at a maximum of 50% of the rate of sales growth. Second, the balance sheet continued to improve sequentially as the company substantially improved EBIT and subsequent cash flow over the past year. The cash balance stands at $696 million or $559 million net of debt. We expect share repurchase to become more meaningful in 2011.

 

All in this was another solid quarter, which marks the first anniversary of CEO Ken Hicks arrival. Tomorrow morning’s conference call will provide additional details on the company’s plans for 2011 as well as some high level guidance. It’s safe to say that skepticism surrounding FL’s sales performance within the quarter was speculation at its best.  Just one year into the multi-year turnaround process and we are now seeing evidence of real market share gains. We expect that this trend will continue as the benefits of merchandising, marketing, and inventory management strategies are clearly taking hold with both customers and the company’s key vendors.

 

Below we republish a list of questions we have heading into the conference call:

  • How big  was the 2011 increase in co-op advertising?  It appeared in 4Q that TV impressions were up substantially but at what (if any) cost?  How is Foot Locker measuring advertising effectiveness now that each of the major brands are firmly behind the company’s resurgence as the leading global seller of athletic footwear?
  • What is being done to jumpstart the performance of the company’s e-commerce platform?  When is store delivery and real-time store inventory locating going to be a reality? With double-digit EBIT margins even modest growth here could and should be meaningful to the bottom line.
  • How are the product trends in the US (running, basketball, toning) translating into Europe and Asia?
  • When can we see more House of Hoops-like collaborations with your vendors? 
  • If an NFL lockout occurs what impact may this have on this year?  Would this possibly help the impending launch of Nike’s NFL license given pent up demand may result from a NFL-free year?
  • What if anything will Allen Questrom be focused on with his recent board appointment? He has a history of changing company cultures and attracting human capital.  Will the organization see changes as a result?
  • What have been the biggest challenges so far in re-assorting the company’s apparel programs, both private label and branded?
  • What does a successful exclusive launch of UA basketball mean for future collaborations? (same for Li Ning? Is it significant enough to move the needle?)

FL: Slowdown Schmodown - fl 4q

 

Eric Levine

Director


IS GLOBAL STAGFLATION HERE TO STAY?

Conclusion: Today’s action in the Hang Seng Index lends support to a theory we’ve been pondering for the past few weeks: global inflation is likely to shift beyond mere commodity reflation born out of US dollar debasement into the dreaded “core” inflation readings that will incrementally stymie global consumption growth.

 

Recent Positions: Short Emerging Market Equities (EEM, EWZ, IFN, ESR); Short Consumer Companies w/ multinational sales and/or global supply chains (MCD, TGT, JNY, VFC, XLP, XLY); Short US Treasuries (SHY); Short Developed Nation Equities where sentiment is misaligned with the fundamentals (EWJ, SPY, XLI); Long Crude Oil and Oil Producers (OIL; PBR); Long Commodity Currencies (FXC).

 

One question we’ve been wrestling with lately is: “Where do we go from here?” – particularly as it relates to the US Dollar-debased commodity inflation you’ve been seeing on your screens for the last 3-6 months. On this morning’s Daily Macro Call, Keith mentioned he’d get more constructive on equities as an asset class (particularly US equities) if the US dollar were to stabilize above its TREND line of resistance at $78.98.

 

IS GLOBAL STAGFLATION HERE TO STAY? - 1

 

Playing devil’s advocate, one could make a compelling case that the boat has left the dock with regards to global inflation trends. As we’ve seen with accelerating “Core” CPI readings, particularly in Asian economies like China, Indonesia, and Thailand, companies globally are taking advantage of recent robust global growth trends and bullish growth forecasts to pass through COGS increases to consumers.

 

The US, China, Japan, India, Brazil are just a few major economies where consensus growth forecasts for 2011 are much, much too high relative to our models and the current Global Macro backdrop of accelerating inflation and higher interest rates.

 

Irrespective of the tired argument between the importance of “Core” vs. “Headline” CPI, the key takeaway here is that even if commodities start to back off their current highs (i.e. if MENA conflict stopped today and crude oil went back down to the $80-$85 range), there is a very high and underappreciated possibility that global inflation readings will continue to accelerate for two main reasons: 

  1. Corporations  – particularly public companies with FIFO accounting – will look to overly bullish global growth estimates as justification to pass through the last two quarters of COGS inflation through the supply chain to end-consumers in an attempt to protect both margins and earnings; and
  2. The recent global uptrend in public officials caving in to populist pressure to increase subsidies, transfer payments, and wages will continue to add to the demand-side inflationary pressure and exacerbate the current supply/demand imbalances of many commodities in the near term. Longer term, this artificial support of consumer demand is likely to result in additional price pass-through to end-consumers, which is likely to stymie consumption growth over the intermediate term. 

Since we all know where consensus is at regarding the current lofty global growth assumptions, we’ll just skip right to addressing point #2. A few specific examples of the recent global trend of increasing subsidies, transfer payments, and wages include: 

  • China: As the gov’t moves to rebalance the economy towards a greater reliance on domestic consumption, minimum wage hikes are anticipated in all 31 provinces for the second consecutive year, with key populations such as Guangdong, Beijing, and Shanghai are at the forefront of gains;
  • Indonesia: Plans to remove longstanding subsidies for fuel in March have been scrapped. In the past, the removal of such subsidies have led to protests which brought down Indonesian governments, such as the Suharto regime in the late ‘90’s;
  • MENA: Speaking of protests, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Libya, and, perhaps most importantly, Saudi Arabia have flooded their economies with transfer payments to ward off current and future protesters (see: “Day of Rage” planned in the Saudi Kingdom on 3/11). Specifically, the Saudi royal family just announced a $37B benefits package last week in what may turn out to be a moot effort to prevent a domestic social upheaval;
  • India: In its latest budget (released Monday) the gov’t is attempting to boost incomes through greater income tax exemptions. Moreover, it is increasing subsidies for housing loans and allocating $1.44 TRILLION rupees for food and fuel subsidies. Additional subsidies are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
  • Thailand: The gov’t just recently extended a program that provides free electricity and public transportation for the poor.
  • Brazil: President Rousseff just announced a R$2.1B ($1.3B) increase in funding for Brazil’s Bolsa Familia transfer program which will allow even more families to receive benefits. 

Perhaps more so than the other countries, Hong Kong’s capitulation on this front last night revealed an interesting takeaway as it relates this trend with respect to developing vs. developed economies. Given that most regard Hong Kong as a reasonably developed economy, it was interesting to see the Hong Kong gov’t give in populist demands for additional handouts because it lets us know that this trend may no longer be contained to largely-indigent developing nations like those of the MENA region, India, and China.

 

After Chief Executive Donald Tsang (the highest ranking H.K. official) was assaulted amid a wave of public protest yesterday, Financial Secretary John Tsang agreed to hand out cash, tax rebates, pension injections to the tune of HK$6,000 in each instance. This is in addition to his decision last week to wave public housing rents for two months and provide subsidies for electricity bills while talking up the dangerous inflationary pressures of providing cash handouts.

 

Addressing the media overnight, Tsang had this to say: “We find this is the best way to respond to demands from residents…”

 

We at Hedgeye also find this to be among the best ways to support our call for Global Inflation Accelerating. Perhaps that’s why the Hang Seng backed off its TRADE line of resistance hard overnight, closing down (-1.5%).

 

IS GLOBAL STAGFLATION HERE TO STAY? - 2

 

All told, we’ve been beating the table on Global Stagflation since October. Now that consensus has figured out the inflation component as oil trades above $100/bbl., our task is to figure out how to time consensus’ uncovering of the bearish growth factor on the short side of equities. If 2008 is any guide, they will kick, scream, and buy every dip on the way down – provided we’re headed there; ultimately, time and space will tell.

 

Darius Dale

Analyst


Accelerating Athletic Apparel Trends Continue

 

Weekly athletic apparel sales continue to accelerate on a sequential basis, confirming a rebound in sales activity through the end of February.  Both the athletic specialty and family channels continue to strengthen while sales at the discount/mass channel slowed on the margin last week. Under the surface it’s worth noting that ASP’s decelerated in both the athletic specialty and family channel for the second consecutive week.  However,  unit volume more than made up for slight y/y ASP declines. Price increases in the discount/mass channel appear  to be curbing sales momentum a bit, as unit growth has decelereated each of the past few weeks.  Lastly, sales growth was robust across all regions with New England standing out as the only region to decelerate on a sequential basis. More noteworthy however, is the sharp rebound in the Pacific/Mountain regions that have been underperforming since mid-January.  As always, week to week weather patterns can certainly have a short term impact.

 

Accelerating Athletic Apparel Trends Continue - FW App App Table 3 2 11

 

Accelerating Athletic Apparel Trends Continue - FW App App 1Yr 3 2 11

 

Accelerating Athletic Apparel Trends Continue - FW App Reg 3 2 11

 

Casey Flavin

Director


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