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Eye On Macro – Risk On

“Get the habit of analysis - analysis will in time enable synthesis to become your habit of mind.”

                              -Frank Lloyd Wright


Conclusion: Below we’ve highlighted some key excerpts from our last week of research notes and global economic data synthesis.  If the data is telling us anything, it is that risk is back on. (Not that it was ever truly off.)  In Europe, both sovereign and bank debt CDS spreads continue to flash warning signs as yields and CDS spreads are widening.  In Asia, we are getting continued evidence of inflation (Chinese CPI +4.9%) and growth slowing (Japan revised Q4 GDP lower to -1.3%).  Finally in the U.S., we are getting more evidence of the consumer getting squeezed due to declining home prices (Corelogic had national home prices down -5.5% in January) and accelerating gasoline costs.


Long Macro Positions


Longs oil via etf OIL; Long grains via etf JJG; Long corn via etf CORN; Long gold via etf GOLD; Long Canadian Loonie vie etf FXC; Long Germany via etf EWG; Long Chinese Yuan via etf CYB; Long yield curve flattening via etf FLAT; Long healthcare via etf XLV; Long energy producers via XLE


Short Macro Positions


Short Spain via etf EWP; Short the U.S. Dollar via UUP; Short industrials via XLI; Short homebuilders via XHB; Short treasuries via SHY; Short emerging markets via EEM


Key Research Excerpts


“Up until last week, it can be strongly argued that the dollar’s decline has been aided by a confluence of dovish US monetary policy (QE2) and incredibly lax fiscal policy (the CBO revised up the US federal budget deficit by +46% through FY13).”


“We know QE2 is ending in three months; will the Fed be tempted to step on the gas pedal some more? Reasonably strong US GDP growth forecasts of around +3.5% for 2H11 suggest that QE3 is not consensus – yet.”


“Corn is facing a serious supply shortage in the year 2010-2011 as corn output is estimated at 814.3 million tons while corn demand will flirt with 836 million tons. According to a Feb. 9th USDA estimate, approximately 43% (4.95B out of the 11.6B bushels) of corn demand in the US is for ethanol use.  This only adds to gasoline costs as gasoline is comprised of 10% ethanol.”


“The average U.S. household will spend about $700 more for gasoline in 2011 than it spent last year, bringing total motor fuel expenses up 28 percent to $3,235, based on an annual pump price of $3.61.”


“According to the latest American Pulse™ Survey of 5,224 respondents, 80.3% of registered voters agree that the increase in gas prices is one of the worst problems affecting the United States. The survey asked respondents to list the worst problems currently affecting the United States, and registered voters mentioned in order of frequency: unemployment (80.4%), rising gas prices (80.3%), weak economy (70.6%), national debt (69.4%) and rising food prices (61.9%).”


“The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index dropped to minus 44.5 last week from the prior week’s minus 39.7, which was close to the highest in almost three years.” 


“The unemployment rate was a surprise at 8.9%, but it is likely an aberration as more discouraged workers than previous months did not enter the labor force.”


“We have been looking for claims in the 375-400k range as the level that can begin to bring unemployment down.  If this level is held, we expect to see unemployment improve.  That said, it is worth highlighting an important caveat. This recession has been different in that it has pushed the labor force participation rate down by ~200 bps, which has had a correspondingly positive improvement on the unemployment rate. In other words, the unemployment rate isn't really 8.9%, it's 10.9%. So when we say that claims of 375-400k will bring down the unemployment rate, we are actually referring to the 10.9% actual rate as opposed to the 8.9% reported rate.”


“Despite a surge in personal income growth, real spending declined in January. Real personal consumption expenditures slipped by 0.1%, marking the first decline since April 2010. Nominal spending rose by 0.2%, which was about half of the average pace from the previous six months.”


“If you've been wondering when home prices in the U.S. would officially double-dip, your wait is over.  Corelogic reported the Home Price Index for January hit 134.94, the lowest value since 2003.  On a YoY basis, the index fell -5.7%, an acceleration from December's pace of -4.7% YoY (upwardly revised from -5.5%).  Looking at sequential changes, the story is similar. The Index fell -2.5% MoM in January, the largest sequential decline since February of 2009.” 


“According to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Federal budget deficit for February was $223BN which is an increase of about 1% from February 2010. Revenues actually grew year-over-year by 3%, which is marginally positive.  This is also the 10th straight month of year-over-year revenue increases.  On the flip side, and despite all of spending cut rhetoric, expenditures were up 5% from February 2010.”


“Our Risk Monitor for European banks shows a widening for the Greek banks week-over-week, bucking the trend of tightening across most European banks: tightening for 31 of the 39 reference entities and widening for 8.”


“One small reason Europe needs to raise interest rates is the fact that European gasoline prices are at an all time record of $8.632 per gallon.”


“Currently, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) is funded with €750 Billion, composed of €440 Billion from the 16 Eurozone members; €250 from the IMF; and €60 Billion from European Commission. One pressing issue is that the entire €440 Billion is not all liquid, for guarantees against the money are needed to retain its AAA rating, which effectively leaves only €250 Billion for access. Many argue that should a country far greater than Greece or Ireland need a bailout, say a Spain or Italy, the funds are inadequate.”


“Japan revised its Q4 GDP estimate LOWER again to -1.3% (don’t forget that the US has done the same with Q4 GDP, twice).”


“China reported a huge sequential slowdown in Exports for February at +2.4% (lowest level of demand since early 2009).”


“South Korea raised interest rates to 3% (2nd rate hike for 2011 YTD with the #1 reason being inflation).”



Daryl G. Jones
Managing Director

Update on Japan

Below are some observations on Japan from Michael Blum, Hedgeye's COO, who is based in Singapore.


"It is 5:45am here in Singapore. We are watching NHK World, the Japanese National Public Broadcasting Organization’s English language channel. The pictures we see are much worse than what is being shown on CNN International, Fox News or the BBC.


All night, we have listened to evacuation notices by the Japanese government trying to reach people in all of the northern provinces and warning them of after-shocks and, most seriously, additional Tsunamis. These evacuation notices have been posted in Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese and English.


Massive amounts of land are still under water as the Land of the Rising Sun welcomes this day. Total devastation. We see fires of the most unimaginable scale beyond what has been shown on western television in the last 15 hours.


The damage and casualties will be beyond what can be imagined and comprehended by our simple minds."


Michael Blum

Chief Operating Officer

The Week Ahead

The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 14th of March through the 18th 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.


The Week Ahead - cal1

The Week Ahead - cal2

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As we pointed out this week, consumer confidence has been improving largely due to steadily improving expectations.  The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment numbers suggest that expectations may be correcting here, as the reality of still-anemic economic growth and higher food and gas prices hit home.




Earlier today, the preliminary University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment index fell to 68.2 from February’s 77.5 (the decline was the eighth largest since the index began being conducted monthly in 1978).  Not surprisingly, the decline was likely caused by recent geo-political events and soaring gasoline prices.  Importantly, the bulk of the decline came from plunging expectations, which fell 13.3 points from February to 58.3.  Notably, Inflation expectations surged, especially short-term expectations, which jumped more than a percentage point to 4.6%.


In general, economic drivers of confidence remain very mixed; rising gas prices and geo-political events are depressing sentiment, while stock prices and the labor market are a net positive.  We recently speculated that we could see an intermediate term bottom in the unemployment rate, as a large number of discouraged workers remain out of the labor force, but are likely to start looking as the economy improves.  Another coming drag on confidence and spending is the necessary-but-significant austerity measures being adopted at both state and national level.  The housing market, which is now in a double-dip (See our Financial team’s post, “DOUBLE-DIP IN HOME PRICES…” from yesterday for more), is an additional drag that the market seems to have paid scant attention to of late.  This housing scenario is playing out in an ugly fashion and when – not if – the market has no option but to pay heed to this, it will be a significant depressant for confidence.


The outlook for confidence is suddenly less optimistic and I believe there are plenty of catalysts ahead that may further pull expectations, and sentiment, down.


Howard Penney

Managing Director



NKE: What’s the Future of the Futures?

We disagree with the noise about Nike’s futures growth rolling over. The underlying trend-line numbers should accelerate. Our call on the name and the space remain intact.


It used to be about two out of every three quarters where I’d have to come out and add context to an errant report about futures slowing (or accelerating) a week before Nike’s quarter.


Well, it’s been a while, but I’m back.  OTR (or some ‘channel checker’) is out saying that Nike’s order rate is slowing ahead of its 3Q report on March 17.   


I disagree. Here are a few considerations.

  1. Let’s face some facts, being a ‘channel checker’ might work on tiny brands like K-Swiss, or in monitoring the popularity of certain styles or consumer preferences.  But, is it viable to check with stores (where most managers don’t know the difference between year-over-year and sequential growth) and use such a small sample as a proxy for a $21bn global company? That’s like going into a Duane Reade and making a call on P&G based on shelf space for Crest.
  2. Last quarter Nike reported a 16% growth rate in North American futures.  To put that into context, that’s about the dollar-equivalent size of Under Armour. NO ONE I have spoken to believes that this is sustainable – not even me, and my EPS estimates are well ahead of consensus for the next 2-years.
  3. Keep in mind that the 2-year comp for the past two quarters in North America is 5-6%. Technically speaking, Nike can report a NA  futures number as low as 3% and sustain the 2-year run rate. We’re still looking for something closer to 10%. In other words, we’re modeling an acceleration in the 2-year comp for North America.

Backing our confidence is an extremely powerful product cycle in the athletic space, which is not surprisingly led by Nike.


For the past several months, we’ve been noting that Nike was about to set out on a campaign to re-define it’s “Free” concept – which is a technology originally launched in 2004 to mimic the sensation of running barefoot on grass. Nike might seem dismissive of the toning category, but mark my words – they’re miffed, BIG TIME. Our call has been that they’d start with the Free platform, and re-define the toning category. Now we’re starting to see it play out.  Most notable is that the first big splash is in none other than China. This marks the first time we recall a new platform being  launched anywhere except the US.




Make sure you scroll through all the pages for all the images.  Looks like there’s Free Run 2 and Free 3.0


The 3.0’s are now available in one colorway on Nike.com and at Foot Locker.  99% of what was shown in China is not yet available for purchase here or anywhere.  However, they’ll trickle out within a few weeks.  A quick check on Nike.com reveals a Free platform that spans running, training, walking ,and even a bit of fashion.  Some of this already existed.  Importantly, we have yet to see the big marketing push that goes with the launch but our sense is that it’s coming real soon…


We’d also bet that this next wave of product innovation makes its way into the first three minutes of Nike’s March 17th 3Q EPS call.


Brian McGough

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