Who Plans Whom?

“Who plans whom, who directs and dominates whom…?”

-F.A. Hayek


As long as our central planning overlords keep coming up with new plans for our said “free markets” (regulating oil margin requirements, compromising a Constitutional debt-ceiling debate for political favors, etc.), I guess I’ll just keep rolling through a full frontal review of their Keynesian dogma.


This isn’t to say that the Austrian and Chaos Theory schools of math & economics don’t have their faults. All schools do. It is simply a reminder that all independent research starts and ends with finding the right answers. Sometimes those answers are different, depending on who you are, and who dominates you…


Being directed and dominated by bureaucrats isn’t cool. That’s why hard core American patriots are so upset. If you live in a different country where socialist planning isn’t new, you’ve probably been bitter for a while now and this email is likely regulated away from your inbox too.


The aforementioned quote comes from a chapter Hayek wrote in 1944 titled “Who, Whom?” He borrowed this metaphor from Lenin in order to ask some very basic questions about individual freedoms and liberties: “Who, whom? - during the early years of Soviet rule the byword in which the people summed up the universal problem of a socialist society.” (“The Road To Serfdom”, page 139)


Something to think about while you watch The Price Volatility trade in your increasingly planned markets this morning…


Evidently, markets that are rigged, planned, or regulated inspire lower and lower trading volumes and/or higher and higher levels of volatility. If this is what the end-game for the Keynesian Kingdom is supposed to look like, no one should be surprised.


Whether or not I like it, I have to deal with managing risk around it this morning. I know it won’t end well, but that’s not what I’ll get paid for saying today.


Sadly, what we are all getting paid to do is chase short-term returns. The Bernank perpetuates this performance pressure by marking the short-term “risk free” rate to model (or the ZERO bound) and, as a result, this gargantuan experiment of starving savers of returns imputes 3D Risk (3 D’s) into markets:

  1. The Dare – zero % rates dare you to chase yield across asset classes where you can justify it
  2. The Delay – zero % short-term financing for banks delays the financial restructurings that free market prices would impose
  3. The Disguise – zero % expectations disguise the interconnected risks associated with carry trading, correlation risk, etc

Bloomberg data quantified The Dare and The Delay in their “Weekly Commitments of Traders Report” yesterday with the following data point on short-term US Treasury speculation:


“Non-commercial accounts purchased 48,460 con­tracts on two-year Treasury notes during the latest reporting period. The long position of 235,621 con­tracts is 3.4 standard deviations above its one-year average.”


In other words, never mind who is planning whom for a minute and realize that the entire Institutional Investor community is getting paid to beg The Bernank to keep the status quo on remaining what we’ve labeled as being “Indefinitely Dovish” (Q2 Macro Theme).


Again, I may not like it – but I do have to deal with it. So here’s the read-through so far this morning, alongside our positioning across asset classes (which you can see daily in the Hedgeye Portfolio at the bottom of the Early Look):



  1. US Dollar = down for the 15th week out of the last 20 (we’re short)
  2. Euro = flat for the week, holding immediate-term TRADE line support of $1.43 (no position)
  3. Chinese Yuan = hitting new all-time highs this morning at $6.49 (we’re long)


  1. US Equities = up for the 2nd day out of the last 6 making lower-highs on almost record low volume (we’re short SPY)
  2. US Tech = up in the pre-market on the heels of big M&A (MSFT for Skype) – we’re long Tech (XLK)
  3. Chinese Equities = up for the 5th day in the last 7 after an outstanding trade balance report (we’re long)
  4. Indian Equities = down again overnight to -9.8% YTD as USD debauchery driven inflation is forcing rate hikes (we’re short)
  5. Germany Equities = up a full percent this morning to +8.3%, outperforming SP500 like they did last year (we’re long)
  6. Greek Equities = up a full 2 percent this morning after crashing in the last few weeks (down -19.7% since February 18th)


  1. WTI Crude Oil = down small this morning on margin whispering, and up +4.1% for the week (we’re long)
  2. Gold = up again this morning, recovering from its -4.2% down week, up +1.8% week-to-date (we’re long)
  3. Copper = up over +2% for the week-to-date but still bearish/broken on both our TRADE and TREND durations (no position)

So what do I plan on doing with all of these moves and positions? Who is planning to plan moves on me next?


I really don’t know.


And I guess that’s probably a good thing to admit, given that US stock centric cheerleaders of “Dow 13,000” from early 2008 are still telling you with 100% conviction that they know exactly where this baby is going next.


My immediate-term support and resistance ranges for Gold, Oil, and the SP500 are now $1488-$1522, $98.63-$109.11, and 1, respectively.


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Who Plans Whom? - Chart of the Day


Who Plans Whom? - Virtual Portfolio


April more than just confirming the Feb/Mar acceleration. 


While it’s not quite Macau-esque numbers, regional gaming revenues for April are coming in strong.  Iowa, Indiana, and yes, even Illinois recorded impressive April results, despite the destructive flooding, tornadoes, and other forces Mother Nature threw at the states.  Throw in the stubbornly high unemployment across the country and this has been an uphill battle.


The charts below show sequential revenue for the 3 “I” riverboat markets in April compared to where revenue would’ve grown had sequential revenue levels ( for the prior 3 months adjusted for seasonality) continued.  April furthered the Feb/Mar acceleration and growth accelerated relative to Q1.  It’s particularly notable for Illinois which hasn’t seen YoY growth since April 2010.








As Q2 gets under way, we continue to like the regional operators, particularly ASCA, BYD and PNK.  As can be seen in the table below, in the states that have reported revenue, those companies’ properties performed much better in April than in Q1.  We think there is a high probability of Q2 earnings beats.



Acushnet Bids Due Today


Offers for Fortune Brand’s Acushnet golf business are due today. With Adidas still among the names mentioned on the list of final bidders we have a couple of things to consider to the extent it actually does emerge as the winner for Acushnet:

  1. First off, let’s look at the basic facts. Acuschnet owns some great assets. Titleist and FootJoy are two of the top brands in golf owning the #1 position in Balls and Footwear respectively. Market share numbers are dicey, but Acushnet has over 50%+ share of the golf ball market in the US.
  2. Nike dosen’t want this asset. Nike thinks it can beat Titleist and FootJoy organically in all categories. Whether you believe it or not is irrelevant. If Nike thinks it can, it won’t do the deal.
  3. That said, Nike will get involved in the bidding. They’d like nothing more than to drive the price higher to prevent Adidas from getting it on the cheap. Remember that one of the risks in this space had been that Adidas freed up close to $40mm per year with the NFL deal moving over to Nike in the 2012 season and could otherwise bid on athletes. If it wins Acuschnet, it’s going to be more focused on golf.
  4. What’s the one thing that will burn Nike up on this deal? This will be the one category where Adidas will arguably have a Footwear product that is more successful than Nike’s in FootJoy. (Adidas usually leads in apparel). The numbers speak for themselves. Even many Nike Golf die hards wear FootJoys.
  5. This is not a bank-breaker for Adidas. Regardless of the sale price – we could see anything between $800mm-$1.2Bn, its balance sheet can handle it without a hitch. Current net debt/total capital is 12%, and adding a billion in debt would get us to 25%.
  6. Not a good read-through for the toning market. When Hainer steps up acquisition activity, it usually means that a recent sales driver is waning. This was going to be the year of the International Toner.

Acushnet Bids Due Today - Acushnet Financials 5 11


Acushnet Bids Due Today - Adidas Acushnet ProForma 5 11



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JNY: Winning Is Losing

JNY's chances for landing Jimmy Choo just went up. The market might like this, but we can't get the numbers to work. Leverage chasing growth is a bad idea.



The media continues to swarm around the Jimmy Choo sale. Investcorp has apparently pulled out of the bidding for Jimmy Choo ahead of the May 11 deadline for all bids. This would leave Jones duking it out with TPG for the ‘prize.’  But there’s a  big difference between these two – one can afford it, and the other cannot.


Numbers are spotty on Jimmy Choo. So let’s back into a value based on what current owner TowerBrook (and advisor HSBC) are suggesting. Specifically, on April 27th, in attempt to speed up the process, HSBC proposed an IPO at £650mm. Clearly, they’re going to throw out a lofty price to maximize valuation – so that’s probably well over what it will sell for. But let’s conservatively give it a 20%. Unfortunately, this is being priced in pounds. Kind of a tough time to buy an asset priced in pounds with a US $ right now. After netting out the haircut from the dollar translation, we’d still  be looking at a purchase price of just over $800mm in US$.


This would require JNY to borrow virtually all of the purchase price – which would take its net debt to total capital up over 50%. On that amount of leverage, we’ll assume a 7% borrowing cost.


If we assume a 12% operating margin on that business, it suggests that we’d need to have the brand come in at $500mm in sales in order to be net neutral to the P&L.  That sounds about fair.


But it’s the balance sheet component here that concerns us. We have yet to find a scenario for just about any company (or country, or individual) where levering up profitably solves a growth problem.


If JNY ends up ‘winning’ this deal without some kind of creative partnership to share in the financial burden but take away disproportionate economics, then we’ll be even more worried.


We remain very negative on this story. 

Retail: Big Price Divergence Week

Retail: Big Price Divergence Week     

Footwear (down), Discount stores (up) swapping places. Apparel still quietly ebbing and flowing. There’s your greatest near-term risk.


Some notable callouts from our Stock Divergence Monitor today…

  1. Footwear Retail is the clear loser – pretty much across the board – as we see companies coming in with weakness on the margin line of the P&L. Note that Timberland (TBL) is one of the big losers from a brand perspective, which definitely did not help the retail side.
  2. On the flip side, we’ve got the discount stores start to show signs of life. For the first  time in weeks, Target was not the Underperformer in that space – but rather Wal-Mart that graciously stepped in to fill the void. We still don’t like either.
  3. The key space that has yet to crack is Apparel Brands/Retail/Department stores. Simply put, people want to believe…and will not think otherwise until they see some ugly press releases that tell them to remove the blinders. That’s your greatest risk in both earnings and stock prices heading into May/June.

Retail: Big Price Divergence Week     - 212

Is Obama’s Poll Bounce Sustainable? Does It Matter?

Conclusion:  President Obama’s approval bounce from killing Osama bin Laden will be short term in nature, but due to the incumbency advantage he continues to be well positioned to win a second term.


Despite the somewhat muddled public relations by the White House related to the killing of Osama bin Laden, President Obama has received a noteworthy bounce in his approval ratings.   In the most recent Real Clear Politics poll aggregate, President Obama’s approval rating is now +9.3.  The last time his approval rating was this high was late 2009, which was the beginning of Obama’s long decline in overall approval.


Although the killing of bin Laden is certainly a meaningful event and appears to show Obama’s decisiveness and willing to make a tough military decision, one off events are typically illusory in nature as it relates to shifting the perception of a President.  The best examples of this are political conventions, where a President or Presidential candidate sees a short term bounce in approval, which typically then reverts to the mean within a week or so.  The exception to this is, often, a negative performance, which can change the overall perception of the politician and reset approval ratings lower.


The best proxy for the sustainability of President Obama’s approval rating is probably the real time gauge on Intrade, which has a futures contract on whether President Obama is going to get re-elected.  Shortly after the announcement of the killing of bin Laden, the contract soared to 70.0.  The contract has since declined to the levels of before the event and is now trading at 59.9, which is consistent with the 58.0 to 60.0 range for the month of April.  We’ve attached a chart of this below.


Is Obama’s Poll Bounce Sustainable? Does It Matter? - 1


Despite the fact that it seems unlikely that the killing of Osama bin Laden leads to a new perception and a resetting of his approval rating, we still believe he is going to be difficult to beat in 2012.   We introduced this view on March 14th with a note titled, “2012 . . . Can Obama Be Beat?”  At the point, we raised the issue that there were not many Republican candidates officially in the race and certainly one clear front runner.  The implication of this is that the Republicans will severely lag President Obama in fundraising.


The race for the Republican nomination is poised to more fully get shaped on Thursday in Indiana as Governor Mitch Daniels is speaking at the Indiana Republican Party’s spring dinner.  He is expected to announce his Presidential intentions at this dinner. 


Currently, Governor Daniels’ poll numbers place him in the top ten of potential candidates, but very distant from the top 5 with only a 3.3% rating.  The top five, according to a Real Clear Politics aggregate are:  Romney with 16.3%, Huckabee with 16.0%, Trump 13.7%, Palin 10.3%, and Paul at 7.2%.  Interestingly, only two of the top five have declared their candidacy, which is indicative of how little shape the race has taken. 


President Obama’s advantage versus the Republican field is primarily based on incumbency.  Simply put, incumbents have a statistical advantage in elections. Professor Ray Fair, an economist from the Yale School of Management, has actually quantified the incumbency advantage in Presidential elections going back more than 100 years.   According to Fair’s work, there are three key factors in determining the outcome of a Presidential election: which party is in office, how long they have been office, and the state of the economy. 


According to Fair’s analysis, just the incumbency advantage alone should get President Obama 48.4% of the two-party vote.  After that, it is all about the economy (stupid).  The two components of the economic portion of the prediction relate to growth in the three quarters just prior to the election and whether any of the prior 15 quarters before the election have had growth rates of 3.2% or more.  Currently, Obama has had two quarters of 3.2% growth or more.  These were Q4 of 2009 and Q1 of 2010.


Interestingly, based on Fair’s formula, if President Obama had no more good news quarters of 3.2%+ growth and even if real GDP growth was flat lined at zero through the 2012 election, he would still have a legitimate shot at the Presidency.  In fact, according to the Fair Model, in that scenario, President Obama would win 50.4% of the two party vote. (The Fair formula is here:


So, even if the approval bump that President Obama has received from killing bin Laden is as illusory as we believe it is, the Republicans still have a serious uphill battle to win back the Presidency based on the incumbency advantage.


Daryl G. Jones

Managing Director

Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.47%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.70%