Obama’s Internals

Conclusion: While the recent ABC News / Washington Post poll showing Romney ahead of Obama is noteworthy, we are sticking with our view that President Obama’s re-election seems more likely than not, though will be watching the data and poll internals closely.      


We’ve been of the view that an Obama re-election is likely.   Aside from the natural advantage that a Presidential incumbent has, which is estimated to be more than 2% by many statistical studies, the fact that the Republican field has been late to the race and has no meaningful front runner (the leading contender, Romney, only has 20% support amongst Republicans in most polls) also supports Obama likelihood of re-election.  As well, while the economy is clearly sputtering, unless GDP growth goes negative, it will likely not have a negative impact on Obama’s re-election efforts.


In fact, we utilized Professor Ray Fair’s, from the Yale Economics Department, model to try and quantify the outcome of the election. 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:


The news yesterday in political circles was the ABC News / Washington Post poll, which showed Romney beating Obama by +3 points amongst registered voters for the first time in any major poll.  While one poll is not a trend, this is a poll worth noting.  In the same poll, Romney gained about 4 points amongst all potential voters from the April 17th, 2011 poll.


As it relates to the internals of the polls, President Obama fares very poorly on his handling of the economy.  According to the poll, “among the nearly six in 10 American who think economic recovery has not yet begun, a vast 69 percent disapprove of the president’s job performance overall and 64 percent say they won’t even consider voting for him in 2012.”  This is also reflected in the ABC News Frustration Index, which is currently at an elevated 68.  It was 67 last Fall when the Republicans regained the House, 73 when the first President Bush lost re-election, and peaked at 80 in 2008.


Obama’s Internals - dj22


So, while the Fair model suggests we need a double dip economy for Obama not to get re-elected, we also need to be cognizant that Obama’s re-election prospects are getting more tenuous.  The much heralded bin Laden bounce was not sustainable, as we predicted, and President Obama’s approval rating on the Real Clear Politics aggregate is rolling over.  Over the last two weeks, the spread between approval and disapproval has narrowed 4.4 points, which is statistically relevant.


The potential risk to our view that Obama could be re-elected is unemployment.  No President since World War2 has been re-elected with an unemployment rate above 7.2%.  Despite the Obama administration’s continued defense of their ability to create jobs in aggregate, the current unemployment rate of 9.1% is a barrier facing Obama in his re-election efforts.   So far, though, it seems this barrier may still be overcome by the incumbency advantage and the lack of a true front runner from the Republican Party.


As stock market operators, we obviously are advocates of the predictive ability of markets.  As such, we would point to the current contract on Intrade, which prices the odds on an Obama re-election.  Currently, the contract is trading at 60.5, while Mitt Romney is trading at 30.0.  Interestingly, neither of these contracts has seen a meaningful move, other than a brief Obama bounce after the killing of bin Laden, and have been close to those prices since the start of 2011.


The political contract on Intrade that we find most compelling is the one that represents the odds that Representative Weiner will resign by September 30th, 2011.  Currently, it is trading at 67%.  Regardless of political affiliation, it is likely most Americans would like to see an expedited move to 100% on that contract.


Daryl G. Jones

Managing Director

R3: AMZN, WMT, OXM, SG Store Expansion




June 8, 2011






  • In a move counter to most its peers, OXM not only increased its full-year EPS outlook, but also expects gross margin expansion. It’s important to note several company specific drivers behind a decidedly more bullish outlook – namely lower interest expense due to the repurchase of senior notes and shift in product mix since the company sold its apparel group to Li & Fung and acquired Lilly Pulitzer all within the past six months. While the company continues to increase its direct-to-consumer business, wholesale accounts for less than half of total sales, but is where most of the cost pressure is realized with the company noting that passing price increases through has been more challenging.
  • Sport Chalet’s noted in its annual report that it doesn’t plan to open any stores during fiscal 2012 for the third consecutive year. With 55 stores located primarily located in California, the retailer is losing share as east-coast based SG retailers continue to expand into both CA and neighboring states. Meanwhile, DKS just announced that they’ve opened their second store in CA in the past month alone bringing their count to 18 in the state. With both TSA and now Academy backed by private equity and DKS clearly focused on geographic expansion, demand for limited retail space is increasing on the margin suggesting that favorable rent rates may be nearing an end in this sub-segment of the market for boxes of this size (~50k sq. ft.).



Lucky Brand Looks to Get Back on Track - Steering away from a lifestyle-centric image, Lucky Brand is moving toward a more real and relevant look with the introduction of new denim fits and an advertising campaign shot by Carter Smith. Seventeen months after chief executive officer David DeMattei joined the Liz Claiborne Inc.-owned unit, Lucky is tweaking what it realizes works best for the brand — and for sales. “It’s about returning us to a best-in-denim company,” DeMattei said. “We focused [in the past] on the lifestyle aspects of the brand, starting with the bottom. Now we’re really focusing on denim.” In other words, Michael Griffin, executive vice president and product director at Lucky, said, “We’re a denim brand that sells amazing fashion, not a fashion brand that sells amazing denim. The denim sells the fashion.” <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Commonsensical, but valid in every way. We’re not sold on Lucky’s plan yet, but Demattei definitely gets it.


Amazon adds to its List of Specialty E-retail Sites - Quidsi Inc., the operator of, and, will add, an e-retail site for pet products, to its portfolio of e-commerce sites that focus on packaged goods. Quidsi co-founder Marc Lore sent an e-mail to customers Monday announcing the venture, noting that will debut in a few weeks., the No. 1 e-retailer according to the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, completed its acquisition of Quidsi in a deal valued at $500 million April 1. is No. 72 in latest edition of the Top 500 Guide. According to Lore’s message, the site will carry thousands of products for dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles and small animals, including food and toys. The site will share Quidsi’s universal shopping cart, which allows consumers to shop across, and properties, and check out once. will offer free two-day shipping on orders of $49 or more. <InternetRetailer>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: With the exception of,, and, there’s virtually no limit to the categories this applies to. AMZN can literally grow into a blue sky opportunity.


Walmart Expanding Test Of In-Store Wireless Shops - Walmart is planning to expand its test of in-store mobile specialty shops to a total of 350 supercenters this year.  The in-house pilot was launched in 200 stores last fall and will be extended to an additional 150 locations this year.  Located at the front of the discounter’s big-box flagships, the Walmart Wireless stores are about 2,000 square feet in size and offer a select assortment of smartphones, cellphones and pre-, post-paid and hybrid service plans, including Walmart’s exclusive Common Cents and Family Mobile pay-as-you-go products. Tablet computers are not yet part of the mix. Gary Severson, home entertainment senior VP for Walmart U.S., said the specialty stores provide customers with greater plan and product assistance, more privacy, and a better overall shopping experience. He said initial results have been “very positive.”  Severson noted that unlike other freestanding mobile spin-offs in the marketplace, the Walmart Wireless shops are located within the parent chain, alongside eyeglass, banking and other front-of-the-store services, due to the high volume of traffic that its supercenters draw, Severson said. “The reason that some companies have created standalone stores is a lack of traffic,” he noted. “We have a lot of good traffic. So this is our version of a standalone store – within our own stores.” <Twice>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: WMT is doing this because it has to. Not necessarily because it wants to. Wireless in not a high margin business – especially as it increasingly becomes a commodity. 


Wool Price Surge to Hit Suit Buyers - Suits, jumpers and socks are set to become more expensive after a surge in the price of wool driven by Australian floods and demand from emerging markets. The cost of fine wool on the Sydney Futures Exchange has risen 74% to 15,500 US dollars (£9,400) a tonne in the past year, according to commodity analysts at Mintec. This could cause the price of a suit to rise by as much as 10% as tailors and retailers pass on the hikes to customers, reports said. A wide variety of other clothing, such as cardigans and coats made from wool, may also be affected. The price of wool has been driven higher after global output hit an 85 year low, exacerbated by flooding and drought which disrupted farming in Australia, the world's biggest wool producer. Many farmers have moved away from rearing sheep for wool because low prices have made it hard to make a profit in recent years, said Stephen Oldfield, a partner specialising in agribusiness at accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. <TheIndependent>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  “…rise 10% as tailors and retailers pass on the hikes to consumers.” Isnt it funny how the common theory is that the consumer will pay more?


Chinese Apparel Brands Target Fashion Conscious Consumers - Amid the blond wood, the softly draped fabrics and the dramatic display racks, not even the name of the JNBY clothing store – aimed at China’s upwardly mobile middle class – gives away its homegrown origins. The retailer says the initials stand for Just Naturally Be Yourself, though more likely they’re drawn from the parent company’s original name, Jiangnan Buyi Garment Co.  The women’s fashion chain is one of a small but growing number of brands that are not only made in China but designed here as well, in an attempt to take on the Western labels that are popular with China’s up-and-coming teens and twentysomethings. “There’s certainly some [Chinese fashion retailers] having a go at it. That sector of the market is among the fastest growing,” noted Paul French, chief China analyst at retail consultancy Access Asia. “We’re just waiting to see who emerges as China’s Zara,” he added, referring to the Spanish-based global fashion giant. Last month alone, China’s retail sales grew 17.1 per cent from the previous year, to 1.36 trillion yuan ($209-billion). <TheGlobeAndMail>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  We still think that China exporting its content to the US is one of the bigger risk for US retailers – though moreso on the footwear side. European apparel brands – who have structurally higher turn times – are a perennial threat to US fashion as well.


Organized Retail Crime on the Rise - The number of retailers victimized by organized retail crime rose 6 percent in the past year, as merchants cut back on staffing levels and online avenues trafficking the stolen merchandise continued to expand, a National Retail Federation survey said. The top five cities targeted by criminal gangs were Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Chicago and Houston, according to Joe LaRocca, senior asset protection adviser at the NRF. The survey also noted that the current economic environment, which is “ripe with consumers looking for low prices,” contributed to the increase.  “Highly targeted items” included denim jeans, notably Levi’s brand products; North Face jackets; Victoria’s Secret “Pink” lingerie; Oil of Olay and Cover Girl cosmetics, and a broad range of pharmaceuticals and electronics. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Stealing product ahead of price increases? Perhaps organized crime is smarter than some management teams in forecasting supply/demand on this business.


DKS: Covering Trade


Booking a nice gain for McGough on Dick's here as the stock is immediate-term TRADE oversold. Brian remains bearish on the intermediate-term TREND. –KM



Keith covered DKS in the Hedgeye virtual portfolio with the stock breaking through his intermediate-term oversold support level at $36.15. While we don’t think the fundamental story is broken, we continue to be concerned near-term with the Street above management’s guidance for the quarter implying a sequential acceleration in business – particularly with pricing starting to soften in athletic apparel as retailers manage inventories ahead of the 2H.


DKS: Covering Trade - DKS VP 6 8 11



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"Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades!"

-Tom Tobin, Hedgeye Managing Director of Healthcare.


I made a significant call in January that MCD beverage strategy is hurting its core business.  While my view has played out at times in 2011, defending the thesis in April/May was a challenge to say the least!


The most telling sign of the current state of the sales trends at McDonald’s in the U.S. come from comparing May and April press releases.  My perspective, as a reminder, is that MCD has taken its beverage strategy too far.  The company’s focus on “beverages over burgers” is not a sustainable long-term strategy and this had led to problem in the company’s core business of selling burgers and fries.  Observe the comparison below; a mention of core products in the May sales press release is conspicuous by its absence.


From the May press release: “U.S. comparable sales increased 2.4% for the month. The national launch of Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, the popularity of Fruit & Maple Oatmeal and the continued demand for McDonald's signature beverage and core offerings were key contributors for the month.”


From the April press release: “In the U.S., April comparable sales rose 4.0% fueled by the popularity of the McCafé beverage line-up, including the recently introduced McCafé shakes, McDonald's market-leading breakfast menu, and featured core products including the Big Mac and Quarter Pounder with Cheese.”


I would make the following observations:

  • No mention of McCafé in May
  • No mention about core food products served at lunch
  • Fruit & Maple Oatmeal? How are the 2 for 1 Egg McMuffin trends doing?
  • Frozen Strawberry Lemonade; these are attracting new customers because you can get for $1.

MCD USA posted a 2.4% same-store sales for May (May two-year numbers declined by 100 basis points), while running an estimated price increase of 2%.  I’m not so sure that McDonald’s can still claim that guest’s counts are growing at about the same rate as sales.  If guest counts are still rising, it’s only because of the company’s focus on marketing drinks and deserts.  Therefore, the average check continues to decline, and this will become only more pronounced with the entire domestic system possibly offering "any drink for $1.00" this summer.  My bottom line (and this month provides some evidence) is that McDonald’s core business is declining.





Even more disappointing in May was Europe.  May comparable sales increase 2.3% driven by strong performance in France, Russia and the U.K., partially offset by the most important market - Germany! As opposed to the USA, the company is citing its core food products as having driven increased sales.  As the company noted, “Key contributors to Europe's May results included premium menu offerings such as McWraps and the 1955 burger, limited-time food events like the U.K.'s Great Tastes of America campaign”





Comparable sales rose 4.3% in APMEA, implying a decline in two-year average trends of 115 bps.  According to the press release, “Compelling breakfast and lunch value offerings, convenience initiatives such as drive-thru, delivery and extended operating hours, and unique promotional tie-ins were the leading sales drivers for the segment in May.”





Howard Penney

Managing Director

Athletic Apparel Decelerates as Pricing Weakens


Despite ASP strength in the athletic specialty channel, a sharp deceleration in pricing across the industry suggests retailers could be looking to clear inventory ahead of the 2H driving further margin pressure near-term.



Athletic apparel sales slowed for the second consecutive week. Sales in the athletic specialty are also slowing on a sequential basis, however, the channel outperformed the broader industry and for the fourth consecutive week. More notable is the ASP strength in the athletic specialty channel up MSD relative to a sharp deceleration in pricing across the industry, which was down for the first time since March. This is consistent with recent commentary across the industry suggesting that retailers could be looking to clear inventory ahead of the 2H, which we expect to accelerate margin pressure in here in Q2 – less favorable for DKS and HIBB.


Athletic Apparel Decelerates as Pricing Weakens - FW App App Table 1 6 8 11


Athletic Apparel Decelerates as Pricing Weakens - FW App Reg 6 8 11


Casey Flavin



On average, the up moves were stronger than the down moves in the commodity prices we track in our commodity monitor.  Milk and Cheese, in particular, put on strong moves while wheat was the most notable mover to the downside (as shown in the chart below).







Cheese and milk prices moved sharply higher last week, 12.8% and 14.1% respectively.  For DPZ, PZZA, CAKE, YUM’s Pizza Hut and other restaurant companies, this is an important data point.  Coming into the second quarter, dairy prices corrected sharply, allowing some respite for restaurant companies with exposure to dairy costs.   This also saved the management teams from answering the questions that the charts below pose.  As the charts below indicate, dairy prices are more volatile than they have been over the past couple of years.  Below are some select quotes pertaining to dairy costs from management teams’ most recent earnings calls.  DPZ may have been right on 1Q, but it seems that 2Q’s gain may take them by surprise.  While DPZ has a contact that effectively eliminates one-third of cheese market volatility, the current trajectory and amplitude of the move in cheese prices is negative for restaurant operating margins.


JACK (5.19.11): “Cheese also accounts for about 6% of our spend and we continue to expect a 15% increase for the year.”


DPZ (5.5.11):  “And really the one to watch as always is cheese and our best bet right now is that it's going to stay relatively close to where it is right now but cheese is the one that often gives the biggest surprises either up or down and that's the one to kind of watch but assuming cheese stays relatively flat from here on out then, the absolute food costs from – through the rest of the year are probably going to stay pretty consistent with where they were in Q1 which to your point means the percentage year-over-year increase will probably ease a little bit over the course of the year.”


CAKE (4.20.11):  “The first half of the year, we're expecting food cost inflation of about 4.5% plus and then in the last half of the year, about 2.5% minus. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that we expect to lap a lot of high dairy costs from 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2011, but also due to the fact that we expect to have slightly lower fresh fish costs, slightly lower cheese prices, than last year as well.”


CMG (4.20.11): As we move into 2011, we’re expanding our use of cheese and sour cream made with milk from cows.









Corn prices took a dive over the last week, declining 1.5%.  Nevertheless, the grain remains up 119.4% year-over-year and it can be expected that protein prices will remain supported as long as these elevated prices remain.  In terms of the supply and demand data points, the preponderance of the factors seems to suggest that prices will remain high for the foreseeable future, the occasional correction notwithstanding.  According to Bloomberg, wet weather-related planting delays may send global inventories to their lowest level in 37 years.  More than one third of Midwest fields were planted after the mid-May target for optimal growth because of excessive rain.  Below, we outline some comments from restaurant (and food) company management teams pertaining to corn.


AFCE (5.26.11):  “This is up from our previous guidance of a 2% to 3% increase, primarily due to higher commodity costs in corn and soy, which impacts our bone-in chicken, as well as increases in the cost of flour and cooking oil.”


TSN (5.9.11):  “There is nothing really to stop us from buying back stock other than what's in front of us that's quite uncertain. What if corn goes to $10? Those kinds of things; we really maintain a lot of liquidity. It's $1.6 billion right now. We need to maintain a lot of liquidity.”


JACK (2.24.11): “And then there are some Act of God provisions that will get us north of our contract bands, but at a reduced rate from what the current market pricing is. So I hope that that helps. And then also grain, corn, wheat and soybean impact, and there are input costs for a number of the proteins. And that's really what's driving up beef at this point."





Chicken Wings


Chicken wing prices gained week-over-week as ample supply (broiler egg sets six-week average was up +1% year-over-year) offset rising substitute demand. 





Howard Penney

Managing Director