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SP500 Levels Into The Close: Bearish Paint Remains

Both the “Trend” (intermediate term) and “Trade” (immediate) are painted bear red on our SPX lines right now. All up moves are to be sold, until we wash out more of the excess that remains from the free bananas monkey Monday rally.

Short Stocks for the “Trade” = 988.07
Cover/Buy for the “Trade” = 866.28

These prices are using a model SPX level of 945.

Country ETF updates: Eye On the UK and Germany

1. Short EWU – UK INFLATION & EMPLOYMENT trends remain ominous

September unemployment benefit claims levels published today in the UK came in at the highest level in two years with 31,800 additional new workers on the dole. We are short EWU -although the absolute unemployment level remains low in contrast to the miserable period stretching from the late 70’s into the 90’s (see charts, historical context is critical here). We expect the chilling impact of increased employment volatility coupled with the recent increase in consumer inflation on growth to be significant.

2. Long EWG – Germany’s INFLATION & EMPLOYMENT trends are much more benign

In contrast Germany, which we are long via EWG, released an inflation number that marked a decrease over the prior month. Germany’s CPI is only +2.9% y/y vs. the UK’s at almost double that (see chart). Unemployment remains low in the largest economy in Europe and thus far German banks have proven to be either better managed or better liars than their British counterparts.

Andrew Barber

Decent Week For Footwear Too

Yes, Wednesday is Industry data day. I noted earlier that apparel positive trends continue. Footwear has been mixed for much of this year. But appears to have picked up a bit since Finish Line noted that sales sharply decelerated into September. 2 weeks a trend does not make. But this space definitely appears to be standing out in an otherwise brutal retail climate.
Source: NPD Fashionworld

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Ice Age: Positive Slope In the Yield Curve Emerging, Finally!

Over the past week the yield spread between 2 & 10 year Treasuries has expanded to the widest level seen since May of 2004. As the market vacillates between bailout euphoria and the ugly reality of recession, the yield curve’s volatility has been an obvious output, but so has been an emerging positive slope.

To be sure, falling yields on Bank issued debt, decreased LIBOR levels, and evidence of liquidity creeping back into the commercial paper market are all positive signs that the credit markets are starting to thaw, but history reminds us that the speed at which liquidity returns to normal may prove to be glacial.

In the meantime, the positive slope that is developing in the US yield curve is good for healthy banks and anyone with net cash – borrow short, lend long – remember? Those businesses requiring debt leverage are less attractive however. Cost of long term capital is rising while access to it continues to tighten (spreads widen).

Keith McCullough & Andrew Barber
Research Edge LLC

CKR – Taking the High Road on Discounting, But For How Long?

CKR reported its period 9 same-store sales results this morning. Carl’s Jr.’s comparable sales trend improved sequentially to up 1.6% from period 8’s 0.1% decline while Hardee’s slowed slightly to up 0.8% from 1.1%. Both concepts slowed, however, on a 2-year basis in both period 8 and period 9 (the first two periods of 3Q09) and have been declining since period 6 in 2Q09. This is somewhat concerning because both Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are facing more difficult comparisons in period 10 to close out the quarter and Carl’s Jr.’s tough comparisons continue into 4Q09. Management attributed its slowing trends in both period 8 and 9 to overall discounting, saying, “We believe competitors' aggressive discounting continued to negatively impact both brands sales results.”
  • It is interesting to note that CKR management made changes to its “Why Invest in CKE” section of its investor presentation highlighting the company’s defensive nature. The company supports this idea that it is well positioned to withstand tough economic times by pointing out that “fast food is not a luxury item” and “people are going to continue eating fast food.” The new presentation also includes a chart that looks at Carl’s Jr.’s same-store sales performance relative to overall QSR in other difficult times (attached below).

Eye On Leadership: "Obamerica"

As we mentioned in the Early Look this morning, we are beginning to proactively prepare for a Barak Obama victory in three weeks. The polls, news flow and every incremental data point seem to point to an Obama victory. In our opinion, this is a victory that could easily morph into a landslide.

The most recent national poll, from CBS-NY Times, has Obama with a 14-point lead at 53 – 39 in likely voters. This poll is obviously an outlier, but a noteworthy call out in that the last time this poll was taken, seven days ago, Obama only had a lead of 3-point lead in the poll.

The other indicators we are focused on include:
• The Real Clear Politics national poll average now that has Obama leading by 8-points and, for the first time ever, Obama is polling above 50% in the average;

• The Real Clear Politics electoral college poll average now has Obama/Biden at 313, McCain/Palin at 159, and Toss Ups at 67, so even if all states currently categorized as Toss Ups swing to McCain he will lose; and

• The Intrade Market now has Obama trading at 80.1, which means that if you buy Obama you only get a payout of 19.9 if he wins.

Absent an “October surprise” between now and November 4th, an Obama victory is almost a sure thing. The impact of this Obama momentum will also be felt in the congressional races. Increasingly, an expanding Democratic majority in the House and the potential for a filibuster proof majority for the Democrats in the Senate. Incidentally, the last time the Democrats won the Presidency, had a majority in the House, and filibuster proof majority in the Senate was Jimmy Carter in 1976.

While we could easily make the case that Barak Obama is the second coming of Jimmy Carter, the current Republican administration is hardly differentiating themselves as free market capitalists. As Allan Mendlowitz very aptly stated: “The Bush administration, which took office as social conservatives, is now leaving as conservative socialists.”

Daryl G. Jones
Managing Director

Early Look

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