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Weekly Asia Risk Monitor: A Mixed Bag “Half Full”

Conclusion: Though the region’s economic data came in quite mixed in the last week, we continue to see Asian equity markets and currencies strengthen. We’ll find out shortly whether or not they were merely following US equities up for the ride or if a regional economic bottoming process is underway.

 

This is the second installment of our now-weekly recap of prices, economic data, and key policy events throughout Asia. We’re aiming to keep our prose tight here, so if you’d like to dialogue more deeply regarding anything you see below, please reach out to us at .

 

PRICES

 

For the second week in a row, we’ve seen broad-based bullishness in Asian equities and currencies. Sovereign bonds were mixed across the curve. On the short end, we highlight the decline in Australian 2Y yields as indicative of a broader thesis we authored a few months back – the RBA’s next interest rate move is more likely to be a cut vs. a hike. On the long end, we highlight Hong Kong’s +15bps backup in 10Y yields as supportive of our view that the Hong Kong economy is overheating and inflation remains a serious headwind going forward because it transcends the standard commodity-based inflation we’ve been seeing throughout Asia and many other emerging markets over the last 3-4 quarters. Asian credit risk was mixed week-over-week with spreads widening broadly and CDS narrowing in most countries.

 

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CORRELATIONS

 

The main take away from this week’s data is that the volatility surrounding market perception of the US’s economic situation appears to be driving the direction of most Asian equity markets and currencies of late, as evidenced by the positive correlations with the S&P 500 gaining strength over shorter durations.

 

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KEY ECONOMIC & POLICY DATA

 

China:

  • Services PMI slowed sequentially in June to 57 – as expected given the overstretched nature of May’s 61.9 reading.
  • Moody’s was out making additional noise regarding China’s LGFV burden; as we have said and continue to say, “If you’re not buying China because you’re afraid of widely-speculated systemic risk within its banking system, then we’d recommend you go to cash. You shouldn’t own anything equity or commodity related if you’re bearish on China from here.”
  • The PBOC raised its benchmark lending and deposit rates +25bps to 6.56% and 3.25%, respectively. We continue to think this will be the last of Chinese interest rate hikes for this cycle as CPI hits its 2011 peak in June (released tomorrow night).
  • The divergence in China’s Businesses Confidence Index (up sequentially to 135.6) and Entrepreneur Confidence Index (down sequentially to 132.4) is exactly what we want to see as it relates to determining the severity of China’s oft-bandied about “landing”. Extracting from the results, we portend that current operations see growth on a steady-to-improving path, while new enterprises find it tough to get started as a result of higher interest rates and lower bank lending. Well done PBOC. Well done…
  • Speaking of the PBOC, in a conference today, Governor Zhou Xiaochuan affirmed our call that China will begin to shift to a state of marginal dovishness as inflation slows in 2H saying, “China can’t adopt inflation as [its] only monetary policy target. The central bank also has to maintain economic growth and consider employment.”

Hong Kong:

  • Manufacturing PMI slowed in June to 50.3 vs. 52.2 complicating the decision making process of Hong Kong authorities – fight [rampant] inflation or preserve growth? We remain bearish on Hong Kong’s long-term TAIL as any steps they take are likely to prove too-little-too-late.
  • To the point on inflation, Hong Kong is selling its first ever inflation-linked debt as investors increasingly demand protection from rising prices in the territory. The offer totals HK$10B ($1.3B).

Japan:

  • Prime Minister Naoto Kan proposed a ¥2T ($25B) supplementary budget to aid Japan’s recovery from this year’s natural disasters. It won’t matter. We have shown many times quantitatively that Keynesian-style “countercyclical-government spending” does NOT produce sustainable growth beyond certain levels of sovereign debt. On the contrary, debt buildup past 90% of GDP is shown empirically to slow economic growth. For reference, Japan’s debt-to-GDP ratio will be well over 200% by the time the reported figures are released.
  • Machine Orders growth came in faster in May: +3% MoM vs. -3.3% in the month prior. The +10.5% YoY increase is both a sequential acceleration from the prior month’s -0.2% rate, as well as a sign that the Japanese economy might actually be “growing” – as opposed to merely coming back online from unfortunate devastation. At Hedgeye we don’t pay for “quake reconstruction”; rather, we preserve our chips for more sustainable growth opportunities.
  • Both sub-indexes of Japan’s Economy Watchers survey ticked up in June (“Current” up to 49.6 and “Outlook” up to 49) as the nation continues to recover from March’s devastating events. We continue to point out the enormous difference in an economy experiencing a Dead-Cat Bounce off the lows vs. a country achieving sustainable growth aided by some form of competitive advantage and sober fiscal and monetary policy. Japan has neither.

Australia

  • The Aussie dollar continues to hang in there amid a growing slate of weak fundamentals: an unofficial gauge of CPI slowed in June to +2.9% YoY, Retail Sales growth slowed to -0.6% MoM in May, Building Approvals growth slowed in May to -14.4% YoY, both Services and Construction PMI readings fell MoM (48.5 and 36.8, respectively).
  • On the positive ledger, Australia’s Trade Balance growth accelerated in May to +A$354M YoY. Moreover, the June employment data was nothing short of spectacular: +23.4k Total Payrolls were added MoM vs. a prior reduction -0.5k (revised down from +7.8k). A large acceleration in Full-time Payrolls growth was incrementally supportive as well: +59k MoM vs. a prior reduction of -29.3k (revised down from -22k). We question, however, how sustainable such gains are given that mining continues to be the lone bright spot supporting Australia’s labor market. Our Deflating the Inflation thesis is bearish on the margin for the Aussie employment picture.
  • The Reserve Bank of Australia kept rates flat again (on hold at 4.75% since November) and talked down its GDP guidance without officially revising down the +4.25% full-year estimate. Both the futures and swaps market are now pricing in an RBA rate cut toward the end of the year.  This is in sharp contrast to the June/July rate hike expectations of just a few months prior. We remain bearish on the Aussie dollar (AUD) over the intermediate-term TREND.

India:

  • Confirming the recent strength in Indian equities, Indian Services PMI increased in June to 56.1 vs. a prior reading of 55.
  • YoY Inflation readings in food, energy, and primary articles all slowed sequentially in the week ended June 25. Still we see further upside in India’s monthly reported inflation figures through at least the next 2-3 months due to the recent crop price hikes and favorable base effects. Still we believe the Reserve Bank of India is nearing the end of its tightening cycle and have accordingly shifted our once hyper bearish view on Indian equities to a more neutral-to-positive outlook over the intermediate-term TREND.
  • Corruption continues to cast a dark cloud over foreign sentiment regarding India. The latest headlines center on the resignation of now former Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran. Maran becomes India’s second federal minister to resign in less than a year over the widely publicized “2G Scam”. In our view, the market has appropriately paid a lower multiple for the increase in both magnitude and breadth of political vice.

Indonesia:

  • Both of Indonesia’s main Consumer Confidence Indexes increased in June, supporting our constructive view of the Indonesian economy. We continue to expect the Bank [of] Indonesia to remain on hold as inflation continues to trend down. Recent pro-growth commentary from Indonesia’s Finance Minister Agus Martowarjojo supports our bullish bias here.

Thailand:

  • As expected the Pheu Thai won the majority in Thailand’s parliamentary elections – paving the way for populism and higher rates of inflation over the long-term tail. This is bullish for the baht (THB) and bearish for Thai short-term sovereign debt. Not ironically, Thailand is selling its first ever inflation-linked debt on July 13thto the tune of 40B baht ($1.3B).

Taiwan:

  • Bucking the general trend across the region, Taiwan’s trade data came in positive on the margin in June, with Export growth accelerating to +10.8% YoY and the YoY contraction in the Trade Balance (-$160M) was less than May’s -$1.9B.

New Zealand

  • The NZIER Business Opinion Survey ticked up in 2Q to 27 vs. a -27 reading prior, supporting the recent strength in the Kiwi dollar.

Malaysia:

  • Though stale, May’s weak Trade data (slowing Export growth, slowing Trade Balance growth) is confirming of weak global demand that continues to stymie trade numbers across the region broadly.
  • The Bank Negara of Malaysia shocked consensus forecasts by keeping its benchmark policy rate on hold at 3% and instead increased its statutory reserve requirement ratio +100bps to 4%, citing a need for further assessment of economic conditions.

Philippines:

  • CPI came in faster in June at +4.6% YoY vs. May’s +4.5% YoY reading, underscoring a simple point we continue to stress: reported inflation is both sticky and a lagging indicator. We’ll continue to monitor market prices within the commodity complex for indication of the next leg of the global price cycle. While we don’t often take bureaucrats’ words at face value, central bank Deputy Governor Guingundo said that reported inflation is likely to peak soon, helping the bank achieve its 2011 target.

Vietnam:

  • The central bank said that its decision to cut its repurchase rate -100bps to 14% on Monday was not a “policy signal”. We’re not sure what this means, but we are sure that the Vietnamese central bank continues to showcase their general incompetence, for lack of a better phrase. Pardon our frankness, but the numbers speak for themselves here: Vietnamese CPI is currently running at +21.8% YoY and the Vietnamese dong down -5.3% YTD vs. the USD – far and away the worst performer in Asia. Down -11.2% YTD, the Ho Chi Minh Index isn’t looking too great either.

 

Darius Dale

Analyst


The Week Ahead

The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 11th of July through the15th 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 - calll11

The Week Ahead - calll222


Now What? SP500 Levels, Refreshed...

POSITION: No Position

 

What a train wreck that employment number was – and, at the end of the day, when markets pin their hopes on Keynesian economic resolve, that’s what you get – disappointments versus fleeting expectations. 

  1. Immediate-term TRADE – SP500 is in no man’s land (1323 support, 1363 resistance)
  2. Intermediate-term TREND – SP500 is fine; TREND line support = 1314
  3. Long-term TAILs – 1220 support; 1377 resistance 

I was too net long going into today’s market open, so I took the changed facts and tightened up my net exposure to 11 LONGS and 9 SHORTS.

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Now What? SP500 Levels, Refreshed...  - 4


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SKX: Estimates Still Too High

SKX jumped on the endorsement bandwagon (again) and shifted more capital away from fashion and towards performance. Bad move -- as they shift from their core and towards a much more competitive space. The stock is getting cheap, and sentiment is poor. But next near's numbers are way too high.

 

 

Just days after we see Nike re-sign Michael Vick, and UnderArmour endorse Kemba Walker, Skechers jumps in and endorses the Patriots’ Danny Woodhead. This is yet another reason why we’re going to wait for SKX to get cheaper before even considering getting involved. We’re not knocking the company for spending endorsement dollars, but we’re definitely concerned about who they’re endorsing. In the past, they’ve endorsed Carrie Underwood, Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian, Christina Aguilera, David Cooke, Rob Lowe, and Ashlee Simpson. The closest this got to being athletic-inspired was that Kardashian’s mother is married to Bruce Jenner.

 

Do we have a problem with this? Absolutely not. It works for Skechers. They’re all about being on trend with the right styles. That’s all and nothing else. That’s what they’re very good at.

 

But now with endorsements like Danny Walker, Karl Malone, Rick Fox, Broadway Joe, and (gulp!) Wayne Gretzky??? Sorry to notify the boys in Manhattan Beach – but when you start going this route, you have to innovate new product, not copy it.

 

In the fashion space they’re the 900lb gorilla -- competing with the Steve Madden’s of the world, as well as hundreds of smaller players in a non-consolidated space.

 

But on the performance side of the biz, it gets more gnarly… First of all, Nike Inc (which has about 45% of the market) could care less about fashion. But when Skechers tries to compete in Nike’s backyard (athletics), it should probably tread lightly. It’s not just Nike – as there’s another 4 players (Adidas, Reebok, Asics, New Balance) who each account for about 6-8% share of the industry. Under Armour has only 1%, but is on its way to 10%, and the fledgling Chinese brands (Li-Ning and Anta) have extremely deep pockets and a strong desire to export content to the US.  For SKX, there’s not as much room to grow.

 

We don’t want to come across as perennial cynics here. The reality is that SKX has offered tremendous opportunities in the past to catch 5-baggers in otherwise tepid markets. In addition, the brand has been around for a while, it has a relatively sound infrastructure, and when focused, it succeeds more often than not.

 

It’s not that we doubt they can keep pressing the performance category. Our point is very simply that it’s going to take significantly greater capital ADDED to the model in order to do this rather than reallocating capital from their extremely successful core fashion business. SG&A has been trending up, which is good in this case, but it has been entirely due to marketing dollars, not internal talent. This actually smells a lot like Reebok from about a decade ago. They meaningfully changed up their marketing budget towards sports performance, but abandoned their core. Pulling design, merchandising and sales talent from your cash cow to grow a new business is simply a bad idea. No one we’ve ever seen has done this successfully.

 

As for the stock, clearly expectations have come down. The stock is off 80% from its recent peak of $40, and is squarely in the ‘buy zone’ of the Hedgeye Sentiment Monitor. In addition, the consensus number of $0.45 this year is probably doable. But the problem is that next year, the Street is back up $1.32 – that’s very optimistic. If you believe those numbers, then by all means, stomach the near-term risk, be a hero and buy the stock. But our level of confidence that the company won’t earn over $1.00 is better than 75%. Management is selling on the way down. We'd follow their lead and resist the temptation to jump in too early here.

 

SKX: Estimates Still Too High - 7 8 2011 1 02 47 PM


Italian Risk Rising!

Positions in Europe: Long Germany (EWG)

 

In the European Chart of the Day below we highlight all-time wides in the spread between 10YR German Bund yields and Italy’s 10YR bond. The factors weighing on this spread include:

 ""

  1. Ongoing sovereign debt contagion across the region
  2. The ability of Berlusconi’s government to finalize a €47 Billion austerity package next month
  3. Italian bank worries as the second round of European Stress Tests are due on July 13th(an estimated 15-22 of 95 banks are rumored to fail; Unicredit stock was halted today after -6.5% drop)
  4. Talk today that Berlusconi’s Finance Minister Guido Tremonti is caught up in allegations of graft that may call for him to step aside

""

To the last point, it’s been reported that Berlusconi called a closed-door meeting with Tremonti today to discuss allegations that Marco Milanese, a lawmaker accused of corruption who until nine days ago was Tremonti’s political advisor, had been paying €8,500 a month on rent for an apartment used by Tremonti in Rome. According to The Economist, Marco Milanese is wanted on suspicion of having supplied confidential official information to a businessman in return for “significant cash payments and other gifts such as expensive watches, jewels, luxury cars (Ferrari and Bentley) and holidays abroad”.

 

""

While Tremonti publically stated he’d change his arrangements as of this evening, the news compounds recent negative Italian headlines.

""

Matthew Hedrick

Analyst

Italian Risk Rising! - italy. yields


RESTAURANT INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT UPDATE

Employment data a mixed bag for restaurants.

The overall jobs picture this morning was unambiguously awful and the unemployment rate has ticked up to 9.2%.  The level of growth in employment among the 20-24 years of age cohort accelerated in June, which is a positive data point for QSR.  May employment growth among this age cohort came in at a meager +1.1%.  June’s employment level for 20-24 year olds grew 1.5%.

Overall, the jobs report was clearly worse-than-expected.  The other four age cohorts we show in our chart, below, all show sequential deterioration in employment growth. As a reminder, much of the positive sentiment from management teams over the past number of quarters as been based upon an improving employment landscape.  Equally, much of the improvement in consumer confidence surveys that has occurred has been driven by improving expectations, rather than current situation perceptions, and the slide in employment levels will likely weigh on expectations.

RESTAURANT INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT UPDATE - Employment by Age

As the second chart, below shows, employment growth in the food service industry continues to be robust but there was an interesting slowdown in Full Service employment growth in May.  This data lags the employment by age data by one month.  The May Full Service slowdown may prove to be immaterial but, since late 2010, Full Service employment growth has lagged Limited Service employment growth.  If this divergence were to become more pronounced, we would take it as being suggestive of slowing trends in casual dining versus quick service.  The employment by age data for June, additionally, would corroborate this idea.  The space has been on fire and we would need further confirmation from this and other factors to become more bearish, but these two data points are noteworthy this morning.

RESTAURANT INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT UPDATE - food service employment 78

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

Rory Green

Analyst

 

 


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