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Big Water

“Pain + Reflection = Progress.”

-Ray Dalio

 

That’s a quote from what I thought was one of the best asset management articles of the year – “Mastering The Machine – How Ray Dalio built the world’s richest and strangest hedge fund”, by John Cassidy at The New Yorker.

 

What was fascinating to me about Dalio’s Global Macro Risk Mangement Process is that there was nothing that was strange to me about it at all. It made perfect sense. Maybe that’s why he’s been one of the few major Hedge Fund managers who has been able to navigate the Big Water of both 2008 and 2011, generating positive absolute returns. Evidently, his process is repeatable.

 

Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater and Big Water are two very different things. Big Water is what some of my closest friends and I just spent the last 3 days conquering in Hells Canyon – America’s deepest river gorge.

 

No roads cross Hells Canyon. There are no government people on the shores to bail you out. You are either listening very carefully to your guide or you aren’t coming out.

 

“Who Is John Gault?” Maybe a better question for me over the course of the weekend was, “Who Is Jeff Smith?” The man who called it “River Time”, was constantly reminding us that “safety is no accident.” Evidently, he was right.

 

I’ll be flying home, safely, from Boise, Idaho this morning.

 

Back to the Global Macro Grind

 

Learning from mistakes (PAIN) and rethinking those mistakes (REFLECTION) = PROGRESS.

 

With all of the lessons learned about Growth Slowing in 2008 and how politicians and central planners are infused into your said “free” markets to arrest gravity (“shock and awe” interest rate cuts demanded then; Quantitative Easing begged for now), we are reminded of the 2 things that Big Government Interventions do to our markets and economies:

  1. They shorten economic cycles
  2. They amplify market volatility

Whoever didn’t pick up on that second point last week obviously wasn’t in the water. There was amplified volatility in The Price Volatility itself. From leftist French ideas about banning short selling to the whatever we have coming down river this week, all of this is reminding investors that markets that can’t see their rules change in the middle of the game are not markets they should trust.

 

Like staring down the belly of a Class IV white water rapid, when people see this kind of volatility in their retirement accounts they typically opt to get out. While that may be an inconvenient truth for those of us who are brave (or dumb) enough to try our luck trading Big Water volatility, history has proven that markets that lose people’s trust lose fund flows.

 

When the flows stop, bigger rocks appear…

 

With our own money at least, we don’t like volunteering to be “fully invested” when GDP Growth is heading towards big rocks (PAIN). History (REFLECTION) may not be precise in helping you navigate the price volatility associated with economic slowdowns – and sometimes the biggest rocks are the last ones you’ll ever see – but the rhythm of this globally interconnected marketplace is a constant reminder.

 

Going under water can be avoided. Accepting uncertainty = PROGRESS.

 

I’ve expressed my acceptance of uncertainty in 2011 by getting out of the water. Last Monday I had a 67% Cash position in the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model. This morning that Cash position is sitting at 64% and here’s where the rest of my Cash has been allocated:

  1. Cash = 64%
  2. Fixed Income = 21% (Long-term Treasuries, Treasury Flattener, Corporate Bonds – TLT, FLAT, LQD)
  3. International Equities = 9% (China and S&P International Dividend ETF – CAF and DWX)
  4. International Currencies = 6% (Canadian Dollar – FXC)
  5. Commodities = 0%
  6. US Equities = 0%

The only move I made last week was allocating 3% of assets in the model to Corporate Bonds (LQD). They were down hard on the week when I bought them - and I like to buy things when they are red.

 

The biggest mistake I’ve made in the last few weeks is not being long Gold (GLD). That’s why I have Commodities listed ahead of US Equities this morning. I’d like to buy Gold and/or Silver back on a pullback. Immediate-term TRADE support lines for Gold and Silver are now $1713 and $38.15, respectively. I have intermediate-term TREND upside for Gold and Silver at $1817 and $41.69, respectively.

 

US stocks were immediate-term TRADE oversold into the close last Monday (see my intraday note from last Monday titled “Short Covering Opportunity”, April 8, 2011), but they are far from oversold this morning. I have immediate-term downside support at a lower-low of 1093 and less than 1% of immediate-term upside from Friday’s closing price, making the risk-reward highly skewed to the downside.

 

According to Cassidy’s article, Ray Dalio likes to ask his analysts for opinions – but those opinions better be well thought out. “Are you going to answer me knowledgeably or are you going to give me a guess?” he said to his analyst in a meeting.

 

When at Hedgeye or in The Big Water, we like to be specific on levels – we don’t guess.

 

My immediate-term support and resistance ranges for the Gold, Oil, and the SP500 are now $1, $78.09-86.06, and 1093-1186, respectively.

 

Best of luck out there this week,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Big Water - Chart of the Day

 

Big Water - Virtual Portfolio


MACRO MIXER - RECESSION 2.0?

This edition of the macro mixer follows a them that I echoed in this morning’s Early Look.  I wrote, “If the similarities between 2011 and 2008 are bad, the differences are almost worse.”  You might have better luck at guessing whether we are headed for another recession but several catalysts long highlighted by Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough, including the debt ceiling debate, the US debt downgrade, and consensus expectations becoming overly bullish were certainly pointing to a potential market slowdown.  The potential for Recession 2.0 now looms large and consumer confidence data out this morning (the worse University of Michigan reading since 1980!) is not encouraging.

 

Some of the differences between 2008 and today seem worse than the similarities: joblessness is higher, more people are reliant on food stamps for sustenance, and the financial crisis threatening to wreak havoc on our economy is not here in the USA and therefore less within our government’s control.  The similarities, given that we are comparing the present situation to crisis of 2008, are inherently negative.  Gas prices are elevated, the VIX is spiking, stocks have fallen off a cliff, and consumer confidence is depressed.

 

The last point on consumer sentiment being is the most relevant today, with the University of Michigan index plunging in early August.  Today, confidence fell 8.8 points to 54.9 versus 63.7 in July.  The index has fallen 19.4 since May 2011 and the magnitude of the decline has been exceeded only twice in the history of the index - fall of 1990 and 2005.

 

The expectations component led the decline, falling 10.3 points to 45.7 (this is its lowest level since 1980).  Assessments of current conditions dropped 6.5 points to 69.3, the lowest level since November 2009.

 

While this does not bode well for consumer spending in August, today’s retail sales data suggested that sales held up well in the month of July.  Retail sales rose 0.5% in July, the largest gain in four months; excluding those and auto dealers, core sales grew 0.3%, down from the upwardly revised 0.5% June figure.  Growth was led by miscellaneous retailers, gasoline stations, and electronics and appliance retailers. Sporting goods and hobby stores, department stores, and building supply stores were the primary losers.

 

Confirming the sluggish consumer environment, total business inventories increased 0.3% in June after a downwardly revised 0.9% in May (previously 1%).  The growth was smaller than expected and largely driven by wholesaler inventories, as retail inventories continue to contract.  The weaker than expected month is an indication that businesses continue to manage inventories very closely as consumer spending trends are tenuous at best. 

 

MACRO MIXER - RECESSION 2.0? - umich sentiment 812

 

MACRO MIXER - RECESSION 2.0? - umich expectations 812

 

MACRO MIXER - RECESSION 2.0? - umich attitudes

 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

Rory Green

Analyst

 

 


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Department Store Callouts

 

With the major department stores having reported this week, here are the latest views on price elasticity from the front lines:

 

“So far our average regular price sales were up a little bit, but that’s mostly due to mix and it’s not really due so much to inflation. I think lot of what we’ve been hearing hasn’t really happened at least for us yet in terms of cost of goods flowing through to the customer. So we want to see what shakes out with that.” -JWN

 

“There's not one answer to how we've dealt with the pricing increases. In some cases where we know the customer is very value-oriented, we are not passing the cost increase completely or at all to the customer and hoping to make up the margin other places.” - M

 

“So far, the results we have gotten have kind of been what we expected broadly which is this kind of one to one for every increase in costs, there’s a corresponding decrease in units” – KSS

 

“The customer does not have much inelasticity desire at new price points. The share of opening price points was important to them and it continues to be the case” - JCP

 

 

If JWN isn’t been able to pass through price increases, neither is anyone else – not good for lower end and mid-tier players. Here’s something else to consider. Every department store raised guidance this week with the sole exception of JCP. Take a look at the price performance on the week and implied multiples for group below. We used the current price over the low end of company guidance for our P/E calculation.

 

For JCP, we assumed the low end of its previous guidance of $2.15-$2.20. Interestingly, this still warrants the second highest multiple in the group behind only JWN. If you take into account that it came in $0.07 shy of its Q2 guidance and is guiding Q3 another $0.07 below consensus estimates, full-year guidance would have had to come down to at least to $2.00 implying an even richer 13.3x multiple. Just for reference, we’re shaking out at $1.60 for the year suggesting at this price, JCP trades at the highest multiple of the group at 16.6x!

 

JCP remains at the top of our short list.

 

Department Store Callouts - DeptOutlooks 8 11

 

Department Store Callouts - Dept SIGMA 8 11

 

Casey Flavin

Director


MACRO MIXER - RECESSION 2.0?

This edition of the macro mixer echoes a theme that I laid out in this morning’s Early Look.  I wrote, “If the similarities between 2011 and 2008 are bad, the differences are almost worse.”  You might have better luck at guessing whether we are headed for another recession but several catalysts long highlighted by Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough, including the debt ceiling debate, the US debt downgrade, and consensus expectations becoming overly bullish were certainly pointing to a potential market slowdown.  The potential for Recession 2.0 now looms large and consumer confidence data out this morning (the worse University of Michigan reading since 1980!) is not encouraging.

 

Some of the differences between 2008 and today seem worse than the similarities: joblessness is higher, more people are reliant on food stamps for sustenance, and the financial crisis threatening to wreak havoc on our economy is not here in the USA and therefore less within our government’s control.  The similarities, given that we are comparing the present situation to crisis of 2008, are inherently negative.  Gas prices are elevated, the VIX is spiking, stocks have fallen off a cliff, and consumer confidence is depressed.

 

The last point on consumer sentiment being is the most relevant today, with the University of Michigan index plunging in early August.  Today, confidence fell 8.8 points to 54.9 versus 63.7 in July.  The index has fallen 19.4 since May 2011 and the magnitude of the decline has been exceeded only twice in the history of the index - fall of 1990 and 2005.

 

The expectations component led the decline, falling 10.3 points to 45.7 (this is its lowest level since 1980).  Assessments of current conditions dropped 6.5 points to 69.3, the lowest level since November 2009.

 

While this does not bode well for consumer spending in August, today’s retail sales data suggested that sales held up well in the month of July.  Retail sales rose 0.5% in July, the largest gain in four months; excluding those and auto dealers, core sales grew 0.3%, down from the upwardly revised 0.5% June figure.  Growth was led by miscellaneous retailers, gasoline stations, and electronics and appliance retailers. Sporting goods and hobby stores, department stores, and building supply stores were the primary losers.

 

Confirming the sluggish consumer environment, total business inventories increased 0.3% in June after a downwardly revised 0.9% in May (previously 1%).  The growth was smaller than expected and largely driven by wholesaler inventories, as retail inventories continue to contract.  The weaker than expected month is an indication that businesses continue to manage inventories very closely as consumer spending trends are tenuous at best. 

 

MACRO MIXER - RECESSION 2.0? - umich sentiment 812

 

MACRO MIXER - RECESSION 2.0? - umich expectations 812

 

MACRO MIXER - RECESSION 2.0? - umich attitudes

 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

 


Weekly Asia Risk Monitor

As usual, we’re keeping it brief. Email us at if you’d like to dialogue further on anything you see below.

 

PRICES

 

In Asian equity markets, Australia’s All Ordinaries Index parted a sea of red, closing up +1.6% on a wk/wk basis. In Asian currency markets, the Japanese yen’s +2.6% wk/wk gain potentially sets up another round of intervention. In Asian bond markets, Indonesia’s +20bps wk/wk rise in 2yr yields stands out as peculiar, given the trajectory of Indonesian inflation readings. Thailand’s yield curve narrowed substantially (-32bps wk/wk) and is near inversion. Clearly the Thai fixed income market has become quite bearish on the slope of Thai economic growth.

 

Perhaps the key callout of the week is the move(s) in Asian CDS markets. Though up across the board and across multiple durations, the absolute levels remain rather depressed relative to their European counterparts – i.e. credit market participants aren’t yet expecting global contagion to materially affect the solvency of Asian sovereigns in the event of a potential European banking crisis.

 

Weekly Asia Risk Monitor - 1

 

Weekly Asia Risk Monitor - 2

 

Weekly Asia Risk Monitor - 3

 

Weekly Asia Risk Monitor - 4

 

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Weekly Asia Risk Monitor - 6

 

Weekly Asia Risk Monitor - 7

 

Weekly Asia Risk Monitor - 8

 

KEY CALLOUTS

 

China

-China’s July economic data came in as expected – inflation peaking and growth slowed at a decelerating rate: CPI accelerated to +6.5% YoY (37-month high); PPI accelerated to +7.5% YoY; industrial production growth slowed to +14% YoY; retail sales growth slowed +17.2% YoY; fixed assets investment growth slowed to +25.4% YoY; new loan growth slowed to +492.6B MoM and -7.5% YoY; money supply (M2) growth slowed to +14.7% YoY.

-Housing transactions cratered in July, falling -30% MoM – more scope for the PBOC to become dovish on the margin.

-China’s trade balance widened amid faster growth in both exports and imports, highlighting a subtle point we continue to make – Deflation the Inflation is very bullish for China’s net export P&L over the near term, due to the fact that export prices are typically more fixed than import costs.

-As lower expectations for further monetary tightening continue to be priced into China’s interbank rates and swaps spreads, we think the credit crunch facing China’s small-to-medium-sized enterprises will begin to wane. While we don’t see a flood of dovishness in sight, on the margin, credit conditions in China should go from “bad” to “less bad”.

-The Chinese yuan is making 17yr highs in both the spot and forwards market as consensus calls for QE3 spur inflation worries – most notably from Chinese officials: “[Additional easing in the U.S.] is highly likely… This may push up commodity costs and cause more hot money to flow into developing countries, including China” – China’s National Development and Reform Commission.

 

Hong Kong

-GDP growth slowed -210bps in 2Q to +5.1% YoY and we see further downside in 2H – especially if Hong Kong’s property market continues to show marginal weakness. We remain the bears on Hong Kong’s financial services and property developer stocks.

 

Japan

-The businesspeople on the ground in Japan see what we see – slowing growth ahead: the outlook component of the Economy Watchers Survey ticked down to 48.5 in July.

-Vice Finance Minister Fumihkio Igarashi confirmed that Japan is ready to intervene again in the FX market to stem the rising tide in the yen – just over a week after their (unsuccessful) record-setting solo intervention. Chief Cabinet secretary Yukio Edano also said that the country is considering measures to help Japanese corporations to cope with the strong yen.

-Current prime minister Naoto Kan and his record-low 18% approval rating may be on the way out the door soon, as the second of his three hurdles to resignation looks to be cleared (passage of the deficit-financing bill). All that’s left is nuclear power reregulation and, by the looks of it, the opposition (LDP) may push that bill along as well just to get Kan out of parliament.

-Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda is likely to “run” for the soon-to-be open prime minister role in Japan. A Noda victory is likely to be incrementally supportive of growth-negative fiscal policy (higher taxes), which would be incrementally bullish for JGBs.

-PPI accelerated in July to +2.9% YoY.

 

India

-Recently reappointed (through Sept. ’13) RBI governor Duvvuri Subbarao confirmed that the central bank sees the current rate of inflation as “too high” by a double, which more than likely means there’ll be no easing of monetary policy anytime soon in India.

-Local car sales growth cratered in July (-15.8% YoY vs. +1.6% prior). Though hikes are starting to eat away at consumer demand, inflation remains sticky.

-India’s three weekly inflation readings all accelerated to new intermediate-term highs in the last week of July: food (+9.9% YoY); energy (+12.2% YoY); and primary articles (+12.2% YoY).

-Indian corporations are shelving bond deals amid the rupee’s recent declines, which, in turn, puts upward pressure on the spreads of Indian foreign currency denominated debt. Rising domestic interest rates have led Indian corporations to issue a near record amount of external debt YTD – very negative for Indian equities in the event things take a turn for the worse in Europe (weak currency inflates corporate debt burdens).

 

Australia

-The RBA cut its 2011 GDP growth forecast (by -38.4% to 2% YoY) and, more importantly, walked down its long-term interest rate assumptions to flat vs. a previous forecast of a +50bps rise by mid-2013. We continue to see further downside to Australian interest rates over the intermediate-term TREND as growth slows Down Under.

-Consumer confidence ticked down in August to 89.6 (the lowest level since May ’09) while Australia’s unemployment rate backed up +20bps to 5.1% in July. Australia’s ailing economy needs a bone and we think Stevens will deliver the goods (rate cuts) by the end of the year if we are to remain right on the slope of global growth (negative).

 

South Korea

-PPI accelerated in July to +6.5% YoY. We expect most reported input price series to begin trending down over the intermediate term, as Deflating the Inflation continues to play out across the commodity complex.

-The Bank of Korea kept its benchmark interest rate on hold at 3.25% amid waning external and domestic demand.

 

Indonesia

-Real GDP growth came in flat in 2Q and our models see more of the same in 2H.

-Bank Indonesia kept its benchmark interest rate on hold at 6.75%.

 

Singapore

-The Singaporean government cut their full-year GDP growth and full-year export growth forecast, citing slowing U.S. and E.U. growth.

 

Taiwan

-CPI slowed in July to +1.3% YoY alongside and acceleration in export growth and a wider trade balance. While we’d steer clear of open economies such as Taiwan on the long side over the intermediate-term, we are quick to point out that developing Asia by and large is unlike the U.S. and the E.U. in that it doesn’t have massive sovereign debt burdens structurally impairing growth.

 

Darius Dale

Analyst


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