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Market Memory

This note was originally published at 8am on August 10, 2011. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“Memory is a process, albeit a faulty one.”

-Jane Leavy

 

That quote comes from the Preface of Jane Leavy’s recent Bestseller “The Last Boy – Mickey Mantle and The End of America’s Childhood.” I just started reading it last night and it helped me reconcile some of the conflicting thoughts in my head.

 

If you open your mind, you can always learn something from someone. Even if that’s learning what not to do. Mr. Macro Market teaches us something each and every market day. Yesterday it taught me that career risk management is as relevant as risk management itself.

 

At 2:45PM yesterday, the SP500 was testing the 1101 level, making a credible threat to move into what we call the crash zone (down -20% from its YTD peak of 1364 on April 29, 2011). Seventy five minutes later, the SP500 closed the day at 1172 – up 6.4% in 75 minutes of trading! La Bernank calls this le “price stability.”

 

That wasn’t a bounce. That wasn’t an intraday rally. That was career risk management buttons being pushed (BUY), in size, at the 1100 line – at the intraday and YTD low. Remember, the art of money management is having money to manage.

 

Market bottoms are processes, not points. And the entire construct of American finance (a large construct) is finally engaging, emotionally, in the process of jogging their 2008 Market Memory.

 

Many a perma-bull would have you believe yesterday’s intraday rally was based on the “yield differential between stocks and bonds.” Others continue to tell you that stocks went up because they are “cheap.” Right.

 

To borrow a much more reasonable explanation of what the market does and when, here’s Jane Leavy’s (using America’s treasured pastime as a metaphor for how Americans remember things they are supposed to love): “…like the sweater in my office, Mickey Mantle is a blend of memory and distortion, fact and fiction, repetition and exaggeration.”

 

Back to this morning’s Global Macro Grind

 

As levered long hedge funds deal with their 2011 performance problems in America (they’re down more than mutual funds who don’t use leverage), the rest of the world, shockingly, didn’t cease to exist yesterday.

 

Across countries, currencies, and commodities, there’s a lot going on this morning:

 

1.   ASIA – China’s most trusted economic advisor (Singapore) CUT its export forecast for 2011 last night. That’s a big deal as it’s a pseudo honest representation about what Asia really should be thinking when considering all of the money printing by Fiat Fools. Deficits, Debt, and Zero Percent Interest Rate Policies STRUCTURALLY DEPRESS ECONOMIC GROWTH (Princeton Economics Department, take notes).

 

Singapore’s stock market sold off on that “news” closing down a full -1.9% overnight and really put a large wet Kleenex on what the buy-and-hope crowd in America was looking for this morning - a follow through on yesterday’s bull charge, with a big overnight session in Asia, and big UP futures to story-tell about. Didn’t happen.

 

2.   EUROPE – Evidently, arresting a US stock market crash into yesterday’s close didn’t stop gravity. Economic growth in Europe continues to slow and that’s why German stocks have crashed alongside all of the Europig nations. In bear markets (all of European Equities are in one, fyi), I learn a lot more from the complexion of the bounces than I do the selloffs.

 

Anyone with a calculator knows that Greece, Italy, and Spain have crashed. But do people realize that German stocks are crashing? Inclusive of this morning’s low-volume +1.6% “bounce” in Germany’s DAX Index, the market is still down -20% from its May 2011 peak. That’s a problem. Germany’s TAIL is broken.

 

3.   USA – Our cerebral Director of Research, Daryl Jones, wrote an outstanding note yesterday titled “Is There Cheap Valuation Blood In The Water” (if you’d like the note email sales@hedgeye.com) and without recapping the entire historical data series, here’s the bottom line on US stocks: they aren’t expensive anymore; they aren’t cheap either – they are perfectly priced for storytelling.

 

For the sake of a bear’s storytelling purposes, let’s assume the duration of the countless marketing machines out there who are still pitching Jeremy Siegel’s “Stocks For The Long Run” – and let’s use the longest of long-runs. At a closing price of 1172, the SP500 continues to make LOWER long-term LOWS, down -25.1% versus their long-term peak (2007) and down -14.0% from their LOWER-HIGHS established in April of 2011.

 

Now if we want to throw away our Market Memory for another second and assume the Keynesian Textbook position that ‘low bond yields means buy stocks’, we humbly submit that you still need to get the timing right.

 

With 2-year US Treasury Yields hitting all-time lows today at 0.17% (all-time is still a very long time) and 10-year yields collapsing toward their all-time lows established in 2008, again, we humbly submit that buying a stock because “it’s cheap” in 2008 should inspire bad memories about what’s left of your 401k. Fictionally “cheap” can get cheaper and repeating the same mistakes gets people run over.

 

My immediate-term ranges of support and resistance for Gold (bullish), Oil (bearish), and the SP500 (bearish) are now $1664-1766, $78.58-89.97, and 1114-1231, respectively. Our Global Macro team will host a conference call at 11AM EST to go through what to do next.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Market Memory - Chart of the Day

 

Market Memory - Virtual Portfolio



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


Early Look

daily macro intelligence

Relied upon by big institutional and individual investors across the world, this granular morning newsletter distills the latest and most vital market developments and insures that you are always in the know.

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

 

 


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

 

 


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