“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and entrances;
And one man in time plays many parts.”
If U.S. politics is beginning to feel like theater, it should. Two nights ago, we had the Republican presidential candidates on stage. Last night, we had President Obama on center stage (albeit not the prime time stage due to a NFL matchup). All the political world is, indeed, a stage.
In Act 1, the Republican nominees took turns taking various shots at each other and at the current resident of the White House. According to the main stream media, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney emerged as the protagonist in the dramatic comedy that has become the Republican race. Meanwhile, current Texas Governor Rick Perry seems to have lost, at least for now, his role as leading man. Although he did reaffirm his willingness to star in more independent films with the following statement about Social Security:
“It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you're paying into a program that's going to be there.”
That line is certainly not characteristic of a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster, but for those of us that enjoy factual documentaries it is a noteworthy comment.
Sometimes hero and sometimes villain, Congressman Ron Paul also provided ample Oscar worthy material two nights ago, which included the following quips:
“It isn't authorized in the Constitution for us to run a welfare state. And it doesn't work. All it's filled up with is mandates. And the mandates are what we're objecting to. I want to repeal all the mandates.”
“You can buy a gallon of gasoline today for a silver dime. A silver dime is worth $3.50.”
As for President Obama, like a poorly reviewed low budget film, expectations were low for him heading into last night’s command performance. While “expectations are the root of all heartache”, low expectations, on the other hand, are also the source of many upside surprises. Unfortunately, President Obama had center stage last night, but like an off Broadway show that isn’t quite ready for the big lights, Obama fell short.
Initially, the equity futures cheered Obama on as it was clear that his American Jobs Act was to be an upside surprise at $447 billion versus the rumors of $300 billion, but the new ideas that he and his aides were hinting at were virtually non-existent. The core tenets of his proposed job bill are as follows:
- Cuts payroll taxes in half for every working American and small business ($240 billion);
- Extends unemployment benefits for another year ($63 billion);
- Immediate investment in infrastructure ($50 billion);
- Rebuild and modernize at least 35,000 schools ($30 billion); and
- Help prevent state and local governments from laying off teachers and police ($35 billion).
Sound like a sequel? It should. The American Jobs Act has very similar tenets to President Obama’s original $800+ billion stimulus program, a program whose benefit to the economy was dubious at best. In fact, some estimates suggest that President Obama’s original stimulus bill cost an astronomical $280,000 per job. This is not exactly Keynesian policy that we can believe in.
While I’m generally hesitant to support government intervention in the economy, I would admit that there are policies that the government can enact which could catalyze long term economic activity. Unfortunately, this bill does not any. On the first key point of cutting payroll taxes, it is certainly a short term economic benefit, but short term cuts do not motivate long term investment. On the second key point of infrastructure spending, while perhaps the United States needs heightened infrastructure investment, there is no multiplier effect or long term job creation with such.
In addition, not only did President Obama present a bill last night that has limited new ideas and likely wouldn’t meaningfully stimulate the economy, he also presented a bill that will likely not pass through Congress. In presenting a bill last night that he did not first discuss or at least attempt to craft with Republican leadership, Obama continued to play into the highly partisan environment that is gripping Washington. To be fair, the partisanship is not all his fault, but he is certainly reaffirming that he is not a disinterested statesman who is above the fray.
Three years into his Presidency, it is also now clear that President Obama owns the economy. Without a doubt, he can blame the prior administration for leaving him with an economy that was on life support, but he and his administration have passed extensive legislature that has been largely ineffectual. As Michael Boskin from the Wall Street Journal wrote yesterday:
“Cash for clunkers cost $3 billion, just to shift car sales forward a few months. The Public-Private Investment Partnership, despite cheap federal loans, generated 3% of the $1 trillion claimed, and toxic assets still hobble some financial institutions. The Dodd-Frank financial reform law institutionalized "too big to fail" amid greater concentration of banking assets and mortgages in Fannie and Freddie. The foreclosure relief program permanently modified only a small percentage of the four million mortgages the president promised. And even Mr. Obama now admits that the shovels weren't ready in all those "shovel-ready" stimulus projects.”
The best future advice for President Obama and his administration likely also comes from Shakespeare:
“Boldness be my friend.”
As it stands, the American Jobs Act is not bold, innovative, or likely to pass.
Keep your head up and stick on the ice,
Daryl G. Jones
Director of Research
This note was originally published at 8am on September 06, 2011. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.
“Where is the edge? And how do I stay the right distance from the edge?”
That was Ray Dalio’s answer on the key to risk management success (“Mastering The Machine”, by John Cassidy, New Yorker, July 25th 2011). Like he did in 2008, Dalio is beating most of his hedge fund competition in 2011. Hedgeye calls that a repeatable process.
Where was The Edge in 2011? Global Growth Slowing. Period.
While there will be plenty of storytelling and finger pointing about how it was a pig in Europe or a politician in America, that’s pretty much it. If you got Growth Slowing right, you got a lot of other things right.
Growth won’t slow forever. But it didn’t stop slowing in the US on Friday and it doesn’t appear to be slowing in Europe this week either. When growth stops slowing, that will be a critical signal to start thinking about going the other way.
The cover of Barron’s this weekend asked “Where Do We Go From Here?” Good question. But for the answers, Barrons (like many other legacy financials media outlets) continues to use the wrong sources. Why many of these journalists are using the same sources that missed Growth Slowing in 2008 is not clear. Why they don’t use Hedgeye is simple: we are their new competition.
In my Early Look note from August 11thtitled Forecasting Dark (“Weather forecast for tonight: dark.”-George Carlin) I highlighted what Washington/Wall Street continue to use as their source for “blue chip” strategy. At the beginning of 2011 here were some of the higher profile estimates:
Forecasts for 2011 US GDP Growth:
- Bank of America = 3.2%
- Barclays = 3.1%
- Citigroup = 3.1%
Forecasts for 2011 SP500 Returns:
- Bank of America (David Bianco) = 1400 (up +11.4%)
- Barclays (Barry Knapp) = 1420 (up +13.0%)
- Citigroup (Tobias Levkovich) = 1400 (up +11.4%)
As of last week’s train wreck US unemployment report and another -31% estimate cut from the US Government on Q2 2011 GDP, here’s fact versus prior fictions:
- Q1 2011 US GDP Growth = 0.36%
- Q2 2011 US GDP Growth = 0.98%
- SP500 YTD Return = -6.7%
Now, to be fair, there are still some very contrarian views out there. Consider ISI Group’s latest sell-side hire, Bijal Shah, who proclaimed in Barron’s on August 22, 2011, “higher unemployment isn’t necessarily terrible news for equity markets.”
It just was last week.
So (drumroll), after seeing the data, here are your real-time Wall Street revisions from Barron’s this weekend:
- Deutsche Bank (Binky Chada) drops their January 2011 year-end SP500 target from 1550 to 1425
- Goldman Sachs (David Kostin) drops their January 2011 year-end SP500 target from 1450 to 1400
- Credit Suisse (Doug Cliggott) drops their January 2011 year-end SP500 target from 1250 to 1100
Whoa, hold your horses! Is that one major sell-side firm with a price target below the market’s last price? Indeed. This isn’t Doug Cliggott’s first rodeo getting a bearish move right.
So what do we do with all of this incompetence in forecasting?
- Realize that the sell-side hasn’t capitulated yet and cut their estimates to the right level (they will at the bottom)
- Accept that both the US Government and their economic advisors (the sell-side) continues to use the wrong models
- Keep doing what it is that we’ve done to call both the 2008 and 2011 Growth Slowdowns
Not that I’m still keeping track, but on February 3rd, 2011, JP Morgan’s Thomas Lee put out a note titled “Circle of Life”, raising his 2011 EPS target in the SP500 to $97.50 from $94 saying that it “smells like a secular bull market…”
While I’m not certain how to use the scratch-and-sniff model, what we can be certain of is that most of these sell-side strategists quickly revert to calling markets “cheap” when both their earnings and price targets are wrong.
Of course, anything can be deemed “cheap” if you use the wrong growth and earnings estimates…
Who has the right earnings estimates? You can drive a truck through Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse views on the “E” in PE for 2012:
- Binky Chada says $106
- Doug Cliggott says $81
So, Chada will call the SP500 “cheap” because he is using 11x earnings (1173/$106) and Cliggott will call it more expensive at 14x (1173/$81). Who is right? What’s the right multiple? Who has The Edge?
Don’t worry, those are not the risk management question you need to answer this morning. The answer that you have to perpetually impute is “how do you stay the right distance from the edge.”
To do that, you’ll need a repeatable risk management process as well.
My immediate-term support and resistance levels for Gold, Oil, and the SP500 are now $1818-1903 (bullish but overbought), $83.87-97.34 (bearish), and 1145-1193, respectively. Europe capitulated yesterday. There’s a good chance another immediate-term low in US stocks comes at a higher-low than the prior closing low (1119) and US Treasuries are putting in immediate-term highs.
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
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Notable macro data points, news items, and price action pertaining to the restaurant space.
Rising food prices that defy easing global inflation may challenge policy makers in countries including China to control costs without hurting economic growth, according to Bloomberg.
According to CattleNetwork.com, cattle feeding margins and beef packing margins both declined substantially last week as boxed beef cutout prices dropped.
The Beverage space outperformed its food, beverage, and restaurant peers yesterday as SODA led the group higher. SODA has declined almost 50% since its early August peak but was upgraded yesterday and traded up 5.2% yesterday.
- MCD Japan’s August same-store sales declined 8.2%.
- MCD global same-store sales results for August are being released this morning. The Street is looking for 5.0%, 4.5%, 6.0%, and 3.7% for the Global, U.S., Europe, and APMEA, respectively.
- MCD is facing a PR challenge after one person was left dead and nine sickened after breathing toxic fumes in the restroom of a McDonald’s restaurant in South Georgia. The current theory is that the fumes were caused by cleaning chemicals but an investigation is underway.
- PFCB presented at the William Blair & Company Emerging Growth Stock Conference yesterday. The company has enlisted a call center for to-go orders and also said that mobile and online orders have higher check average.
Despite easy comps, August is coming in pretty weak. At the very least, Q3 won’t be a repeat of Q2.
As we mentioned in our note, “REGIONALS: SHOW ME THE GROWTH, MO" (9/6/11), preliminary revenue data from Missouri may indicate a soft August for the riverboat markets. So far this year, we have three states that have reported August revenues:
- Illinois same-store gaming revenues down 11% against an August 2010 comp of –6%
- Iowa same-store gaming revenues down 1% versus –3% last year
- Indiana revenues down 5% versus –1% last year
- Even Pennsylvania – which we wouldn’t have characterized as mature yet – fell 6% this August in same-store gaming revenues
One fewer Sunday can’t explain the August weakness. Nor can a difficult comp, since regional gaming revenues (riverboat) fell 2% in August of 2010. So what’s going on? We think it is mostly macro. Gaming proved to be one of the most, if not the most cyclical consumer sector in the last downturn. Statistically, housing prices and unemployment have been the most significant drivers of gaming revenues. Unfortunately, housing prices are still declining and unemployment remains above 9%. Looking through this lens, we shouldn’t be surprised.
For the first time in many quarters, we don’t see widespread earnings upside for domestic gaming operators. In fact, some are at risk of missing including ASCA, PENN, and BYD. We still think PNK has enough secular margin improvement and Louisiana exposure to put up another beat but the size of that beat may not be what investors are used to. Sentiment is likely to turn, in our opinion.
PENN looks particularly vulnerable since it has widespread exposure (more negative data points) and more downside to its trough valuation. Estimates for PENN’s PA casino are also looking high given the surprising and severe slowdown there. Finally, being a Wall Street darling now could be a liability on the way down.
The following charts analyze regional gaming revenues on a sequential basis. From this view, the regional performance looks even worse. Depending on the state, sequential performance began to deteriorate in May, June, or July and all three states depicted underperformed again in August.
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