The Price of Winning

“Nothing good in life comes but at a price.”



In the darkest hours before his death at The Battle of Thermopylae, King Leonidas of Sparta provided a light that would last forever. It wasn’t about him or his valor – it was about leadership  - and the ultimate price leaders have to pay to prove they are selfless.


Whether you are American, Canadian, or Polish, the ultimate price your parents and grand-parents have paid for you is that which we all cherish, but sometimes forget to take the time to respect. Liberty.


“Sweetest of all is liberty. This we have chosen and this we pay for.”

-Leonidas, Gates of Fire (page 212)


If what you have seen unfold in the last 3-5 years in our said “free markets” makes you proud, confident, or trustworthy of our said liberties and freedoms, I will call you the contrarian this morning.


It’s one thing to have the courage to stand up to ideological tyrants. It’s entirely another thing to seize the moment when they’ve been revealed for who they really are. Losers. And there has never been a more pressing time in modern American history where this country needs winners to start leading them into daily battle again.


Being called a loser is hard. In our profession it’s actually harder to read than it is to accept. Most people aren’t forced to accept responsibility in recommendation. That’s because we have created a culture in Washington and on Wall Street where losers don’t lose.


They win.


All the while, we sweat equity capitalists who are winning have to keep putting up with their losing ideas. This devastates confidence. That’s the bad and old news.


The good and new news is that the US Dollar strengthening. I think the market is sending us a tremendous opportunity to be the change we all want to see in our markets.


We don’t need policy. We need to pay the price to get rid of its broken promise.


Back to the Global Macro Grind


I’m just going to give you what you need this morning. My positioning and the risk management levels that matter across this Globally Interconnect battlefield of risk.


Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model: 

  1. CASH = I raised our Cash position from 64% to 70% yesterday by selling my long-term US Treasuries. I have zero appetite for Ben Bernanke’s last asset bubble.
  2. INTERNATIONAL FX = 9% and next to Cash, being long the US Dollar Index outright is my highest conviction Global Macro position. Get the US Dollar right (we’ve made 24 calls on the USD since 2008 and been right 23 times), you’ll get a lot of other things right.
  3. INTERNATIONAL EQUITIES = 9% (long China and the Philippines) and this has been dead wrong not only this week, but for all of September. I am not a buyer of more of this mistake on weakness. I am a seller on strength.
  4. FIXED INCOME = 6% (US Treasury Flattener) and I sold 3% of that FLAT long position yesterday on strength alongside selling the rest of our exposure to long-term Treasuries (TLT). Everything has a price, and I’ve been making the Growth Slowing call since February (when we bought FLAT) – so, to a degree, we need to be booking the Growth Slowing trade gains up here.
  5. US EQUITIES = 6% (long Utilities) and this continues to be the only place I would commit capital from a S&P Sector perspective. Utilities (XLU) is the only Sector ETF in our model that is bullish on both the TRADE and TREND durations. The other 8 of 9 Sector ETF’s in our model are in what we call a Bearish Formation (bearish on all 3 durations – TRADE, TREND, and TAIL).
  6. COMMODITIES = 0%. 

That’s not a typo. ZERO percent means 0%. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes this year, but one of them has not been telling you to get out of asset classes (we went to 0% US and European Equities in June; we went to 0% International FX in July). One of the critical things about winning in this business is that it’s a lot easier to do when you remove your potential losers, entirely, from the field. Cash is king.


Dollar UP is pulverizing International FX and Commodity markets again this morning. Here are some critical Global Macro factors to consider that remind me that “valuation” is not a catalyst: 

  1. South Korea’s KOSPI Index and the Hang Sang in Hong Kong continued to crash overnight (down -5.7% and -1.4%, respectively).
  2. Germany, France, and Greece all reversed, hard, from their “bounce” and are continuing to crash on the downside.
  3. Russia, Oil, Copper didn’t have a bounce at all – this is called the Deflating The Inflation (our call since April) with USD strength. 

Here’s what the US stock market has done across our 3 core risk management durations: down 4 consecutive days; down 7 of the last 9 weeks; and down -27.8% since 2007’s free money leverage-cycle peak. Do we need more Big Government Intervention in our markets?


We are entering the darkest hours of American leadership. Let winners win. Let losers lose. And give me my liberty to lead from the front in these markets, or give my firm’s vision death.


My immediate-term support and resistance ranges for Gold, Oil, and the SP500 are now $1, $81.09-86.90, and 1119-1166, respectively.


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


The Price of Winning - Chart of the Day


The Price of Winning - Virtual Portfolio




TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP - September 23, 2011


As we look at today’s set up for the S&P 500, the range is 47 points or -0.93% downside to 1119 and 3.23% upside to 1166.











  • ADVANCE/DECLINE LINE: -2395 (-243) 
  • VOLUME: NYSE 1716.20 (+41.80%)
  • VIX:  41.35 +10.80% YTD PERFORMANCE: +132.96%
  • SPX PUT/CALL RATIO: 2.75 from 2.66 (+3.62%)




UST YIELD CURVE: heavy and compressing if dropped on your head; 152bps wide, new low for the cycle; very bad for banks


10YR UST Yields hitting record lows as academics refer to chapter 2 on buy stocks when bond yields are?

  • TED SPREAD: 35.80
  • 3-MONTH T-BILL YIELD: 0.00%
  • 10-Year: 1.72 from 1.88     
  • YIELD CURVE: 1.52 from 1.67

 MACRO DATA POINTS (Bloomberg Estimates):

  • 1 p.m.: Baker Hughes rig count
  • 1:30 p.m.: Fed’s Dudley to speak on panel in Washington D.C.
  • 2:45 p.m.: Fed’s Williams on unconventional monetary policy in Zurich
  • 4:30 p.m.: ECB’s Trichet speaks in Washington


  • IMF/World Bank meetings take place and go over the weekend. Today, watch for comments from IMF Managing Director Lagarde, Fed President Dudley, Citigroup CEO Pandit, ECB President Trichet
  • Reliance Industries said to be studying possible purchases of shale-gas assets in Canada; may also invest in clean- energy ventures
  • Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison and CFO W.G. Stover appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee
  • Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman plans to stick by strategies set in motion by her predecessor
  • Napster founder Sean Parker, Ron Burkle may partner on bid for EMI, N.Y. Post says
  • Liberty Media’s spinoffs of Liberty Capital, Liberty Starz tracking stocks may be completed
  • Bank of America said to be in talks to sell its stake in the biggest U.S. Pizza Hut franchisee for more than $800m



COMMODITIES: disaster continues for hedge funds (Hedgeye has a 0% asset allocation to Commodities and reiterate that call this morning, long USD)





  • Copper, Nickel, Tin Slump on European Debt, Global Growth Risk
  • Commodities Set for Worst Week in Four Months as Metals Tumble
  • China Coal Outage to Spur Imports as Prices Rise: Energy Markets
  • Gold Set for Worst Week in More Than 4 Months on Global Selloff
  • Oil Rises After Sliding to Six-Week Low; Heads for Weekly Drop
  • Record Harvest Cooling Inflation Checks Yield Rise: India Credit
  • Goldman Sticks With ‘Resilient’ Commodities on Supply Risks
  • Gold May Gain on Fed Measures, Europe Concerns, Survey Shows
  • Copper Extends Drop to Lowest Since August 2010: LME Preview
  • Deere CEO Won’t Let Asia Rice Paddy Sink $50 Billion Sales Goal
  • Peruvian Congress Approves Law Setting Mining Tax on Profits
  • Copper, Nickel, Tin Tumble on Debt, Growth Concerns
  • Iron Ore’s Four-Year Slide Hitting Mining Earnings: Commodities
  • Palm Oil Declines as Growing Recession Concerns Reduce Demand
  • Soybeans Set for Worst Weekly Loss in 2 Years on Demand Concern
  • Gold May Drop as Investors Sell to Cover Losses in Other Assets
  • Europe Central Banks’ Gold Sales Set for Least Since 1999 Accord
  • Oil Erases Gain in New York as Finance Heads Discuss Growth Risk







EUROPE: contagion spreading to Russia (crashing -36% since May), Poland, and Austria (both markets down -1% this morning, never mind "bounce")


EUROPE: only "bounces" are in the largest hedge fund short position markets (Italy and Spain); DAX and CAC can barely sustain bids.






ASIA: there was no bounce; crashing in Korea and Hong Kong continue making the S&P 500 hostage to crash (-20% drawdown from April) mean reversion


KOREA: KOSPI smoked for another -5.7% drop, taking the crash since May 2 to -24%; Korean bank exec jumped out of his window last night; sad








Howard Penney

Managing Director

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NKE: ...for all the right reasons.

Crusher quarter from the Nikester – ironically on one of the worst market days in a decade.


We were at $1.30 vs. the Street at $1.21 – and Nike’s $1.36 came in spot-on with our EBIT forecast, with a (sustainable) lower tax rate and shares outstanding making up the difference. Revenue was slightly stronger, offset by slightly higher SG&A – but that’s splitting hairs.


What we like is that revenue strength -- +17% (+13% constant currency) – came from the broadest cross section we can recall seeing in a while. Virtually all regions, both genders, and all key product categories performed extremely well. Recall that the crux of our Black Book (Nike: Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way) revolved around the company’s investments in recent years paying off in far greater magnitude and duration than is currently perceived to be the case. Women, Apparel and Retail all stepped up their game, which was also key to our call.


All things considered, the quarter – while outstanding – was right in line with our expectation.


A couple of points…

  1. Growth: We took our estimate – which was already $0.40 above the Street for the year at $5.20 – to $5.34. Next year we’re at $6.72, and then $7.87 for FY14. In the end we’re looking for 22% CAGR in earnings growth for the next three years. That’s tough to find for a $40bn market cap company.
  2. Irony: Six months ago, investors freaked out when NKE issued its downbeat gross margin forecast for 4Q11 and 1Q12 (both of which have been reported) and basically took rolled their EPS estimates back by a full year. Now, they’re rolling forward by a year. And guess what? They’ll still be too low…
  3. Repo: We’re liking the repo trend at Nike. This is the second consecutive quarter where shares outstanding were down 1% sequentially. Keep in mind that one of the greatest risks with Nike is the widening of the spread between RNOA and ROE (high class problem). They’ve been managing that better over the past few quarters through returning cash to shareholders than we’ve seen in a while.
  4. Basketball: By the fourth question in Q&A about a potential NBA strike, I was downright bummed that so much of management’s real estate was wasted on this topic by the sell side.  Consider this…
    1. Don’t look at Nike as the big loser in the event of a strike. That distinction belongs to VFC (major NBA licensee – Jerseys, etc…) and Genesco (Hat World, Lids). Nike does not sell officially sanctioned NBA product.
    2. True, basketball is a big business for Nike. It accounts for 44% of US footwear sales (running = 30%, Casual = 15%, training = 5%). But, and this is a BIG but, only 15% of basketball sales are seasonal. What does that mean? If you straight- line category sales over the course of the year at levels experienced in the off-season, and then looked at the incremental gain in-season. That amounts to about $750mm in annual revs on Nike’s base of $24bn.
    3. Of that $750bn, don’t think for a minute that it’s all a risk. With players not on the court, you can rest assured that they’ll be on the road supporting Nike marketing campaigns around basketball. Remember, they won’t be getting paid to play, so instead they’ll be getting paid to sell.  
    4. As for the basketball business outside the US – its less than half the proportion of total sales than it is here in the US. Do you think that people in Eastern Europe or China care if there’s an NBA season? Some probably do, but not likely to put a big dent in the business. Also keep in mind that basketball futures are up dd, and the buyers at retail placed those orders knowing full well that a strike is looming.
    5. Bottom line – I’m not worried.


NKE: ...for all the right reasons. - 9 22 2011 9 29 49 PM


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