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WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR - CHICKEN WING PRICES SHARPLY HIGHER

Last week, commodities continue to be pressured by a combination of the strengthening dollar and mounting concerns about economic growth.

 

STOCK TAKEAWAYS

  • Declining grain prices (corn in particular) are bullish for restaurant industry margins as it is bearish for protein prices.  In particular, this is a positive for TSN and SAFM 
  • Coffee prices have declined dramatically over the last month, perhaps indicating that further price hikes from the coffee concepts – SBUX, DNKN, PEET, GMCR, CBOU and THI – are unlikely.  Higher retail prices may remain, however, as inventory acquired at high prices is worked through.
  • Chicken Wing prices are heading sharply higher, which is a concern for BWLD at a time when economic growth is a concern and the company is stepping up expansion into new markets.
  • Dairy prices moved marginally higher but, on a year-over-year basis, cheese prices remain down which is a positive for CAKE, DPZ YUM and PZZA, especially considering the level cheese prices were at just a few weeks ago.

 

SUMMARY

 

Chicken wings, beef and dairy were the only items in our commodity monitor that saw price gains versus last week.  The declines in our weekly monitors were far larger than the advances; as the table below shows, grains, coffee, and chicken broilers all saw significant losses in price week-over-week.  In theory, this is a good thing for restaurant companies especially given the price increases that Starbucks and others have had to implement to protect margin.  The reality remains, however, that much of the softness in commodities at the moment is due to concerns over the global economy.  If these fears are justified, the implied softness in the sales environment would effectively offset any benefit from lower input costs.

 

Last week, commodities continue to be pressured by a combination of the strengthening dollar and mounting concerns about economic growth.  Brent crude declined almost 6% over the last week as gasoline prices also dropped week-over-week, which is generally a positive for restaurants on the margin.  That said, the chart below shows that gasoline prices plummeted in 2008 as the recession struck.  Commodities are again sinking lower here in 2011 as the European sovereign-debt crisis threatens to derail the global economy. 

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR - CHICKEN WING PRICES SHARPLY HIGHER - gasoline prices 928

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR - CHICKEN WING PRICES SHARPLY HIGHER - commod928

 

 

CORN

 

Corn dropped 8% versus last week.  This is a positive data point for the restaurant industry as a whole, not only companies with direct exposure to corn costs.  As corn costs come down, that offers some relief to protein producers that can take advantage of the resulting decline in feed prices.  Despite smaller supply from the U.S., demand concerns are acute enough to lead prices lower.

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR - CHICKEN WING PRICES SHARPLY HIGHER - corn 928

 

 

Below is a selection of comments from management teams pertaining to grain prices from recent earnings calls.

 

PNRA (7/27/11): “Just to note on the cost of wheat, in 2011 overall, the per-bushel cost will be about the same as 2010 due to our laddering purchasing strategy.”

 

“We are going to take price in the fourth quarter. This price will offset dollar for dollar the per-bushel inflation of wheat of approximately $3 a quarter that we're going to see in the fourth quarter of this year and then across next year”

 

“We do continue to expect significant inflationary pressures in 2012, 4% to 5% food inflation, $10 million of unfavorability on wheat costs, which means that we don't expect operating margin much better than flat to full-year 2011 in 2012.”

 

HEDGEYE:  Weak global demand and a stronger dollar are currently trumping the adverse impact on supply due to weather and fires in the U.S.  Slowing demand may also mean lower sales for PNRA, so it remains to be seen if margins improve from this effect, even if high wheat costs come down.

 

 

DPZ (7/26/11): “We're fairly locked in on our chicken, locked in on our wheat into – partway into next year.”

 

PZZA (8/4/11): “We're actually covered through Q1 from a contract standpoint. So from a supply chain disruption or even significant price impact we don't anticipate anything between now and the end of the year.”

 

 

COFFEE

 

Coffee prices declined -7.3% as the dollar gained 1% over the same period.  Kraft Foods and J.M. Smucker have already cut prices as coffee prices slump but the supply and demand dynamic point to possible continuing softness in price.  According to Bloomberg, farmers from Vietman to Brazil are expected to supply a record robusta crop in the marketing year that begins next month.  SBUX had bought most of its coffee needs for the year ending September 2012 earlier this year, according to management commentary on its most recent earnings call in July.  This could mean that retail prices take some time to adjust as inventory is processed.

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR - CHICKEN WING PRICES SHARPLY HIGHER - coffee 928

 

Below is a selection of comments from management teams pertaining to coffee prices from recent earnings calls.

 

 

PEET (8/2/11): “As we indicated, in our first quarter call, we had to buy a small amount of our calendar 2011 coffee beans at significantly higher prices and this coffee will roll into our P&L during the third and fourth quarter.”

 

“Higher priced coffee resulted in gross margins this quarter being 290 basis points below prior year. In our first quarter conference call, we indicated that in addition to the overall higher price coffee market, we had to buy a small amount of coffee this year at significantly higher prices. And as a result, we expected our coffee cost to be 40% higher in fiscal 2011.”

 

HEDGEYE:  Peet’s is a company with a very competent management team that manages coffee costs extremely well.  Its higher-end, loyal customer base makes the price elasticity of demand more inelastic than for other coffee concepts’ products.

 

 

SBUX (7/28/11):  “As I mentioned earlier, are absolutely a headwind for us in the full business and that's most acutely impactful on margins in CPG as it's a much more coffee intensive cost structure, as you know. I can tell you that the decline as I spoke about it earlier from about 30% operating margin in CPG this year down to the target 25% next year is really all explained by commodities. Absent commodity inflation we'd be at or improving our margin in the coming year.”

 

“As we had anticipated, in recent weeks, coffee prices have retreated significantly from a high of more than $3 per pound just a couple of months ago to levels now near $2.40 per pound. As prices have been falling we continue locking up our needs for fiscal '12 and now have virtually the full year price protected.”

 

HEDGEYE: Starbucks is aligning itself with the right partners to gain more control of its coffee costs to provide investors with more certainty going forward and to protect its margins as global coffee demand continues to rise.

 

 

GMCR (7/27/2011): “However, what we've said is that should coffee prices or other material costs spike, we will certainly consider price increases as necessary. We certainly hope that we do not have to cover one again next year. But our objective long-term is attempting to maintain our gross margin as we would see input costs come along.”

 

HEDGEYE:  GMCR hedges out 6-9 months in advance.  Strength in the dollar has helped bring coffee prices lower but whether or not dollar strength will continue or not will be a significant factor in future price action in coffee.  Growing demand, globally, is bullish for coffee prices over the long term.

 

 

CHICKEN WINGS

 

Chicken wings gained 4.3% after last week’s 7.2% gain in another down week for commodities.  This is definitely a concern for BWLD at a time when the top-line environment is becoming more difficult and the company is expanding its footprint into new markets.

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY MONITOR - CHICKEN WING PRICES SHARPLY HIGHER - chicken wings 928

 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

Rory Green

Analyst


CRUISERS PRICE MATRIX (SEPTEMBER 2011)

Here are some trends we are seeing from our pricing database at the end of September.

 

 

RCL

 

Given CCL’s Q4 guide down, analysts are expecting RCL to do the same.  Q4 EPS estimates have been lowered from $0.28  to $0.23 after CCL’s conference call.  We're keeping our Q4 estimate at $0.22 as we're seeing more weakness in North America pricing.  Like CCL, RCL management will probably continue to bash Europe for all their problems but Europe only accounts for a small portion of RCL’s itineraries in Q4.  However, Q1 2012 outlook looks pretty healthy, particularly in South America.

 

CCL 

 

The good: Strong prices for close-in Caribbean bookings may give them a small boost for Q4.

 

The bad: Tough start to 1Q 2012 as Costa continues to cut prices sharply for its European itineraries and Mexico/South America itineraries struggle to maintain prices.

 

 

Tables and commentary

(We follow pricing trends relative to prices on the most recent earnings date) 

 

Key:  +/-       1-5%

     ++/--     5-10%

   +++/---     >10%  

 

CRUISERS PRICE MATRIX (SEPTEMBER 2011) - ccl2

CRUISERS PRICE MATRIX (SEPTEMBER 2011) - ccl3 

 

Q4 2011 trends:

  • RCL
    • Caribbean
      • Over the last month, there were substantial price cuts across the fleet particularly with Freedom of the Sea and Serenade of the Seas.  In addition, pricing for Celebrity Millennium and Celebrity Silhouette remain weak.
    • Europe
      • Pricing continues to improve on a fleetwide basis
    • Asia
      • Legend of the Seas pricing has deteriorated significantly. But we think this has more to do marketing for close-in bookings as volume has improved in the past month.
    • South America
      • RCL brand outperforming Celebrity by a mile on pricing
  • CCL
    • Caribbean
      • Pricing has surged since August
    • Europe
      • Slightly weaker performance from Cunard and Costa
    • Asia
      • Weaker across the board

CRUISERS PRICE MATRIX (SEPTEMBER 2011) - ccl5

CRUISERS PRICE MATRIX (SEPTEMBER 2011) - CCL4

 

Q1 2012 trends:

  • RCL
    • Caribbean
      • Pricing remains steady as Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas maintain pricing power
    • Europe
      • No change from the few itineraries
    • Asia
      • Stronger Legend of the Seas pricing
    • South America
      • RCL brand pricing remains very strong
  • CCL
    • Caribbean
      • No change
    • Europe
      • Not a good sign as Costa has sharply cut prices
    • Mexico/South America
      • A little weaker than a month ago

 CRUISERS PRICE MATRIX (SEPTEMBER 2011) - ccl5


Footwear: Toning Afterthought

 

Reebok’s Toning settlement should be taken into context. While it never appeared to us to be a sustainable biz, it did shift share around a bit. The trend has been self-correcting for 11-months now. So we’re not concerned about it ‘going away.’  In fact, a simple look at Nike’s US order book tells us where these toning dollars are going.

 

 

Reebok’s $25mm settlement with the FTC over unsubstantiated claims on the technology behind its shoes this morning is raising questions over the ‘category’s’ sustainability. The stocks are not moving meaningfully on this, nor should they. But here’s some context to the extent that people get loud (as CNBC did – saying that there’s $1Bn at risk) on the issue. Consider the following:

  • The toning trend started with Skechers Shape-Ups in early 2009. Within 6-months Reebok joined the party with its Easy Tone shoes and hefty advertising budget, which ultimately drove accelerating demand by the Fall of ’09. From late ’09 to early ’10 there were several marginal players entering the fray (Ryka, Puma, etc.), but this was really a two horse race from beginning to end with market share for SKX and Reebok at roughly 60/40 respectively. Nike stayed out of it entirely, referring to it as a gimmick. We are in print, and on TV, in saying that “selling shoes to a person who wants a shoe to get them in shape while they walk to and from the couch to the refrigerator to get bon bons and beer is hardly a sustainable model.”
  • At its peak in mid-2010, we estimated toning to be just over a $1Bn category domestically and roughly $500mm internationally, at retail.
  • At that time, the toning category was contributing up to 4%-6% to overall footwear sales growth in the athletic specialty channel. This benefit was fleeting. By October 2010, the category was a drag on consolidated growth in the industry as demand slowed abruptly. Meanwhile, the industry excluding toning was growing at a rate from mid-single-digit to low-double-digit.
  • With Skechers and Reebok left severely over-inventoried heading into the shift in demand, the discounting began. With prices for toning shoes still now at roughly half of where they sold at the peak, the category has contracted to a what is now a ~$500mm category domestically – similar in size to categories like occupational and cold weather casual boots.
  • What is perhaps the most notable callout throughout what can now be dubbed as the ‘toning fad’ is Reebok’s ability to leverage the trend to regain relevance. Take a look at the two charts below illustrating both Reebok and Skechers’ market share gains both during, but more importantly following the toning cycle. SKX gained 4 points of share in the industry only to give it all back to ‘real’ innovation leaders like Nike and Adidas. Reebok on the other hand gained 2-3 points of share initially and has continued to take share as it rolled its success directly into its latest ZigTech offering.
  • Keep in mind that Skechers started from a larger base (6% share of the industry) with its stable brown shoe and growing kids business while Reebok represented an inconsequential 2% of the industry. For what it’s worth, they both now have about a 6% share.

At this point, there’s definitely a risk that Skechers is forced to pay a similar settlement to the FTC for its own advertising claims. Is it going to move the needle for the company, no.

 

From an industry perspective, we are a month away from the point when comping toning growth is an afterthought. In fact, over the last two quarters, footwear and sporting goods retailers alike have noted that the benefit of the latest lightweight running category has more than offset the impact of lost toning sales. The industry has moved on, so should we.

 

Footwear: Toning Afterthought - core athletic vs toning   light weight running 9 11

 

Footwear: Toning Afterthought - RBK Mkt Shr 9 11

 

Footwear: Toning Afterthought - SKK Mkt Shr 9 11

 

Footwear: Toning Afterthought - Toning Percent of Total 9 11

 

Footwear: Toning Afterthought - ToningSales Total 9 11

 

 

Casey Flavin

Director

 

 


Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.64%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.57%

Goodbye China

Conclusion: Losers point fingers; winners learn from their mistakes.

 

Yesterday, we decided to close the books on one of our key themes YTD: Year of the Chinese Bull (2Q)/Chinese Cowboys (3Q), booking an -8.6% “loss” vs. our cost basis the Hedgeye Virtual Portfolio. Rather than blame “speculators”, Europe’s Sovereign Debt Dichotomy, or some other consensus go-to scapegoat, we thought we’d take the opportunity afforded to us in loss to demonstrate how we’re always trying to improve our ever-evolving risk management process:

 

What Went Wrong: From a research perspective, not much really. The key components of our call (no “hard landing”; CPI peaking in 3Q; and no more monetary tightening in 2H11) largely came in as we anticipated. In hindsight, if there’s something we chose to ignore that we shouldn’t have, it’s the sheer magnitude of the issues the Chinese banking system is set to face.

 

We’re fully aware of China’s property market headwinds and the pending deterioration of credit quality within local government financing vehicle debt (refer to our spate of research notes on these subjects over the past year(s)). What we misjudged perhaps was how bad things truly were, as well as how close in duration these catalysts would become. Specifically, according to a study published today by the country’s official bond clearing house, 28% of local government financing vehicles (6,576 in total) now have negative cash flow from operations, which obviously makes it difficult to stay current with their debt obligations. Additionally, roughly 22% of these entities have debt-to-asset ratios greater than 70%, which means they’ll likely face difficulty securing refinancing – certainly at higher rates, if at all. Lastly, the PBOC’s monetary tightening was largely the “straw that broke the camel’s back” as it relates to creating liquidity headwinds for this segment of the Chinese economy – which itself is levered to  fixed asset investment at nearly half of all GDP growth.

 

What We Learned: We re-learned that consensus can remain correct a lot longer than one expects. It’s in our competitive nature to be contrarian as risk managers, but, as always, there’s a fine line between being contrarian and being too early/wrong. Recall that we initially authored our bearish view of Chinese equities back at the start of 2010 via our then-contrarian Chinese Ox in a Box theme. Fading that view, which had since played out in spades in market prices, economic data, and in financial media coverage, was one of the reasons we decided to get long Chinese equities earlier in the year. Bottoms are processes – not points.

 

What We’ll Do Better Next Time: It’s safe to say that we need to have our catalysts much closer in duration – particularly given the negative beta imposed on equities as an asset class globally in the YTD. When the quantitative setup of an asset class (in this case, Chinese equities) is bearish TREND or bearish TAIL, we’d do better to have our bullish catalysts much closer in duration vs. when the quantitative setup is bullish TREND or bullish TAIL – a setup that allows for extending the duration of said storytelling.

 

Chinese equities, which had not sustainably broken out above their TREND line at any point in this process, were telling us all along that things weren’t “ok” in China. That’s not to say our quantitative model is 100% accurate all the time; it is, however, suggesting that it has repeatedly served us quite well over the past 3+ years in making a bevy of accurate calls across asset classes. In terms of risk management, we’re no doubt at our best when we’re able to marry our bottom-up, fundamental research view with our top-down, quantitative analysis:

 

Goodbye China - 1

 

Goodbye China - 2

 

All told, we’re not happy about being wrong on China here. We are, however, not going to dwell on the loss or allow ourselves to succumb to thesis drift and pitch “valuation” like your average sell-side strategist would. There’s a lot more risk to manage in the weeks and months ahead.

 

Darius Dale

Analyst


SINGAPORE TIDBITS

Here are a few thoughts from my trip yesterday in Singapore.  I will follow up with Macau comments later in the week.

 

  • No visibility on junket approval
  • Underground junkets not a major factor for Genting anymore.  Been cracking down from government pressure.  May explain some of the market share loss that is sure to be sustainable.
  • Genting seriously thinking about becoming more transparent.
  • Singapore economy still strong but little growth from local population expected and may even be difficult to maintain.  Approximately 30% of visitors are local.
  • Genting thinking they can hold 50% market share in Q3 but we’re not so sure.
  • Junkets think they can grow volumes by at least 20%.

THE HBM: CONSUMER TRENDS - DPZ LN & IRL, CMG, PNRA, COSI, BWLD

THE HEDGEYE BREAKFAST MENU

 

Notable MACRO data points, news items, and price action pertaining to the restaurant space.

 

MACRO NOTES

 

As I posted yesterday for the MACRO team my thesis on the consumer is consistent with a fundamentally-weak economy: no job growth, declining real income, Bernanke-inspired price volatility, declining stock prices, falling house prices, sticky gasoline prices, and zero confidence.

 

Overall, the MACRO data out yesterday on consumer trends is consistent with the factors listed above.  Yet, there are silver linings!  Well, maybe…

 

Yesterday, the high frequency – ICSC chain store sales index – confirms the decelerating thesis, as the index fell 0.2% last week.  This is consistent with the painfully slow downward trend (the index is now down 6 of the last 8 weeks.)  On a year-over-year basis, growth dipped to 2.7%, the slowest pace in three weeks, though consistent with the trends of 1H11.  Is there a silver lining here?

 

Also bouncing along the bottom is the Richmond Fed survey, which contracted for the third consecutive month in September. The pace of decline moderated from August, as the composite index rose 4 points to -6.  Looking at the details, new and unfilled orders remained on downward trends but employment growth accelerated and input cost pressures eased.  The increase in employment month-over-month is the first silver lining in the overall sluggish environment

 

Lastly, after plunging 14 points in August, the Conference Board Confidence Index was virtually unchanged in September (rising only 0.2).  Last month saw a slight 0.7-point upward revision to the August print.  The improvement was led by better employment expectations, which is the second silver lining.

 

If the economy were to accelerate confidence should recover, but given the excessive debt burden domestically and in Europe, it’s unlikely that growth is going to accelerate.  Our 3Q GDP estimate is 1.1 to 1.4% year-over-year; the risk to the downside is that the low confidence results stay on a continued downward trajectory in sales trends, and causes further economic weakness. 

 

The third silver lining is not one from today’s data, but one that economists often cite as a reason to buy equities here: that corporate America is flush with cash.  That cash waiting in the wings coupled with pent-up demand could lead to a quick improvement in the jobs picture and an acceleration of growth.

 

Hope springs eternal, but is not an investment process!

 

SUB-SECTOR PERFORMANCE

 

Deflating the Inflation - is great for the Food Processing sector and not so good for food retail. 

 

THE HBM: CONSUMER TRENDS -  DPZ  LN & IRL, CMG, PNRA, COSI, BWLD - hfbrd

 

QUICK SERVICE

 

PNRA & DNKN were notable decliners on positive volume studies

 

Domino’s Pizza downgraded to hold from buy at Peel Hunt

 

Domino's Pizza UL & IRL interim management statement: says on track and confident that it'll finish the year in line with market expectations - For 2Q11 - SSS up +3.9%(605 stores) vs year-ago +9.9% (553 stores); UK only SSS+ 4.1% vs year-ago +11.5%; Republic of Ireland SSS in Euros fell (4.4%) vs year-ago (0.5%); E-commerce accounted for 46.6% of UK delivered sales vs year-ago 39.7% and Total online sales up +36.4% to £45.0M vs year-ago £33.0M

 

CMG initiated outperform with $400 target - Wedbush

 

PNRA initiated neutral with $116 target - Wedbush

 

COSI holder Blum Growth Fund calls for new board of directors and has also offered to serve as Chairman and CEO for a salary of $1 for the first year. Also, stated that would be attempting to influence the future of the company through changes to the board and management.

 

SONC - initiated equal-weight at Stephens

 

THE HBM: CONSUMER TRENDS -  DPZ  LN & IRL, CMG, PNRA, COSI, BWLD - qsr

 

FULL SERVICE

 

BWLD - had a strong day yesterday on positive studies - initiated outperform with $82 target - Wedbush

 

BJRI had a strong day yesterday on positive studies - initiated neutral with $45 target - Wedbush

 

DRI & TXRH were notable decliners on positive volume studies.  TXRH remains a favorite on the short side.

 

THE HBM: CONSUMER TRENDS -  DPZ  LN & IRL, CMG, PNRA, COSI, BWLD - fsr

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

            


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