"What's right isn't always popular. What's popular isn't always right."
Howard also said "The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give."
We are in the midst of a global crisis, the magnitude of which has not been seen in generations, and here at Research Edge, we are trying to build a "New Reality" financial services firm; therefore we must give everything we have to our clients, at all costs!
In the past 12 months, Research Edge has grown from 3 employees to nearly 30, and not a single employee is sitting on his hands, we are giving "it our all, at all costs...." This means (1) making calls and (2) making calls that are not going to be popular, but are going to be right.
As the S&P was making new lows on March 9th we were increasing our allocation to US equities, right in the face of consensus saying "it's courageous to be buying when everyone is selling." On March 11, 2009, the Research Edge sector view and Keith's "Dancing with the Shorts" intimated the following - "Yesterday, the S&P 500 closed at 719.16, up 6.4%; its biggest one-day gain since late-November. After yesterday's move, 'The Battle of the Bulge' goes to the bulls, and consistent with the Research Edge Macro intraday note 'Beta Shift' note, 755 is next significant resistance level."
Yesterday, the S&P closed at 750.74; the bear market rally is running out of steam. As of the close last night we are up 4.5% month-to-date in our virtual portfolio versus the S&P's 2% increase, and in our asset allocation model, we have reduced our US equity exposure down to 4%. Bear markets can be traded!
Also on March 9th Nouriel Roubini was all over the press calling for 600 on the S&P 500, as we were buying US equities. Since March 9th, the S&P is up 11% and the financials have rallied 30%. Now Mr. Roubini is saying that "Americans lived in a Bernie made-off and Ponzi bubble for a decade or even longer." This is coming from a man who is globetrotting around the world with the rich and famous, taking helicopters when he does not want to sit in traffic. Who is living in a bubble now? I would love to see an Intrade contract tracking Nouriel Roubini's irrational exuberance!
Nouriel Roubini is a side show to the Premier of China, Wen Jiabao. The number one story on Bloomberg today says Wen is "worried" about China's holdings of Treasuries and wants assurances that the investment is safe. Of course the investment is safe! This guy is not dumb; this is exactly what he should be saying. The Chinese have us with both hands tied behind our back, and he knows it. President Obama needs to get to China ASAP and make good with what should be our best friends. More importantly, the Chinese are going to likely strong arm the administration to "break the buck."
One of the most important calls we have been making this year is based on the relationship we see between stocks and the US Dollar, which we have referred to as "breaking the buck!"
It's been our contention that for most asset classes to re-flate in this current environment, the dollar needs to weaken. Guess what the Chinese want today? Wen wants the US$ to weaken to inflate assets domestically, which will make US$ denominated debt more attractive to foreigners.
The current administration is relying on China to sustain its buying of Treasures to fund billions spent on the economic-stimulus package. Year-to-date, the Chinese have lost money on what they have bought so far. I don't even need to look at the futures to guess they are probably higher right now...
After a strong performance in the S&P 500 this week, the Research Edge immediate term Trade model shows -6% downside and only 1-3% upside. It was not popular to be buying stocks on March 9th, but ironically, today after a +11% move in the S&P in a week, more people feel better about the market and are buying.
Function in disaster; finish in style.
EWA - iShares Australia-EWA has a nice dividend yield of 7.54% on the trailing 12-months. With interest rates at 3.25% (further room to stimulate) and a $26.5BN stimulus package in place, plus a commodity based economy with proximity to China's H1 reacceleration, there are a lot of ways to win being long Australia.
USO - Oil Fund- We bought oil on Friday (3/6) with the US dollar breaking down and the S&P500 rallying to the upside. With declining contango in the futures curve and evidence that OPEC cuts are beginning to work, we believe the oil trade may have fundamental legs from this level. OPEC announces on Sunday if it will cut production or not.
CAF - Morgan Stanley China fund - The Shanghai Stock Exchange is up +16.9% for 2009 to-date. We're long China as a growth story, especially relative to other large economies. We believe the country's domestic appetite for raw materials will continue throughout 2009 as the country re-flates. From the initial stimulus package to cutting taxes, the Chinese have shown leadership and a proactive response to the credit crisis.
GLD - SPDR Gold- We bought gold on a down day. We believe gold will re-find its bullish trend.
TIP - iShares TIPS- The U.S. government will have to continue to sell Treasuries at record levels to fund domestic stimulus programs. The Chinese will continue to be the largest buyer of U.S. Treasuries, albeit at a price. The implication being that terms will have to be more compelling for foreign funders of U.S. debt, which is why long term rates are trending upwards. This is negative for both Treasuries and corporate bonds.
DVY - Dow Jones Select Dividend -We like DVY's high dividend yield of 5.85%.
EWW - iShares Mexico- We're short Mexico due in part to the country's dependence on export revenues from one monopolistic oil company, PEMEX. Mexican oil exports contribute significantly to the country's total export revenue and PEMEX pays a sizable percentage of taxes and royalties to the federal government's budget. This relationship is unstable due to the volatility of oil prices, the inability of PEMEX to pay down its debt, and the fact that PEMEX's crude oil production has been in decline since 2004 and is down 10% YTD. Additionally, the potential geo-political risks associated with the burgeoning power of regional drug lords signals that the country's economy is under serious duress.
IFN -The India Fund- We have had a consistently negative bias on Indian equities since we launched the firm early last year. We believe the growth story of "Chindia" is dead. We contest that the Indian population, grappling with rampant poverty, a class divide, and poor health and education services, will not be able to sustain internal consumption levels sufficient to meet targeted growth level. Other negative trends we've followed include: the reversal of foreign investment, the decrease in equity issuance, and a massive national deficit. Trade data for February paints a grim picture with exports declining by 15.87% Y/Y and imports sliding by 18.22%.
XLP -SPDR Consumer Staples- We re-shorted XLP yesterday as the market was cooling off its up move. XLP continues to perform terribly.
LQD -iShares Corporate Bonds- Corporate bonds have had a huge move off their 2008 lows and we expect with the eventual rising of interest rates in the back half of 2009 that bonds will give some of that move back. Moody's estimates US corporate bond default rates to climb to 15.1% in 2009, up from a previous 2009 estimate of 10.4%.
SHY -iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bonds- On 2/26 we witnessed 2-Year Treasuries climb 10 bps to 1.09%. Anywhere north of +0.97% moves the bonds that trade on those yields into a negative intermediate "Trend." If you pull up a three year chart of 2-Year Treasuries you'll see the massive macro Trend of interest rates starting to move in the opposite direction. We call this chart the "Queen Mary" and its new-found positive slope means that America's cost of capital will start to go up, implying that access to capital will tighten. Yield is inversely correlated to bond price, so the rising yield is bearish for Treasuries.
UUP - U.S. Dollar Index - We believe that the US Dollar is the leading indicator for the US stock market. In the immediate term, what is bad for the US Dollar should be good for the stock market. The Euro is up versus the USD at $1.2915. The USD is up versus the Yen at 98.2910 and down versus the Pound at $1.4030 as of 6am today.
"What's right isn't always popular. What's popular isn't always right."
I like the square footage growth here, as well as the gross margin story in conjunction with cape rolling over. Tough to find that in retail these days. My lingering concern is SG&A control. If I can gain comfort that this won't eat into cash, I'll get more excited.
We continue to see signs that the "new good" continues. Today, we learned that February sales at U.S. retailers fell less than forecast and the "made up" gain in January was even better than the previous government number, suggesting that the consumer, the most important part of the economy, may be stabilizing. We will likely learn tomorrow that consumer confidence is stabilizing - the "new good" is that confidence hasn't slipped any further from last month's. Importantly, if the market holds its recent performance, March will improve from February. You don't need a survey to tell you that most Americans are not very confident in the economy. The "new good" is that confidence looks to be bottoming.
In this environment the consumer is increasingly rethinking or being more thoughtful with his purchases. Consumers are more focused on needs over wants...... Job insecurity and other macro factors have definitely caused consumers to pinch on spending, but importantly, today's better than expected retail sales number indicates there is still some level of spending. What is more important is the behavioral changes to the pattern in consumer spending. You can bet consumers will be more thoughtful when spending their hard earned buck. Most are likely to consider each purchase more carefully and be more price conscious even when it comes to non-discretionary spending. It's likely that discretionary spending will suffer disproportionally, particularly as it relates to purchasing high-end goods, as sticking to a budget will become the "new normal" and large credit card balances will be considered a sin.
Critical to the behavioral changes is the fact that these changes are not limited to one demographic or income group. A survey done by an Ohio-based group suggested that more than "eight in ten people earning in excess of $150,000 or more indicate the current economic crisis will impact their lifestyles over the next five years."
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We continue to see signs that the “new good” continues. Today, we learned that February sales at U.S. retailers fell less than forecast and the “made up” gain in January was even better than the previous government number, suggesting that the consumer, the most important part of the economy, may be stabilizing. We will likely learn tomorrow that consumer confidence is stabilizing - the “new good” is that confidence hasn’t slipped any further from last month’s. Importantly, if the market holds its recent performance, March will improve from February. You don’t need a survey to tell you that most Americans are not very confident in the economy. The “new good” is that confidence looks to be bottoming.
In this environment the consumer is increasingly rethinking or being more thoughtful with his purchases. Consumers are more focused on needs over wants…… Job insecurity and other macro factors have definitely caused consumers to pinch on spending, but importantly, today’s better than expected retail sales number indicates there is still some level of spending. What is more important is the behavioral changes to the pattern in consumer spending. You can bet consumers will be more thoughtful when spending their hard earned buck. Most are likely to consider each purchase more carefully and be more price conscious even when it comes to non-discretionary spending. It’s likely that discretionary spending will suffer disproportionally, particularly as it relates to purchasing high-end goods, as sticking to a budget will become the “new normal” and large credit card balances will be considered a sin.
Critical to the behavioral changes is the fact that these changes are not limited to one demographic or income group. A survey done by an Ohio-based group suggested that more than “eight in ten people earning in excess of $150,000 or more indicate the current economic crisis will impact their lifestyles over the next five years.”
Here are the main Macro Factors that line up with this call:
1. Market Performance - The Russian Stock Market (RTS) is up 11.5% from its October lows (or +9.2% since its Nov. low). As reference, major European indices (Germany, France, UK) as well as the SP500 are all trading below their November lows. The RTS, after an intermediate bottom on February 20th, is up 18.4% YTD and up 12.5% March-to-date. These are alpha-generating numbers you cannot afford to ignore.
2. China is the Client - Importantly Russia understands that China is an very important client. On February 18th China announced it will lend $15 Billion to Russia’s state-owned oil firm Rosneft and $10 Billion to pipeline monopoly Transneft. In return the Russian firms ensured China will receives 300,000 barrels of crude a day for 20 years and the completion of the long-awaited extension of Russia’s Siberia-Pacific coast pipeline to China. The agreement will boost Russia’s energy firms who have struggled to raise capital since crude prices crashed since their summer highs last year.
The deal signifies that Russia’s export focus (oil and natural gas in particular) have shifted from the West (Europe) to its new market, China. Russia took a sharp hit from the EU in reaction to its decision to turn off natural gas supplies to the Ukraine and most of continental Europe over New Years over contract disputes. EU officials have already formally convened this year to discuss alternate sources of energy; certainly this helps confirms that Russia’s attention for a new market is East.
3. Stability at Home: we’re bullish on a relative basis Russia’s ability to purge itself of the financial crisis. The RTS is down 75.4% since its high on 5/19/09. Russia has mark-to-market pricing and has faced the reality that oil is currently down in the $40-50 range. The market has shown a more stable trading range (a “bottoming”) since January 20th. Equally, the Ruble has stopped going down, a bullish signal for the investors.
4. The USD/Oil Equation: with the Ruble signaling more stability in the intermediate term, this is bearish for the USD, which is perversely bullish for global equities and commodity reflation. On a trend basis we see oil breaking out if we can get through the $44.50 line.
What might not be discounted in today’s price is the potential for Russia’s debt credit rating to be downgraded, but our quantitative models are close to signaling an entry point opportunity via the Russian etf - RSX.
This one, however, did not come as a shocker to me. UA's numbers at retail have looked good -- and continue to do so this week. Footwear share continues to grow at an obscene $92+ price point for running, and though apparel ticked down this week, it's share is up by over 100bp on average in each of the pat 6 weeks.
I still like this name a lot in 2009.
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