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Corridors of Power

“Inspired by a common creed, the young Keynesians sought each other out in the corridors of power.”

-Nicholas Wapshott

 

Picture that. I just love the drama associated with that quote by Nicholas Wapshott in Chapter 11 of “Keynes Hayek” titled Keynes Takes America. He was referencing meetings these guys would have in Washington at the National Planning Association in the early 1930s.

 

A National Planning Association!

 

Back to the Global Macro Grind

 

Evidently we are now centrally planning a tax on not only American Savers, but Global Consumers too. Nice.

 

The price of Brent Oil is up almost +6% ($115.95/barrel this morning) since The Bernank’s decision to pander to the Corridors of Power and adopt his conflicted and compromised 0% rate or return for American Savers through 2014.

 

This is not new, but since President Obama took office in January of 2009:

  1. The US Dollar Index = down -8.3%
  2. The Price of Oil = up +165.8%

Now before you get all heated for my using the name Obama (my wife and I voted for him – team vote), long-time readers of my morning rants will recall that I was equally critical of President Bush’s Keynesian Policies to Inflate. Democrat or Republican in this country, if you’ve been economically “advised” in the last decade within the Corridors of Power, you’ve been Keynesed.

 

So how is that working out for you?

  1. The net jobs added during the Bush/Obama decade in America = 0
  2. The Price of Oil = +460% in the last decade (since February 2002)
  3. Your Savings Account has been given The Gold Finger (Gold up for 11 consecutive years)

But say nothing of these common Keynesian Creeds because political life is easier that way. Or is it? And for whom?

 

Broadening our horizons beyond the World Bank and IMF’s headquarters (right next to the Fed in Washington, DC), what’s happening in the rest of the world right now (particularly in the East) is that, ironically enough, 80 years later, young economists are gathering at their own meetings – Hayekians, Thatcherites, and Chaos Theorists – all of them. They don’t believe in National Planning Boards.

 

Look at what’s going on outside of the Corridors of Washington Power this morning:

  1. The Prime Minister of Singapore is warning of a “rough landing” in China if food/energy inflation re-accelerates
  2. The head of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Glenn Stevens, refused to cut interest rates on his citizenry’s savings accounts
  3. Greece

What about Greece? It’s literally the first time in 2012 that all 3 of the Most Read headlines on the Bloomberg machine are about Greece this morning. Now that the Greek stock market is down -54% since February of last year when your local Keynesian strategist was telling you Greece was a “one-off” and Global Growth was “going to be fine”, I guess it matters…

 

Or does it?

 

Bloomberg news also reports this morning that the “Irish Urge Children to Leave Amid Job Losses.” Great.

 

The Global Zeitgeist on these macro matters is fairly straight forward. No one trusts that any one of these aging Keynesians will get it right in the end. That’s one of the many reasons why the US Labor Participation Rate in last week’s glorified employment report hit a 30-year low. People are giving up.

 

Keynes nailed it – in the long-run, all of the politicians will be dead. That said, in the short-run the rest of us have to live.

 

Larry Kudlow asked me last night where I see the immediate-term economic pressure (growth expectations falling as inflation expectations are rising). With Energy stocks (XLE – we’re long inflation expectations) up +1.2% on the day and the SP500 flat, it was fairly obvious yesterday. That was good for my P&L – not good for the country.

 

Long-term US Treasury yields have been signaling Growth Slowing since Ben Bernanke made his move on January 25th. Just when free markets were getting ready to bust a move above my key intermediate-term TREND line of 2.03% resistance on the 10-year, boom – we got Bernanked.

 

Being Keynesed or Bernanked may be good for short-term stock sector and commodity market inflations, but they’re not good for the long-term economic health of this or any other consumption led economy.

 

My immediate-term support and resistance ranged for Gold, Oil (Brent), EUR/USD, Energy (XLE), 10-year UST Yield, and the SP500 are now $1, $112.56-115.93, $1.30-1.32, $71.93-73.76, 1.80-1.96%, and 1, respectively.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Corridors of Power - Chart of the Day

 

Corridors of Power - Virtual Portfolio



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YUM: GLOBAL ROCK STAR

We continue to hold a positive view of YUM on all three durations (trade, trend and tail).  The earnings call tomorrow at 9:15am will offer a chance for analysts and investors to hear further details about 2011 and trends in 2012 to-date.

 

With both MCD and SBUX seeing their stocks decline on 4Q11 earnings results that were strong but not strong enough, the pressure was on YUM to print an exceptional quarter and, on the surface, it looks like they delivered.

 

Yum! Brands’ stock had a tremendous 4thquarter, outperforming the S&P 500 by 8.3%.  At first take, there does not seem to be many holes we can poke in the results such that we can say that the momentum is going to slow in the near term.  The top-line momentum in YUM’s China division is strong although food and labor inflation continue to pressure margins. 

 

We’ll be waiting for additional color from management tomorrow on the call.  The US division might be turning as the compares get easier from here and the worst for Taco Bell appears to be over.

 

CHINA:

  • The China division reported $5.56 billion in revenues in 2011, up 35% versus 2010
  • System sales grew 40% year-over-year in the fourth quarter (33% excluding FX), while comparable restaurant sales came in at 21% versus 17% consensus
  • By concept, KFC comps were 22% in the fourth quarter while Pizza Hut delivery and casual dining comps gained 25% and 15%, respectively, during the fourth quarter
  • Restaurant margin decreased 240 basis points to 15.8% in 4Q11 due to 11% commodity inflation and 18% wage rate inflation. FY11 commodity inflation was 8% and labor inflation 20%

YUM: GLOBAL ROCK STAR - yum china pod1

 

YUM: GLOBAL ROCK STAR - yum china quadrant

 

 

INTERNATIONAL

  • YRI reported system-sales up 11% (up 10% excluding FX) with same-store sales of 3%, slightly above consensus
  • Comparable restaurant sales of 3% implied two-year average trends flat with 3Q11
  • Restaurant operating margin decreased by 67 basis points to 11.6% in 4Q11

YUM: GLOBAL ROCK STAR - yum yri pod1

 

YUM: GLOBAL ROCK STAR - yri quadrant

 

 

UNITED STATES

  • The most significant 4Q11 upside surprise came from the US division
  • 4Q comparable restaurant sales were up 1% versus consensus of -2.5%.  KFC comps decline -1%, Taco Bell comps declined -2% and Pizza Hut comps were up 6% versus 4Q10.  “The Box” promotion drove high single-digit comps in the latter stages of 4Q11
  • 4Q restaurant operating margin declined by roughly almost 75 basis points driven by commodity inflation of 7% 

YUM: GLOBAL ROCK STAR - yum us taco bell pod1

 

YUM: GLOBAL ROCK STAR - yum us quadrant

 

 

 

 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

Rory Green

Analyst


Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: It’s February Now

Conclusion: Latin American JAN growth and inflation data continues to come in in-line with our views at the start of the year. Looking forward, however, the intermediate-term outlook has changed with the potential introduction of another round of The Bernank Tax.

 

PRICE SIGNALS

All % moves week-over-week unless otherwise specified.

  • EQUITIES:
    • Median: +3%
    • High: Peru +4.8%
    • Low: Venezuela +0.2%
    • Callout: Latin American equity markets are up +12% YTD on a median basis
  • FX (vs. USD):
    • Median: +1.6%
    • High: Mexican peso +2.4%
    • Low: Argentine peso flat wk/wk
    • Callout: Latin American currencies are up +8.2% vs. the USD YTD on a median bass
  • S/T SOVEREIGN DEBT (2YR YIELD):
    • High: Colombia/Mexico +2bps
    • Low: Brazil -2bps
    • Callout: Brazil -54bps YTD
  • L/T SOVEREIGN DEBT (10YR YIELD):
    • High: Mexico +16bps
    • Low: Colombia -2bps
    • Callout: Brazil +8bps YTD
  • SOVEREIGN YIELD SPREADS (10s-2s):
    • High: Mexico +14bps
    • Low: Colombia -4bps
    • Callout: Brazil +62bps YTD
  • 5YR CDS:
    • Median: -4.7%
    • High: Argentina -2.3%/-17bps
    • Low: Chile -6.5%/8bps
    • Callout: Latin American 5yr sovereign CDS have tightened -13.9% YTD on a median basis
  • 1YR O/S INTEREST RATE SWAPS:
    • Median: +2.8%
    • High: Colombia +6.3%/+32bps
    • Low: Brazil -0.7%/-7bps
    • Callout: Colombia +8.4%/+42bps YTD vs. Brazil -5.6%/-57bps
  • O/N INTERBANK RATES:
    • Median: flat wk/wk
    • High: Colombia +5.2%/+24bps
    • Low: Mexico -0.4%/-2bps
    • Callout: Brazil down -16.9%/-210bps over the last six months vs. Argentina +4.1%/+40bps
  • CORRELATION RISK: Globally-interconnected growth/inflation expectations continue to be priced into Latin American equity markets, based upon their 90% positive correlation to the 10yr U.S. Treasury Yield over the LTM.

Full price and performance tables can be found at the conclusion of this note.

 

CHARTS OF THE WEEK

The latest batch of PMI data shows Brazil improving, on the margin, relative to the other key economy in the region:

 

Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: It’s February Now - 1

 

Argentina’s flurry of financial repression has achieved the desired results – for now:

 

Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: It’s February Now - 2

 

The U.S. Dollar remains between the proverbial “rock and a hard place”, clouding the region’s intermediate-term growth/inflation/policy outlook:

 

Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: It’s February Now - 3

 

KEY CALLOUTS

Growth – Growth across the region was fairly mixed in JAN, but easing speculation has been highly supportive of growth expectations and capital markets inflows:

  • Brazil: Both Manufacturing and Services PMI readings ticked up in JAN to 50.6 (vs. 49.1 prior) and 55 (vs. 54.8 prior), respectively. Export growth came in slightly faster in JAN as well: +6.1% YoY vs. +5.8%.
  • Brazil: Lower volatility across global financial markets have been supportive of EM FX in the YTD, as capital flows in the form of repatriated USD-debt issuance and foreign portfolio direct investment pick up after a subdued 2H11. Brazilian corporations issued $12.3B in USD-denominated paper in JAN alone and the real closed the month +6.7% higher vs. the dollar. A rising trend of selling existing bonds on which the paperwork has been previously filed indicates this rush by Brazilian corporations to secure financing while pricing conditions are favorable.
  • Mexico: Both Manufacturing and Services PMI readings ticked down in JAN to 51.8 (vs. 52 prior) and 51.7 (vs. 54.4 prior), respectively. On the consumer front, Confidence ticked up in JAN to 95.4 vs. 90.8 prior.
  • Chile: The country’s Economic Activity Index (proxy for GDP) accelerated in DEC to +5.3% YoY vs. +4% prior.
  • Colombia: The Urban Unemployment Rate ticked up in DEC to 10.4% vs. 10.3% prior.

Inflation – While reported inflation continues to trend down within the construct of our Deflating the Inflation II thesis, another round of The Bernank Tax is creating consternation within Latin American inflation expectations:

  • Argentina: Argentine inflation-linked bonds are having their best start to the year since 2009, after the IMF failed in its mission to get the country to improve the quality of its inflation statistics – suggesting that Argentina’s trend of dramatically underreporting CPI will continue indefinitely. The notes are up +9.6% YTD vs. +1.4% for similarly-structured Brazilian paper.
  • Colombia: CPI slowed in JAN to +3.5% YoY vs. +3.7%. We continue to look to the USD’s quantitative setup for clues as to what degree The Bernank Tax will limit any further downside/spur upside in LatAm inflation readings over the intermediate term.
  • Peru: CPI slowed in JAN to +4.2% YoY vs. +4.7% prior.

Policy – Latin American policy continues to be highly interventionist, particularly with regards to exchange rate management: 

  • Brazil: The central bank bought dollars in the FX forwards market for the first time since JUL last week, in an attempt to slow the real’s appreciation (+8.6% YTD through Friday).
  • Argentina: In what has become a near-weekly announcement of some new form of Big Government Intervention, the President Fernandez’s regime will require importers to seek authorization from the federal tax agency prior to purchasing goods abroad. The measure, which is another backdoor attempt at financial repression via keeping pesos from leaving the country, is estimated to slow production and create product scarcity among 5,500+ Argentinean producers – with the latter being supportive of even higher rates of structural inflation in Argentina (currently estimated at/above +25% YoY). While decidedly negative for Argentina’s long-term TAIL, the recent flurry of repressive measures have had the desired effect in the near term, however, with the benchmark Badlar rate falling to a four-month low of 14.75%.
  • Colombia: Banco de la Republica, the country’s central bank, announced that it will purchase a minimum $20M USD per day in auctions for at least three months to “boost the nation’s international reserves”. We interpret that as a bid to stem the rally in the peso, which is up +8.5% for the YTD.

MOSHE’S BRAZIL NUGGETS

Moshe Silver, our Chief Compliance Officer, is fluent in Portuguese and mines the local Brazilian press for hard-to-get data points for us each day. Below, we flag his top three callouts from the previous week:

  1. Brazil strengthens bank requirements – in the aftermath of the Banco PanAmericano fraud scandal, the central bank undertook an examination of the banking sector which has now resulted in a large number of small and mid-sized banks seeing their reserve requirements boosted, some by a significant amount.  The review is ongoing and bank authorities say further adjustments are likely.
  2. Real estate prices climb – building prices in Rio and SP, the nation’s two leading real estate markets, rose +1.2% and +1.3% MoM, respectively, in January, countering faltering price trends that have prevailed since September.  No reasons for the price rise were given in the reporting, but we note that the biggest price rises are from small buildings and one-bedroom apartments.  We speculate this corresponds to the recent trend among Brazilian business owners and executives who have been acquiring small pied a terre residences in the downtown areas of Rio and Sao Paulo, in order to avoid the multi-hour commutes.  A growing number of people who work in the cities have taken to living near their offices during the week, and retreating to their homes for weekends.
  3. Major appliance sales up – the government’s decision to reduce sales tax on major manufactured goods spurred demand for white goods.  Sales of refrigerators, ovens and washing machines were up 56% in December MoM, and up 30% YoY.  Demand continued strong through January, resulting in inventory shortfalls.  Retailers say there are not enough refrigerators to meet demand.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Key economic data releases and policy announcements:

  • TUES:
    • Chile: JAN Trade Data
    • Venezuela: JAN CPI
  • WED:
    • Brazil: JAN CPI (unofficial IGP-DI series)
    • Chile: JAN CPI
  • THURS:
    • Mexico: JAN CPI
    • Argentina: JAN CPI; JAN WPI
    • Colombia: JAN CPI; Monetary Policy Minutes
  • FRI:
  • THIS WEEKEND:
  • NEXT MON:
    • Mexico: DEC Industrial Production

Darius Dale

Analyst

 

Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: It’s February Now - 4

 

Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: It’s February Now - 5

 

Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: It’s February Now - 6

 

Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: It’s February Now - 7

 

Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: It’s February Now - 8

 

Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: It’s February Now - 9

 

Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: It’s February Now - 10


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