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WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK

US Dollar strength over the past week pressured commodity prices across the board with only chicken breast prices, of the commodities we monitor, posting a significant gain.  Coffee prices continue to lead the way to the downside. 

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - commod

 

 

CONSUMER CALLOUT

 

Gas prices continue to move higher, gaining 50 bps over the last week despite Brent Crude prices declining -0.3% over the same period.  Below are some recent comments from management teams regarding the impact of gas prices on their businesses.  Clearly, given a sufficiently substantial rate of increase in gasoline prices, we will see an impact on restaurant companies’ top line trends.

 

WEN: Obviously, we're all watching gas prices carefully and – but consumers seem to quite honestly have digested that quite nicely.

 

BAGL: If employment continues to be positive, again from my perspective, I think that sort of offsets any impact that you might get – we might get on gas prices … That said, if employment tightens up or we don't see continuously positive momentum than longer-term, obviously, if we get a $5 gas price, that's one of those price points that hits overall.

 

CBRL: We think that given our susceptibility particularly to – in the summer travel season to potential increases in gasoline prices that it is appropriate to be suitably cautious about our third and fourth quarter traffic outlook.

 

DRI: Yes, I would say as we look back, we don't think the current levels, the $4 current gas prices, no longer represents sticker shock.

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - gasoline prices

 

 

SUPPLY & DEMAND

 

Corn

 

SUPPLY

 

The USDA expects China’s corn production to drop 190 million metric tons in the year starting October 1st, down from 191.75 million metric tons the year prior.  China’s corn imports are expected to remain steady at 4MMT.

 

DEMAND

 

Corn prices fell 2% today as commodity funds liquidated long positions ahead of the USDA crop production release at 8:30AM on Friday.

 

Speaking at the Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum in Nashville, Tennessee recently, William Lapp, grain economist with Advanced Economic Solutions stated that three factors have driven commodity prices to record levels: strong global economic growth in agriculture led by developing economies such as China, a weakening of the US dollar since 2002, and biofuels policy for grain use in the US.  He believes that the “corn ethanol story is nearing the end” as the science lower cost cellulosic ethanol production progresses.

 

 

Wheat

 

SUPPLY

 

Concerns about a “glut” of wheat supplies overwhelming demand.  Crops in key growing regions have seen favorable growing conditions

 

 

DEMAND

 

Wheat prices fell 3% today as commodity funds liquidated long positions ahead of the USDA crop production release at 8:30AM on Friday.

 

 

Soybeans

 

DEMAND

 

China’s rate cut in its forecasted economic growth rate on Monday has heightened concerns around the outlook for the world’s biggest buyer of soybean.

 

 

Beef

 

SUPPLY

 

The US herd remains depleted and the first steps for producers to develop a plan of action are to see how conditions are in the spring, forage growth following last year’s damaging drought, and financial and economic factors. 

 

 

DEMAND

 

A fascinating article on CattleNetwork.com discusses the bright future of China’s beef market.  According to consulting company Frost & Sullivan, China’s beef market is still in the primary development stage but it is likely to get more opportunities to grow with support from governmental policies.

 

 

Chicken

 

SUPPLY

 

Joe Sanderson, CEO of Sanderson Farms, said today that there is no chance of the supply of chicken growing this year.

 

Egg sets placements continue to contract at around the same rate, -5.4%, according to the Broiler Hatchery report released by the USDA today. This implies that supply will remain tight as the industry looks for more favorable business conditions before expanding production.

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - egg sets wing prices

 

 

RECENT COMPANY COMMENTARY

 

Beef: Most companies are expecting beef cost inflation to be up mid-to-high single digits versus last year

 

TXRH: We expect approximately 8% food inflation in 2012, primarily due to higher beef costs…on the beef side we do have fixed price – pricing arrangements in effect for over 90% of our beef costs in 2012.

 

CBRL: To the continued pressure on ground beef prices and other commodities partly offset by lower average dairy and produce prices, along with benefits from our supply chain initiatives, we expect cost of sales to increase 60 basis points to 80 basis points over 2011 to near 26% in 2012.

 

RUTH: We project 2012 beef inflation to be between 5% and 8%. We currently have purchase agreements for beef representing approximately 30% of our needs through August of 2012, which represents an approximate 7% premium compared to the prior years.

 

CMG:  While we're cautiously optimistic we'll see more reasonable prices in 2012 for avocados, dairy and produce, we expect these benefits will be more than offset by higher costs for our beef, chicken, rice and beans. Beef costs will be especially challenging due to protracted supply shortages, despite recent reductions in grain prices.

  

MCD: As we look at our guidance for 2012, we've built another mid-teens increase for beef, expecting that the dynamics in the marketplaces that we see, and are expecting, will continue.

 

DRI:  U.S. beef production will continue decline though over the next 24 months, placing continued upward pressure on beef prices because of the slow economic recovery hamburger and value oriented beef, cattle beef are in high demand and can be priced accordingly by the packers. At Darden we purchased mainly tenderloins and other premium steakcuts, while we expect pricing for our beef products to increase by 12% our pricing has been tempered by consumers' resistance to record higher retail prices for premium stakes and the resulting shift to value oriented cuts and as you can see beef is approximately 14% of our cost basket … We have 75% of our beef requirements contracted for fiscal 2012 and 40% of the June to December usage under contract for fiscal 2013.

 

SONC: One item to note is that we recently locked in our beef contract for calendar year 2012… given the potential for beef costs going even higher, which there are a lot of reports out there that speculate that could happen, that we chose to go with making this more of a known quantity here, and the idea of having a set price for the next 12 months, we feel like would be good for our business, adds some predictability to the business.

 

 

Coffee: Prices are now down -32% versus last year

  

PEET: We expect 2012 coffee costs to rise 12% instead of last year's 42%.

 

SBUX: We've taken advantage of the recent declines in the C-price to lock in more of our coffee needs for fiscal 2013. We now have six months of our fiscal 2013 requirements secured at costs moderately favorable to 2012.

  

 

Dairy: CAKE, DPZ, PZZA, TXRH and others could benefit from favorable cheese costs this year

 

TXRH: The volatility around that 8% estimate for food cost inflation would really be driven by produce and dairy.  Those are of the biggest components that we float around the market, and that's about 15% to 20% of our total cost of sales.

 

CMG: While we're cautiously optimistic we'll see more reasonable prices in 2012 for avocados, dairy and produce, we expect these benefits will be more than offset by higher costs for our beef, chicken, rice and beans.

 

 

CORRELATION TABLE

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - correl

 

 

CHARTS

 

Coffee

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - coffee

 

Corn

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - corn

 

 

Wheat

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - wheat

 

Soybeans

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - soybeans

 

 

Beef

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - live cattle

 

 

Chicken – Whole Breast

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - chicken whole breast

 

 

Chicken Wings

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - chicken wing

 

 

Cheese

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - cheese

 

 

Milk

 

WEEKLY COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - milk

 

 

Howard Penney

 

Managing Director

 

 

 

 

 

Rory Green

 

Analyst

 

 

 

 


Triangulating Latin America

Topics discussed this week:

  • Refreshing Our View on Brazilian Equities
  • Staying Afloat In EMs Amid A Flood Of Liquidity
  • Default or Hyperinflation?: Argentina’s Tough Choice

Refreshing Our View on Brazilian Equities

Later today, Brazil’s central bank is likely to dip into historically rare territory by lowering its benchmark monetary policy rate (the Selic) to ~10%, which is only a mere 125bps above its all-time low of 8.75% (2009-10). Such a cut would be a continuation of a highly-politicized series of interest rate cuts designed to accomplish three very important political initiatives. In addition to lowering the interest burden within government expenditures, the central bank looks to:

  1. Spur Brazilian economic growth: In 2011, the Brazilian economy grew by +2.8%, which, barring 2009, is the slowest rate of Real GDP growth in Brazil since 2003. Moreover, default rates on consumer credit have risen to a 2yr high of 7.6% per the latest data, further incentivizing the central bank to maintain its trend of easing monetary policy. We are, however, starting to see some positive effects of recent monetary easing, with Brazil’s PMI indices making higher-highs since SEP; and
  2. Quash speculative capital inflows: The Brazilian real has appreciated +5.6% YTD, largely on the strength of a marked acceleration in foreign portfolio investment targeting some exposure to the G20’s highest real benchmark yield (4.3%). In just the YTD alone, Brazilian issuers have issued $19.1B in USD-denominated debt to circumvent the relative tightness of domestic monetary conditions (the proceeds of which subsequently get repatriated, boosting the currency further). That sum is on pace to overtake the record for issuance in a half-year period, which was set back in 1H11 – not coincidentally during the Federal Reserve’s second round of Quantitative Easing. Looking to Brazilian equities, R$6.1 billion have flowed into Brazil’s equity market through FEB, which is the highest JAN+FEB total ever (data going back to JAN ’08).

Triangulating Latin America - 1

 

Triangulating Latin America - 2

 

Triangulating Latin America - 3

 

To help accomplish stated goal #2, Brazil’s government recently instituted a tax on foreign financing that matures in 3yrs or less, a figure that’s as high as 6% for Brazilian exporters’ loans under advanced payment agreements within 360 days. In conjunction with the announcement, Finance Minister Guido Mantega said:

 

“The [Brazilian] government won’t be a passive observer in this currency war. The government will continue to take measures to prevent the real from strengthening, from hurting Brazil’s manufacturers.”

 

His statement echoes tightly with President Rousseff’s recent commentary (courtesy of our Portuguese-speaking Chief Compliance Officer, Moshe Silver, who regularly mines the Brazilian local press for value-added data points):

  • “There is a currency war based on an expansionary monetary policy that creates unfair conditions for competition.”
  • “Developed nations literally poured $4.7 trillion out into the world in a very adverse, very perverse, way.”
  • “Developed countries are relying on absolutely irresponsible monetary policy to compensate for the lack of room to use public spending to shore up economic growth.”
  • “Brazil needs to create tools to combat perverse policies being implemented by rich economies, such as the European Union, that are flooding the world with dollars… We need to create other tools to fight against the consequences of policies that are increasing global liquidity.”

Of course, the risk to the Brazilian economy is that policymakers overshoot their monetary easing and capital controls, which would cause them to have to dramatically reverse course on the former should another large-scale asset purchase program get implemented by the Fed or another large central bank.

 

While our models point to a continued benign outlook for Brazilian inflation over the intermediate-term, we’d be remiss to ignore the risk that a Qe3 would pose to Brazil and other emerging economies by, once again, stoking inflation and forcing them to tighten monetary policy. Recall that, from a price, Qe2 got us broadly bearish on EM equities and L/C fixed income (Brazil in particular) in NOV ’10.

 

Triangulating Latin America - BRAZIL

 

Given its underappreciated role in setting global food and energy prices, the USD remains our key focus and its recent stability affords Brazil additional headroom to continue easing monetary policy in support of economic growth – which is exactly what Brazilian interest rate markets have been signaling of late. Thus, from a fundamental GROWTH/INFLATION/POLICY perspective, we remain favorably disposed to Brazilian equities on an intermediate-term TREND duration.

 

Triangulating Latin America - 5

 

Triangulating Latin America - 6

 

Staying Afloat In EMs Amid A Flood Of Liquidity

As we mention in the previous section, the seemingly ever-growing pool of excess liquidity emanating from DM monetary policy creates systemic risk across emerging markets – particularly due to developed-world investors using easing speculation as an excuse to bid up EM assets under the tired guise of mistaking accelerating inflation for faster economic growth.

 

In recent Early Looks and intra-day research notes, we have been very critical of this practice, especially given that 2012 has the potential for consensus to repeat the broad mistakes of 2008 and 2011.  That said, we’re all in the business of making money at the end of the day; thus, it helps to have a strategy to properly contextualize what further dollar-debauchery could look like from here (see: intraday Qe3 speculation).

 

Over a short-term duration, we know that investors will chase yield shortly after an announcement is made. Using the MSCI Latin America equity index as a proxy for the region, Latin American equities rallied +18.6% from Jackson Hole ’10 to their cyclical peak in APR ‘11. The equity peak was led by Latin American L/C bond yields by nearly a full month.

 

Triangulating Latin America - 7

 

Going back to our point on accelerating inflation and inflation expectations, Latin American currencies, which appreciated vs. the dollar over that same duration due to an obvious acceleration of capital inflows, simply do not have enough juice to keep pace with higher-beta global food and energy prices. This dramatic underperformance resulted in regional inflation readings accelerating sequentially and widespread monetary policy tightening.

 

Triangulating Latin America - 8

 

Triangulating Latin America - 9

 

Looking to the current setup, our models suggest that, with the exception of Mexico, Latin American YoY CPI readings will continue to make lower-highs – at least for the next quarter or so. This, coupled with their currencies’ relative outperformance of global energy prices and absolute outperformance of global food prices, suggests a favorable outlook for Latin American economies from a monetary policy perspective (i.e. easing speculation will continue to dominate the headline risk).

 

Triangulating Latin America - 10

 

Of course, at a point, the opposite will be the case; but as we saw in late ‘10/early ’11, it will pay to manage risk appropriately on the misguided melt-up, insomuch as it will pay to [eventually] be appropriately positioned for the fundamentally-driven melt-down in the event further Qe becomes a high-probability scenario.

 

Default or Hyperinflation?: Argentina’s Tough Choice

Since her election win in the fall of last year, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has made a plethora of headlines with her policy intervention and aggressive regulatory changes – all designed to spur financial repression, quell capital outflows, and build FX reserves.

 

To say that she has been successful in achieving her goals would be largely an understatement; capital flight slowed in 4Q11 to $3.3B – down from a record pace earlier in the year – finishing 2011 at $21.5B, just shy of the 2008 record of $23.1B. The marginal increase in the supply of pesos in the economy helped to depress the rate Argentine banks must pay for 1-month peso deposits > $1M down to 13% from a cyclical peak of 22.9% in NOV. Additionally, the artificial, one-way flow of capital allowed the central bank to arrest the decline in its FX reserves, which bottomed out in DEC at $44.7B and are now at $46.8B per the latest data.

 

Triangulating Latin America - 11

 

Triangulating Latin America - 12

 

Despite all of her aggressive maneuvers, Fernandez’ goal of rebuilding Argentine FX reserves to a level consistent with her wishes remains elusive.  Argentina, which remains one of the few countries willing to risk using their FX reserves to service external debt, needs to see “free and available” reserves (i.e. FX reserves in excess of the monetary base) substantially higher than the current $109.6M in order to meet a budgeted $5.7B payment on the country’s dollar bonds in 2012.

 

Triangulating Latin America - 13

 

As such, we, and the forex market, continue to expect additional currency devaluation in the event Argentina is unable to grow its existing stock of FX reserves the old-fashioned way (through accelerating export growth). It’s no surprise to see the Argentine peso underperform the region’s currencies in the YTD, falling -0.6% vs. a regional median gain of +5.9%.

 

Triangulating Latin America - 14

 

While a “controlled” currency devaluation is certainly no laughing matter, that is not the largest risk facing the Argentine economy at this current juncture; accelerated interventionist measures out of the Fernandez regime risk a more permanent brand of capital flight as international investors lose faith in the projected long-term returns on and of capital from investing in the country. Most disconcerting is Fernandez’ recent proposal to Congress to revoke the “free and available” clause from the 1991 Dollar-Convertibility Law, which would imply that she is seeking access to all of Argentina’s FX reserves in order to service debt.

 

It’s important to remember that the law was put in place after Argentine consumer prices surged +1,300% in 1990 amid rapid currency devaluation. Moreover, an assault on the country’s FX reserves, which have historically been used to shield EM currencies from aggressive sell-offs, would likely drive investors to lose confidence in the long-term sustainability of the Argentine peso, risking another episode of hyperinflation or draconian monetary tightening to ward off that outcome.

 

All told, investors in Argentine peso-denominated assets clearly have a vested interest in seeing Fernandez fail on her latest policy initiative. Her success could spell disaster for the Argentine economy over the long-term TAIL.

 

Fundamental Price Data

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

  • EQUITIES:
    • Median: -0.2%
    • High: Venezuela +6.5%
    • Low: Chile -1.2%
    • Callout: Argentina down -22.5% over the LTM vs. a regional median decline of -1.5%
  • FX (vs. USD):
    • Median: -0.1%
    • High: Argentine peso +0.5%
    • Low: Brazilian real -2.7%
    • Callout: Argentine peso -7.1% over the LTM – the worst performer in the region over that duration
  • S/T SOVEREIGN DEBT (2YR YIELD):
    • High: Mexico -1bps
    • Low: Colombia -15bps
    • Callout: Brazil -302bps over the LTM vs. Colombia +98bps
  • L/T SOVEREIGN DEBT (10YR YIELD):
    • High: Colombia flat wk/wk
    • Low: Mexico -4bps wk/wk
    • Callout: Mexico -30bps YTD vs. Brazil -4bps
  • SOVEREIGN YIELD SPREADS (10s-2s):
    • High: Colombia +15bps
    • Low: Mexico -3bps
    • Callout: Mexico -11bps YTD vs. Brazil +65bps
  • 5YR CDS:
    • Median: -0.4%
    • High: Venezuela +3%
    • Low: Peru -2%
    • Callout: Venezuela -27.9% over the LTM vs. a regional median gain of +21.4%
  • 1YR O/S INTEREST RATE SWAPS:
    • High: Chile +4bps
    • Low: Brazil -29bps
    • Callout: Swaps traders are pricing in -155bps of rate cuts over the NTM vs. +36bps of rate hikes in Mexico.
  • O/N INTERBANK RATES:
    • High: Chile +8bps
    • Low: Argentina -40bps
    • Callout: Colombia +202bps over the LTM vs. -142bps in Brazil
  • CORRELATION RISK: Given the widespread addiction to cheap money asset reflation, it’s no surprise to see the MSCI Latin American Equity Index’s inverse correlation to the DXY strengthen over shorter durations (from -0.43 over a 30-day study to -0.57 over a 15-day study).

Darius Dale

Senior Analyst


FIRST SIGNS OF THE FORECLOSURE WAVE?

Foreclosure Activity Rises 28% in January


Lender Processing Services released its mortgage monitor report yesterday, showing that foreclosure activity rose dramatically in January.  Interestingly, this precedes the AG/mortgage servicer settlement, which broke in early February.  The AG/servicer settlement has dragged on now for almost a year and a half, and the complete, final agreement was still in progress at the time of the early-February media blitz.  Thus, we read this increase as a change in servicer behavior as they had more confidence in what the new standards and penalties would be. There is a degree of seasonality in foreclosures (for example, many servicers enforce a moratorium around the holidays in December), which increases the apparent MoM increase, but the spike suggests that servicers' behavior has shifted. 

 

Going forward, we expect that foreclosures will continue to rise from depressed October 2010 - December 2011 levels.  There are several implications to keep in mind: 

- Home prices will come under pressure - foreclosure sales are a major driver of declines in home prices, since foreclosed homes generally sell at a significant discount.  The Case-Shiller Index includes foreclosure sales in its models, as does the primary Corelogic HPI. 

- Foreclosures are correlated with higher bankruptcies.  If this relationship remains in place, then bankruptcies will also increase.  That's negative for credit card issuers, who charge off bankrupt customers as soon as they file (so these losses can hit NCO without ever spending time as delinquent balances). 

 

FIRST SIGNS OF THE FORECLOSURE WAVE?  - 1

 

 

FIRST SIGNS OF THE FORECLOSURE WAVE?  - 2

 

 

FIRST SIGNS OF THE FORECLOSURE WAVE?  - 3

 

 

FIRST SIGNS OF THE FORECLOSURE WAVE?  - 4

 

 

MBA Purchase Applications Rise Modestly

Last week MBA Mortgage Purchase Applications rose 2.1% to a level of 169. Today's print puts purchase applications 13% lower than a year ago. In contrast, refinance applications fell 2.0% last week. Mortgage rates rose on Thursday of last week but retreated thereafter, ending yesterday at 3.86%. 

 

FIRST SIGNS OF THE FORECLOSURE WAVE?  - 5

 

 

FIRST SIGNS OF THE FORECLOSURE WAVE?  - 6

 

 

FIRST SIGNS OF THE FORECLOSURE WAVE?  - 7

 

 

FIRST SIGNS OF THE FORECLOSURE WAVE?  - 8

 

 

FIRST SIGNS OF THE FORECLOSURE WAVE?  - 9

 

 

FIRST SIGNS OF THE FORECLOSURE WAVE?  - 10

 

 

 

Joshua Steiner, CFA

 

Allison Kaptur

 

Robert Belsky

 


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Retail: Wednesday Washouts BWS/PLCE/MFB

 

Among a flurry of retail earnings, three companies missed expectations and are guiding full-year 2012 earnings lower by average 12% below Street expectations. These aren’t rounding error shifts in expectations and highlight the increased volatility we think we’ll see through the 1H. The common callout here is that much like the rest of retail, inventory growth is outpacing sales growth. However, despite each company improving their respective sales/inventory spreads sequentially through more aggressive markdowns in Q4, there remains a high level of near-term uncertainty near-term in retail.

 

BWS: (Revs +4%; Inv +7%)

While sentiment on the name has improved over the last few quarters according to our sentiment monitor, today’s results suggest there is still plenty of wood to chop here as it relates to turning this business around. In addition, better results out of the PSS domestic business last week could suggest fewer stores will ultimately need to be closed dampering what we see as a potential tailwind for BWS over the intermediate-term.

 

Retail: Wednesday Washouts BWS/PLCE/MFB - BWS

 

PLCE: (Revs -1%; Inv +1%)

Aside from blaming the quarter on poor weather, PLCE took aggressive markdown actions in an effort to clear inventory at year-end, but that clearly wasn’t the only factor given the company’s outlook for F12. Despite the positive SIGMA move this quarter that is gross margin bullish on the margin, continued promotional activity across the industry will continue to weigh on margins near-term.

 

Retail: Wednesday Washouts BWS/PLCE/MFB - PLCE

 

MFB: (Revs +5%; Inv +27%)

Sales performance at the mid-tier was the weakest of MFB’s channels up +2.4% reflecting that discretionary spending for the most price sensitive consumer demographic remains under significant pressure.

 

Retail: Wednesday Washouts BWS/PLCE/MFB - MFB

 

Retail: Wednesday Washouts BWS/PLCE/MFB - guidance w circles

 

Casey Flavin

Director


THE HBM: YUM, JACK, PNRA, MCD, SBUX, WEN

THE HEDGEYE BREAKFAST MONITOR

 

MACRO NOTES

 

Consumer

 

The ADP National Employment Report print this morning showed that Private Nonfarm employment gained by 216k in February versus 215k consensus.

 

 

Comments from CEO Keith McCullough

 

Whatever happened to Greece? Growth Slowing Globally getting some attention now…

  1. USD – this is not a political comment, it’s a correlation one – Romney’s momentum rising/falling is starting to track the US Dollar Index and our new Hedgeye Election Index (Obama at 58.4% before Super Tuesday results). The back-test is meaningful – send me a note if you want the data series. US Dollar Index = +2% since Romney won Michigan/Arizona and you see what happened to inflation in the face of that (deflated, fast).
  2. OIL  - both Brent and WTIC continue to hold all 3 durations of support  (TRADE, TREND, TAIL) in my model w/ Brent Oil’s refreshed risk management range = $120.83-123.98. It would have to break $118 (and WTIC break $102) for me to consider this a tailwind of Deflating The Inflation for the benefit of US Consumption.
  3. SPAIN – never mind Greece, pull up a chart of the IBEX = straight down and, more importantly, this is the 1st major European stock market to snap its intermediate term TREND line (8499). Spanish Equities are down -4% all of a sudden YTD. Debt structurally impairs growth – these economies and markets are stagflating, big time – and even a Keynesian can’t stop gravity in perpetuity.

13 LONGS, 7 SHORTS. Yesterday was a Short Covering Opportunity. 1359 is now my TRADE line of resistance for the SP500.

 

 

SUBSECTOR PERFORMANCE

 

THE HBM: YUM, JACK, PNRA, MCD, SBUX, WEN - subsector

 

 

QUICK SERVICE

 

YUM: Yum Brands reaffirmed its EPS growth forecast for 2012 of at least 10%.

 

JACK: Jack in the Box was raised to “Neutral” at Credit Suisse. 

 

PNRA: Panera Bread Chairman Ronald Shaich appeared on CNBC last night and said that gas prices are yet to have any adverse impact on comps.

 

COSI: During the appearance of Shaich on CNBC, Jim Cramer asked him if Panera would buy Cosi as a way to penetrate Manhattan.  Shaich offered an example of the company doing something similar in the past, when it bought a bakery in Phoenix to penetrate that market.  He said “we are open to that…it’s got to be the right deal for Panera”.

 

MCD: Sterne Agee raised its PT for MCD to $112 from $109.

 

SBUX: Starbucks opened a “laboratory” store in Amsterdam (story).

 

NOTABLE PERFORMANCE ON ACCELERATING VOLUME:

 

WEN: Wendy’s declined -2.8% on accelerating volume yesterday.

 

 

CASUAL DINING

 

CAKE: Cheesecake Factory spoke yesterday and guided to EPS growth of 10-16% in 2012 assuming 1.5-2.5% comp store sales growth.  We see downside risk to 1Q12 comps at Cheesecake Factory.

 

NOTABLE PERFORMANCE ON ACCELERATING VOLUME:

 

DIN: Dine Equity declined -3.6%, underperforming the space, on accelerating volume.

 

 

THE HBM: YUM, JACK, PNRA, MCD, SBUX, WEN - stock

 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

Rory Green

Analyst

 


CASUAL DINING CORRELATION RISK

The casual dining space, as we wrote 3/2, anchors heavily on the employment market.  A rollover in headline initial jobless claims trends could lead the space lower.  Here we highlight two names we see as being most at risk. 

 

When positive or negative macroeconomic news that pertains to the restaurant industry hits the tape, casual dining stocks tend to move somewhat in unison.  Similarly, a preannouncement of sales results significantly above or below consensus can lead to the whole group trading on the news.  The risk of jobless claims rolling over as a tailwind related to a distortion in the labor statistics (see our 3/2 note for details) could be the next macro catalyst for casual dining.  As the two charts, below, indicate, claims tend to be far more consequential for casual dining than quick service.

 

CASUAL DINING CORRELATION RISK - inverted claims vs qsr

 

CASUAL DINING CORRELATION RISK - inverted claims vs casual dining

 

 

As our post on 3/2 outlines, the distortion in the seasonal adjustment factor stemming from the Lehman-related shock in initial jobless claims in 2008/09 began in week 36 of 2008.  Looking at the correlation between jobless claims (inverted in the chart) and the stock prices of some of the casual dining names, we can get a sense for which companies may have benefited most from the distortion that our Financials team dubbed “the Ghost of Lehman”.  As the Ghost of Lehman turns from tailwind into headwind, we can infer that those same companies that outperformed during 4Q and into 2012 could be at risk of underperforming over the next few months. 

 

The first stock we would like to call out in this regard is Cheesecake Factory.  The stock has moved largely in step with jobless claims’ improvement since March 2009 and, as the employment picture improved in 4Q11 and into 2012, the stock continued to gain.  The correlation between initial jobless claims and CAKE’s stock price from 9/1/11 to present is -0.83.  We highlighted yesterday that the ICSC Chain Store Sales Index data is hinting at a slowdown in CAKE’s top line in 1Q12.  That is a metric worth monitoring as we progress through the quarter.

 

CASUAL DINING CORRELATION RISK - cake vs inverted claims

 

CASUAL DINING CORRELATION RISK - cake icsc

 

 

Cracker Barrel is a second stock that we would highlight as being particularly exposed to a meaningful reversion in jobless claims.  The stock has appreciated greatly due to an improving top line but, given that the correlation between jobless claims and CBRL’s stock price is -0.95, we think that this stock could underperform in a scenario where employment trends soften.  While many observers like Clarence Otis, CEO of Darden Restaurants, believe that the US consumer has become more resilient to elevated gas prices, if the trend in retail gasoline prices continues and the miles driven data in the U.S. trends lower, we believe that there could be an adverse impact on CBRL’s restaurant traffic.  If gasoline prices can rise to, and remain at, prices close to $4 in the second quarter, we expect Cracker Barrel’s business to be affected.

 

It is also worth bearing in mind that Cracker Barrel’s advertising spending is being targeted on the second and fourth quarters of its fiscal 2012.  This advertising spend helped the company outperform Knapp Track traffic trends during the same period.  The company is guiding to its advertising spend in 3QFY12 being down year-over-year by $1-2mm and 4Q advertising year-over-year being flat.  We are not expecting a significant boost, if any, from 4Q advertising on a year-over-year basis, certainly not as meaningful as the impact was in 2Q.  If the employment outlook and gasoline prices become a negative factor for the stock, we believe there could be a substantial drop in same-restaurant sales at Cracker Barrel.  Lastly, while weather lifted the entire industry over the winter months, we believe that Cracker Barrel may have been a larger beneficiary than some competitors but this is obviously difficult to prove.

 

CASUAL DINING CORRELATION RISK - cbrl vs inverted claims

 

CASUAL DINING CORRELATION RISK - miles driven cbrl

 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

Rory Green

Analyst

 


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