Weekly European Monitor: Europe’s Muddled Face

European Positions Update: Long German Bunds (BUNL); Short France (EWQ)


Asset Class Performance:

  • Equities:  The STOXX Europe 600 closed down -2.4% week-over-week vs up +1.7% last week. Bottom performers: Russia (RTSI) -6.0%; Italy -4.1%; Cyprus -3.9%; Netherlands -3.1%; Germany -2.6%; Ireland -2.5%; Finland -2.4%; Spain -2.2%.  Top performers:  Denmark +1.9%; Poland +1.2%; Portugal +1.0%; Romania +40bps.  
  • FX:  The EUR/USD is down -1.23% week-over-week vs +1.03% last week.  W/W Divergences: CZK/EUR -1.36%, PLN/EUR -0.58%, RUB/EUR -0.34%, SEK/EUR -0.24%, NOK/EUR -0.00%, CHF/EUR 0.00%; GBP/EUR +0.56%
  • Fixed Income:  Greece’s 10YR government bond yield saw the biggest decline of -39bps to 20.57% week-over-week. Italy and Spain closely followed, declining -29bps for Italian yields to 5.42% and -25bps to 5.70% for the Spanish 10YR yield. Portugal was one country to see an inflection, gaining +23bps to 10.83%.

Weekly European Monitor: Europe’s Muddled Face - 11. yields



In Review:

Elections across Europe this weekend present the opportunity for new faces, but with them key challenges to Europe’s forward looking policy path on sovereign debt and banking risks. This weekend sees presidential elections in France and Greece, local and municipal elections in Italy, and a state election in Germany.


Of particular attention is the French presidential election on Sunday. While still a relatively tight race, it looks to result in a victory for the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, especially as the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy has failed to receive the vote of endorsement from minority parties in recent days. [Holland leads Sarkozy 53.5% to 46.5% according to TNS Sofres poll, and by a margin of 52.5% to 47.5%, according to BVA and Ipsos polling companies].


For France, we think Hollande’s socialist agenda presents a tax on the French state, already suffering with high debt levels, and a financial transaction tax (supported by both Mssrs. Hollande and Sarkozy) would put it on an uncompetitive island versus its neighbors. [For more details on Hollande’s agenda see our recent work including, “Stinky Cheese”; and Weekly European Monitors titled “Socializing Growth as Governments Crumble” and “Sarkophobia”].


Directly below we show a chart of the DAX (Germany), CAC (France), IBEX (Spain), and RTSI (Russia) on a year-to-date basis. Interestingly all markets topped on March 16th, but we think the underperformance of the CAC (down -11.5% since 3/16) versus the German market also corresponds with polls from February onward showing a more decisive spread in Hollande’s favor, as the market prices in Hollande’s agenda holding growth below already subdued levels.


Weekly European Monitor: Europe’s Muddled Face - 11. indices


For Europe we think a Hollande victory will spell the end of a strong working relationship between Sarkozy and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, or Merkozy.  Hollande’s socialist agenda cuts against the German voice that Europe needs to stay the course on fiscal consolidation. He is also against the Fiscal Compact, which Germany continues to support.  Broadly, we could well see a much divided voice on Europe’s go-forward strategy to assess its sovereign and banking issues from two main economic and political heavyweights. This bodes very poorly for policy when already Europe is competing across 17 to 27 parliaments for any given agreement.   


Greek elections are also critical. Despite the diminutive size of the economy, the last two years have proven out that even a small fry economy like Greece can inflect global markets. What’s unclear is if the two main parties, Pasok and New Democracy, out of ten parties running, will be able to secure a majority. [Note: opinion polls have not been published since April 20 because of local electoral laws.]  The two need 300 seats between them in order to renew their coalition government. If they lack a majority, there’s a high probability new elections will need to be called by the Fall, all of which puts the existing bailout packages, including terms for payments between the Greek government and troika, the European Commission, and the IMF, at risk. Another question that remains unanswered is the popular support of Greeks to stay in the Eurozone. It’s worth noting that New Democracy and Pasok could still hold a decent majority even if their combined share fell below 45% since the party that places first in the election automatically gets an extra 50 seats.


A German state election in Schleswig-Holstein may get less press behind France and Greece this Sunday, but will be critical for Chancellor Merkel, whose CDU party is vying to hold on to a share of power in the northern state (bordering Denmark) and to re-enter the government of North Rhine-Westphalia, the largest state, a week later. Opinion polls for Schleswig-Holstein show the CDU and opposition Social Democrats (SPD) in a dead heat at 31%, as Merkel begins to rethink her current and fledgling alliance with the Free Democrats (FDP) in favor of the SPD, in what is known as a the “grand coalition”.


Meanwhile Italy is holding local and municipal elections on May 6-7 in more than 1,000 cities. The outcome will be an important gauge of the mood since Mario Monti took office from Silvio Berlusconi and the massive austerity that Monti has carried through.


Switching gears, this week EU finance ministers failed to reach an agreement to toughen bank capital rules, namely to fix banks’ core capital requirements at 7% of their risk-weighted assets, due to stiff opposition from Britain in particular.   The ministers now aim for a deal at their next meeting on May 15. According to Bloomberg, agreement among finance ministers will serve as a basis for negotiations with the European Parliament, which could begin later this month. The EU faces a Jan. 1, 2013, deadline for adopting rules agreed on by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.


Finally, the broader data released in Europe this week (below under the section “Data Dump”), continues to show weakness in month-over-month readings in concurrent-to-forward-looking data. Final PMIs (Services and Manufacturing) for the Eurozone remain comfortably below the 50 line that marks contraction, as the Eurozone Unemployment Rate jumped 10bps to 10.9% and Eurozone Retail Sales were weak for the month of March.



Call Outs:

German banks reduce exposure to Spain: Bundesbank data showed that German banks have been reducing their exposure to Spain, which peaked at €200B at the start of 2008, and down 17% to €113B last year, marking the largest pullback in percentage terms by German banks from any of the peripheral Eurozone countries.


Spanish and Italian banks load up on sovereign bonds: According to ECB data (that captures the second LTRO) Italian and Spanish banks loaded up on government debt in March. Italian banks increased their holdings of Eurozone government bonds by a record €23.7B in April, bringing their total to €323.9B. Spanish banks increased their holdings by €20.1B, bringing their total to a record €263.3B.


Greece: ECB data showed that businesses and consumers stopped pulling money out of Greek banks in March. Private sector deposits in Greek banks increased 0.5% in March after a nearly -2.7% decline in February. However, they are still 30% below their December 2009 peak. The article also noted that private sector deposits in Portugal fell by 1.8% to their lowest level since May of last year, though Spain, Ireland, and Italy all posted small increases.


Italy plans spending cuts to avoid VAT increase: Prime Minister Mario Monti's technical government plans to cut public spending by €4.2B this year to keep Italy on track to meet its deficit targets (1.7% of GDP in 2012), rather than resort to a planned 2% increase in the VAT that could potentially deepen the recession.


Global investors resume retreat from Eurozone debt: Reuters noted that surveys of 55 leading investment firms in the US, continental Europe, Britain, and Japan revealed that global investors resumed their exit from the Eurozone bond market in April, cutting their holdings to the lowest level in a year. Holdings of Eurozone bonds in balanced portfolios fell to 24.5% last month from 26% in March and the 26.9% recorded at the height of the crisis in November. It added that European funds were the most bearish, as a monthly survey of 16 asset managers based in continental Europe showed a typical balanced portfolio held 55.1% of bonds in the Eurozone, down from 58.7% in the prior month.


CDS Risk Monitor:


Week-over-week CDS was down, but marginally compared to recent weeks, across the main countries we track.  Italy saw the largest declines in CDS w/w, -15bps to 437bps, followed by Ireland -14bps to 565bps; Portugal inflected to the upside gaining +14bp to 1009bps.


Weekly European Monitor: Europe’s Muddled Face - 11. cds   a


Weekly European Monitor: Europe’s Muddled Face - 11. cds   b


Data Dump:

Weekly European Monitor: Europe’s Muddled Face - 11. neu


Eurozone Unemployment Rate 10.9% MAR vs 10.8% FEB

Eurozone Retail Sales -0.2% MAR Y/Y (exp. -1.1%) vs -2.1% FEB   [0.3% MAR M/M (exp. 0.0%) vs -0.2% FEB]

Eurozone CPI Estimate 2.6% APR Y/Y vs 2.7% MAR

Eurozone M3 3.2% MAR Y/Y vs 2.8% FEB

Eurozone PPI 3.3% MAR Y/Y (exp. 3.4%) vs 3.6% FEB


Germany Unemployment Rate 6.8% APR vs 6.7% MAR revised to 6.8%

Germany Retail Sales 2.3% MAR Y/Y (exp. 0.5%) vs 2.1% FEB

Germany VDIK Apr new passenger car registrations +3.0 y/y


UK PMI Manufacturing 50.5 APR (exp. 51.5) vs 51.9 MAR (export orders off most since ‘09)

UK Nationwide House Prices -0.9% APR Y/Y vs -0.9% MAR  [-0.2% APR M/M vs -1.0% MAR]

UK New Car Registrations 3.3% APR Y/Y vs 1.8% MAR

UK Halifax House Prices -0.5% APR Y/Y (exp. 0.4%) vs -0.6% MAR

UK PMI Construction 55.8 APR vs 56.7 MAR

UK Money Supply -5% MAR Y/Y vs -4.1% FEB


Spain Total Housing Permits -36.2% FEB Y/Y vs -22.9% JAN

Spain Q1 Prelim. GDP -0.3% Q/Q (exp. -0.4%) vs -0.3% in Q4    [-0.4% Y/Y (exp. -0.6%) vs 0.3% in Q4]


Italy Unemployment Rate 9.8% MAR Prelim vs 9.6% FEB

Italy CPI Prelim. 3.8% APR Y/Y vs 3.8% MAR

Italy PPI 2.7% MAR Y/Y vs 3.2% FEB


Switzerland Retail Sales 4.2% MAR Y/Y (exp. 1.1%) vs 0.8% FEB


Ireland Industrial Production -5.7% MAR Y/Y vs -3.0% FEB

Ireland Unemployment Rate 14.3% APR vs 14.3% MAR


Sweden Household Lending 5% Y/Y MAR vs 5% FEB

Denmark PMI Survey 61.8 APR vs 53.0 MAR

Denmark Retail Sales 1.2% MAR Y/Y vs -0.2% FEB


Portugal Industrial Production -5.8% MAR Y/Y vs -7.2%

Portugal Retail Sales -8.9% MAR Y/Y vs -8.3% FEB

Greece Retail Sales -11.1% FEB Y/Y vs -8.8% JAN


Turkey CPI 11.14% APR Y/Y vs 10.43% MAR

Turkey Producer Prices 7.65% APR Y/Y vs 8.22% MAR


Interest Rate Decisions:

(5/3) ECB Interest Rate UNCH at 1.00%

(5/3) Czech Repo Rate Announcement UNCH at 0.75%



The European Week Ahead:

Sunday: French Election Run-off; Greece Parliamentary Election; Regional German Election in State of Schleswig-Holstein; Italian local and municipal elections


Monday: May Eurozone Sentix Investor Confidence; Apr. Germany Wholesale Price Index (May 7-12); Mar. Germany Factory Orders: Apr. UK BRC Shop Index, Lloyds Employment Confidence, RICS House Price Balance; Mar. Spain Industrial Output


Tuesday: Mar. Germany Industrial Production; Apr. UK BRC Sales Like-For-Like


Wednesday: Mar. Germany Exports, Imports, Current Account, Trade Balance; Apr. France BoF Business Sentiment; Mar. France Trade Balance; Apr. Greece Consumer Price Index


Thursday: May ECB Publishes Monthly Report; BoE Announces Rates; BoE Asset Purchase Target; Apr. UK NIESR GDP Estimate; Mar. UK Industrial Production, Manufacturing Production; Mar. France Industrial Production, Central Government Balance, Manufacturing Production; Mar. Spain House Transactions; Mar. Italy Industrial Production; Mar. Greece Industrial Production; Feb. Greece Unemployment Rate


Friday: EC Releases Economic Growth Forecasts; Apr. Germany Consumer Price Index – Final; Apr. UK PPI Input and Output; France Survey of Industrial Investments; Apr. Spain Consumer Price Index - Final



Matthew Hedrick

Senior Analyst


Employment data released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics were relatively bullish for QSR versus Casual Dining.  However, hiring trends within the greater Leisure & Hospitality industry, show that restaurant hiring may slow more meaningfully in April.


Employment by Age


As the chart below shows, all of the age cohorts we track on a monthly basis, with the exception of the 45-54YOA cohort, continued to gain jobs in April.  Sequential slowdowns in the 45-54 and 55-64 YOA cohorts are not positive for casual dining.  The continuing strength in youth employment trends is encouraging for QSR.  Construction employment has not picked up and will not until there is a recovery in housing.  Career Builder CEO Matthew Ferguson spoke on Bloomberg this morning on the jobs data and said that his company’s surveys are showing that 53% of companies say they’re going to higher more entry-level college graduates this year versus last year.  That number was 40% a couple of years ago, according to Ferguson.




Hiring Trends Within the Restaurants Industry

Hiring trends within the restaurant industry remain strong as of the month of March (the full-service- and casual dining-specific data lags the broader data by one month).  As the chart below illustrates, however, is that employment growth in the broader Leisure & Hospitality space has been rolling over as of the month of April.  The Leisure and Hospitality data is released in line with the general employment data and gives us somewhat of an insight, at least directionally, into how hiring trends in the restaurant industry may look for April.




Consumer Confidence

The unemployment rate is obviously a statistic that has limited meaning for investors or analysts but consumer confidence is certainly impacted by headlines.  As the chart below highlights, the declining Labor Force Participation Rate is helping to keep the headline Unemployment Rate print lower than it otherwise would be.  Should the LFPR begin to rise, that would likely bring the headline Unemployment Rate higher absent a concurrent and substantial uptick in hiring.





Howard Penney

Managing Director


Rory Green


Bearish: SP500 Levels, Refreshed

POSITIONS: Long Healthcare (XLV), Shorting Industrials (XLI) and Basic Materials (XLB)


The process said Embrace Uncertainty at 1391 support into the employment event, so we did. Now the SP500’s immediate-term TRADE line of 1391 support is resistance and there’s plenty of risk to be managed.


Across all 3 of our core risk management durations, here are the lines that matter most: 

  1. Immediate-term TRADE resistance = 1391
  2. Immediate-term TRADE support = 1370
  3. Intermediate-term TREND support = 1359 

With Growth Slowing (absent another central plan that I have no edge on), I see no fundamental or quantitative risk management reason why mean reversion to the TREND zone of 1 doesn’t remain in play.


Remember, it was Qe3 itself on January 25thby Bernanke that provided the catalyst for oil price inflation to slow growth. So we don’t need to be begging for more of that. Deflating The Inflation, from a price (1359), should be better than bad.




Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Bearish: SP500 Levels, Refreshed - SPX

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Contradictory Forces

“Sometimes I am two people. Johnny is the nice one. Cash causes all the trouble. They fight.”
 -Johnny Cash   


Maybe an educated Ivy League man like myself shouldn’t admit it, but I’m a fan of Johnny Cash.    But to be fair, even if he isn’t representative of elite American culture, Cash probably represents the contradictions of American life as much as any entertainer of the 20thcentury.


On one hand, he was certainly well known for his sins and bouts with alcohol.  On the other hand, he was a devout Christian who served his religion in many positive ways.   Perhaps the most positive way was in his willingness to give free concerts inside prisons.  The most famous of which was his performance at Folsom Prison in California from which the namesake song Folsom Prison Blues was produced.


In many ways, the contradictory nature of a personality like Johnny Cash (incidentally that was his birth name) very much represents the nature of the current global economy and, as a derivative, the global equity markets.


In Europe the key upcoming catalysts on the political calendar are the elections.  The European elections also represent the current contradictory nature of popular sentiment in Europe.  France, in particular, typifies this notion.  In France, both the extreme left and the extreme right gained substantial ground in the first round of elections.  Ultimately, though, it does look like the extreme left, the Socialists, will prevail and that Francois Hollande will succeed Nicolas Sarkozy as the next President of France.


The outcome of this election is meaningful and, in particular, will influence relations between Germany and France, two of the key decision makers in the European Union.  As well, make no mistake about it, a shift to the left in Europe will have implications for European growth and equities.  This is a point highlighted in the Chart of the Day today and an issue to keep front and center related to your European exposure.  That is, even as French equities are broken on all of our durations, they are still well above the lows reached in December of 2011.


Even if the results of French elections appear certain to some, the Greek elections appear to be much less certain.   Due to Greek electoral laws, no polls have been published since April 20th, but the most recent information from our contacts on the ground in Europe suggests that a majority between Pasok and New Democracy is increasingly unlikely.  This potentially puts the bailout package at risk and implies that Greek elections may be called again as early as this fall.


In the United States, the key upcoming catalyst is the labor report which is out this morning.  It is likely no surprise that Hedgeye is expecting a number that is more bearish than the expected 160,000 additions to non-farm payrolls.  As I wrote in a note yesterday:

  1. Our Financials Team noted this morning that initial claims over the past few weeks have been coming in even worse than they would have suspected, even as last week’s claim, as reported this morning, fell 23K to 365K.                                                                                                                                                                              
  2. The recent Challenger job report appears to support our view that the job market may decelerate.  Specifically, planned job cuts increased by 7.1% from March to April and 11.2% on year-over-year basis.

As always though, trying to front-run government statistics is a fool’s errand; rather, you should just be ready to embrace the uncertainty that will result after the labor report this morning.

To that end, I wanted to highlight a couple of recent additions to the Hedgeye Virtual Portfolio on the global macro front:


1.   Shorted French equities via the etf EWQ on May 1st– Our track record shorting France has been solid over the last two years as we have made money all ten times that we have shorted French equities.  With the upcoming shift to the left in France’s economy, we obviously don’t think this time will be different.


2.   Bought the U.S. healthcare sector via the etf XLV on May 3rd– On a basic level, the U.S. economy obviously looks pretty compelling vis-à-vis Europe, but as well we think there are some interesting potentially positive drivers in the healthcare sector.  To that end, our healthcare team led by Tom Tobin is hosting a call on physician utilization next Friday.  I’d recommend contacting our sales team at to get access to the call.


3.   Bought Brazilian equities via the etf EWZ on May 3rd– Just when everyone thought Hedgeye was bearish on all things emerging markets, we are getting long of Brazil.  A key driver of this position is that we expect commodity prices to decline. As an example Brent oil is bearish on TRADE and TREND durations.  Declining commodity inflation is positive for emerging growth economies like China and Brazil.


One of my favorite Johnny Cash songs is The Highwaymen and in particular this excerpt:


“I was a sailor. I was born upon the tide
And with the sea I did abide.
I sailed a schooner round the Horn to Mexico
I went aloft and furled the mainsail in a blow
And when the yards broke off they said that I got killed
But I am living still.”


As it relates to being a stock market operator staying alive to trade another day is, figuratively, likely some of the best risk management you can heed.


Keep your head up and stick on the ice,


Daryl G. Jones

Director of Research


Contradictory Forces - Chart of the Day


Contradictory Forces - Virtual Portfolio

The Best and Worst of Times

This note was originally published at 8am on April 20, 2012. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

-Charles Dickens


First of all, sorry for the long quote this morning.  I’m sure after reading some of my more eclectic quotes and missives this week, you are all awaiting Keith’s return with bated breath.  But as I was contemplating the stock market this week and the earnings results that were released, somehow Dickens’ quote from “A Tale of Two Cities” seemed appropriate.


The SP500 opened Monday up near 1,380 and closed yesterday at near 1,378.  So despite the sizeable swings mid-week, the broad equity market has done nothing all week.  It seems Mr. Market, just like the Dickens’ quote, can’t decide:  Is growth slowing? Or is growth accelerating? Is Europe out of the woods? Or is sovereign risk accelerating in Europe?  Is China going to ease more? Or is inflation more of risk than growth in China?


We’ve been somewhat definitive on our views that we believe global growth is slowing sequentially, but the market hasn’t totally come around to accept the Hedgeye views just as of yet.  (I guess we will have to get Keith on CNBC more next week to preach the gospel.)  On the growth front, an interesting data point we recently picked up was that traffic through the Suez Canal was only up 1.2% for the month of February year-over-year basis and has been in steady decline for really the last year.  In the Chart of the Day, we show this trend and have combined it with a couple pictures of Hedgeye friend and former NHLer Jeff Hamilton.  As the pictures show, life as a pro hockey player is sometimes good and sometimes bad as well.


Obviously this is but one data point, but this is literally the worst month of traffic through the Suez Canal since the end of the most recent global recession.  As well, the Suez is far from an insignificant indicator.  It is estimated that in total almost 8% of the world’s sea trade is transported through the Suez Canal.  So, this is a data point worth writing in the notebook.


Just as with the continued angst over the direction of global growth, there remains debate over the direction of Europe from a debt perspective.  Some, like Bank of America, are ready to call a bottom in Europeans debt woes as indicated by B of A’s positive call on European Banks this morning.   The actual sovereign market itself, as manipulated as it is, begs to differ though, as Spanish yields on 10-year government bonds are back above 6.0% this morning.


My brothers up in Canada are even getting into the European mix this morning.  Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty came out publically yesterday to propose that non-European nations should have a collective veto when European nations come to the IMF to ask for aid.  Obviously, Flaherty sees what we see, which is that the likelihood of a Socialist getting elected in France means that “the ask” from Europe could soon get a lot bigger.


As well, you can’t really blame Canada (pun intended) for pushing back on continued carte blanche aid to Europe.  In 1993, Canada’s fiscal house was in terrible order and Standard & Poor’s rightfully downgraded Canada debt.  The Canadians then righted the fiscal ship the hard way by implementing a consumption tax and making tough budget cuts, by some estimates almost 20% across the board.  As Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin said at the time, “Let there be no doubt about that. We will balance the books.”  There are some other nations that could use some of that Canadian fiscal resolve.  (Incidentally, we like the Loonie on the long side over the long term in part due to this.)


As usual during earnings season, we are going to have a note up on our website later today that discusses our view of the broad energy sector this earnings season.  One quote from the note is worth sharing this morning, which is as follows:


“The macro backdrop for the quarter is muddled – Brent crude averaged $118.70/bbl in the quarter, +13% YoY and +9% QoQ; NYMEX natural gas averaged $2.50/Mcf, -40% YoY and -28% QoQ; rig count growth slowed in North America to +12% YoY (vs. +19% YoY in 4Q11); and worldwide rig count growth slowed to +9% YoY (vs. +15% YoY in 4Q11).  Our proprietary US oil and gas inflation index shows that costs for producers were +8.1% YoY in 1Q12, the lowest level of inflation since 4Q10.”


To say that the energy pictures is currently muddled is definitely the Hedgeye understatement of the week, but the key fact I would point out is that natural gas is down 40% y-o-y and oil is up 13% y-o-y.  Thematically, those companies that use natural gas as an input, like certain industrial and chemical companies, are receiving the input cost boon of a life time. 

Meanwhile, any company that competes with the price of gasoline for the consumer’s wallet is certainly feeling the pinch.


The immediate-term support and resistance ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar Index, Japanese Yen (vs USD), Euro/USD, and the SP500 are now $1633-1654, $116.71-119.34, $79.25-79.65, $81.12-82.67, $1.30-1.32, and 1356-1395, respectively.


Enjoy the weekend with your families,


Daryl G. Jones

Director of Research


The Best and Worst of Times - Chart of the Day


The Best and Worst of Times - Virtual Portfolio

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