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The New Leading Indicator … Wisconsin

Conclusion:  The results from Wisconsin tonight will be an important leading indicator for President Obama’s chance of winning that State.  More broadly, the weak economy continues to lower Obama’s probability of re-election.  In our view, a Romney Presidency will be bullish for the U.S. dollar.


Not surprisingly, the Wisconsin election to recall Governor Scott Walker is not without controversy.  The current rumor coming from the Democratic Party in Wisconsin is that calls are going to voters from Walker supporters telling prospective voters they do not have to vote if they signed the recall.  In fact, Milwaukee County Democratic Chair Sachin Chheda was very explicit in this accusation of cheating and said earlier today:

 

“This latest lowlife sleaze comes on the heels of countless reports from around the state of various Republican dirty tricks on behalf of Walker. For instance, reports surfaced last weekend that Walker supporters are paying homeowners to post Walker signs on their lawns."

 

Dirty tricks or not, it appears almost certain that Governor Walker will win the recall vote.   According to InTrade, the electronic prediction market, the probability that Walker will get re-elected is at 93%.  As the chart below outlines, this is up dramatically since early May when the probability was floating around 50%.

 

The New Leading Indicator … Wisconsin - a. 1

 

The latest polls from Wisconsin have also validated the InTrade contract.  The Real Clear Politics aggregate has Walker +6.7 and the most recent poll from WeAskAmerica has Walker up +12.   If these numbers hold, then Walker is poised to beat Barrett by more than the +5 margin he won by in 2010. 

 

From an analytical perspective, Walker’s ability to gain margin in two years can obviously be attributed to his much deeper funding that his competitor.  By most estimates, Walker will have outspent Barrett by margin of 8 – 1. But while funding certainly helps, much of the electorate in Wisconsin actually considers itself increasingly conservative, which is leading to more support at the polls for Walker.  This shift is in part due to their support of Walker’s key mandate, which is fiscal reform in Wisconsin via limiting the collective bargaining rights of government unions.

 

As it relates to the broad national sentiment, it is difficult to tell at this juncture what the implications of a victory by a Republican in Wisconsin mean, but certainly if Governor Walker wins by a broader margin, it is an ominous sign for Obama in Wisconsin this fall.    Currently Wisconsin represents 10 electoral votes, which will be critical in a tight Presidential race.  Wisconsin has typically been considered a safe state for Democrats as Democratic Presidential candidates have won the state every election going back to 1984.

 

On some level, even if Walker’s victory in Wisconsin isn’t a leading indicator for the national Presidential race, it certainly appears coincident with Romney’s odds improving and Obama’s odds decreasing.  According to our Hedgeye Election Index (HEI), President Obama’s re-election chances are down to 54.1%.  This is Obama’s lowest reading in five months.  

 

The New Leading Indicator … Wisconsin - a. 2

 

The reading on our proprietary index is consistent with InTrade.  Currently President Obama’s probability of getting re-elected on InTrade is down to 53%.  This was his lowest reading since February 2012.  The most recent precipitous drop occurred in conjunction with the employment report last Friday that showed nonfarm payrolls had added a mere 69,000 jobs in May.  

 

A weak economy is never positive for an incumbent President and, as the data shows, is not good for Obama.   In the chart below, we highlight a series of polls from Gallup that highlight that the economy is front and center in the minds of the electorate.  This chart shows that over the last four months more than 66% of those polled have highlighted the economy as the most important problem.

 

The New Leading Indicator … Wisconsin - a. 3

 

To date, President Obama has blamed the current economic woes on former President George W. Bush.  Based on a recent Washington Post / ABC poll, 49% of those polled say they blame President Bush and 34% of those polled say they blame Obama.  So, on some level the electorate agrees with Obama that it is Bush’s fault.  That said, the same poll indicated that 55% of those polled disapproved of the way Obama has handled the economy.

 

Ultimately this election, as they always are, will be an evaluation of the current administration and not the former one.  Base on his broad approval ratings, the Obama administration’s handling of the economy is keeping President Obama’s approval ratings at a level that makes re-election increasingly questionable.  The table below highlights the average approval rating of past incumbents in the May of their re-election years.  Obama most closely parallels Bush in 2004 and Ford in 1976.  In 2004, Bush won the popular vote 50.7% to 48.3% and in 1976 Ford lost 50.1% to 48.0%.

 

The New Leading Indicator … Wisconsin - a. 4

 

As always, as it relates to the Presidential election, it remains the economy that matters.

 

Daryl G. Jones

Director of Research

 

 


HedgeyeRetail: Chart of the Day; Nike Footwear Drivers

Industry Data suggests that Nike footwear within North America is up ~10% YTD. The most notable point to us is that Running is ‘comping the comp’ for NKE – and that’s without FLYKNIT having even hit the market yet (July). Also, Basketball’s resurgence is an obvious price point boost. Take a look at the drivers…

 

HedgeyeRetail: Chart of the Day; Nike Footwear Drivers - Nike chart of the day


SLOWDOWN-UNDER

CONCLUSION: We see further weakness in the Australian economy over the intermediate-term TREND as well as a growing number of key questions regarding Australia’s long-term TAIL growth potential. As such, we are reiterating our TREND-duration bearish fundamental call on Australian equities and the Aussie dollar – barring incremental accommodation out of the Fed over the immediate term.

 

In lowering its Benchmark Cash Rate -25bps (to 3.5%) overnight, RBA Governor Glenn Stevens reminded the world that the intermediate-term outlook for Australian economic growth leaves much to be desired. In fact, reported growth down under is poised to slow here in 2Q12E and, assuming no incremental headwinds, should start to flatten out in 3Q12E. On the inflation front, our models have the slope of Australian CPI slowing at a slower rate here in 2Q12E and flattening out in the following quarter.

 

SLOWDOWN-UNDER - AUSTRALIA

 

The net result of this analysis is that the RBA’s current monetary easing cycle, which has amassed 100bps since NOV ’11, may in fact be nearing its end. Glenn Stevens, who has proven to a both data dependent and cautious on both sides of the policy spectrum over the past 3-4yrs, may need to see an incremental deterioration in Aussie economic growth and an incremental bout of disinflation from here to  warrant cutting rates further.

 

This speculation is consistent with our own research view and gives us the confidence to reiterate our TREND-duration bearish fundamental call on Australian equities (initially published MAR 26). Moreover, a wait-and-see approach out of the RBA is not currently priced in at the current juncture; even after today’s cut, various rate markets are still pricing in 50-100bps of cuts over the NTM – far more aggressive action than what we expect Stevens to signal as necessary over the intermediate term.

 

SLOWDOWN-UNDER - 2

 

That’s bad news for the Aussie consumers, who boast an > 60% homeownership rate with 90% of mortgages being of the variable rate variety; banks had already been lowering mortgage rates less than the central bank has cut the benchmark rate in this cycle (-70bps vs. -100bps), due to NIM pressure from rising wholesale funding costs and heightened competition for domestic deposits.

 

SLOWDOWN-UNDER - 3

 

Looking to the risk management setup, Australia’s benchmark All Ordinaries Index is firmly broken on our TRADE and TREND durations.

 

SLOWDOWN-UNDER - 4

 

We would caution against shorting them in the immediate term, however, given the preponderance of many market participants to speculate on additional accommodation out of the Federal Reserve. Key TRADE-duration catalysts on this front include: JUN 7 – Bernanke testifies to Congress on the US economic outlook and JUN 20 – FOMC Rate Decision.

 

If the Fed disappoints growing expectations for further monetary easing in the immediate term (our base-case scenario), you’re likely to see another leg down in Australian equities. For US-based investors who chose to go short, that return is likely to be supplemented by further weakness in the Aussie dollar relative to the USD over the intermediate term – a core fundamental view we’ve [generally] held in the currency market since APR ’11.

 

Two other key catalysts that give us incremental confidence in reiterating our bearish fundamentals bias on Australian equities here are an incremental deterioration in China’s TREND-duration economic outlook and Deflating the Inflation of Bernanke’s Bubbles. Refer to the following research notes as well as our APR 16 2Q12 Macro Themes presentation for more details here: 

 To access the replay podcast and the presentation materials, please copy/paste the following two links into the URL of your browser: 

As it relates to China, we are of the view that increased bearish sentiment in/around the Chinese economy will act as a wet blanket over Australian equities and the AUD/USD exchange rate over the intermediate term. China is Australia’s largest trading partner at 25.1% of total shipments, per the CIA Factbook.

 

But the story isn’t simply about China; slower Chinese demand for Australia’s exports merely alludes to a broader trend taking place within Australia's economy. Further declines across key commodities markets pose a material risk to Australian exports (raw materials account for ~60% of the total; Australia produces ~20% of the world’s iron ore, ~7% of its liquefied natural gas and ~6 percent of its gold), which, then, pose a material risk to Australian job growth – which has become increasingly driven by CapEx and other operations stemming from Australia's natural resources industries.

 

SLOWDOWN-UNDER - 5

 

For additional color, it would be an understatement to say that Australia has become a two-speed economy, with growth increasingly hampered by what economic historians refer to as “Dutch Disease”. If Australia’s A$456B mineral resources projects come under risk of being delayed or canceled on the margin, we would expect Aussie GDP growth to slow incrementally.

 

SLOWDOWN-UNDER - 6

 

We’d be remiss to not point out the fact that Gillard’s government expects to reap A$6.5B from its mining tax in its latest budget, which was designed to return the nation to a slight surplus in spite of increased social spending. The nation also expects to rake in A$25.7B from the carbon tax coming into effect JUL 1 – a large component of which to come from heavy polluters like the mining, petroleum and gas industries.

 

The main takeaway here is that both the Aussie central government and central bank are anchoring on continued rapid expansion of Australia’s resource industry to deliver on promises of fiscal tightness (a key political issue down under) and continued employment growth, respectively, with 2012-13 GDP growth estimates in the range of 2.5-3.5% each.

 

To the aforementioned point regarding lower commodity prices, BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest miner and Australia’s largest company, recently stated that it would fall short of its $80B CapEx guidance over the next five years due to declining commodity prices. Rio Tinto, Australia’s largest iron-ore producer,  has made similar statement(s) over the past few weeks as well.

 

SLOWDOWN-UNDER - 7

 

Net-net-net, Deflating the Inflation is bad for the Australian economy – particular given some core assumptions being baked into growth estimates at the highest levels.

 

From a TAIL-duration perspective, our TREND-duration fundamental view of the Aussie economy poses a fair amount of key questions – particularly on the housing front due to what has the potential to morph into a structural decline in Aussie employment growth. With Aussie housing prices up +89.2% since comparable data began in 1Q03, there’s a lot of dispute on both the buy and sell sides as to whether or not this market is A) a bubble and B) poised to enter a structural decline. While we prefer to let the market decide for us, a few noteworthy metrics lend a fair amount credence to both sides of the debate: 

  • SUPPLY:
    • Per the central government’s annual State of Supply report, Australia has a 178.4k unit shortage of homes on a population of 22.3M (Bloomberg);
    • Per an independent study by tax-reform advocate David Collyer, commentator Kris Sayce and academic Steve Keen, Australia actually has an excess of 256.3k homes, having built new homes at a rate of 2.32 per person over the past 15yrs (Prosper Australia);
  • DEMAND:
    • Home ownership rate of 60% vs. a US peak of 69.2% in ’04 and 65.4% currently (RP Data);
    • Household debt-to-disposable income of 184% vs. 141% in Spain, 118% in the US and 98% in Greece… Australia’s current ratio is > than the ’07 peaks in those countries’ ratios and that of the UK (OECD);
    • Owner-occupied home loan growth holding at an all-time low growth rate of +5.3% YoY in MAY (Bloomberg);
    • Prime mortgages default rate of 0.61% vs. 5.32% for the US (Fitch);
    • Mortgages account for 59.4% of all bank credit in Australia (Bloomberg; Hedgeye calculations);
    • An Unemployment Rate that has declined -630bps over the past ~10yrs to 4.9% (90bps above an FEB ’08 all-time low);
    • The existence of a first-time homeowner grant introduced in JUL ’00 and doubled in OCT ’08, which caused Aussie home prices to jump in the year following each implementation by +10% and +13.6%, respectively;
  • PRICE:
    • Direct and indirect taxes account for ~42% of the cost of new home in Sydney – Australia’s largest city (Australia Housing Industry Association); and
    • Australia has the second-least affordable homes in the developed world (behind Hong Kong) with metropolitan dwellings costing 6.7x median income on average (Demographia). 

SLOWDOWN-UNDER - 8

 

All told, we see further weakness in the Australian economy over the intermediate-term TREND as well as a growing number of key questions regarding Australia’s long-term TAIL growth potential. As such, we are reiterating our TREND-duration bearish fundamental call on Australian equities and the Aussie dollar – barring incremental accommodation out of the Fed over the immediate term.

 

Darius Dale

Senior Analyst


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CHART DU JOUR: MACAU JUNE ACCELERATION

  • Based on seasonality and normal hold, June could be up YoY in the high teens
  • The sequential YoY acceleration from May’s disappointing +7% growth could be a positive catalyst
  • Weekly comparisons are more consistent in June than May with no major calendar shifts

CHART DU JOUR:  MACAU JUNE ACCELERATION - macau4444


Hedgeye Does Dallas

If you’re in Dallas Wednesday through Friday of this week, stop by The Traders’ EXPO conference at the Hyatt Regency Reunion. We have a booth there – Booth 615 – where you can meet a few of our top team members. If you sign up for one of our great subscription products like Weekly Hot Ideas when you’re at the trade show, you’ll even get a free Hedgeye hat. Click here to learn more about the Traders EXPO.

 

Also, on Thursday at 2:45pm, Keith is speaking at Traders EXPO where he’ll continue on his barnstorming tour across the United States and tell you why America should fire Ben Bernanke. He’ll also talk through his top global macro themes, and answer all of your questions. He’ll even be at our booth from 4pm to 5pm on Thursday to meet and greet you in person.

 

For those of you who can’t make it to see us in Dallas in person person, Tweet us @Hedgeye or @KeithMcCullough with questions, and Keith will answer the three best ones during his presentation there. Don’t have a Twitter handle? Email us at info@hedgeye.com and please put Dallas in the subject line of your email.


Thoughts Ahead of ECB Meeting

Positions in Europe: Short EUR/USD (FXE)

 

The ECB meets tomorrow. We think there’s a high probability the ECB stays on hold to wait and watch the economic and political developments for another month ahead of Greek elections on 17. June.

 

Some observers have suggested a 25bps cut. We think it’s more probable that the ECB could signal a willingness to ease, but won’t cut. To this end, we wouldn’t be surprised if the ECB resumed some of its non-standard measures, including the Securities Market Program (SMP), which has been dormant for the last 12 straight weeks, but has purchased €212B of bonds on the secondary market since May 2010. However, we don’t expect yet another long term LTRO to be announced tomorrow.

 

One main issue at hand is that a rate cut alone won’t solve Europe’s sovereign and banking problems. The ECB, under Trichet and now Draghi, has stressed the need of governments to reduce their fiscal imbalances. And unlike the developing Hollande-Monti handshake in support of Eurobonds and the ECB doing more, Draghi has taken a very Bundesbank approach that fears unneeded ECB intervention, in particular measures that may spur inflation.

 

Further, we think the ECB wants to evaluate the outcome of the Greek elections on 17. June, and monitor the discussion around a fiscal union, Eurobonds, and a Pan-European deposit insurance, all of which are programs many months out if they are ever realized. These programs should be central to the Summits and meetings approaching later in the month, and should be critical for market sentiment.

 

Since the ECB’s last meeting on 3. May, data continues to contract and/or disappoint. The notable highlights are the declines in Manufacturing and Services PMI surveys for the month of May, the Eurozone unemployment rate that ticked up to 11% (a 17 year high), and Eurozone confidence figures that largely deteriorated month-over-month in May.

 

The EMU remains a compromised Union of states. However, we still believe that Eurocrats have a tremendous resolve to keep the Union alive with the existing member states.  For specific questions on anything Europe, please contact me at .

 

Thoughts Ahead of ECB Meeting - 11. SMP

 

Matthew Hedrick

Senior Analyst


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