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Quote Of The Week: Barack Obama

"That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful… Part of what we're going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint, some discipline and some sense of responsibility" –Barack Obama

This quote, and Joe Biden officially welcoming “organized labor back to the White House” sealed the deal this week for the US stock market to have its worst January ever (down -8.6% vs. January of 1970 which was next worse at -7.7%).

Pictures are often more powerful than prose. The Reuters picture in Joe Nocerra’s NY Times article (below) captures a look on Timmy Geithner’s face that I found to be a metaphor for a lot of things, not the least of which is a New York banker who should be grateful to now be receiving a stable government paycheck. The good ole boy days of the self perpetuating bullish narrative fallacy are gone.

This altogether scares Wall Street, and it should. Unionization (Biden) is no different that Re-Regulation (Obama) in that no matter what your politics are, they have the factual impact of depressing the corporate profit margins of some of the fat cats in America’s corporate Board Room.

Make no mistake, there are plenty of corporate execs who completely missed proactively preparing for this downturn – this isn’t just a Wall Street thing. They paid themselves large to overbuild capacity at a global economic top (Coach, Target, Caterpillar, etc…), and they’ll keep paying themselves as they fire people at the bottom.

While the pricing in of this corporate incompetence isn’t new (the Dow has only 400 points left of downside if the 4 US financials in the Dow actually went to zero), it is surely a reminder that The New Reality that we have been belaboring for a long time now, is here.
KM

A HEDGEYE PLUG

We’re not always right but I think we’re accumulating a pretty good track record. Our process marries fundamental analysis with Keith McCullough’s macro/market view and his quantitative factor model. This process drives the stock selections that comprise our Hedgeye portfolio. Keith pulls the trigger and his record speaks for itself.

The table below lists every hypothetical trade made in the Hedgeye portfolio in the gaming, lodging, and leisure sectors. I’ve also included the unrealized gains and losses from names in the current portfolio.


US Market Performance: Week Ended 1/30/09...

Index Performance:

Week Ended 1/30/09:
DJ (1.0%), SP500 (0.7%), Nasdaq (0.1%), Russell2000 (0.2%)

January (A) and 2009 YTD:
DJ (8.8%), SP500 (8.6%), Nasdaq (6.4%), Russell2000 (11.2%)

Keith R. McCullough
CEO / Chief Investment Officer

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SP500 Levels Into The Close

In this morning’s Early Look, we signaled a warning that “if the SP500 breaks the 839 level, I have 804 as next support.” Now that line (see chart below) of support is 802 – as the math changes, I do.

Given that the US Dollar remains the dominant macro headwind for the US stock market, and that the US Dollar is up another +0.63% here at 86.03, this weakness shouldn’t be a surprise. When macro factors dominate and momentum lines break, this is what happens. This market trades on price momentum, not valuation.

Last Friday, everyone and their brother was talking about a “weekend bailout” pending. Today, I am hearing less and less of that… hope, after all, is not an investment process. Be patient. Be liquid. Be your own process. We have 11 months left in this year’s game – we’re just getting started.

Keith R. McCullough
CEO & Chief Investment Officer

EYE ON DAVOS: Putin’s Rhetoric

Attending the World Economic Forum this year in Davos is becoming more unpopular than popular in some respects as many politicians and business leaders have opted not to attend. And some of these leaders, as in the case of New York State Governor David Paterson, have been shamed into not attending. Nonetheless, we have been following the proceedings in Davos with some interest as there are obvious geopolitical implications that need to be considered based on the statements of various world leaders, in particular Vladimir Putin of Russia.

The Russian Prime Minister gave a key note address at the forum and also participated in a number of panels, below we have highlighted a number of his comments and our interpretation of those comments.

Putin: “In the last few months, virtually every speech on this subject started with criticism of the United States. But I will do nothing of the kind.”

Research Edge: If that’s not starting a speech acknowledging a critical view of the U.S., I’m not sure what is . . . he then went on to say:

Putin: “I just want to remind you that, just a year ago, American delegates speaking from this rostrum emphasized the US economy's fundamental stability and its cloudless prospects. Today, investment banks, the pride of Wall Street, have virtually ceased to exist. In just 12 months, they have posted losses exceeding the profits they made in the last 25 years. This example alone reflects the real situation better than any criticism.”

Research Edge: It is obviously hard to argue with Putin’s assessment here, but he does fail to mention the catastrophic loss of profits by Russian Oligarchs and “blue chip” Russian companies, such as Gazprom. Putin then went on to specifically question whether the world should rely on the U.S. as heavily as it does:

Putin: “Excessive dependence on a single reserve currency is dangerous for the global economy. Consequently, it would be sensible to encourage the objective process of creating several strong reserve currencies in the future. It is high time we launched a detailed discussion of methods to facilitate a smooth and irreversible switchover to the new model.”

Research Edge: In effect, he suggested a concerted world effort to usurp the economic power of the U.S. and its currency. Putin then went on to suggest ways to solve the current economic crisis:

Putin: “Unfortunately, we are increasingly hearing the argument that the build-up of military spending could solve today's social and economic problems. The logic is simple enough. Additional military allocations create new jobs.”

Research Edge: In typical KGB / Putin fashion, he is cautioning against the build-up of the military, yet this is also the first point he makes in discussing an economic recovery and with it implies that a military build-up would be an effective and straightforward solution.

Following his key note address, Putin later participated in a panel in which he took another swipe at American capitalism by smacking down on Michael Dell, CEO and Founder of Dell Computers.

Michael Dell: “When we look at the level of talent [in Russia], there is still room to further utilize the IT sector. So my question to you is: How can we as the IT sector, help you broaden the economy as you come out of the crisis, and take advantage of that great scientific talent that you have?”

Putin: “The trick is that we don’t need any help. We are not invalids, we do not have any limited capacity. People with limited capacity should be helped; pensioners should be helped, developing countries should be help. Our programmers are the best in the world, and everyone would agree, even our Indian colleagues.”

Putin could not have made his disdain for American capitalism and American capitalists more emphatic at Davos. Given the current economic crisis in Russia, which is being highlighted by a currency that is under attack as noted in the Early Look today, Russia’s economic power is largely marginalized, especially within the backdrop of weak commodity prices. Nonetheless, Putin’s tone and words are an important takeaway from Davos and are the leading indicator of potential geopolitical tail risk emerging from Russia, but at this point we do need to consider his words as largely rhetorical. Or as President Obama would say: “Just words.”

Daryl G. Jones
Managing Director

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