Takeaway: Coffee prices have taken a turn higher this week but favorable outlook remains for $SBUX, $GMCR, $DNKN, $THI, $CBOU

Corn dropped over the last week but beef retained the limelight as prices gained another 1.2%.  Coffee prices snapped higher as speculation grew that Columbia’s Arabica harvest is likely to come up short versus growers’ expectations.  We do not view this as overly material for the coffee retailer stocks given that prices are still down 33% versus last year.  Chicken wings moved slightly lower to +103% year-over-year.


The last week has been mixed for commodity prices but today’s Fed announcement is likely to sustain the volatility in commodity markets that have made life difficult for investors, analysts, and company executives alike.  As the chart below indicates, the CRB Foodstuffs Index turned sharply higher during the implementation of both prior rounds of quantitative easing.  While there are different schools of thought on the relationship, or lack thereof, between monetary policy and commodity prices, and other factors such as drought clearly have an impact.  As long as interest rates are artificially pushed lower, and QE3 seems likely to have that effect, investors will speculatively seek yield in alternative asset classes such as commodities.  Joe Sanderson, CEO of SAFM, and others have noted Federal Reserve intervention have had an impact on commodity markets.





Summary View


The USDA World Agricultural Supply & Demand (WASDE) report was released yesterday and there were some surprises.

  • Corn declined yesterday as the USDA unexpectedly raised its corn ending stock forecast to 733 million bushels from 650 million prior.  Lower production and yield were offset by higher beginning stocks.  We believe that a slowing in consumption, as well as the market anticipating more drought damage to the crop than seems to have materialized, was behind the move lower
  • Wheat supply and consumption estimates were unchanged for the current U.S. marketing year. 
  • The 2011/2012 marketing year estimate of U.S. exports of soybeans was increased by 10 million bushels

Coffee prices gained 13.1% week-over-week as speculation grew that Columbia’s Arabica harvest is likely to come up short versus growers’ expectations.  Coffee prices are still down 33% from year-ago levels and the outlook remains favorable for PEET, SBUX, GMCR and other coffee retailers from a cost of sales perspective.


Beef prices gained over the last week and U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng had the following to say: “With higher operating costs, the beef sector is facing serious economic challenges.  Tight beef supplies have pushed prices higher and strong demand from our international customers is helping support higher beef cutout values. With these factors in mind, it is absolutely critical that we remain aggressive with our international promotions and continue to capture the highest return possible on the products we export.”  Beef price gaining is a negative for WEN (20% of spend), BLMN (30%), and JACK (20%).


Drought is undoubtedly still an issue in several areas of the world, including the U.S., but the USDA’s -1% corn output revision was much less dramatic than feared.  That said, the drought is nearing its fourth month





Macro Callout


Gasoline prices continue to head higher.  As Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough has been pointing out – particularly in light of QE3 today – gas prices north of $4 have had a destructive impact on consumption (71% of U.S. GDP) in 2008, 2011, and in 1Q12.












COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - crb foodstuffs












COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - chicken whole breast


COMMODITY CHARTBOOK - chicken broilers











Howard Penney

Managing Director


Rory Green




Takeaway: Rate of growth in core demographic falling and will soon go negative

  • The core age group for domestic gaming visitors has been 50 to 59 years old. The baby boomer generation caused this group to grow rapidly until 2003. 
  • The rate of growth was consistent between 2007 and 2010 but began a sharp downward trend.  The absolute population in this segment may actually fall in 2016.
  • Compounding the demographic issue is the fact that younger generations are not embracing the slot machine



Bernanke's Market


With the Federal Reserve announcing today that it would extend Operation Twist by purchasing agency mortgage-backed securities each month and extending 0% rates into 2015, the market rallied in full force and volume picked up. With the extension of QE3 out of the way, the question on everyone's mind is: what's next?

Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough appeared on CNBC's Fast Money to discuss how the Fed's actions affect economic growth, stocks and bonds and the US dollar. Also discussed was our bullish thesis on Nike and President Obama's chances of being reelected.

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QE3? Yah You Know Me

Takeaway: The Fed pulling the trigger on QE3 is bullish for gasoline and, historically, prices north of $4 per gallon have led to equity sell-offs.

It seems 99% of Wall Street was correct as QE3 was extended.  Usually fading consensus is a great strategy, although perhaps not as it relates to the Fed, at least yet.  But for starters, let’s look at the Fed’s statement from earlier today, the key points are as follows:


“Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability.”


That’s actually not a key point, although it does emphasize, as we will touch on shortly, the mandate that the Fed has struggled to fulfill.


First on QE, the Fed effectively, as Keith would say, extended QE to infinity and beyond with this statement:


“If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability.”


On a basic level, this will start with increasing purchases of longer-term securities by about $85 billion each month through the end of the year, included in this will be $40 billion of mortgage paper.  As it relates to interest rates, the Fed indicated that a zero to 0.25% federal fund rate is likely to be warranted at least through mid-2015.


In the chart below, we show the aggregate growth of the Federal Reserve balance sheet.  The first chart shows the massive growth in the Fed balance sheet since 2008 with close to $3 trillion dollars being printed over the course of that period.  As a ratio of nominal GDP (just shy of 20%), this is a meaningful quantity as the following chart highlights.  Unfortunately, we have not seen a corresponding increase in economic activity.


QE3? Yah You Know Me - 2


The broader issue with extending QE is that it has been largely ineffective at fulfilling the Fed’s dual mandate.  Ironically, or not, the key economic data out this morning before the Fed’s statement enforced this.  On price stability, August’s producer price index came in at +1.7%, versus last month’s +0.3%.  This is near a three year high in terms of MoM acceleration.  Jobless claims also came in higher than expected at +382K versus +370K consensus, and +367K in the prior month.


QE3? Yah You Know Me -


While the employment data is only marginally bearish, the PPI data point is far more critical.  At +1.7% MoM growth in producer prices, this is the largest increase in PPI since June of 2009.  Our key issue with QE / money printing is that it is bearish for the dollar, which conversely inflates key commodities that are priced in dollars.  As Keith noted in the Early Look today, the CRB index currently has a -0.94 correlation to the dollar over the past month.


Obviously, the most relevant commodity to the U.S. consumer is crude oil and the derivative price of gasoline.  Given that there are 254 million registered vehicles in the U.S., the relevance of gasoline costs to consumer spending and growth should not surprise anyone.  That question, as always, though, is when does increasing commodity inflation start to matter? 


In the chart below, we show that prices at/north of $4 per gallon at that the pump have had a definitively negative impact on growth and the stock market over the last few years. Gasoline exceeded $4 per gallon in mid-2008, mid-2011, early 2012, and now.  In each instance there was a corresponding sell off in equities.  Perhaps this time is different, though we have our doubts.


QE3? Yah You Know Me - 1


Daryl G. Jones

Director of Research

What's Next For The Manheim Index?

Takeaway: With the Manheim Index continuing to fall, it's likely the S&P 500 will follow in its footsteps based on past data.

Last month, we examined the relationship between the S&P 500 and the Manheim Index of Used Car Values. The Manheim Index is the de facto standard for determining the prices of used cars and is closely correlated with the S&P 500, meaning it can be viewed as a barometer of where the market is headed (to an extent of course). 



What's Next For The Manheim Index? - Manheim   SPX growth normal



Today, the Manheim Index posted its fifty consecutive month-over-month decline in August, falling 0.4% vs. July. On a year-over-year basis, the index is down 2.4%, which is an improvement vs. the July year-over-year decline of 3.7%. Suffice to say, the consecutive declines in the Manheim Index indicate that the S&P 500 will continue to fall as growth slows and the economy struggles to recover. We expect that the index will continue to decline going forward, albeit at a slower rate. 



What's Next For The Manheim Index? - Manheim   SPX normal



Of course, today’s announcement of QE3 by the Federal Reserve may change things in the short-term, but we’re confident that the rally will be short lived and that the market will post a correction soon enough.

CRI: Competitive Set Heating Up in Baby

Takeaway: Carter’s ~15% share of the kids apparel market is going to start feeling the heat from new(er) entrants.

The baby apparel market is getting increasingly crowded with the latest entry of Gilt Groupe. The company best known as a flash-sale pioneer is introducing Little Gilt as its first private label line highlighting a void in upscale baby essentials such as onesies, footies, and whatever else you care to swaddle your little one in.

This comes just weeks after JCP announced that it will be opening both Carter’s and Giggle shops for kids. While the Carter’s announcement was largely expected, not much was made of Giggle. We think this presents an underappreciated competitive threat to what is understood as broad channel fill for CRI at Penney's. Now we have Gilt entering the space. This isn’t exactly a direct competitor for CRI, but it’s the second announcement in the past month suggesting the Big 4 in children’s apparel (PLCE, Gymboree, Dressbarn, and Carter’s) are going to see increasing competition for their share of the market.

This is notable for a couple reasons:

  1. Gilt Groupe isn’t a start-up company/brand making yet another push into the space, but one that is quickly closing in on $1Bn in revenues with a significant online presence. The baby category is one of its largest. If we assume that it accounts for 20% of the business then were talking a retailer with nearly 2% share making a concerted effort to expand.
  2. Giggle is largely unknown due in part to the fact that it’s a smaller concept with only 13 retail stores – but not for long. At the risk of being anecdotal, we were in a Giggle store for the first time the week before the announcement and remarked at the time at what a great retail concept it was. It’s more one-stop-shop than apparel store, but as a result it’s a grandparents’ and parents’ dream for gifts or simply picking up a ‘couple’ things. It too is at the higher end compared to Carter’s, but they will compete in apparel. More importantly, Giggle will offer shoppers gift giving alternatives to basics that will likely pressure CRI’s traffic at JCP.

With much of Carter’s growth over the last decade coming from Playwear where it competes with Old Navy, the core baby business (36% of sales) has largely been considered untouchable. We won’t argue the merits of CRI’s baby  business – we think it’s great, and more importantly, so do the retailers and consumers. But increasing competition at the higher end of its pricing scale and availability of baby products both online and at retail (i.e. Giggle) provides consumers with more alternatives. At a minimum, that keeps the value proposition honest and price in check.

What this ultimately means for CRI is that it will have to spend more to protect its share of the pie. With the company also ramping less productive store growth in order to drive revenues, we see SG&A deleverage over the next three years continuing to pressure operating margins. The Street expects SG&A deleverage this year, but this year only. Based on the factors we’re seeing, we think the dynamics of the baby retail market are starting to change on the margin. As such, the rebound in CRI’s margins are likely to be less profound than expectations currently suggest.


CRI: Competitive Set Heating Up in Baby - Giggle SIS


CRI: Competitive Set Heating Up in Baby - CRI Mkt Sh 22bn


CRI: Competitive Set Heating Up in Baby - CRI Mix




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