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Still Dicey: SP500 Levels, Refreshed

Takeaway: The market is doing precisely what it should here – confuse people.

POSITIONS: Long Utilities (XLU), Short Industrials (XLI)

 

The market is doing precisely what it should here – confuse people.

 

Don’t forget that the market has really only had 1 up day in the last 8, so there’s still plenty of anxiety post The Bernanke Top (SEP14) and a ratty October (Tech -6.3%). We’ve recaptured the TREND (1419) line, but failed at the TRADE (1432) line – so there’s plenty of risk to consider into the Election.

 

Across our core risk management durations, here are the lines that matter to me most:

 

  1. Immediate-term TRADE resistance = 1432
  2. Intermediate-term TREND support = 1419
  3. Immediate-term TRADE support = 1392

 

In other words, the immediate-term Risk Range is now 1 (a little tighter day over day, which is bullish) and the trigger line for beta  remains 1419.

 

Strong Dollar (down Gold, Commodity Bubbles, etc.) continues to price in that the media’s political “experts” (polls) may have the Election wrong. Only time will tell. In the meantime, we’ll let the market tell us what to do next.

 

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Still Dicey: SP500 Levels, Refreshed - SPX


RL: Focused As Ever

Takeaway: RL’s not cheap at 20x. But valuation – high or low – is not a catalyst. RL is as focused as we’ve ever seen. Tough to bet against it.

Ralph pulled another Ralph by simply smoking the consensus with an adjusted $2.45 vs the Street at $2.15E. As good as this was, let’s not be blind to the fact that company lowered guidance for the Street would come in 10% below last year. In reality, earnings were about flat (excluding a one-time tax hit), which is nothing to write home about for a growth company. Of course, RL tempered guidance in 2H – not because it should, but because it could. Let’s face some facts…the company guided for Gross Margins to be down this quarter -175bps-225bps, and yet they actually came in UP by +29bps. They likely felt the need to keep estimates grounded and looked for the best place, which is the top line.


Past the expectations game, there was something that jumped out at us pretty clearly – which was the sheer number of strategic initiatives going on inside the company right now. For people who think that that it can’t grow organically anymore, there’s enough brewing today that should prove themwrong for quarters to come. For example…

  • Launching Japan e-commerce this past quarter
  • Continuing to alter the Chinese retail footprint – a massive undertaking
  • Closing the Argentina business
  • Closing Rugby. This has been a Halo brand for the college crowd, but the reality is that a) it is not making money and b) Roger thinks that he can do a better job with his core brand. (We love when companies close ancillary concepts to re-direct capital to the core). With 14 stores and its associated e-commerce business, we estimate this to be only a $20-$25mm business equating to a ~30bps top-line hit (though margin enhancing).
  • Accelerating growth in Denim & Supply
  • Increasing distribution of accessories category with key partners
  • Likely evaluating Chaps, which is about a $400mm business at retail. Chaps is currently in the hands of Warnaco, which is being acquired by PVH. There’s a change of control provision in the contract. You can bet your bottom dollar that RL will either negotiate a higher royalty, higher investment hurdles, or will take the brand in-house.
  • All of this is happening at the time when Chris Peterson is taking the reigns as the company’s new CFO (we think that his pedigree represents a significant upgrade in the role of CFO inside RL – they nabbed one of the most eligible candidates in corporate America).

So yes, actual growth was nonexistent in the quarter, but with Gross Margins expansion more than offsetting continued SG&A investment spending and top-line likely continuing on their current trajectory, EPS and cash flow should re- accelerate to a 20%+ rate in 2H versus 0% in 1H. This should carry into next FY as the initiatives above start to bear fruit. We’re realistically looking at $8.00 this year and between $9.00 and $9.25 next year. There’s no way we could call RL cheap at 20x 12-month forward earnings. But valuation – either high or low – is not a catalyst. RL is about as focused a company as we’ve ever seen it. It’s tough to bet against a company like this.


What Drove the Beat:

While top-line results declined slightly less than expected, gross margin improvement more than offset higher investment spending driving upside in the quarter and EPS of $2.45 (adj for $0.16 in 1x discrete tax item) vs $2.05E.


RL: Focused As Ever - RL S

 

Accountability and Outlook: Here’s a look at RL’s variance between guidance and actual, as well as
outlook for F13 vs expectations:

 

RL: Focused As Ever - RL Outlook Table

 

Highlights from the Call:

 

Tale of Two Halves: While margin performance came in better than expected, still expect further improvement in 2H

 

Impact of Sandy:

  • 81 stores (~20% of store base) closed
  • e-commerce interruptions
  • Reopenings staggered through the week
  • Approximately 12 stores still closed
  • Have lost modest Q3 revs so far and expect some lingering impact

Closing Rugby Concept:

  • Have decided to close the Rugby brand
  • Closing 14 related stores and e-commerce site
  • Expect pretax charges of $20-$30mm in 2H (75% in Q3)

Regional Performance:

  • Americas remain strong
  • Securing incremental distribution with key partners (handbags, footwear, D&S, etc)
  • Europe still challenging - South more than North
    • Will look to change demand as it materializes
  • Asia operating environment has been softer than they accounted for
    • Performance at free standing stores outperforming wholesale doors
    • Upgrading shop locations and assortments
    • Opened 7 new stores in region (expect 14 in 2H)
    • Launched .com in 2Q in Japan

Core Polo Brand Positioning:

  • Looking to accelerate its positioning and evaluating growth opportunities - primarily int'l
  • Could be in form of increased distribution, marketing, and branding ideas
  • 'I think you'll hear more to come in the next couple quarters about strategies we hope to employ to focus on those.'

China/Asia Store Growth:

  • Pace of opening in Asia - have opened 7 in 1H (tgt of 20 in F13) on pace for another ~13 stores in 2H
  • Primarily located in malls
  • Flagship opportunities are harder to come by
  • Most stores this year in 5k-10k sq. ft. range
  • Should have a good read on customer by middle of the spring












Gas Prices, Hurricanes And Dining Out

Nationwide, gasoline prices have declined -1.3% week-over-week. However, it’s worth noting that the Northeast will be affected by a shortage of gas in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy will likely impact restaurant traffic trends over the next few weeks, similar to what happened in the South post-Katrina. Tight gasoline supplies led to a decrease in miles driven which, in turn, led to a deceleration in restaurant traffic.

 

Gas Prices, Hurricanes And Dining Out  - retailGAS


Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.65%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.64%

Where's The Beef?

Your favorite fast food joints and restaurants are likely to pass the rising cost of beef on to you sooner or later. Thank Ben Bernanke for devaluing the dollar and inflating the commodity bubble. As you can see, year-over-year, live cattle prices have skyrocketed from $85 to over $125. Higher prices are a negative for everyone from Jack In The Box (JACK) to Wendy’s (WEN) to Chipotle (CMG) to Bloomin’ Brands (BLMN). The fundamental outlook suggests that the strength in beef prices should continue for some time. 

 

Where's The Beef? - live cattle


Making It Up

Client Talking Points

Making It Up

We truly get a kick out of those who try to forecast economic data. After all - what’s the point? Show us someone who has been right more than 1/3rd of the time on the jobs number and we’ll call BS. People make stuff up, just like the jobs number. So when the number comes out better than expected and the futures rip higher, remember that it’s an election year and someone is probably making those numbers more malleable than expected.

Asset Allocation

CASH 52% US EQUITIES 9%
INTL EQUITIES 0% COMMODITIES 0%
FIXED INCOME 24% INTL CURRENCIES 15%

Top Long Ideas

Company Ticker Sector Duration
TCB

After a long downward slide, TCB has finally turned the corner. The margin has stabilized after the balance sheet restructuring. Loans are growing thanks to the equipment finance business. Non-interest income is more likely to go up than down going forward, a reversal from the past 18 months. Credit quality has a tailwind from a distressed housing recovery in TCB’s core markets: Minneapolis, Detroit and Chicago. On top of this, the CEO, Bill Cooper, is one of the oldest regional bank CEOs, which raises the probability that the bank will be sold. Expectations are bombed out at this point, so we think it’s time to move from bearish to bullish on TCB.

PCAR

Emissions regulations in the US focusing on greenhouse gases should end the disruptive pre-buy cycle and allow PCAR to improve margins. Improved capacity utilization, truck fleet aging, and less volatile used truck prices all should support higher long-run profitability. In the near-term, Paccar may benefit from engine certification issues at Navistar, allowing it to gain market share. Longer-term, Paccar enjos a strong position in a structurally advantaged industry and an attractive valuation.

HCA

While political and reimbursement risk will remain near-term concerns, on the fundamental side we continue to expect accelerating outpatient growth alongside further strength in pricing as acuity improves thru 1Q13. Flu trends may provide an incremental benefit on the quarter and our expectation for a birth recovery should support patient surgery growth over the intermediate term. Supply costs should remain a source of topline & earnings upside going forward.

Three for the Road

TWEET OF THE DAY

“Only morons have "forecasts" for a jobs number the government makes up” -@KeithMcCullough

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.” -Mel Brooks

STAT OF THE DAY

$50 billion. The amount of economic losses expected because of Hurricane Sandy.



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