Takeaway: There's some holiday timing skewage with these weekly numbers, but net/net, weaker FW is offset by big apparel. Net positive.
Takeaway: We are inclined to officially suspend our bearish bias until further notice.
- With the fresh passage of the multi-brand retail initiative as a catalyst for further reforms ahead, we are officially out of political catalysts on the short side Indian equities from a fundamental perspective and are inclined to officially suspend our bearish bias until further notice.
- That said however, India’s India’s GIP outlook remains particularly grim, which drastically constricts the margin for error on any slip-ups on the POLICY front over the intermediate term.
This morning we received news that Indian Prime Minister Monmohan Singh secured the “backing” of an integral party within the ruling coalition on his multi-brand retail FDI bill, which should officially be ratified in Indian parliament tomorrow by a count of 253 to 218, per the latest tally. We use quotations around “backing” as the Bahujan Samaj Party didn’t actually support the initiative with votes per se; rather, their abstention paved the way for the Congress-led ruling coalition to push through one of its hallmark economic reforms.
As an aside, the sheer nature of this “victory” is a stark reminder of the difficult road Prime Minster Singh & Co. have ahead with regards to implementing further investor-friendly initiatives over the intermediate term. Political opposition remains great as the ties binding ruling coalition together continue to be quite loose. In spite of today’s events, the retail FDI initiative still hangs in the balance, as State level governments ultimately have the final say on implementation.
Even so, we do side with the forex market’s reaction (INR up ~80bps vs. the USD on the day; at a ~1 month high) in that this event could be a catalyst to propel further reforms and/or, at the very least, positive sentiment and speculation ahead of potential future POLICY maneuvers ahead of the 2014 parliamentary elections (such as opening up the insurance and pension fund industries to FDI as well).
Moreover, this “win” comes on the heels of Singh skirting a no-confidence vote recently (rejected by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on lack of support from members). In light of this string of positive news, we are not surprised to see that foreign investor participation in Indian capital markets continues to make new all-time highs.
On the flip side, we still maintain our view that the confluence of the reforms announced in the year-to-date do very little to correct India’s TREND and TAIL duration GROWTH concerns; nor do they adequately address rampant domestic INFLATION that the RBI has called out on multiple occasions. Refer to our 10/29 note titled: “THE TOPPING PROCESS IS UNDERWAY IN INDIA” for a detailed list of recent measures, as well as the logic behind our conclusions.
That being said, the SENSEX, which is up +6.2% since we introduced our bearish bias in a 9/20 note titled: “IS IT TIME TO GET OUT OF INDIAN EQUITIES?”, remains bullish from a TRADE and TREND perspective on our quantitative factoring. In the conspicuous absence of further political catalysts, we inclined to officially suspend our bearish bias on Indian equities and the Indian rupee until further notice.
Not to completely throw ourselves under the bus, the SENSEX is in a bull market (up +21.9%) since we told investors to cover shorts and/or get long in our 6/4 note titled: “BACKING OFF OF INDIA – AT LEAST FOR NOW” and up another +11.9% since we reiterated that call in our 8/6 note titled: “DO INDIAN EQUITIES HAVE ROOM TO RUN?”. For context, that compares to the regional median gains of +14.1% and +5.2%, respectively, over those durations. We’ve obviously paid the price for being too cute by inverting our stance over the past couple of months.
Looking ahead, India’s GIP outlook remains dour (as supported by the Services PMI hitting a 13-month low of 52.1 in NOV) , which drastically constricts the margin for error on any slip-ups on the POLICY front over the intermediate term.
As such, if we don’t see any follow through from today’s gains via PRICE and capital inflows, we would not hesitate to hop back on the short side here if this market starts to break down quantitatively. At a bare minimum, however, investors should probably be cautiously moving towards the sidelines, as the POLICY expectations remain asymmetrically skewed to the bullish side of the ledger.
Jumping ship over to Indian monetary POLICY, we will receive NOV CPI data on the 12/12 and the NOV WPI data on 12/14. As previously demonstrated, our models point to higher-highs in Indian INFLATION readings over the intermediate term, a view supported by rupee weakness (down -5% over the LTM vs. +2% for the CRB Food Index and +2.6% for Brent Crude Oil) and ultra-easy monetary POLICY (-1.6% real repo rate; RBI recently monetized $2.2B of INR debt via open market operations).
With reported INFLATION poised to diverge from the RBI’s +4-5% “comfort level” over the intermediate term, there is risk of accelerated expectations for monetary tightening in India – an event not currently being priced into the OIS market, which actually expects one 25bps cut over the NTM.
All told, with the fresh passage of the multi-brand retail initiative as a catalyst for further reforms ahead, we are officially out of political catalysts on the short side Indian equities from a fundamental perspective and are inclined to officially suspend our bearish bias until further notice. That said however, India’s India’s GIP outlook remains particularly grim, which drastically constricts the margin for error on any slip-ups on the POLICY front over the intermediate term.
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Takeaway: With $3 in earnings power over the next 2yrs reflecting rev & EPS growth of 30%+ and 25%+ in '13 & '14, we can’t bet against this one here.
While not outright bullish on LULU, we came away from the print tempering the negative bias we had in prior quarters about trends in new store productivity. New store productivity is still hardly knocking the cover off the ball at a sub-50% level. But it stopped getting worse, and we think that the acceleration in the International story is a clear positive as it relates to perception in hitting LULU’s lofty growth goals over the next 3-years.
The cost of growth is still a concern. In fact, LULU fessed up that higher costs to grow its international presence to buy higher priced real estate will take-down margins from current levels. While we don’t like to see that directionally, let’s face the reality that this is still a sustainably high margin concept with anomalously high asset turns resulting in return on operating assets over 100%. If there’s a trade off between sales and margin it might matter for most companies, but we
think that LULU could sustain this hit without giving up its multiple.
This brand is in a rarified class of great global brands with great growth runway ahead. But like UA, we use ‘global’ loosely with less than 5% of sales currently generated outside of North American borders. That’s about to shift meaningfully and will be a key driver behind ~30% top-line CAGR over the next 3-years. Growth like that is tough to find in retail. At the end of three years, International should be 15% of sales for LULU, slightly ahead of what we previously assumed.
Following favorable tests, LULU is officially moving forward with plans for expansion into both Asia (Hong Kong & Singapore) and Europe (London & Germany) over the next 2-3 years. While this is likely to cost a few points of margin in the process, an investment cycle like this is what can get this brand from $1.4Bn to $3-$4Bn+ over the next 5-years as it continues to develop and create new product opportunities as only LULU can.
One of our concerns on the name recently has been eroding new store productivity trends – that reversed this quarter for the first time in the last six. While positive on the margin, it’s still something to watch closely particularly as the company looks to open larger stores overseas. Larger stores mean higher sales per store, but it’s higher sales per square foot that matters.
It helps that LULU is seeding the market by launching e-commerce and showrooms ahead of stores, but the reality is that even if these stores are targeted for higher density locations it’s simply tougher to squeeze higher productivity out of a bigger box. Given the revenue opportunity associated with this initial investment, we’re willing to give LULU a pass during the early stages as long as we see the incremental revenue growth to justify the effort (and spend).
The setup over the next two quarters – particularly on the top-line – is a tough one for LULU, but international growth should start to hit just as that gets easier next year (Q2/Q3) signaling a significant acceleration in growth over the back-end of what we call ‘intermediate-term’ (2-3 quarters). With $3 in earnings power over the next two years reflecting revenue and EPS growth of 30%+ and 25%+ in 2013 and 2014, we can’t bet against this one here.
Per Keith’s risk management levels, a close above LULU’s immediate-term TRADE level of resistance of $71.34 would suggest a bullish setup near-term.
LULU Risk Management Levels:
LULU SIGMA reflecting return to positive sales/inventory spread:
Initial jobless claims are now back to pre-Hurricane Sandy levels. Two weeks ago, examining state level data of NY, PA and NJ showed that these three stated accounted for 20.3% of jobless claims while only accounting for 13% of the population. That difference, 7.3%, is down from 12.4% in the previous week. If we adjust the claims number from two weeks ago, 393k, for this over-representation we find normalized claims should be around 366k (393k / 1.073). This morning's print of 370k is consistent with that estimation. One month from now, we expect numbers will be fully normalized.
Takeaway: Growth revised down once again. Draghi stretches for optimism.
Positions in Europe: Short Russia (RSX)
Today’s Q&A session revealed that there was “wide discussion [about a rate cut] but the prevailing consensus was to leave rates unchanged”, leaving the interest rate on the main refinancing operations unchanged at 0.75% along with the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility at 1.50% and 0.00%, respectively.
The real call-out of the meeting is the ECB staff’s projections downward revision for Eurozone GDP. Below we show the last three estimates, with the trend decidedly Down, Down, Down. This move however didn’t come as a great surprise as we noted it in our November ECB report. We’d call to your attention specifically 2013, which shows a dramatic revision to the top end range.
2012 GDP growth
DEC: -0.6% and -0.4% SEPT: -0.6% and -0.2% JUN: -0.5% and 0.3%
2013 GDP growth
DEC: -0.9% and 0.3% for 2013 SEPT: -0.4% and 1.4% JUN: 0.0% and 2.0%
Beyond the inability of the ECB to accurately forecast, what was telling about today’s conference was that Draghi went so far as to paint an optimistic tone (in spite of falling economic projections) by citing business confidence surveys in Germany, France, and Italy that ticked up in the most recent reading. Citing merely this data in a sea of negative to depressed data is an obvious stretch.
The Q&A was largely filled with a tight-lipped Draghi for any comment on Spain or Italy tapping the OMT, with him simply reiterating that it’s up to the individual Eurozone governments to request a bailout and that the Bank stands ready to use OMTs (of course under conditional requirements).
However, one question on a Banking Union is worth highlighting. To paraphrase, it went: “Given that the ECB’s stance on a Banking Union remains that it should include all 6,000 banks whereas the Germans believe it should only include its largest banks, if it is decided that a Banking Union does not include all 6K does it make sense to have it at all?”. To this Draghi dodged the answer and only said that a Banking Union needs a strong supervisor where the ECB doesn’t have reputational risk.
This is a clear signal to us that the ECB and Germans (in particular) will be at loggerheads over the formation of a Banking Union, and extend market consternation as Eurocrats push out the formation of a Banking and Fiscal Union. We believe the inability to find a solution should strengthen the lid on the EUR/USD, with our intermediate term TREND line of resistance in the sand firmly at $1.31.
While we will not argue that we have seen improvement in European equity and bonds markets since this summer, especially following Draghi’s September OMT announcement, we contend that despite all the market intervention, prices will (in time) reflect the underlying health (or lack thereof) of the region. Here we believe Europe’s path to growth will be constrained and prolonged by Eurocrats. Weak credit lines to households and corporations are one piece of evidence of a very clogged environment that should hamper real growth.
You can find Draghi’s Introductory Statements here.