Simpletons & Dunderheads

“Our affairs are not conducted entirely by simpletons and dunderheads.”

-Winston Churchill


Per the Urban Dictionary, a “dunderhead” is, amongst other things, an idiot, dunce, numskull, or bonehead. With public opinion of him falling in early 1942, Churchill was irritated. Losing the war was one thing; being chastised by Ivory Tower academics was entirely another.


Singapore fell on February 15 (1942). It was death foretold – too few defenses, a weak commanding general, a demoralized garrison, and too savvy an enemy … Churchill had no need to resort to hyperbole… he informed Roosevelt that the fall of Singapore was the greatest disaster in our history.” (The Last Lion, page 484-485)


While the 113th United States Congress has yet to prove that it is the worst in free-market history (the 112th is a tough compare), it still has time. I’m just elated that these economic dunderheads of the #PoliticalClass have been out of this market’s way for the last few weeks. Geithner leaving and Congress being out of the way definitely helped the Russell2000 close last week at an all-time high.


Back to the Global Macro Grind


This is the first Global Macro morning that I can remember where the names Boehner and Reid aren’t in the Bloomberg’s “Most Read.” Today it’s all about Chinese growth (acceleration) and Japanese currency (debauchery).


Neither of those macro stories are new. That’s the point about consensus macro – by the time it becomes this newsy, the big moves in the related markets have already occurred.


From their intermediate-term troughs/peaks in November 2012 (as global growth stopped slowing):

  1. Chinese stocks (Shanghai Composite) are up +18%
  2. Japanese Yen (vs the US Dollar) is down -11%

Especially in the context of the SP500 and US Dollar Index being +8.7% and -2.1% from their respective November 2012 lows/highs, respectively, those are massive moves in Asian markets.


The move in Japanese Equities has been even more powerful than China’s. Since November 13th, the Nikkei225 is +25%! Krugman/Bernanke Playbook 101: burn your currency at the stake, admit nothing about it publicly, and point at the daily closing price of stocks.


How will what Jim Rickards coined the Currency War end? I don’t know. But it probably won’t end well. So, as you ride the bull of higher-lows and higher-highs in stocks out there, just keep that in mind. Remember, in Chaos Theory, our daily objective is to embrace uncertainty.


CONSENSUS WATCH: On Friday I highlighted the massive shift from bearish to bullish we have seen in US Equity market sentiment in the last two months. Today, it’s worth reminding you that the sentiment in Commodities has done almost the exact opposite.


Last week’s CFTC (futures and options) net long commodities figures revealed the following realities:

  1. Total net long positions down another -5.4% wk-over-wk to 654,443 contracts (down -51% from all-time highs in SEP 2012)
  2. Gold’s net long position dropped another -13% wk-over-wk to 92,115 (lowest level since August 2012)
  3. Corn’s net long positioned dropped another -15% wk-over-wk to 115,113 (lowest since June 2012)

In other words, when it comes to risk managing the Commodities Bubble, you are best served doing the exact opposite of what the hedge fund community is doing. This may be the most glaring intermediate-term example of BUY HIGH, SELL LOW I have seen in a decade.


Both Gold and Corn prices went up on that last week. What better bull case do you need other than consensus dunderheads who call themselves “smart” getting bearish? While we have deflated the inflation in commodity prices (CRB Index -8% from its SEP 2012 lower long-term high) for the last 3 months, that certainly doesn’t mean they can’t re-flate.


With the US Dollar Down hard last week (-1.2%), here’s where the beta-juice was to Down Dollar:

  1. Platinum +4.8%
  2. Corn +4.2%
  3. Coffee +4.1% 

At the same time, we saw some of the widest global equity market divergences (by geographic region) that we have seen in some time. Europe saw Germany down -0.8% on the week, but Italy was +3.2%. In Asia, Vietnam was +8.6% versus Indonesia -2.4%.


What do we simpletons do with all of this? We stay with the research and risk management process; we do our best to incorporate all of the real-time economic data and price changes (across multiple factors and durations) in our models;  and we keep moving.


Our immediate-term Risk Ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), Copper, US Dollar, EUR/USD, UST10yr Yield, and the SP500 are now $1, $109.98-111.48, 3.64-3.75, $79.39-79.98, $1.31-1.33, 1.84-1.97%, and 1, respectively.


Best of luck out there this week,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Simpletons & Dunderheads - Chart of the Day


Simpletons & Dunderheads - Virtual Portfolio


The Macau Metro Monitor, January 14, 2013




After the Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam said that some existing casinos will be entitled an increase to the number of live tables in operation, SJM executive director, Angela Leong, was quoted saying that SJM will soon apply for more gaming tables.  She also urged the government to accelerate the official land grant of SJM's land in Cotai.  While the company announced back in October 2012 that they had accepted the government's draft land concession for a 70,500 SQM plot in Cotai, the contract has yet to to be gazetted and made official.  SJM is the only concessionaire without a gazetted plot of land on Cotai. 



Previously reported HK firm being probed by Tiawanese prosecutors for allegedly carrying out large illegal money transfers on January 9 has been identified as a subsidiary of Melco Crown Entertainment.  Melco's head of corporate communications, Maggie Ma said " “Investigations are currently ongoing in Taiwan related to certain activities regulated by their banking regulations. We are not in a position to comment on the investigation.” However, she also said that “We believe our corporate activities are consistent with general market practice…None of Melco Crown’s corporate entities has been charged at the current time. If required, we will cooperate with the authorities.”



In order to east border congestion, mainland custom authorities are considering implementing HK-Macau visitor permits in the form of a card that can be read by automatic checkpoints. The proposed card format would replace permits in booklets that mainlanders are currently using to enter Macau. 



A new air route with daily flights was opened opened on Saturday between Taichung in central Taiwan and Macau by TransAsia Airways. 



Singapore authorities have introduced higher taxes on industrial and residential to reign in real estate prices, which have been rising despite a sluggish economy and previous government cooling measures. Stamp duty on residential property purchases is being increased from 10% to 15% for foreigners and corporations.  A 5-15% stamp duty is also being introduced for sellers of warehouses and factories occurring within 3 years of their purchase.


Industry data points are continuing to confirm our bearish stance on casual dining.


December’s employment data was suggestive of a sluggish month for casual dining, as we wrote a week ago.  Yesterday, Malcolm Knapp released his Knapp Track sales results for December, estimating that casual dining same-restaurant sales declined -1.3% versus the same month last year.  Traffic is estimated to have declined by 310 basis points versus December 2012.


In terms of two year average trends, the results imply sequential change of +10 and -40 basis points for same-restaurant sales and traffic, respectively.


Knapp noted that a calendar shift of Christmas day from Sunday to Tuesday led to a significant spread of 17.9% between week 4 and week 5.  The estimated Knapp Track same-restaurant sales number for the first four weeks was +0.9% versus -1.3% for the full five weeks.  The final accounting period number for December should be between those two numbers.





We believe that consensus expectations for several casual dining companies’ sales growth in FY13 are overly optimistic.  The year-ago comparisons in January and February are 3.3% versus 2.8% in December.  The price war that Darden has declared, likely commodity pressure, increasing health care costs, and changing competitive dynamics continue to weigh on the outlook for the group.                          


On a relative basis, we favor EAT over all other casual dining stocks.  Our top ideas on the short side are BWLD and DRI.



Howard Penney

Managing Director


Rory Green

Senior Analyst

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Second-Hand Dealers

This note was originally published at 8am on December 31, 2012 for Hedgeye subscribers.

“There is little that the ordinary man of today learns about events or ideas except through the medium of this class.”



After spending plenty of time with common sense people (my family and friends) for the last week, I’ve reinforced an entrenched view in my thick hockey skull about America’s #PoliticalClass – they don’t get free-market liberty and/or economics.


By the 1960s, F.A. Hayek thought the same about Europe’s political elite but he was, as Joseph Schumpeter argued “in his review of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, polite to a fault.” (Classical Liberalism and The Austrian School, page 119).


Particularly when I have to get up at this hour on family vacation, I’m not always polite; especially to politicians who are lying to me. When a Republican is arguing for a new calculation for “chained CPI” and a Democrat for changing the rules to raise the US Debt Ceiling, I’ll call them out for who they are (Hayek called them this first) – “Second-Hand Dealers in ideas.”  (The Intellectuals and Socialism, Hayek 1976).


Back to the Global Macro Grind


Want a deal on the #KeynesianCliff? Here’s the latest deal that encroaches on your liberty:


  1. SPENDING – after the US government has changed how they calculate inflation 9x since 1996, the Republicans Second-Hand Idea is to cut spending on old people and screw them over with an understated COLA (cost of living adjustment in Social Security). Both Bush and Obama did this with Bernanke – change the calculation for inflation so that there never is any inflation to report.
  2. DEBT CEILING – right on time with Hedgeye’s forecast that the US would bonk the debt ceiling by the end of December, Geithner “officially warned” Congress of the math (thanks for the early look buds). If you didn’t know why Pelosi wants Obama to have a veto (not having to have Congress vote on raising the US Debt Ceiling beyond $16.394 TRILLION), now you know.


Oh, and then there’s taxes – but who wants to read about #ClassWarfare and taxes anymore anyway? These second-hand Marxist ideas are as old socialism itself. As of this weekend, even the French Court agrees, saying “non, non” on 75% tax rates for les “riches.”


All the while, for the last few weeks (actually US stocks are down for 3 of the last 4 weeks taking December to-date for the SP500 to -1%; SP500 down -4.9% from the September YTD top), people are starting to freak-out about “what the cliff will do to the US recovery.”


Please don’t let these central planners freak you out. Fire them, and let them freak-out.


First Hand Idea: the only sustainable US economic recovery you are ever going to have is through Strong Dollar, Down Commodity Inflation. It worked for Reagan in the 1980s. It worked for Clinton in the 1990s. Keynesian Policies To Inflate didn’t work for Bush or Obama.


On the monetary policy side, getting Bernanke out of the way has helped – now we need to get Congress out of the way. So rise above the couch – and turn your TV off while these people perpetuate a crisis that they created. Don’t pay them a lick of your free time or respect.


To review, since Bernanke’s Top (September 14th, 2012) where he said he’d print to infinity and beyond:


  1. US Dollar Index = up for 10 of 14 weeks (making higher all-time lows, holding $78.11 long-term TAIL support)
  2. CRB Commodities Index = down -8.4% (easily the worst performing major asset class in the world over that time-period)
  3. Gold = down -13.1% in 3 months (yes, real inflation-adjusted economic growth stabilizing is bad for bonds and gold)


Yes, on the margin, that’s what I am talking about – bring on the spending cuts and stick a cap on that US debt clock while you are at it. That’s all good for the US Dollar. What’s good for the Dollar is bad for food and energy prices – that’ll be your real-time tax cut.


Expectations update on Bernanke’s Bubble (Commodities):


  1. CFTC Futures & Options net long positioning dropped another -11% wk-over-wk to 675,625 contracts
  2. CFTC net longs are now down -49.6% from their all-time high (1.34 million contracts) in SEP 2012, post Qe4
  3. Gold’s net long position fell another -9% last week to 101,922 contracts (lowest since August 2012)


As commodity inflation (real-world inflation as opposed to this cochamamy Keynesian concept of “chained CPI”) fell, real inflation-adjusted global growth stabilized. That’s not a Second-Hand Idea. That’s a fact:


  1. Chinese PMI manufacturing for DEC hit its highest level since May of 2011 (at 51.5)
  2. Chinese Stocks (Shanghai Composite) closed up another +1.6% overnight (up +15.8% in a straight line in DEC alone!)
  3. South Korean Inflation (CPI) dropped to a 4-month low in DEC (1st Asian inflation reading for DEC) to 1.4%


Do you think people in Asia who are trying to put food on their family table for the holidays care about what a politicized donkey is doing in D.C. this morning? Get real. They can think for themselves too.


Our immediate-term Risk Ranges (support and resistance) for Gold, Oil (Brent), Copper, US Dollar, EUR/USD, UST 10yr Yield, and the SP500 are now $1636-1671, $109.71-111.48, $3.51-3.61, $79.52-79.97, $1.31-1.33, 1.70-1.78%, and 1397-1412, respectively.


From my family and firm to yours, we’d like to wish you a happy, healthy, and free 2013,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Second-Hand Dealers - Chart of the Day


Second-Hand Dealers - Virtual Portfolio

Weekly European Monitor: Shorting Berlusconi’s Hair Plugs

-- For specific questions on anything Europe, please contact me at to set up a call.


Position in Europe: Short Italy (EWI)


Asset Class Performance:

  • Equities:  The STOXX Europe 600 closed down -0.3% week-over-week vs +3.2% in the week prior. Bottom performers:  Cyprus -6.9%; Poland -0.9%; Czech Republic -0.8%; Germany -0.8%; Slovakia -0.8%; Belgium -0.8%.  Top performers:  Portugal +4.6%; Italy +3.2%; Spain +2.7%; Romania +2.4%; Russia (MICEX) +2.2%; Denmark +2.0%; Turkey +1.8%; Switzerland +1.8%; Hungary +1.8%; Greece +1.6%.  [Other: France -0.6%; UK +0.5%].
  • FX:  The EUR/USD traded up +2.13% week-over-week.  W/W Divergences:RON/EUR +0.93%; PLN/EUR +0.02%; DKK/EUR -0.04%; NOK/EUR -0.76%; CHF/EUR -0.78%; CZK/EUR -0.83%; SEK/EUR -1.09%; ISK/EUR -1.19%; TRY/EUR -1.40%; GBP/EUR -1.71%; RUB/EUR -1.91%; HUF/EUR -1.92%.
  • Fixed Income:  The 10YR yield for sovereigns across the periphery were mixed week-on-week. Greece gained +49bps to 11.75% and Germany rose +5bps to 1.58%, while Spain fell the most at -17bps to 4.89%, Italy fell -13bps to 4.13%, and Portugal declined -12bps to 6.21%. France was basically flat and the UK lost -4bps to 2.08 on the week.  The major call-out is that Spanish 10YR fell below the 5% line this week, the first time since March 2012!

Weekly European Monitor: Shorting Berlusconi’s Hair Plugs - 111. yields



EUR/USD: Our TRADE range is $1.30 – 1.32

  • Our call - the EUR/USD will trade within our quantitative levels and reflect much of the daily headline risk (from Spain and Italy in particular). We think that ECB President Mario Draghi’s September announcement that “the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro”; the resolve of Eurocrats to maintain the Union at all costs; and the January ECB meeting in which there was unanimous decision to not changing rates will all keep a heavy line of support in the cross.
  • Yet we expect a long road towards a fiscal union as states will be reluctant to give their sovereignty up to an external entity, which should limit the cross’ upside.
  • A bullish data point comes from CFTC data for net non-commercial positions in the EUR/USD that shows an improving trend since May 2012 and even turned positive on 1/1/2013, the first time since August 2011.

Weekly European Monitor: Shorting Berlusconi’s Hair Plugs - 111.eurusd


Weekly European Monitor: Shorting Berlusconi’s Hair Plugs - 111. cftc



Shorting Berlusconi’s Hair Plugs:


It was a week of waiting and watching to see if the ECB would make any changes to its base rates. Consensus was firmly against a cut, which turned out to be correct. Draghi was particularly optimistic about the performance of Eurozone financial markets and conditions over the last six months in his press conference remarks, but had a much more somber tone in describing the economic outlook for the region.


We too wrestle with the mismatch between the broader economy and market conditions. This week we got Eurozone confidence figures that showed signs of flattening to slight improvement. Conversely, ECB loans to households and non-financial corporations have yet to arrest their decline/show a meaningful inflection, the unemployment rate for the Eurozone ticked up to 11.8%, and CPI and PPI remain elevated and situate the region in stagflation.  For more on the ECB decision see our note titled January ECB Presser: Draghi’s Optimism in No Real Recovery.


Weekly European Monitor: Shorting Berlusconi’s Hair Plugs - aaa. confidence


Weekly European Monitor: Shorting Berlusconi’s Hair Plugs - aaa. ecb loans


We added Italy via the etf EWI to our Real-time positions on the short side on 1/10/13 at $14.23.  We think there is a significant amount of pain on the short side of Italy with the eff immediate term TRADE overbought.  The high level of uncertainty on the future coalition government in Italy is one development we’re following closely. Former PM Berlusconi continues to be a wedge across parties and it’s unclear how the market will react should Monti not stand in a key position to assure adherence to austerity measures enacted under his watch.  For more on Italy please see our note titled Italy’s Uneven Footing.



The European Week Ahead:

Monday: Nov. Eurozone Industrial Production; Dec. Germany Wholesale Price Index (Jan. 14-18); Dec. UK RICS House Price Balance; Nov. Spain House Transactions; Nov. Italy Industrial Production; General Government Debt


Tuesday: Nov. Eurozone Trade Balance; 2012 Germany GDP, Budget; Dec. Germany CPI – Final; Dec. UK PPI Input, PPI Output, CPI, RPI; Nov. Germany ONS House Price; Nov. France Central Government Balance;  Dec. Spain CPI – Final;  Dec. Italy CPI - Final


Wednesday: Dec. Eurozone EU27 New Car Registrations, CPI; Germany Economy Minister Roesler Presents New Economic Outlook; Nov. Italy Trade Balance


Thursday: ECB Publishes Monthly Report; Jan. Eurozone Bloomberg Economic Survey; Nov. Eurozone Construction Output; Jan. Germany Bloomberg Economic Survey;  Jan. UK Bloomberg Economic Survey; Jan. France Bloomberg Economic Survey; Jan. Spain Bloomberg Economic Survey; Jan. Italy Bloomberg Economic Survey; Jan. Greece Bloomberg Economic Survey


Friday: Dec. UK Retail Sales; Nov. Italy Industrial Orders, Industrial Sales



Call Outs:


Basel Committee - Banks won a four-year delay to fully meet international liquidity requirements and will be able to pick from a longer list of assets, including stocks and mortgage debt, following a deal struck by regulatory chiefs meeting yesterday in Basel


France - French Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac said on Sunday that the Hollande government is not planning any tax increases for the next few years in an effort to offer stability and visibility to both individuals and companies. The highly controversial 75% tax on people making more than €1M a year was recently rejected by the French Constitutional Court. However, the government is preparing a new bill to maintain the key components of the tax hike.


Cyprus - Moody’s downgrades Cyprus 3 notches to Caa3 from B3.


Ireland - S&P said on Friday that Ireland is expected to retain its investment grade credit rating from the agency in 2013, despite its negative outlook.


ESM - held its first debt auction and sold €1.927B of 3M T-bills, average yield (0.0324%), bid to cover 3.2x.


ESM Investment - Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said that his country will buy bonds issued by the ESM, along with euro-denominated sovereign debt.


Eurogroup – Reuters, citing officials, reported that Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem is likely to be named the next chairman of Eurozone finance ministers (succeeding Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker), when it is set decide on 21-Jan.  There’s speculation that German Finance Minister Schaeuble wouldn’t get the job over concerns that he may have alienated too many colleagues in southern Europe.


Italy - Bank of Italy data noted that Italian banks held a total of €271.8B from the ECB at the end of December, down from €273.3B at the end of November.


Spain - the Spanish Treasury said that its gross bond issuance target for 2013 was €121.3B, a 7.6% increase from total 2012 debt sales.


Cyprus - the German newspaper Handelsblatt, citing sources close to the negotiations, reported on Wednesday that Cyprus can only expect a bailout in early March after its presidential election next month. The paper said that Cyprus holds presidential elections on 17-Feb and 24-Feb, and Eurozone finance ministers want to wait to work with the successor to outgoing communist President Dimitris Christofias. It noted that Christofias, who is not seeking reelection, has rejected the sale of state companies that would generate the privatization revenues needed for reform. The article also discussed some of the potential backlash in the German Bundestag when it comes to approving a rescue for Cyprus, highlighting the increasingly hard-line stance by the SPD on the issue of tax evasion.



Data Dump:


Eurozone Retail Sales -2.6% NOV Y/Y vs -3.2% OCT

Eurozone Unemployment Rate 11.8% NOV vs 11.7% OCT

Eurozone Sentix Investor Confidence -7.0% JAN Y/Y vs -16.8% DEC

Eurozone PPI 2.1% NOV Y/Y vs 2.6% OCT


Eurozone Consumer Confidence -26.5 DEC Final vs initial -26.6

Eurozone Business Climate Indicator -1.12 DEC vs -1.17 NOV

Eurozone Economic Confidence 87.0 DEC vs 85.7 NOV

Eurozone Industrial Confidence -14.4 DEC vs -15.0 NOV

Eurozone Services Confidence -9.8 DEC vs -11.9 NOV


Germany Factory Orders -1.0% NOV Y/Y vs -2.5% OCT


Weekly European Monitor: Shorting Berlusconi’s Hair Plugs - 111  germany factory orders


Germany Imports -3.7% NOV M/M vs 2.9% OCT

Germany Exports -3.4% NOV M/M vs 0.2% OCT

Germany Trade Balance 17.0B EUR NOV vs 15.7B EUR OCT

Germany Industrial Production -2.9% NOV Y/Y vs -3.0% OCT


France Bank of France Business Sentiment 95 DEC vs 91 NOV

France CPI 1.5% DEC Y/Y vs 1.6% NOV


France Industrial Production -3.6% NOV Y/Y vs -3.4% OCT

France Manufacturing Production -4.6% NOV Y/Y vs -3.7% OCT


UK Halifax House Prices -0.3% DEC Y/Y vs -1.3% NOV

UK Car Registration 3.7% DEC Y/Y vs 11.3% NOV

UK Industrial Production -2.4% NOV Y/Y vs -3.0% OCT

UK Manufacturing Production -2.1% NOV Y/Y vs -2.0% OCT


Italy Unemployment Rate 11.1% NOV vs 11.1% OCT (youth unemployment 37.1%)

Italy Deficit to GDP (YTD) 3.7% in Q3 vs 4.7% in Q2


Spain Industrial Output -7.3% NOV Y/Y vs 0.9% OCT


Portugal Consumer Confidence -59.8 DEC vs -59.0 NOV

Portugal Economic Climate Indicator -4.4 DEC vs -4.3 NOV

Portugal Industrial Sales -5.9% NOV Y/Y vs 0.4% OCT

Portugal Construction Works Index 53.6 NOV vs 55.2 OCT

Portugal CPI 2.1% DEC Y/Y vs 1.9% NOV


Norway Credit Indicator Growth 7.1% NOV Y/Y vs 6.9% OCT

Norway Industrial Production -3.5% NOV Y/Y vs 2.5% OCT

Norway Industrial Production Manufacturing 2.4% NOV Y/Y vs 2.7% OCT

Norway CPI 1.4% DEC Y/Y vs 1.1% NOV


Sweden CPI -0.1% DEC Y/Y vs -0.1% NOV

Sweden Industrial Production -4.3% NOV Y/Y vs -4.3% OCT


Netherlands CPI 3.4% DEC Y/Y vs 3.2% NOV

Netherlands Industrial Production 0.7% NOV Y/Y vs -1.7% OCT

Finland Industrial Production -1.9% NOV Y/Y vs -0.3% OCT


Switzerland CPI -0.3% DEC Y/Y vs -0.1% NOV

Switzerland Unemployment Rate 3.3% DEC vs 3.1% NOV

Ireland Industrial Production -6.2% NOV Y/Y vs -16.6% OCT


Austria Wholesale Price Index 2.7% DEC Y/Y vs 2.8% NOV

Belgium Unemployment Rate 7.4% NOV vs 7.4% OCT


Greece Industrial Production -2.9% NOV Y/Y vs 2.0% OCT

Greece Unemployment Rate 26.8% OCT Y/Y vs 26.2% September

Greece CPI 0.3% DEC Y/Y vs 0.4% NOV


Russia Consumer Confidence -8 in Q4 vs -6 in Q3

Russia CPI 6.6% DEC Y/Y Final [unch vs initial]


Czech Republic CPI 2.4% DEC Y/Y vs 2.7% NOV

Czech Republic Unemployment Rate 9.4% DEC vs 8.7% NOV

Czech Republic Retail Sales -1.8% NOV Y/Y vs 2.2% OCT


Romania Q3 GDP Final -0.5% Y/Y [vs initial -0.6%]   [-0.4% Q/Q [vs initial -0.5%]

Romania Retail Sales 3.0% NOV Y/Y vs 0.7% OCT

Romania Industrial Sales 4.6% NOV Y/Y vs 9.4% OCT

Romania CPI 5.0% DEC Y/Y vs 4.6% NOV


Estonia CPI 3.5% DEC Y/Y vs 3.6% NOV

Estonia Exports 9% NOV Y/Y vs 10% OCT

Estonia Imports 3% NOV Y/Y vs 21% OCT


Hungary Producer Prices -2.9% NOV Y/Y vs 0.2% OCT

Hungary Industrial Production -6.9% NOV Y/Y vs -3.8% OCT


Slovenia Industrial Production -3.6% NOV Y/Y vs 2.0% OCT

Slovakia Industrial Production 5.2% NOV Y/Y vs 8.1% OCT

Slovakia Avg Monthly Wage 0.1% NOV Y/Y vs 1.3% OCT


Turkey Industrial Production NSA 11.3% NOV Y/Y vs -5.7% OCT



Interest Rate Decisions:


(1/7) Romania Interest Rate UNCH at 5.25%

(1/9) Poland Base Interest Rate CUT 25bps to 4.00%

(1/10) BOE Main Interest Rate UNCH at 0.50% and QE unchanged at £375B

(1/10) ECB Main Interest Rate UNCH at 0.75%

(1/10) ECB Deposit Facility Rate UNCH at 0.00%


Matthew Hedrick

Senior Analyst

FDX, UPS: Independent Contractor Expert Call Summary

FDX, UPS: Independent Contractor Expert Call Summary




For Replay, CLICK HERE

For Materials: CLICK HERE


Our Take on FedEx Ground & ICs


  • Reasonably Robust: Our expert call with Rich Reibstein largely confirmed that FedEx Ground’s multi-route, multi-employee independent contractor (IC) model is more robust and refined than millions of other IC arrangements.  While it would be difficult to structure IC arrangements perfectly under current law, FedEx has been proactive and restructured ahead of most legislation.
  • Already Restructured:  The FedEx Ground IC structure remains under legal attack and it is a key risk for the firm.  However, FedEx has long recognized the advantages and exposures of relying on IC.  The company has already spent years restructuring its lCs to better conform with the various IC definitions.  Spending and incentives associated with this restructuring depress FedEx Ground’s margins in the mid-00’s.
  • Expect More Legislation:  As State and (eventually) Federal legislation narrow the opportunities for IC labor structures, it is reasonable to expect FedEx to have ongoing legal expenses (including court losses) associated with independent contracting.  In addition, the plaintiffs’ bar appears to smell money in IC lawsuits and is actively seeking them.  However, the FedEx Ground IC model, including the cost and flexibility advantages that it provides, does not appear to be in jeopardy. 
  • Not Unlike Small Franchises:  Franchise arrangements, where a company like McDonalds exerts significant control over the franchisees, are not entirely distinct from multi-route, multi-employee FedEx Ground ICs.  Some might argue that FedEx forced the aggregation of single route ICs into larger contractors and such issues may result in legal challenges.  To us, the form of employment seems likely to be more relevant than the motivation behind it.
  • Other Industries Impacted:  We contacted Richard to better understand the sustainability of FedEx Ground’s labor advantage over UPS.  However, it is clear that other transport and construction industries could be impacted with the growing tide of IC legislation and plaintiff interest.  With approximately 10 million independent contractors in the United States, many other sectors of the economy could be impacted by fines and 30%-40% labor cost increase that separates ICs from full-time employees.  Construction, Transportation and Staffing appear most exposed.  Tighter IC regulation (and tighter labor regulation in general) tends to benefit Staffing companies.


Summary of Expert Call with Richard Reibstein


Independent Contractor Background

  • Independent contractors cost companies on average ~35% less relative to regular workers due in large part to the following major factors:
    • Payroll taxes
    • Unemployment contributions
    • Benefits such as healthcare and 401k
    • Workers’ compensation
    • There has been a huge increase in the number of independent contractors in the past 20 years and we now have over 10 million in the US.
    • In 2007 the US realized it had a tax gap and the government began looking at companies that might be attempting to circumvent the independent contractor laws.
    • Some states put laws in place to crack down on independent contracting.  Massachusetts was the first and others have followed their lead.
    • There have been a number of bills proposed at the national level in the past 4 years dealing with both independent contractor tax and labor issues, but there has not been bipartisan support for them.  I think as we go forward these bills will pass because the tax gap is becoming an increasingly pressing issue.

The FedEx Ground Model

  • FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery utilize independent contractors to make their deliveries because RPS was built on an independent contractor model.
  • At the point when FedEx Ground purchased RPS they were operating much more in compliance with the contractor laws than they currently are.
  • The key difference in the worker-management relationship in an independent contractor model is that management is not supposed to instruct the worker on how to do their job.  They can tell them what to do, but now how to do it. 
  • FedEx has decided to restructure their relationship with Ground drivers.  Drivers are now required to have more than one route, which essentially means that FedEx is attempting to control their independent contractors.  
  • Although FedEx is committed to this direction the states are creating their own laws which have been posing problems for FedEx.
  • For example, FedEx paid $30 million in California because drivers were determined to be misclassified.  A large portion of this payment was legal fees and that is just one example of the hidden costs associated with an independent contractor model for FedEx going forward.
  • Few companies are looking at the writing on the wall because they cannot change their structure easily or inexpensively.  

What to Expect in the Next Four Years

  • More and more states will adopt laws cracking down on companies using independent contractors.  There might be a grassroots movement to start alerting misclassified independent contractors that they should be eligible for benefits.
  • The Federal government may increase the enforcement level because they were recently given a bigger budget by President Obama.  The Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, has focused on those industries where misclassification is most prevalent.
  • It is likely that states will begin sharing information in an attempt to coordinate efforts against misclassified independent contractors.
  • Recent federal laws have proposed to eliminate the safe harbor clause because it states that if a company has misclassified a group of workers on accident they can enjoy a safe harbor and avoid penalty.  FedEx has been able to defeat the IRS with this safe harbor clause.



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