The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 4th of February through the 8th is full of critical releases and events. Attached below is a snapshot of some (though far from all) of the headline numbers that we will be focused on.
To take you into the weekend I’ve copied a very good note below from the Irish Times on Berlusconi’s recent acquisition of star soccer player Mario Balotelli from Manchester City to his club AC Milan. It’s a move Berlusconi hopes will fuel not only balls in the back of the net but importantly more votes to get him another term in office. With much uncertainty remaining on the structure of a coalition government in the February 24-5 Italian general election, especially following the scandal surrounding the government’s bailout of one of Italy’s oldest banks, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, we thought Berlusconi’s potential back-pocket influence was worth a call-out.
As well as goals, it looks as if Berlusconi bought Balotelli for votes
PADDY AGNEW in Rome
For a majority of Italian observers this week, the big question surrounding the much reported €20 million transfer of Mario Balotelli from Manchester City to AC Milan concerned votes, not goals. Could the purchase of this obviously explosive (in every sense) talent really win over 400,000 votes for the centre-right coalition led by the irrepressible, 76-year-old former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who, of course, just happens to be the owner of AC Milan?
In the short term, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Balotelli transfer has been a brilliant publicity coup, making the prime-time news bulletins and the newspaper front pages for three days in a row, right in the middle of a red-hot general election campaign. In football terms, this is clearly a huge moment for the Italian game, with populist sentiment ready to perceive this transfer as the return of a talented prodigal son, following two years of cultural misunderstanding in the land of the Anglo-Saxon.
Football professionals know that this is not quite the case. Those who have worked with Balotelli know all too well that, on occasions, he can make the Mad Hatter seem like an understated chartered accountant.
However, everybody knows that the “boy” can play and it is in that context that he been greeted like a returning hero.
On Wednesday, Milan fans followed his every move back on Italian soil, greeting him when he arrived at the airport, when he then went to a nearby health clinic for his medical check and, finally, when he went to the Giannino restaurant in downtown Milan for dinner with AC Milan managing director Adriano Galliani and team coach Massimiliano Allegri. So enthusiastic was the 400 strong gathering of fans outside the restaurant that police had to don riot gear and restore some peace after “Balo” had slipped in by a side entrance.
By yesterday, sports daily Gazzetta Dello Sport was selling T-shirts reproducing Wednesday’s front page of the paper, totally dominated by a picture of Balotelli and bearing the headline “Balo Is Back”. Gazzetta even carried a picture of the “good luck”, AC Milan biro pen which Balotelli used to formally sign his new contract yesterday.
All of this might sound like just another big football transfer story. Yet for those of us who have monitored Mr Berlusconi’s 20-year long, complex intertwining of football and politics, this is clearly about more than football. Remember, Berlusconi is the politician who in 1994 “took to the field” of politics with a brand new party called “Forza Italia” (literally Up Italy), an expression that until then had only been used when cheering on national teams.
The original Forza Italia deputies were referred to as “Azzurri”, a term that had previously only referred to national team players. Perhaps the most emphatic example of Berlusconi’s understanding of the role of football success in his political appeal came during that 1994 election campaign. In those far-off days of single seat constituencies, he taunted his centre-left rival in the Roma I constituency, the late distinguished economist, Luigi Spaventa, with the words: “Before running against me, go and win yourself two Champions Cups.”
As for Mario Balotelli, the narrative is very clear. After years when he appeared to pay little or no attention to his club, rarely attending either training or games, Berlusconi late last autumn suddenly got active again on the AC Milan front. Not only did he resurface for Serie A or Champions League games at the San Siro but he also began to make regular Saturday morning visits to the club’s Milanello training ground.
For Berlusconi, Milanello is not just an alma mater but it also represents a very loyal and safe political constituency. Nowhere else does he so clearly portray himself as a “winner”. Remember at his first meeting with Milan players back in 1986, just after he had bought the club, he told then that he was “not accustomed to finishing second”.
Thus given Milan’s current league standing of fifth, it was time to put some money back on the table, hire a big name and get the “winning” show back on the road. If that helps win matches, good. If it helps win votes, even better. In a week, too, when he had been bitterly attacked for pro-Mussolini comments made on Holocaust Memorial day, what better stroke than to hire a brilliant, black Italian. Who says I’m racist now?
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The EUR/USD has put on a nice move of +3.4% YTD and is up +10.3% since Draghi issued his all hands on deck to save the common currency (via the introduction of the OMT bond purchasing program) in early August 2012. This conviction in the EURO is expressed well by looking at CFTC contracts of net positions in the EUR/USD (1st chart below). Coming off a net short bottom last summer, contracts are decidedly now net long in the new year -- seemingly there has been a lot of firepower behind the possibility that Draghi could use the OMT!
In the second chart below we update our quantitative risk levels for the EUR/USD, with topside immediate term TRADE resistance at $1.37 and intermediate term TREND support at $1.31. Our call remains to trade the range and it’s worth noting that there’s a pretty light formal calendar ahead.
What to watch for:
Heading into a busy EPS week (again) we offer the following quick views on how we would be positioned into and following next week’s EPS results. Most of these comments represent shorter duration ideas or simply an indication that we don’t see anything to do in the short-term. We know these comments aren’t for everyone, but in addition to shorter duration ideas we have taken the opportunity to discuss some long-term views that are (hopefully) of interest to shareholders with a longer duration.
Since nothing in staples (or the market) goes down for long (see our short CL call and today's "follow through"), we have looked hard for places where investors can generate some alpha on the short side - where we see risk to the multiple or EPS or both. The two next week that we have are admittedly lower conviction - LO and CHD, but if you have to be short something....
CLX – We would be short this name if we had a clear view on EPS weakness this quarter (we don’t). The multiple (18.4x ’13) doesn’t make sense to us when we look at it in terms of the company’s long-term top line and EPS growth profile. We have a $0.01 beat for the quarter.
HAIN – Business momentum remains intact but we would prefer to own BNNY at the right price rather than the aggregation of tail brands and subpar management that is HAIN.
EL – This one is a little tricky. We have a high multiple (24x ’13), a deceleration in constant currency organic growth in the last quarter and some conflicting laterals (RDEN/bad, Shiseido/bad, and LVMH/good). LVMH is the best lateral in our view, so we think the top line will be fine (+7%). We don’t have to do anything so we won’t do anything.
CHD – This is another name that we want to be short, except in this case we would take in a small short position. The multiple is aggressive (20.8x ’13) and we see some risk to 2013 numbers based on what PG is saying and doing, so our view is take a small short in and stick with it.
K – Valuation is as reasonable as you will find in staples, 15.8x, and we see upside to this quarter’s result. Guidance should encompass consensus, so we think you can be long for the print.
ADM – We like the name here, but no clear view on EPS. Modeling out the quarters is probably better done by rolling chicken bones that using Excel, but any weakness associated with the quarter is an opportunity. For the record, we do have a model, and we are $0.04 below consensus.
SMG – No view into quarter as it is a seasonally unimportant quarter. The fun starts when spring starts.
CCE – We just heard from the company back in December, so little risk to numbers. Fine to own, quarter won’t likely be a catalyst in either direction.
PM – This is another tough one as we remain below consensus for 2013. However, the multiple (15.2x) versus the top line growth rate is compelling versus other staples names. Recent move in the Euro helps, recent move in the Yen hurts. Until we can see a clearer path to EPS upside, we will trade from the short side.
IFF – Volume trends from PG and Unilever are constructive, multiple is not (17.7x). Do nothing.
KRFT – We like the management and margin opportunity story here, but we like it lower. Risk/reward range in the short term is $44 – $52; at $47 we do nothing.
RAI – Our view is to trade the domestic tobacco names from the short side, but since we are modeling a small $0.02 beat by RAI in Q4 and the growth rate in 2013 (6%) seems reasonable, we will watch the print.
LO – We see some risk to Q4 consensus EPS of $0.76, so we can abide by a small short position.
BG – This is the same theme as ADM (global agricultural play) but with a better view on EPS, fine to own into Q and fine to buy on weakness.
Have a good weekend and be careful out there.
Call with questions,
Hedgeye In The News for the week ending February 1, 2013:
The latest gaming revenue figures from Macau seem to indicate that the feared ban on smoking... (via Seeking Alpha)
First 3 tasks for Mary Jo White at the SEC (via Fortune)
Hedgeye report questions if Herbalife (HLF) is a pyramid scheme (via Ransquawk)
Beef price spike makes $1 McDouble harder to stomach (via Chicago Tribune)
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