“Should I be turned into a vegetable or a happy imbecile?”
That’s a quote from Chapter 3 of Taleb’s book, Antifragility, where he discusses everything from “Crimes Against Children” to the misguided interpretation of “equilibrium” by social scientists.
Clearly, Taleb doesn’t like social scientists. There’s a little bit more than a little anger in some of what he writes, but there’s also plenty of truth. Sometimes the truth makes some people angry.
Personally, I like socially oriented scientists. I just don’t want them running my money. For that, I don’t need a philosopher either. I need a real-time Risk Manager.
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
The thing that non-market people generally don’t get about risk is that it works both ways. There is no such thing as risk “on” and “off” inasmuch as there is no Mr. Miyagi running the Bank of Japan (yet) either.
Risk is always on. It can squeeze you to the upside as fast as it can crash on you to the downside. There is no better example than that in the Land of The Rising Sun itself. Since Bernanke’s Top (September 2012) where he completed his US Dollar Debauchery, the Japanese Yen is down approximately -17%. Since US stocks stopped going down on #GrowthSlowing (mid November), the Nikkei is up +32.4%!
The Nikkei (for all the social scientists out there still trying to prove out their Ph.D in Keynesian Economics) isn’t something you can export. During today’s Currency War, it’s what squeezes (and pleases) politicians in the short-term (the stock market), while it impales their people’s purchasing power for the long-term.
Enough about that.
Why do I keep buying the damn dip?
- Fundamental Research: Macro Economic Data in Asia and in the USA continue to improve
- Quantitative Signals: my model continues to signal higher-lows of support and higher-highs of resistance
Why make it any more complicated than that?
I used to.
Then I started reading a lot of books and realized how much I do not know.
That’s why the best fundamental framework I can find right now is grounded in Chaos Theory. No, that doesn’t mean I am a philosopher. Neither does it mean I’m turning into a happy bullish imbecile. It simply means I fully Embrace Uncertainty.
What does the mean?
- I obey the signal, not the noise (Quantitative Signals)
- I then attempt to confirm or disprove the signal alongside my team (Fundamental Research)
I know, I keep saying the same thing, over and over and over again. I guess that might make me somewhat antifragile, for now. Then I’ll get clocked, and I will feel shame – then it will be time to evolve my process all over again.
As US and Asian Equity markets (our 2 largest allocations in the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model) move back to immediate-term TRADE overbought, here are some mixed signals to consider amidst your daily noise from the #OldWall:
- SP500 immediate-term Risk Range remains tight and trade-able (for now) = 1
- US Equity Volatility remains bearish and breaking down relative to 5yr lows; TRADE support = 12.15
- US Equity Market Volumes are now trending bullish on up days and bullish (down volume) on down days
- US Dollar Index continues to make higher long-term lows, holding its TAIL of $78.11 support
- Chinese Equities (Shanghai Composite) are crashing to the upside into a Bullish Formation (2274 TAIL support)
- Both our Hong Kong (EWH) and Singapore (EWS) long ETF positions aren’t as overbought as the SPY at 1516
- Japan’s Nikkei flashed an immediate-term TRADE overbought signal overnight at the Yen signaled oversold
- KOSPI continued to diverge, like Brazil’s Bovespa has, breaking its TRADE and TREND lines of support
- EuroStoxx600 was down -0.5% last wk and is confirming an immediate-term TRADE breakdown again today
- France, Italy, and Spain have all seen their respective stock markets snap TRADE lines of support
- CRB Commodities Index failed, again, at its long-term TAIL risk line of 306 so far this week
- Gold continues to look like Treasury Bonds, awful relative to US and Asian stocks
- Oil remains the biggest NEW headwind to our Fundamental Research call on global #GrowthStabilizing
- US Treasury Yields (10yr) are now confirming a Bullish Formation (bullish TRADE, TREND, and TAIL)
- Yield Spread (10s minus 2s) is plenty wide at +174bps this morning; bullish for the Financials (XLF)
There is no “equilibrium” in a multi-factor, multi-duration, Global Macro risk management model. There is no happy place either. Like in any dynamic, non-linear ecosystem, what you want to embrace is the uncertainty of time and space.
So eat your veggies, buy red, sell green, and keep moving out there as risk factors do.
Our immediate-term Risk Ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, EUR/USD, USD/YEN, UST 10yr Yield, and the SP500 are now $1, $114.96-117.41, $79.11-79.94, $1.34-1.36, 91.63-94.33, 1.91-2.10%, and 1, respectively.
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
The Macau Metro Monitor, February 6, 2013
MACAU CASINOS DECLINE AFTER REPORT ON JUNKET CRACKDOWN Bloomberg, Macau Business
China’s government will start taking action this month to clamp down on junket operators that bring gamblers from the mainland to Macau, the Times reported, citing unidentified people in law enforcement. The action will involve police operations in six Chinese cities and is part of an anti-corruption campaign led by Xi Jinping, the Communist Party general secretary, the U.K. newspaper reported. “The squeeze has already started on a small scale, but the operators themselves believe that something bigger is coming within the next few weeks,” The Times quotes an unidentified Macau gaming industry source as saying.
SINGAPORE CONSUMERS LIKELY TO CUT BACK ON SPENDING IN 2013: SURVEY Channel News Asia
Consumers in Singapore were less confident in 4Q 2012, signalling a potential slowdown in consumer spending in 2013, according to a survey by global information and measurement company, Nielsen.
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This note was originally published at 8am on January 23, 2013 for Hedgeye subscribers.
“What if this is as good as is gets?”
That’s what Jack Nicholson asked a bunch of depressed psychiatric patients in one of the great scenes in American comedy (As Good As It Gets, 1997). Melvin Udall should be re-casted as a modern day money manager.
Obsessive-compulsive about this market, anyone?
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
I don’t yet require psychiatric help, but with each passing day I am feeling more and more like a shrink. “Keith, do you really think growth is stabilizing?”… “This market can’t go higher with all this debt, can it?”…
Trust me, it goes on and on and on. I don’t get up at this hour every day to not tell you what I think. The last 2 months have been nothing short of fantastic for stocks – and, this time, the global growth fundamentals actually supported it.
Everything has a time and price. So the question remains, with the SP500 up double digits (+10.2%) now from where you could have bought just about anything lower (November 15th, 2012), is this as good as it gets?
Let’s start with Global Growth… “I’ve got a really great compliment for you, and it’s true.” –Melvin
- ASIA – high frequency growth data has been stabilizing for 3 months
- EUROPE – high frequency growth data stopped slowing in November
- USA – employment growth has been stabilizing for 3 months and Housing is ripping
What about inflation?
- ASIA – most CPI and PPI readings were relatively benign in October-December, but should pop up in January
- EUROPE - since they are still dealing with stagflation, it’s all relative, but Brent Oil was cheaper in November
- USA – follow the CRB Index - down hard from SEP to NOV, heading higher, faster, now in January = #headwind
So, if policy perpetuated Inflation Slows Growth… and Food/Energy prices continue higher from here until whenever that whenever is, you have yourself the 1st major macro headwind to growth in the last 2-3 months.
If you think you are going to get sustainable (real inflation adjusted) economic growth with $115-130 Brent Oil, you might want to check the tapes on how that consumption growth movie ends.
Isn’t it appropriate and ironic, then, as our bailed-out overlords descend upon Davos this week, that the manic media no longer looks to broken sources for “growth forecasts.” They’ve enlisted JP Morgan’s Jaime Dimon this morning instead. He doesn’t have a macro model but is insinuating that the “foundation is set for 4% growth.”
To be clear, there’s a better chance that hockey is banned in Thunder Bay, Ontario than the USA seeing a sustained 4% GDP growth rate when Oil is above $100/barrel.
To Review: there are 3 stages of growth and inflation in our GIP (Growth/Inflation/Policy) Macro Economic Model:
You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to get Muckernomics – it’s all about time and space. Try it on skates (or with a car) and you’ll get it. Cycles are processes, not points. And there are certain levels of inflation that slow growth inasmuch as there are others that help stabilize it (see our Chart of The Day).
Accepting this as truth would eviscerate the academic credentials of most Keynesians hanging out on your tax-payer dollars in Switzerland this week. Central planners of the Global Currency War still think that if you debauch the Dollar, you’ll see a meteoric rise in export demand (even though exports are only 9% of the US economy, and falling).
Back to Melvin’s Market… higher-highs (and in the case of the Russell2000, all-time highs) are flat out bullish, until they aren’t. If your catalyst shorting this market was Earnings Season, so far that’s what we call being wrong. The Financials led off with borderline excellent results, and now we’re seeing Tech (the market’s worst performer YTD at +2.15%) deliver some early morning bacon.
Since Apple (AAPL) is 17% of Tech (as a % of the Tech ETF, XLK), what it does tomorrow on earnings day really matters; especially after Google (GOOG) and IBM ripped last night in the post. Our quantitative signal on AAPL says to do nothing. It’s still in a Bearish Formation (bearish on all 3 of our risk management durations, TRADE/TREND/TAIL), so waiting and watching for the print is a choice.
In the meantime, the SP500 is immediate-term TRADE overbought at 1496 inasmuch as the VIX is oversold at 12.19. So a big AAPL surprise to the upside might just give you what Melvin called his last word, “freak” – to the upside. And if they miss, people might just freak-out on that too.
If you think this market is crazy, join the club. There hasn’t been anything normal about this for years. Not seeing growth stabilizing when it did might be as crazy as buying is on green is crazy today or tomorrow.
“Sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here.” –Melvin Udall.
Our immediate-term Risk Ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, EUR/USD, USD/YEN, UST10yr Yield, AAPL, and the SP500 are now $1654-1692, $110.93-112.95 (Bullish Breakout for Oil), $79.41-80.14, $1.32-1.34, 87.71-90.61, 1.82-1.91%, $482-528, and 1475-1496, respectively.
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
Chipotle Mexican Grill reported (pre-announced) 4Q and FY12 earnings after the close. Comps and earnings were in line with consensus expectations and the pre-announced figures but some important metrics, which we flagged in recent research notes, inflected in the fourth quarter. Below, we recap 4Q12 and offer some thoughts on 2013.
From here, we remain reluctant to chase the recent move in the share price. A significant reason behind that is that consensus is, in our view, too optimistic in its view of food and labor costs. See the second-to-last chart of this post for more on this point.
4Q12 Earnings Recap
- Same-restaurant sales grew by 3.8%, year-over-year, in 4Q which was in line with preannouncement
- The comp was driven by 3.8% traffic, 90 bps of price, offset by mix
- The company opened 60 new units versus consensus expectations of 42
- RLM decreased by 150 bps vs 4Q11 as food costs increased +130bps
- Wage line delivered for the first time in over five years “as wage inflation, including promotional increases more than offset any leverage from the comp”. We think this is a trend
The broad guidance parameters are unchanged:
- 165-180 new units in 2013
- Flat-to-low-single-digit comp growth
- No decision on menu pricing but inflation “so far makes it more likely”, Dairy and protein prices are likely to force management’s hand in this respect
- Management seems reluctant to take price and hinder transaction growth
- Management is trying to gain leverage from G&A
- The international business is producing altogether different returns from that of the domestic market. Volumes and returns are lower, with brand awareness taking some time to elevate to desired levels.
The good news for Chipotle this quarter is that New Unit AUV Growth seems to be slowing at a decelerating rate. This is a good sign for revenue growth and returns if the bottoming process plays out.
More of a concern is the margin side of the earnings equation. Food costs are being guided to 33.5% to 34% and labor costs, long a source of margin, could now be turning higher.
If management takes price, which seems likely given the earnings call commentary, then food as a percentage of sales could come in below guidance. The worry is how great of an impact that will have on traffic.
Consensus Metrix shows the sell-side expecting continued labor leverage in 2013. We are less confident; the company’s hiring practices have come under scrutiny and cost of compliance, along with the stated driver of wage inflation, could drive labor costs higher going forward.
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