This note was originally published at 8am on May 31, 2013 for Hedgeye subscribers.
“I raise my flags, don my clothes
It's a revolution, I suppose.”
For the last five plus years, Hedgeye has delivered an Early Look to your inbox every market morning. Primarily, it has been Keith delivering the goods with the rest of the team chipping in from time to time. With over 1,000 Early Looks written, you would think it takes some sort of Macro Imagination to get these notes out the door every morning.
Fortunately for us the world provides a great amount of economic fodder and this morning is no exception, but to be fair some amount of creativity is required to keep these notes at least somewhat interesting. Moreover our research team, like your teams, requires creativity to generate interesting investment ideas. But, what exactly is the root of creativity?
A study by Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto found that the, “decreased latent inhibition of environment stimuli appears to correlate with greater creativity among people with high IQ.” In layman’s terms, the research says that people whose brains are more open to stimuli from the outside environment will likely be more creative.
Conversely, the risk of too much outside stimuli is mental illness due to overload. In this regard, the differentiator between creativity and madness is a good working memory and a high IQ. In essence, with these attributes a person has the capacity to “think about many things at once, discriminate among ideas and find patterns”. Without them, one can’t handle the increased stimuli.
So even if we know the root of creativity and innovation, how do we accelerate it within our companies and ourselves? Interestingly social networks may be giving us a huge leg up in this regard. According to Martin Ruef from Stanford Business School:
“Entrepreneurs who spend more time with a diverse network of strong and weak ties...are three times more likely to innovate than entrepreneurs stuck within a uniform network."
In a nutshell, creative people are more open to outside stimuli and best leverage that creativity when exposed to broad network of loose ties. (And just think, my ex-girlfriend used to tell me I spent too much time on Facebook!)
Back to the global macro grind . . .
As I noted earlier, this morning is certainly providing a fair amount of economic fodder. A few points to call out:
Domestically, our thesis of economic growth going from stabilization to acceleration continues to be validated. Market internals clearly support this as the SP500 is up more than 16% this year and the treasury market is literally at 12-month lows. If you didn’t know, now you know . . . economic growth is good for equities and bad for bonds.
As we dig deeper in the market internals, the performance of the sub-sectors of the SP500 validate this view even more. As of last night, the top two performing sectors in the year-to-date are healthcare up 23.3% and financials up 23.0% and the two worst performing sectors are utilities up 8.6% and materials up 9.1%. There we have it again, the growth sectors are dramatically outperforming.
Now if you are a thoughtful stock market operator, you probably want to call me out on something from the last sentence, which is that materials should do well in an environment in which growth is accelerating. This is true except for the one important factor: the U.S. dollar. In the Chart of the Day, we highlight the impact of the dollar and the associated correlations over the last 180 days, which are +0.80 with the SP500, -0.72 with the CRB index, and -0.83 for gold. A strong dollar equals weak commodities.
This Macro theme of up dollar and down commodities is very positive for a number of sectors. This year our Restaurant team of Howard Penney and Rory Green has done an outstanding job leveraging the macro call with their stock specific work. One of their best ideas in my view has been a sell call on McDonald’s on April 25th and since then the stock has underperformed the market by some 800 basis points.
At the time more than 30 firms had recommendations on MCD and no one had a sell. This is creative and contrarian research at its finest. Needless to say, our restaurant team eats alpha for breakfast, lunch and most value meals! Ping us at email@example.com if you want access to trial our restaurant research.
Our immediate-term Risk Ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, USD/YEN, UST10yr Yield, VIX, and the SP500 are $1354-1423, $101.03-103.89, $83.10-83.98, 100.31-103.71, 2.03-2.19%, 12.28-15.31, and 1641-1674, respectively.
Keep your head up and stick on the ice,
Daryl G. Jones
Chief Creative Officer
THE MACAU METRO MONITOR, JUNE 14, 2013
GONGBEI BORDER RECORDED 800,000 VISITOR ARRIVALS Macau Daily News
The 3-day Dragon Boat Festival holiday ended yesterday in Mainland China. Gongbei checkpoint recorded a steady tourist arrival during the holiday, with an average daily arrival between 260,000 and 270,000, and total tourist arrivals reached 800,000 in the three days, a slight growth compared with the same period last year.
One of the reasons for the lower tourist number compared with the May Day holiday and the National Day holidays was due to the rainy weather, which caused some of the travelers to cancel their trips. Another reason was that many Mainlanders preferred to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival with their families as it is a traditional Chinese festival.
PACKAGE TOURS AND HOTEL OCCUPANCY RATE FOR APRIL 2013 DSEC
Macau visitor arrivals in package tours increased by 10.2% YoY to 766,971 in April 2013. Package tour visitors mainly came from Mainland China (582,998), with 209,307 coming from Guangdong Province, followed by those from Taiwan (49,485); the Republic of Korea (35,301) and Hong Kong (32,678).
In April 2013, the hotels and guesthouses received 897,340 guests, up by 16.9% YoY. The average length of stay of guests decreased by 0.1 night YoY to 1.3 nights.
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Takeaway: RH is expensive and it's built to stay that way. It continues to meet or beat our lofty expectations. The consensus is low by 60%.
Conclusion: Still one of our favorites. The company overdelivered on a heck of a lot more than the EPS line. It took up sales and EPS guidance well ahead of what the 1Q beat would imply. It accelerated square footage, announced yet another two businesses, two new catalogs for Fall, and made a major hire in luring away the President of the Williams-Sonoma brand to be CMO for its RH Kitchens and Tableware business (where current share is near zero). RH continues to meet or beat our expectations in almost every area. The biggest question for us here revolves around how much higher the stock can go. After all, the stock is up 82% in six months, and is flat out expensive. But it was also expensive 82% ago. In addition, if our model is right, we're looking at an earnings CAGR of about 50% for each of the next three years. Then it eases to something in the mid/high 20s. So what's a fair multiple for that? 30x? 40x? It's tough to say. But what we can say is that we're 60% ahead of the Consensus in the outer years, and until the Street realizes that there's $5.00+ in EPS over 5-years, then we're comfortable owning it even if it's expensive.
RH was one of our favorites headed into the quarter, and it remains so after the quarter. But aside from a solid beat, we did not expect much in the line of new disclose or thesis-changing information with this print given that the company just executed on its secondary on May 15th (which in itself was just weeks after a delayed 4Q earnings print and subsequent positive preannouncement). We were wrong -- they gave the thesis some more positive go-juice.
Here's what changed on the margin:
A REMINDER ON WHY WE LIKE RH
We think that RH is to home furnishings what Ralph Lauren is to Apparel and what Nike is to Athletic Shoes. It's the preeminent brand in the space, and sets/leads consumer style trends/wants/needs but with very little fashion risk. From a maturity perspective, we think that RH is 8-10 years behind RL, and 15-20 years behind NKE. Its got the runway. And even though it has such minimal market share across its categories, the competitive set is actually not very strong.
One thing that makes the RH model stand out is the growth algorithm over the next 5-years. Specifically…
FedEx reports on June 19th, providing the first major data point for our thesis. For FY4Q 2013, expect a terrible looking headline number, since charges for buyouts and accelerated depreciation are expected in the quarter. That should not matter and we are instead looking for three significant items:
We think FDX is a show me stock. Investors may see the opportunity, but the company needs to deliver margin expansion in FedEx Express for buy-in. In terms of timing, it did not help to have the Investor Meeting and get the market excited about the prospects for margin expansion, while at the same time not expecting to deliver any visible benefits until FY 4Q 2013 (the quarter they report on June 19th). The FY 3Q disappointment does set a low bar, in our view. As long as FDX shows decent margin improvement sequentially, and a path to further progress in guidance, we expect the shares to regain their pre-FY3Q momentum.
FY2014 Guidance Outlook
FedEx management has told us to expect $1.6 billion in profit improvement at FedEx Express by FY16, with 75% coming by FY15. They have also indicated that those gains are ahead of schedule and should be relatively evenly distributed through time. The improvement is measured from FY13 Express operating income, which we do not know precisely, but should come in around $850 million. That puts FY14 at around $1,450, or a little better given that the cost reductions are ahead of schedule. Assuming FedEx Ground comes in around $1,950 (growth below recent volume growth) and FedEx Freight at about $300 million, one gets ~$7.30-$7.40 for FY14 EPS at a 36% tax rate. So the current implied guidance matches current Bloomberg consensus of $7.35.
Last June, FDX guided to a $6.90-$7.40 for FY13, which it will miss with a number closer to an adjusted $6.00-$6.15. Last year, FY13 consensus estimates were about where they are now (~$7.35) for FY14. Expectations this time do not appear out of line with what is achievable and what the company has communicated. While the range may leave some downside wiggle room, we do not expect guidance that does not include consensus within its bounds. A decent guess for the range is probably $7.00-$7.50. Given the expectations implied by recent share price performance and investor skepticism, that range will probably be interpreted favorably.
Looking at the specifics around the FY14 guidance expectations, we highlight some of the key differentials vs. a challenging FY13.
Postal Contract vs. Pension
The new USPS contract lowers pricing by about $100 mil and adds some volume, a headwind likely to be in the range of $100-150 million. However, in FY13, FDX saw “a historically low discount rate at our May 31, 2012 measurement date … increase these [Pension] costs by approximately $150 million.” The recent sell off in bonds, in addition to favorable equity market performance, is likely to have a favorable effect on FY14 pension expense. While difficult to calculate precisely, we estimate that the pension improvement should largely offset the negative impact from the new postal service contract.
International Express & Aircraft Reallocation/Retirements
In recent quarters (particularly FY3Q), FDX has had too much low yielding Deferred volume in its high cost International Priority line haul. Weak international trade has also left many channels unbalanced – i.e. full planes out, part empty ones back. Both of these factors hurt profitability in what is typically one of FedEx Express’s highest margin product categories.
The solution FDX began implementing April 1 was to shift the Deferred volume to the belly space of commercial aircraft. This has three key benefits. First, capacity can be removed while maintaining service. Second, the partially empty flight back can be eliminated since the commercial aircraft space can be one way. Finally, the excess aircraft capacity freed can be reallocated to the U.S. express market. FedEx has its most efficient aircraft in the international express market, so reducing capacity in international express has permitted those more efficient aircraft to swap out high cost domestic aircraft.
The net impact of these changes is substantial, consisting of higher utilization, better network balance, earlier aircraft retirement and potentially better pricing. While one fewer Asia route probably saves an annualized ~$100 million in fuel and a bit more in related costs, there are follow-on impacts from aircraft reallocation. The early retirement of the 727 fleet, A310s, MD10s already announced likely add an additional $75-125 million. Additional aircraft retirements during FY14 should also contribute, as may the impact of better network balance and capacity. Aircraft retired during FY12 should also help the comp. Ping us back if you want more specifics, but on balance, we think these factors should contribute $300-$400 million relative to FY13.
While FDX has yet to disclose how many employees have taken the voluntary buyout offer, we estimate that it is likely to impact 3%-4% of headcount. Assuming the reductions are straight-lined through the year, the lower headcount and administrative should favorably impact costs by ~$150-$200 million.
Squishier Items & Fuel
DHL had great success with harder to specify profit improvement efforts in areas like at IT and sales. While much of the FedEx restructuring is more specific, items, like “yield management” can be harder to quantify. Fuel prices also appear to be lower for FY14 and FDX guides assuming stable fuel prices, providing a small benefit relative to lagged surcharges. On balance, the benefit from this category readily makes up the balance for FedEx Express’s $600 million in profit improvement.
International Trade Down vs. Volume Growth
If FY 3Q 2013 international IP vs. Deferred trends persist during FY14, that would create a sequential headwind. At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to expect the trade down to reverse, but there rarely is. The increased use of commercial lift should help offset the impact. Further, the domestic express market appears to be improving and the negative mix shift may end up offset by volume growth, which has been less of a focus for investors.
The difficult comp in FY3Q 2013 for FedEx Ground (vs. a previously not highlighted insurance reserve reversal) may have lowered the expectations for this segment. Improving U.S. economic activity, particularly on the consumer side, could create profit growth in line with volume growth – a favorable variance relative to our expectations.
Upshot: FedEx is likely to guide FY14 in line with what it has already hinted. We see the guidance as attainable now that it is the management focus. For the quarter, we expect the sequential trends in Express to be the most relevant to our thesis and valuation.
Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough handpicks the “best of the best” long and short ideas delivered to him by our team of over 30 research analysts across myriad sectors.