The Desert

“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Volumes are light, ideas are sparse and the Hamptons are packed.  Welcome to summer on Wall Street!


The desert is the most pertinent geographical analogy to this part of the investing year.   Deserts are defined in a number of different ways, but generally the classification is based on the amount of precipitation that occurs in any year.  Below a certain level of precipitation, the region is considered a desert.  Think of precipitation as the idea generation engine of Wall Street that slows during the summer.


Interestingly, while most of us likely perceive a desert as a vast region of sand and limited plant growth, the reality is that only 20% of deserts have sand.  The largest desert in the world is actually the Antarctic Desert, which is, naturally, in Antarctica and covers more than 5.5 million square miles of ice and snow.  So, no, cold desert is not an oxymoron.


One place you don’t want to go after a long night of cavorting and over indulging is the Atacama Desert, which is the driest place on Earth and virtually devoid of life.  The average rainfall in parts of the Atacama is less than 1mm per year.  Further, evidence suggests that the Atacama may not have had any rainfall for the four hundred year period between 1570 and 1970.  Needless to say, even if you feel your portfolio is devoid of new ideas, there have been worse droughts!


In the Chart of the Day, I’ve attached our current Best Ideas list, which is comprised of the ideas that our research team recommends for three months and beyond (TREND) in our models.  Independent of this list I want to highlight the three ideas that I find most compelling.  They are as follows:


1.   International Game Technology (IGT) – IGT makes gaming machines and is, not to mince words, a free cash flow monster.  Over the course of the past three fiscal years, operating cash flow has outpaced total capital expenditures by over a $1 billion dollars in aggregate.    Compared to the current market capitalization of just under $5BN, this provides IGT ample cash to return to investors via share repurchases or debt pay down.


Speaking of debt pay down and cash flow, one of the more compelling reasons to own this stock is its potential interest to private equity firms and its inherent private market value.   As our Gaming, Lodging & Leisure Sector Head Todd Jordan has oft noted, four private equity firms were interested in IGT’s competitor WMS and one made it to the final round before Scientific Games ultimately won out.


2.   Nationstar Mortgage Holdings (NSM) – The roll up of mortgage servicing is a trillion dollar opportunity and NSM is ideally positioned.  (Translation: this is huge market.) NSM recently put up an EPS number for Q2 of $1.37, which outpaced the consensus estimate by almost 50%.  We think there is continued upside in numbers through 2014.  Currently based on the midpoint of NSM’s 2014 guidance, the stock is trading at less than 7x earnings with upward revisions and continued acquisition catalysts on the horizon.


3.   Fed-Ex (FDX) – FDX is just shy of a 52-week high and has outperformed the SP500 over that period, so is not necessarily a contrarian stock.  On a valuation basis, the stock is cheap trading at less than 6x TTM EV/EBITDA and has net cash on its balance sheet (excluding leases). 

Setting aside the financials, which are bullet proof, we think a key reason for owning the stock is that investors are currently ascribing little value to FedEx Express.  We think this division, once restructured, could have a similar margin to UPS or DHL’s express margin and generate an incremental $1.5BN in additional EBIT per year.   Frankly, if the Germans can make DHL Express profitable, it should be achievable for FDX.  If FDX can’t do it, there is no doubt an activist will consider stepping up.


Speaking of Fed-Ex, its key competitor UPS announced late yesterday that it was going to be dropping 15,000 spouses who are eligible for coverage from their own employer from its health insurance plan due to higher anticipated costs under the Affordable Care Act.  UPS expects to save up to $60MM per year on this “initiative”.


We’ve long extolled the benefits of limiting governments, in large part, due to unintended consequences of policy.   In the UPS instance, it may lead to less or more limited coverage for 15,000 working women.   There has also been ample evidence of workers hours being reduced so employers can avoid the punitive impact of the Affordable Care Act on their bottom line.


On a more macro level, there are potentially long term impacts to the labor market.  As Chicago Economist Casey Mulligan wrote in a recent blog for the New York Times:


“The Affordable Care Act’s explicit taxes on employers, subsidies for layoffs and implicit taxes on employees, together amount to five or six percentage point addition to the marginal tax rate on labor income.”


By Mulligan’s analysis, this may contract the labor pool by 3% in 2015.  At the end of the day, this shouldn’t really surprise any of us for as Milton Friedman said on the topic of government management:


“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.”




Our immediate-term Risk Ranges are now:


UST10yr 2.74-2.96%



USD 80.91-81.81

Yen 96.21-98.56

Gold 1


Keep your head up and stick on the ice,


Daryl G. Jones

Director of Research


The Desert - COD


The Desert - vp 8 22


TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP – August 22, 2013

As we look at today's setup for the S&P 500, the range is 38 points or 0.72% downside to 1631 and 1.59% upside to 1669.  










  • YIELD CURVE: 2.55 from 2.53
  • VIX  closed at 15.94 1 day percent change of 6.91%

MACRO DATA POINTS (Bloomberg Estimates):

  • Kansas City Fed Jackson Hole Economic Summit, thr. Aug. 24
  • 8:30am: Init Jobless Claims, Aug. 17, est. 330k (pr. 320k)
  • 8:58am: Markit U.S. PMI Prelim., Aug., est. 54.2 (pr. 53.2)
  • 9am: House Price Index M/m, June, est. 0.6% (prior 0.7%)
  • 9:45am: Bloomberg Economic Expectations, Aug. (prior -5)
  • 10am: Leading Eco. Indicators, July, est. 0.5% (prior 0.0%)
  • 10am: Freddie Mac mortgage rates
  • 10:30am: EIA natural-gas storage change
  • 11am: Kansas City Fed Manufacturing, Aug., est. 6 (prior 6)
  • 11am: Fed to buy $1.25b-$1.75b notes in 2036-2043 sector
  • 11am: U.S. to announce sizes of 2Y, 5Y, 7Y notes
  • 1pm: U.S. to sell $16b 5Y TIPS in reopening
  • 2pm: Fed’s Fisher speaks in Orlando, Fla.


    • President Obama speaks on improving value of higher education for middle class during bus tour through N.Y. and Penn.
    • 11am: Airlines for America qtrly briefing on U.S. passenger airlines’ YTD financial, operational results, performance
    • 2pm: Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey briefs foreign media on U.S. national security strategy
    • 4pm: Treasury Sec. Jack Lew speaks to Commonwealth Club of Calif.


  • FBI said to hunt for criminal acts in JPMorgan energy inquiry
  • Wells Fargo said to eliminate 2,300 mortgage-production jobs
  • Microsoft says bribery investigation includes Russia, Pakistan
  • EU said to weigh curb on collateral asset reuse in repo trades
  • China’s manufacturing gains on stronger domestic demand
  • Everbright Securities president Xu quits after trading error
  • Yahoo tops Google in U.S. for July web traffic, ComScore says
  • Hoover maker aims to turn bankrupt Oreck profitable next year
  • Tesla CEO weighs overseas plants for mass-market electric car
  • Potash rift seen lasting as Asia sales said to rile Uralkali
  • JSW seeks to sell U.S. plant as demand revives
  • Euro-area services output grows for first time in 19 months
  • GM’s Opel revamps insignia to regain customers
  • FHFA should develop policies to govern settlements: report



    • Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) 6:30am, $0.29 - Preview
    • Buckle (BKE) 7am, $0.52
    • Children’s Place (PLCE) 6:30am, $(0.53)
    • Dollar Tree (DLTR) 7:29am, $0.57
    • GameStop (GME) 8:30am, $0.04
    • Hormel Foods (HRL) 6am, $0.45
    • Patterson (PDCO) 7am, $0.48
    • Ross Stores (ROST) 8:25am, $0.93
    • Sears Holdings (SHLD) 6am, $(1.07)
    • Toro (TTC) 8:30am, $0.59


    • Aeropostale (ARO) 4:01pm, $(0.28)
    • Aruba Networks (ARUN) 4:03pm, $0.11
    • Autodesk (ADSK) 4:01pm, $0.42
    • Gap (GPS) 4pm, $0.64
    • Marvell Technology (MRVL) 4:03pm, $0.19
    • Mentor Graphics (MENT) 4:05pm, $0.17
    • Micros Systems (MCRS) 4:02pm, $0.62
    • Nordson (NDSN) 4:30pm, $1.05
    • Pandora Media (P) 4:02pm, $0.02 - Preview
    • Solera Holdings (SLH) 4:07pm, $0.66


  • WTI Rebounds From Two-Week Low on China Manufacturing Growth   
  • Gold Rout Seen Bottoming by Analysts as China Buys: Commodities
  • Russian Urals Set to Lose Iraq-Attack Premium: Energy Markets
  • Toyota Said to Raise Steel Prices for Suppliers by 12 Percent
  • Gold Rises in London as Bearish Bets Drop Amid Sign of Bottoming
  • Corn Declines as U.S. Yields Boost Outlook; Soybeans Retreat
  • Rubber Jumps as China’s Manufacturing Improves, Yen Weakens
  • Gold’s Luster Burnished by Currency Collapse in Emerging Markets
  • Indonesia Cuts Palm Oil Export-Tax to Boost Sales as Prices Drop
  • FBI Said to Hunt for Criminal Acts in JPMorgan Energy Probe
  • Rebar Falls to Lowest in Two Weeks as Mills Increase Selling
  • Commodities May Decline 11% on Fibonacci: Technical Analysis
  • Tin Smelters in Indonesia to Start Trading Through Exchanges
  • Copper Advances as Manufacturing Unexpectedly Expands in China


























The Hedgeye Macro Team













investing ideas

Risk Managed Long Term Investing for Pros

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.

She's Absurd

This note was originally published at 8am on August 08, 2013 for Hedgeye subscribers.

“So I hope you can accept nature as She is – absurd.”

-Richard Feynman


That’s what one of America’s great physicists, Richard Feynman, had to say about how quantum mechanics explains life. I think it describes markets well too. It “describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. “ (American Prometheus, pg 79)


What Do You Care What Other People Think?” Good question. That was also the title of the book Feynman published in the year of his death (1988). It’s a question that I’d love to hear almost everyone in this profession answer out loud.


Yesterday, I asked you if the latest bear market correction was going to be 1%, 2%, or 5%. In case you care what consensus thinks, not one of you answered 1% (which means it’ll probably be 1%). Yesterday’s -0.4% drop in the SP500, put the 2-day correction from her all-time high at -1.1%. #Absurd


Back to the Global Macro Grind


I know, the absurdity of challenging perceived wisdoms in one of the last professions that has been forced to face the fiddle of accountability. If you don’t want to see any of it, turn Twitter off and watch the channel the rest of us have on mute.


To review reality (2013 YTD):

  1. Consensus came into 2013 long slow growth, Gold, and Bonds
  2. Consensus is now selling slow growth, Gold, and Bonds, but too scared to buy growth

But not just any kind of growth – our nature is to not buy “expensive” looking growth. Absurdly, in a growth investor’s market, expensive gets more expensive (Tesla, TSLA +18% pre-market).


“Oh, so you’re telling me growth is back Mucker? Ok, then I’m going to go buy an Emerging Market”




As you can see in Darius Dale’s Chart of The Day, Emerging Market Growth is SLOWING as the slope of US and Japanese Growth is ACCELERATING (and large components of European growth is STABILIZING).


Just model the slopes of lines. Simple is as simpleton does from Thunder Bay, Ontario. In our GIP (Growth, Inflation, Policy) model here @Hedgeye, the G and I (Growth and Inflation) are doing 1 of 3 things from a slope perspective:


And that’s just about it.


Markets pay a higher multiple for companies showing what?

  1. Revenue Growth Accelerating
  2. Margins Expanding

So why is my macro model considered so absurd? It’s the same thought, but for countries:

  1. GDP growth going from slowing to stabilizing to accelerating = LONG
  2. GDP growth going from accelerating to slowing (on the margin) = SHORT
  3. Inflation slowing (via strong currency) + GDP Growth accelerating = REALLY LONG

That’s 2013:

  1. US employment, housing, and consumption growth went from slowing (Q412) to stabilizing, to accelerating
  2. Emerging Market growth (China, Brazil, etc) went from slowing to slowing at an accelerating pace

All the while, July’s YTD high in #StrongDollar gave local inflation to “emerging markets” like India as the Rupee started to crash. Show me GDP Growth Slowing + Inflation Accelerating (India) and I’ll show you a stock market that is down YTD.


I’m not sure why I went off on all of this today. Probably just a function of the absurdity of me having to come up with something in 45 minutes or so at the top of the risk management morning. Thanks for reading my rant.


Our immediate-term Risk Ranges are now as follows:


UST 10yr Yield 2.57-2.73%

SPX 1676-1714

DAX 8233-8456

VIX 11.62-13.94

Yen 96.16-98.71

Copper 3.05-3.25


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


She's Absurd - Chart of the Day


She's Absurd - Virtual Portfolio

CAT: The Next Move



On its 2Q earnings call, CAT hinted at potential new cost actions to be specified in coming weeks.  While we do not know exactly what they might be, we discuss some expectations below.  More aggressive cost reductions may make for a good press release, but the new cost cuts are unlikely to represent a meaningful acceleration from the actions already taken.  As we see it, high costs are not the issue for CAT; rather, a deflating bubble in resources-related capital equipment, increasing price competition and overpriced/poorly-timed investments are the problems.  In addition, deep cost actions could further undermining the 2009 downturn comparison we hear so much about from CAT longs.  The shares may rally on a headline cost cut announcement, but we would look to fade that optimism.



This Is Not 2009:  CAT Out of Cost Flexibility?


The current downturn for CAT bears little resemblance to the one during the financial crisis.  For starters, the drop in demand is specific to CAT’s end markets, not broader economic conditions.  Mining equipment prices increased in 2009, while they have started to fall as of 2Q 2013.  CAT apparently had “trough plans” ready in the last downturn, while frequent guidance cuts suggest that CAT has been caught off guard by recent weakness.  Notably, the inventory situation was much more favorable in 2008/2009.  To quote Jim Owens, “I think our ability to do a better job on the pricing front than you might have expected goes back to inventory management and not overstocking dealer inventories with product that was in the wrong product in the wrong place…” (James W. Owens, not Doug Oberhelman, 8/3/2009)


To the extent upcoming actions require a costly restructuring, it would add an additional difference between the current downturn and CAT’s performance through the financial crisis.  In 2009, CAT was impressively able to rely on its flexible cost base until Chinese stimulus, among other factors, buoyed both commodity prices and CAT’s resources-related capital equipment end markets.  In the current downturn, CAT has already been flexing that flexible cost base.  We suspect that recent acquisitions and capacity additions have reduced CAT’s cost flexibility.  A deeper restructuring may suggest that CAT is running short of cost flexibility.



What to Cut:  Labor, Assets, Capital Spending?



Headcount Reductions: Been There, Done That


CAT has already reduced headcount, with a YoY decline of about 13,500 employees worldwide, net of divestitures and including declines in its ‘flexible’ workforce.  Full-time employment was 122,402 at the end of the second quarter and we estimate that ‘flexible’ employment adds 15,000-20,000 more. 


Excess headcount does not appear to be CAT’s key problem.  Revenue per full-time employee compares favorably with historical averages, especially considering that Bucyrus registered lower values than CAT prior to acquisition.  While growth in flexible labor reduces comparability with earlier periods, flexible labor should not represent a cost action challenge.  While we think headcount was implied as a cost target on the 2Q 2013 earnings call, we do not expect cuts to extend beyond a single-digit thousand number.  In so far as that is the case, the new actions could be smaller than those already taken over the past year. They may just be more expensive.  The headcount actions taken so far have not boosted CAT’s results relative to expectations, in part because they do not solve the key problem, which is declining demand for resource-related capital equipment.


CAT: The Next Move - hg



Assets:  Facility Rationalizations and Asset Impairments


As we see it, CAT overinvested in resources-related capital equipment assets.  It significantly overpaid for acquisitions and added production capacity at the peak of the cycle.  Receivables growth amid falling equipment revenue suggests that recent sales might have been even lower without the extension of credit.  A BUCY goodwill impairment would probably be greeted as good news, if for no other reason than it could stop being a question on earnings calls.  Unfortunately, that testing will likely have to wait until year-end.


Downscaling or closing facilities beyond the current rolling plant shutdowns and reduced schedules may prove messy and time consuming.  CAT’s facilities are frequently integrated among the different segments and serve different steps in the production process, potentially making it challenging to isolate Resource Industries and weaker areas of Power Systems.  Facilities that can be isolated have already had layoffs in some instances.  Problematically, CAT has added capacity at many mining exposed plants in the last few years, potentially leaving lightly depreciated assets on the chopping block. Challenges aside, we suspect that this is an area where CAT could use more aggressive actions.


CAT: The Next Move - hg2



Capital Spending


CAT’s guidance for capital spending in 2013 is for less than $3 billion, matching consensus at just under $3 billion.  It is odd that CAT has continued to add PP&E in Machinery and Power Systems amid a downturn.  This may be a desire to complete “in flight” capital projects, but capital spending slowed relative to depreciation and amortization in 2Q 2013.  CAT may well take capital spending down more aggressively in the back half of the year, which we would generally view as a good idea amid excess capacity in many product areas.



Charges and Guidance


To the extent CAT management takes charges in an announced restructuring, it could provide an opportunity to revise guidance.  CAT’s management is likely under significant pressure to meet its current $6.50 guidance mid-point, which we think is it is not likely to reach (as discussed in When 795F’s Fly).  If CAT uses charges to redefine guidance or back out operating expenses as special, it could backfire.  Investors may well be tired of having their expectations managed (see Feeling Managed?).  While it might boost the stock for a day, we think it would be a bad move for a company increasingly under short-seller scrutiny for its reporting.



How Worried Should Shorts Be?


While a significant cost reduction headline could squeeze short sellers (short interest has increased this summer to nearly 5% of the float), we would view that squeeze as an exit opportunity for longs stuck in the CAT value trap.  CAT does not really have a cost problem; it has an end-market demand problem, a historical capital allocation problem and an industry overcapacity problem.  CAT’s flexible cost structure has been delivering, but cost actions cannot correct those broader challenges.  To the extent that CAT management again tries to manage investor expectations, those maneuvers may meet increased investor skepticism.  Given what significant restructuring actions might imply for CAT’s market outlook and cost flexibility, CAT could even decline on such an announcement.



Europe: It's Getting Interesting

(Editor's note: Below is a brief excerpt from Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough's conference call with investors earlier this morning. For more information on how Hedgeye can help you, please click here.)

Europe Across-The-Board

I am interested in buying Germany here. Have not done that yet. We went with the UK index instead.


Europe: It's Getting Interesting - hed1


The UK index is interesting—I had a lot of questions on that yesterday because it’s obviously not all the UK. It’s kind of a back-door way to play this broadening theme of Europe—I wouldn’t say “recovering,” I would say "not going to hell in a hand basket." That’s the most appropriate way to describe what’s going on there right now.


If you’re just to look at this mathematically, which is the slope of the line—you can characterize something with words however you want—but the slope of the line has stabilized in Europe. In the big places. Over in the UK, it’s actually accelerating. And that’s just the point. That’s why those markets are interesting.


That’s also why the bond markets are not interesting. In fact, they look like shorts. Whether you look at the the German bond market, or the UK bond market, they look like hell. They look like the US bond market does because again, rates are rising. And it’s not just in the US, because these things follow the slope of growth which at a bare minimum in Europe is not slowing anymore, which is of course bullish on the margin if you’re looking at the slope of the line. 

Daily Trading Ranges

20 Proprietary Risk Ranges

Daily Trading Ranges is designed to help you understand where you’re buying and selling within the risk range and help you make better sales at the top end of the range and purchases at the low end.