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INVESTING IDEAS NEWSLETTER

Takeaway: Current Investing Ideas: FDX, HCA, HOLX, MD, MPEL, NKE, NSM, SBUX, TROW and WWW

IDEAS UPDATES

 

Below are the latest comments from our Sector Heads on their high-conviction, long-only stock ideas.

 

NSM – Financials sector head Josh Steiner says there are two important intermediate term considerations for Nationstar investors. One is rates and the other is deals. The back half of 2013 is likely to see an increase in mortgage servicing-related deal activity as the big three (NSM, OCN, WAC) all raised their acquisition pipeline estimates during their 2Q results (by a combined $145Bn). Interestingly, NSM accounted for 70% of the increase.

 

These deals historically have been accretive and catalytic for shares, and Steiner sees no reason to think the result would be different in the coming quarters.

 

On the other hand, there is the #RatesRising dynamic. One of Hedgeye’s top 3 Macro themes for Q3 is that long-term interest rates are likely to continue to move higher, making higher highs and higher lows. Based on the upward revision to 2Q GDP as well as the very strong jobless claims data in the latest week, Steiner thinks the probability of rising rates continues to grow. Rising rates are like an anchor on mortgage refinance volumes and NSM derives a substantial share of its earnings from refi activity.

 

That said, NSM’s refi business is more defensive than many realize because it has a large contribution from HARP activity, which is less rate-sensitive than traditional refi volume. Steiner expects NSM shares to grind higher over the intermediate term on positive news around deals, but notes that rising rates will act as a short-term headwind in the vacuum between deals.

 

TRADE: In the short-term, the market is and will continue to trade NSM inversely to long-term interest rates in the absence of other data, and rates have been grinding higher of late.

 

TREND: Over the intermediate term, the stock will trade around announcements of servicing acquisition deals. We think NSM remains well positioned here, alongside Ocwen and Walters.

 

TAIL: In the long-term, there is still a tremendous opportunity for non-bank servicers like NSM to roll-up the servicing business. NSM is well positioned to be a prime beneficiary and Steiner continues to think consensus earnings estimates remain too low for 2013/2014.

 

MD – Health Care sector head Tom Tobin continues to expect a recovery in the US birth rate, with his proprietary OB/GYN Survey suggesting Births Trends are improving in July.  Additionally, two other drivers should help buoy Mednax shares from here. 

 

The first is acquisitions, which has lagged the company’s annual guidance to-date, and should provide upside to consensus metrics if MD ramps up the pace as Tobin expects.  The second is Medicaid Parity, which should provide a progressive lift in pricing through at least 1Q14 as more states transition to paying the higher Medicaid Parity Rates. 

 

HCA – Health Care sector head Tom Tobin says HCA Corp’s 2Q 2013 results reported results exhibited marked improvement across all the company’s reported same-store metrics except Emergency Room visits, following a strong 2013 flu season.  Tobin’s proprietary OB/GYN survey suggests 3Q13 is off to a good start with commercial trends improving in July vs. June. 

 

Tobin expects HCA’s EBITDA to trend to the upside into 2014 from potential acquisitions, and modest benefits from the new provisions from ACA (Obamacare) in 2014.  Tobin’s expectations for incremental benefits from ACA are relatively modest in 2014.

 

HOLX – Tobin continues to like opportunities for Hologic under Obamacare, even if the law's first days go poorly.   HOLX’s product offerings cater specifically to the demographics of the insurance expansion population.  Tobin estimates the additional number of Pap tests from the newly-insured will help mitigate the secular decline from interval testing. 

 

Mammography scans coming from the newly insured should also see a boost, which may spur demand for new HOLX systems as existing capacity becomes constrained.  The ultimate benefit to HOLX will depend on the size of the initial expansion population, which we may be modest in its first year, but Tobin estimates HOLX may have more upside leverage to the newly-insured than most other players in the space.

 

FDX – Industrials sector head Jay Van Sciver notes that it was a quiet week for transport data. FDX shares were weaker in a soft equity market, but he continues to think the shares offer good long-term potential from the company's restructuring.

 

MPEL – Gaming, Leisure and Lodging sector head Todd Jordan says Melco Crown Entertainment saw market share bounce back up in August as the company continues to penetrate the high-end segment of the high margin Mass market.  The Macau market is set to post another double digit growth month, with gaming win up in the high teens across the segment. 

 

Jordan says the Street’s estimates for MPEL remain too low, both for the quarter and for next year.

 

WWW – Retail sector head Brian McGough called Wolverine World Wide’s hire of Gene McCarthy as president of its Merrell brand “massively positive.”  McGough calls McCarthy “the most eligible bachelor in footwear,” with “a pedigree stretching from Nike, to Reebok, to Timberland, to UnderArmour.”  McGough thinks WWW didn’t bring in an executive with McCarthy’s track record just to stabilize a 3%-5% annual growth rate. 

 

Merrell is WWW’s biggest division, representing 20% of total sales.  McGough says that, “unless WWW paid an ungodly sum of money to get McCarthy on board, which is unlikely, there is no way to slice this announcement than overwhelmingly positive.

 

NKE – Retail Sector head Brian McGough has no update to his bullish Nike thesis this week.

 

SBUX – Restaurants sector head Howard Penney continues to flag Starbucks as a long-term high conviction call.  Even though SBUX remains a “top pick” for many Wall Street analysts, Penney is not so doctrinaire as to flee just because it’s the consensus call. And we remind you that Penney wrote his first research report on SBUX when the company did their IPO. 

 

While the stock continues to flirt with all-time highs, Penney also notes their global expansion moves on apace.  SBUX just opened their first store in Colombia – the place where they grow all that coffee – and Penney continues to like what CEO Howard Schultz is doing, calling SBUX “one of the best pure plays in global growth in the Restaurants sector.”  As noted in earlier updates, cyclical factors, like improving coffee pricing, continue to add to the momentum as SBUX continues its global expansion.

 

TROW – Financials sector senior analyst Jonathan Casteleyn continues to carry T Rowe Price as his highest-conviction long call, based on the long-range reallocation out of bonds with investors continuing to move into stocks.  T Rowe is one of the fastest growing equity asset managers and has consistently had the best performing stock funds over the past 10 years. This week Investing Ideas highlights Casteleyn’s analysis of what looks like a generational move out of bonds, and into equities.  See our Sector Spotlight below.

 

INVESTING IDEAS NEWSLETTER - 8 31 2013 9 09 32 AM

 

Macro Theme of the Week – This Meddlesome Priesthood


Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough is a quirky combination of a jock and an egghead.  He was the ultra-intense Captain of Yale’s hockey team and went from there to being an ultra-intense Wall Street professional – first in institutional sales at a major firm, then moving on to a successful career as a hedge fund manager before founding Hedgeye almost six years ago. 

 

Along the way Keith has kept up a couple of habits that have stood him in good stead.  One of them is getting up at 4:00 AM every work day – you can’t get a jump on the competition unless you actually get a jump on the competition.  Another is constantly reading everything he can get his hands on and figuring out how it can inform and improve his process.  Hedgeye issues an annual list of our favorite books, and Keith often quotes from what he is currently delving into.  His latest read, George Gilder’s Knowledge and Power, observes that people’s economic life “is full of surprises,” a statement that is particularly appropriate for Hedgeye followers because, says Keith, “it’s more in line with reality than an all-or-nothing statement about forecasting.”   

 

Here’s the Hedgeye advantage – as well as the reason why, after nearly six years in business, so many really smart people still don’t know what to make of us.  “Risk management,” writes McCullough, “isn’t about predicting the future.  It’s about probability-weighting our decisions.”  Unlike most money managers, who insist on a bullish (or bearish) stance, who hold onto a stock (or stay short) arguing all along that sooner or later the market will prove them right, Hedgeye’s process is designed to help you recognize when you are about to be right or wrong, and enable you to shift strategy in a real-time risk management process.  Says McCullough, “changing your mind is more important than anchoring on predictions.”

 

So many money managers are anchored on long-term predictions – they are the priesthood of the marketplace, sort of the outer courtyard of the temple, while the world’s central bankers represent the high priesthood of the inner sanctum.  Rather than criticize these global priesthoods, we offer some current insights on how you can position yourself to benefit from the global financial orthodoxy. 

 

Always bear in mind that government interference in markets has three effects that are so predictable they cannot be characterized as “unintended consequences” – unless you are the kind of person who gives an alcoholic money for coffee and doughnuts, and then are shocked when he uses it to buy booze.  (Tip to good-hearted donors: coffee and doughnuts are free at all Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.  Given that sugar is a major stimulant to alcohol consumption, one has to question why self-confessed alcoholics are not provided with a healthy spread of crudités and cheese.  Michelle Obama, where are you?)

 

First, government intervention in markets shortens economic cycles.  By dumping trillions of dollars into badly damaged markets, government policy in the aftermath of the financial crisis rushed the amelioration of symptoms, while leaving underlying cancers untreated.  The banks took in large dollops of cash which they parceled out in bonuses to senior executives, tucking the balance away for a far-distant rainy day.  The same banks that were wantonly irresponsible in creating and selling a broad range of mortgage products suddenly became quite conservative.  The argument is that banks become very cautious in an uncertain regulatory environment.  The reality is that the free ride was coming to an end, and the banks would have to come up with a different way of shaking down the American public.

 

Now the banks are free to operate again.  President Obama’s woodshedding of the “Wall Street Fat Cats” was a farce, and the one and only person who will ever be put on trial for anything relating to the Financial Crisis has been convicted and is awaiting his slap on the wrist.  Meanwhile, the bankers still have lots of taxpayer cash burning a hole in the pockets of their $4,000 bespoke suits.  The massive injections of free cash into the financial sector have placed the cart so far ahead of the horse that the lame old nag may never catch up.

 

This has been particularly evident in the Fed’s QE program which has functioned, not like clockwork, but more like a massive Rube Goldberg contraption.  Bernanke steps on the QE accelerator, causing the dollar to drop, causing inflation to rise as assets priced in dollars to go up in price – bad for those who drive cars (gas at the pump is more expensive), good for those who own stocks – accelerating inflation threatens to slow economic growth, which calls for more stimulus which, in Chairman Bernanke’s restricted toolkit, means more QE… rinse and repeat…

 

Now that they want to start lending again, the banks have brazenly sought – and received – government approval to create a new financial crisis on precisely the model of the one from which we are just emerging.  This is a new twist on “fighting the last war,” which governments are famously so good at.  Not only are we not preparing to fight the last war – we are actively preparing to lose it.

 

US bank regulators wanted to impose a 20% minimum down-payment requirement for mortgage borrowers, a simple preventative against the kind of Swiss-cheezy loan requirements that led to the implosion of both the US real estate market, and the global Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) market that drew on it.  This week, in the face of a hue and cry, they backed down on this requirement – nor are they forcing the banks to increase reserves appreciably.

 

Two quick data points for perspective.  The first is the Israeli real estate market, which famously weathered the worst of the global economic downturn.  Israeli home buyers must put up 25%-30% in a cash down payment.  And in 2010 central banker Stanley Fisher issued a rule requiring a 50% down payment for “investment properties,” including any second home.  This month the Bank of Israel stepped up equity requirements again.  Banks are now prohibited from issuing mortgages with monthly payments in excess of 50% of the buyer’s income and must set aside a 100% reserve for any mortgage with monthly payments above 40% of the buyer’s income. 

 

For our American readers, unused to bank regulators actually requiring financial probity, this is what “Skin In The Game” looks like.  And it continues to work well for Israel’s economy.

 

Our second data point comes from the Federal Reserve.  By mid-2011 there was $13.7 trillion in US mortgage debt outstanding, and $8.5 trillion in MBS.  Of this, $1.5 trillion was created and sold through the private sector.  $7 trillion was either securitized or guaranteed by the government, either through Fannie and Freddie, or through various government agencies. 

 

One can see that it doesn’t take much of a sneeze to blow away this house of cards, especially when it rests on flimsy underwriting standards, zero down payments, and nested multiple mortgages used specifically to inflate buyers’ purchasing power far in excess of their actual income.

 

In explaining their decision to drastically water down their equity requirements, the Fed and other regulators said “securitization sponsors, housing industry groups, mortgage bankers, lenders, consumer groups, and legislators opposed” the proposal.  Sounds to us like the regulators finally got it right – they managed to get all the right folks angry.  Instead they folded, setting the stage for a second-wave crisis.  Never underestimate the inventiveness of the banks when armed with other people’s cash and protected by supine regulators.  Hedgeye has been on target with our Growth Strengthening call, but that doesn’t mean the underlying economy is ready for another series of body blows, such as will be delivered by a new round of housing wildcatting.  Nor should we have to weather this – but it will come.  You read it here.  #TimeStamp.

 

Home loan demand in the recent up-cycle has come almost exclusively from prime borrowers, making it a very different ballgame from the middle innings of the last housing run-up.  The push to ease up on lending standards sets the stage for a real estate industry that will coerce lower-credit buyers into buying homes, and a financial sector that will force buyers into more leveraged mortgages.  Senior macro analyst Christian Drake points out that households have been de-leveraging.  “Banks can’t lend to someone who doesn’t walk through the door,” he says, meaning the sector needs the government to trot out new incentives for financial irresponsibility.  In the same vein, Financials sector head Josh Steiner says auto loans are already decidedly “frothy,” as lenders push more money onto folks with poorer credit.

 

It strikes us as bizarre that lax mortgage standards are being approved at the same time that JPMorgan is being asked to pay the government $6 billion for alleged misrepresentations over sub-prime mortgages.  Astute observers will note there is now a Bid/Ask market for financial malfeasance.  Of course, the kicker here is that this is not even JPM’s alleged malfeasance.  This litigation concerns bonds issued by Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns, two failed institutions that JPMorgan bought at the behest of the federal government.  Alas, no good deed goes unpunished.

 

There are two other direct consequences of government meddling (oops… we mean “intervention”) in the financial markets.  The second one flows ineluctably from the first, in that the jamming up of economic cycles compresses market peaks and troughs, considerably increasing volatility.  This is a sometimes boon to the banks and the high-frequency traders, though it makes short-term trading not for the faint of heart.

 

Finally, by manipulating key financial market indicia – notably interest rates and currency levels – government intervention stomps all over the normal market mechanism of price discovery.  This makes it all but impossible to do any meaningful economic analysis.  Reading the markets becomes increasingly an exercise in divining the impenetrable secrets of the global cabal of meddlesome priests, the Central Bankers, major hedge fund managers – who are wedded to their market call because, let’s face it, it’s not easy shifting strategies if it means you have to sell out of a $200 billion position – and an uncritical, and largely untutored media.

 

Thus does government meddling distort analysis and shorten economic cycles.  Not to mention that, by creating a mismatch between the banks’ appetites and what consumers are ready to handle, it all but guarantees a new housing crisis, one that will be accompanied by a new MBS crisis.  The only question is, with “Fabulous Fab” Fabrice Tourre out of the picture, who will sell the MBS to unwitting foreign buyers?  Have faith, Wall Street will find a way. 

 

Sector Spotlight – Out Of Bounds On Bonds


As someone once said, “The more these things continue, the more they continue.”  Well, maybe no one actually said that.  But if you follow the financial markets for more than a day you’d have to admit it’s pretty apt.

 

Our Q3 Macro theme of #RatesRising continues to ring the gong as Fed chairman Bernanke’s plan to control the yield curve continues to break down.  The “smoothing the future” approach was presented as a sort of “to Infinity and beyond” program that would continue to control interest rates as long as needed to get the economy on track.  After a few false starts, “on track” was defined as a 6% unemployment reading.  Since then, the Fed has continued with a variety of market moves, non-moves, and conflicting statements, all of which continue to contribute to the volatility of the equities markets.  More significantly, the Fed continues to be powerless to prevent bond prices sliding in a way that must have PIMCO star fixed income manager Bill Gross reaching for the Pepto-Bismol – if not for the Harakiri blade.

 

Senior US Macro analyst Christian Drake’s read on this week’s employment data makes Bernanke look like Dr. Goodjobs, and maybe we are wrong to criticize his continued efforts to manage the yield curve.  Maybe the yield curve is doing exactly what sneaky-pants Bernanke actually wants – trashing bond prices and setting off a powerful new stock market rally that will make us forget that the market has already doubled off its 2009 lows.

 

The problem with Keynesian economics – or with the current policies commonly associated with Mr. Keynes, who is no longer here to defend himself – continues to be a One-Size-Fits-All policy approach: when things aren’t working, the chorus of critics chant “You didn’t spend enough!  You didn’t spend enough!”

 

Senior Financial Sector analyst Jonathan Casteleyn might agree that the Fed hasn’t spent enough, if the objective was to keep bond yields low.  In fact, even with access to the largest printing press in the galaxy, the Fed is clearly not capable of holding the line on the bond market.

 

Casteleyn says the 30-year bull market in bonds has come to an end.  Clearly and definitively.  In an eloquent recent video for Hedgeye, Casteleyn puts a solid foundation under a term that gets thrown around a lot on Wall Street – “Paradigm Shift.”  This time, though, it’s for real.

 

How Much Is “Too Much”?


The US bond market is at an all-time high, with $38 trillion of US bonds outstanding.  Nearly a quarter of that – $11 trillion – is US Treasury debt, and another $8 trillion is mortgage related.  And note that the latest abdication of duty by the nation’s bank regulators – described in the previous section – will add significantly to the mortgage-related number.  The relaxing of lending standards is allegedly aimed at stimulating housing.   But Hedegeye’s work has shown that the housing sector hasn’t needed government stimulus for almost a year.  In fact, if the government were to butt out, the housing sector would recover on its own timetable, in concert with other improving demographic measures such as new family formation, rising birth trends, and improving employment.  Here you see a perfect example of how government meddling is guaranteed to create a bubble in an already over-inflated bond market. 

 

Adding fuel to this particular conflagration, the major brokerage firms have trimmed their fixed-income books, trying to get out of the way of the proverbial falling knife.  This means there is shrinking liquidity in a market that has gotten way too big already.  This will increase volatility, and will force bond prices still lower.  Oh, and it’s decidedly bad news for those investors (presumably mostly foreign pension managers and insurance companies) who will buy the soon-to-be-issued new mortgage paper that will be generated now that the banks don’t have to have skin in the game.

 

Casteleyn says the bond market represents 2/3 of the securities market, meaning there are two dollars in bonds for every dollar of stock – even after the equities market has risen 100% in the last 4 years!  This skewed relationship is unwinding, triggered by the Fed initiating its Quantitative Easing program in 2008.  The start of QE caused a number of market dislocations.  By taking a large portion of the apparent risk out of the fixed income market, it drove down the premium that corporate bond yields had traditionally offered over Treasuries, and even resulted in yields on junk bonds coming down heavily to what were historically considered low-investment-grade levels. 

 

Most obviously, QE forced investors to seek out riskier assets in their desperate quest for return, with the result that the stock market roared back from its post-Crisis lows.  This appears to have been Bernanke’s straightforward objective, and he has certainly achieved it.  Casteleyn’s analysis makes it clear that the “Bernanke glow” is just the beginning of a bull market in equities that could be every bit as massive as the 30-year bull market in bonds that has now ended.

 

Casteleyn says money is flowing out of the fixed income market, and into equities, at rates not seen since before the financial crisis.  Last week alone investors withdrew $11.1 billion from fixed income mutual funds.  Equity funds continue seeing their first positive year since 2007, with inflows at $1.3 billion for the week, resulting in the first annual inflow into stocks in over 5 years.

 

For those who are afraid they “missed the move,” there remains more than $2.6 trillion of investible capital in money market funds, although with the expectation that money funds are never drawn down to zero, investors will have to make allocation decisions between stocks and bonds.  Casteleyn says pensions have historically low allocations to stocks and record high exposure to fixed income – which means that as the bond market continues to kick off losses, fixed income will continued to be sold to reallocate into equities. 

 

Casteleyn points out that the current setup of this rotation from bonds into equities is following its historical cycle. This means that the bulk of the rotation is winding up in money market funds before the eventual re-planting into the new asset class. Thus the carnage in fixed income currently is largely landing in money funds before the eventual reallocation to equities.  Still, even while waiting for investors to take the plunge, we have seen the initial signs of inflows into stock funds this year for the first time in 5 years.  Inflows into equity funds are averaging $2.7 billion a week this year, a reversal from the $3 billion weekly outflows in 2012.

 

Of all the not-so-unintended consequences of the Fed’s program to promote risk-seeking behavior, one actually not intended consequence could be overstuffing money market funds to a point where the funds buy increasing quantities of risky paper.  This has happened before – writing in February of 2012 in the Wall Street Journal, Sallie Krawcheck, former president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Banc of America warned about the lack of transparency of the funds, as well as the decidedly dicey composition of their portfolios.  You may be aware that the SEC has introduced a rule requiring certain classes of institutional money market funds to post an actual net asset value, and not an artificial $1 price.  What you may not know is that for many years, as more and more money flowed into money market funds, managers went further afield in their hunt for yield – including buying bonds in such places as France, Italy and Spain – and Greece – in the midst of the Financial Crisis.

 

Heard enough?  The good news is: you haven’t missed the next big up-move in equities.  The scary good news is, this bull market in equities may run much farther, and last much longer than many people anticipate.  Keep your eye on Hedgeye – we’re keeping our eye out for you.

 

 

Investing Term – Asset Allocation


Asset Allocation is your fundamental risk management tool.  It is the part of portfolio strategy that seeks to adjust percentages of a portfolio to balance Risk and Reward in accordance with an investor’s objectives and risk tolerance.  A well-executed asset allocation process should serve as the foundation of everything you do in your portfolio.

 

Under Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) academics urged investment professionals to seek the “Efficient Frontier,” the optimal risk / reward mix.  In the paper that launched MPT, professor Harry Markowitz defined an Optimal Portfolio in two ways: either select a level of risk, then consider all portfolios with that degree of risk and select the one with the highest expected return; or select an expected return, then consider all portfolios with the same expected return, and select the one with the lowest risk.  From such concepts are mighty edifices crafted, and perhaps no edifice has been more influential than the world of academic research that became the Holy Writ of Wall Street since Markowitz’ paper was published in 1952.  That’s a pretty long tenure for a newly-established religion.

 

But that’s the dry world of the ivory tower – the world that gave us Ben Bernanke and that shall soon give us (… gasp!...) Larry Summers.  As Keith has observed on more than one occasion, “The art of managing money is, the art of having other people’s money to manage.”  In actual practice investment management is a science of marketing, not one of winning investment strategies, as evidenced by the nearly identical performance of nearly every investment manager – converging at around a 95% correlation.

 

So what’s an investor to do?

 

Asset allocation means looking at all available asset classes and deciding how to best slice up your personal investment pie.  An investor with a longer-term outlook will be willing to live with greater short-term volatility in search of higher long-term gains.  Depending on their own risk tolerance – as influenced by their emotional state, but also by a realistic view of how much money they expect to have over time – such investors typically buy a larger percentage of equities, intending to hold them for the long term. 

 

Many investors note that US stock market prices tend to go up over long time periods – a decade or more – and they thus believe the stock market is thus the right place for your toddler’s college fund, for example, or your personal retirement nest egg, if you are in your 20’s or 30’s.

 

One of the chief notions of MPT is Diversification, the idea that if you put all your eggs in one basket, you risk not only the eggs, but the basket as well.  Some argue that the only way to succeed with an investment is to be right in a big way.  For people who are not Warren Buffett, an asset allocation process provides risk management that is every bit as important as selecting the right stocks.  Though there is the argument that excessive diversification removes not only risk, but any possibility of a return, the prudent investor acknowledges that the most predictable aspect of the markets is their unpredictability.  Asset Allocation attempts to address the question, What happens if I’m wrong about my individual investments?  The simple answer is that it’s really hard to be wrong about all of them, all at the same time.

 

Which is not to say impossible.

 

As investors age, coming closer to the end of their peak earning years, and then to retirement, most managers counsel shifting the allocation to a more conservative mix.  Historically this has meant selling down one’s stock positions, especially in more speculative issues, and buying more bonds.  Oh… oops… you can’t do that now, because the bull market in bonds is coming crashing to a close.  Looks like this Allocation thing is actually a whole science in itself.

 

One thing Hedgeye will tell you – and very few managers will – is that it’s all right to be in cash, and it’s all right to analyze and plan before getting fully invested.  Unlike your mutual fund managers, you never have to be fully invested and are free to go to cash.  To the argument that “you’re not keeping up with inflation,” we say “yeah, but I’m not losing my shirt in a bond fund, and I can sleep at night.” 

 

No matter how wealthy you are – and we wish you tremendous success in that department – your personal portfolio represents a tiny percentage of the global financial markets.  But note the amounts of money being discussed above: a decline to “only” $1.3 billion in money moved into stock mutual funds last week.  Note the immense power of individual investors as a group.  Note, too, that individual investors largely behave, not as individuals, but more like a massive school of sardines.  An off-the-shelf asset allocation approach will keep you swimming in the current with the rest of the fish.  By definition, it will not give you above-average returns.  And we remember that the Rule of Unpredictability (we just made that up) has a corollary: The only thing that is predictable in the market is, that the market is unpredictable.  The corollary is, surprises in the financial markets are almost always unpleasant ones (we’re not making that up). 

 

Over the long term, successful investing comes from having a coherent and repeatable process.  That does not mean a stagnant one.  Asset allocation decisions should be reviewed and revisited almost as frequently as you check the prices of the individual stocks and bonds in your portfolio.  Arbitrary structures such as “75/25” or “a third, a third, a third” are mindless rules of thumb adopted by managements at the urging of their lawyers and compliance officers – and with the Imprimatur of academic research – whose purpose is to keep you from suing your stockbroker. 

 

Our advice: read constantly, educate yourself about the markets and about what makes prices move.  Watch government policy for its impact on the markets.  Find an intelligent investment professional who can help address your investments by structuring your portfolio from the ground up, realizing that your asset allocation process is not the icing on the cake – it is the foundation.

 

And stick with Hedegeye.  We’re watching out for you.

 

- Moshe Silver

 

Moshe is a Hedgeye Managing Director and author of the Hedgeye e-book Fixing A Broken Wall Street 

 

 

 

 

 


THE WEEK AHEAD

The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 2nd of September through the 6th 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.

 

THE WEEK AHEAD - WeekAhead


USD: That's What Matters

What's going on right now with the US dollar is of paramount importance. It could be the 1st, 2nd and 3rd most important thing in my notebook.

 

In case you hadn’t noticed, USD is up for the third consecutive week now. It's holding its higher-lows vs June and knocking the Yen solidly back into a Bearish Formation.

 

USD: That's What Matters - drake1

 

Here's the Hedgeye formula: #StrongDollar + #RatesRising = good things for the TREND that is growth stocks rising in the USA.

 

Bottom line? Keep a close eye on the dollar. Thank you for your support and have a great Labor Day weekend.

 

(Editor's note: This is an excerpt from Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough's investment research. For more information on how you can subscribe to Hedgeye research, please click here.)


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July Consumer Spending: Expectedly Light

Total Income - Savings = Capacity for Consumption

 

The simplicity of the above identity belies the gravity of the economic impact it holds for a domestic economy still beholden to consumption for 70% of GDP.  

 

Today’s preliminary estimates from the BEA showed Personal Income and Spending both grew 0.1% MoM in July while the Saving Rate held at 4.4%.  

 

On the income side, both personal and disposable income growth decelerated MoM but accelerated modestly on a YoY basis with Government sourced income serving as a discrete drag on DPI.  

 

On the spending side, spending growth on Non-durables accelerated on both a MoM and YoY basis while decelerating for both Services and Durables on that same basis. (see table below for a detailed breakdown).

 

We weren’t expecting upside in either metric and wouldn’t view today’s numbers as surprising nor necessarily negative. 

 

We’ve highlighted that upside in income growth, and consumer spending growth by extension, in 3Q13 would be constrained (i.e. positive, but hard to model any material incremental acceleration) primarily by negative government salary and wage growth driven by the combination of ongoing job loss at the federal level and the implementation of furloughs for some 700K+ employees which began in July. 

 

In its release of the personal income data, the BEA breaks salary & wage data down into private & government components.  The government figure is an aggregate number (Federal + State + Local) that doesn’t parse the federal component separately – complicating getting a clean read on sequestrations impacts on income in isolation.  On balance, however, growth in aggregate government sourced income is tracking in line with expectations. 

 

Previously (Consumption Check - Is Good, Good Enough?) we estimated aggregate government salary and wage income would decline 1.0% YoY in 3Q13.  The first, preliminary data point for 3Q13 shows income from government declining -54bps MoM and -41bps YoY  – accelerating -40bps sequentially from -0.0% YoY growth estimated in June.  The math underneath our baseline estimate, which we reprise below, is fairly straightforward: 

 

There are currently 2.75M federal employees, which represents 2.0% of the NFP workforce.  A continuation of current trends in Federal government employment growth alongside a 20% paycut for ~27% of the Federal workforce equates to a 7.2% decline in aggregate pre-tax income YoY.   Stated different, the collective impact of the furloughs and employment growth at the federal level should equate to a ~7% decline in income for 2% of the total workforce as we move through 3Q.

 

State & Local government employment growth went positive in May for the first time in 5 years.  Continued, positive job growth at the state/local level could serve as an offset to accelerating declines in federal employment and income growth.  Collectively, Federal, State, & Local government employment currently represents 16.1% of total payrolls.   Layering on an assumption of modest, but accelerating state & local gov’t employment growth to the furlough and employment related pressure at the Federal level, the net impact is ~1.2% negative aggregate income growth for 16% of the employment base.   

 

In short, negative income growth for 16% of the workforce will serve to constrain the potential for acceleration in personal disposable income growth, and aggregate consumption growth by extension, in 3Q13.

 

To put today’s data in slightly broader context:  The labor market data has been positive as the trajectory in the Initial Jobless claims data has been excellent and BLS reported employment gains have been moderate-to-good.  

 

Hours worked has been largely flat, nominal and real wage growth in the private sector has been muted, federal government employment growth remains in retreat (offset by state & local employment growth which has now gone positive after 5 years of negative growth) and fiscal policy will remain a discrete drag over the balance of the fiscal year.    

 

On average, the domestic macro data remains good on an absolute basis and is still better than good relative to other sovereigns – which keeps the “is good, good enough?”  question a relevant one as it relates to domestic equity exposure.

 

Alongside decent economic data and the still nascent phase shift in capital flows to equities (US equities in particular), will the market continue to look past middling consumer spending growth over the next few months with an eye towards a diminishing fiscal drag and easy compares as we annualize the sequestration and the tax law changes in early 2014?  At present, we’re still leaning towards yes. 

 

Domestic #GrowthAccelerating out of the 4Q12 trough has played out thus far in 2013 and, while we still like the intermediate term outlook for U.S. growth, the arb vs. consensus growth expectations isn’t overly asymmetric here and growth in consumption faces some constraints in the immediate term.   

 

From an investment perspective, we still like domestic, pro-growth style factor exposure, but we’re not expecting much upside in the reported consumer income/spending data in the very near term. 

 

July Consumer Spending: Expectedly Light - Income   Spending july

 

 

Christian B. Drake

Senior Analyst 


[PODCAST] KEITH TALKS MARKETS

Hedgeye Risk Management CEO Keith McCullough weighs in with his latest thoughts on the markets and why the US Dollar looms large in his notebook. 

 


Morning Reads on Our Radar Screen

Takeaway: A quick look at some stories on our radar screen.

Keith McCullough – CEO

Dollar hits three-week high (via Reuters)

U.K. Mortgage Approvals Rise to Highest Since March 2008 (via Bloomberg)

Japan seeks biggest defense budget rise in 22 years (via Reuters)

Age-Related Forgetfulness Tied to Diminished Brain Protein (via Bloomberg)

 

Morning Reads on Our Radar Screen - usd1

 

Todd Jordan – Gaming

Naming and shaming: Macau website targets deadbeat gamblers (via Reuters)

  

Jonathan Casteleyn – Financials

Treasuries Head for Fourth Monthly Loss Amid Fed Taper Prospects (JC note: The only way to stop the continued losses in the Treasury market is to close the market for Labor Day … via Bloomberg)

 

Josh Steiner – Financials

Bank of America lays off 1,000 in Beachwood; bank closes 3 mortgage offices in Ohio (via Cleveland.com)

New York to Seattle Buyers Tap Brakes After Rates Rise (via Bloomberg)

 

Howard Penney – Restaurants

Potbelly files for $75 million IPO (via NRN)

Chipotle Mexican Grill names Kimbal Musk to board (via Sacramento Bee)

Taylor Farms, Big Food Supplier, Grapples With Frequent Recalls (via NYT)


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