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September 3, 2013

September 3, 2013 - dtr



September 3, 2013 - 10yr

September 3, 2013 - spx

September 3, 2013 - dax

September 3, 2013 - nik

September 3, 2013 - dxy

September 3, 2013 - euro

September 3, 2013 - oil

September 3, 2013 - natgas2



September 3, 2013 - VIX

September 3, 2013 - yen
September 3, 2013 - gold

September 3, 2013 - copper


TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP – September 3, 2013

As we look at today's setup for the S&P 500, the range is 30 points or 0.12% downside to 1631 and 1.72% upside to 1661.          










  • YIELD CURVE: 2.41 from 2.39
  • VIX  closed at 17.01 1 day percent change of 1.19%

MACRO DATA POINTS (Bloomberg Estimates):

  • 8:58am: Markit US PMI Final, Aug.
  • 10am: Construction Spending, July, est. 0.4% (prior -0.6%)
  • 10am: ISM Manufacturing, Aug., est. 54 (prior 55.4)
  • 10am: IBD/TIPP Eco. Optimism, Sept., est. 46 (prior 45.1)
  • 11:30am: U.S. to sell $30b 3M, $25b 6M bills
  • 4pm: USDA crop-conditions report


    • President Obama travels to Sweden for talks on trade


  • Microsoft to buy Nokia’s handset business for $7.2b
  • Microsoft, ValueAct pact has option for Morfit to join board
  • Verizon to buy Vodafone’s 45% stake in Verizon Wireless for $130b
  • Vodafone to look at acquisitions if value creation seen
  • Vodafone U.S. wireless exit not so simple for holders
  • Verizon-Vodafone talked merger before agreeing to stake sale
  • CBS deal ends blackout on Time Warner Cable ahead of NFL season
  • Obama begins push to get Congress behind Syria action
  • Bank of America seeking $1.5b in China Construction Bank offer
  • China PMI manufacturing activity rises to 16-month high
  • Russia detected missiles targeting East Mediterranean, RIA says
  • Jarden to buy Yankee Candle for $1.75b: WSJ
  • BofA $160m Merrill bias deal goes to once-skeptical judge
  • Banks must boost swaps-trade collateral under Basel plan
  • FSB to set creditor-loss rules for failing banks
  • Coca-Cola Femsa to buy Brazil’s Spaipa in $1.86b deal


    • ABM Industries (ABM) 5pm, $0.39
    • Guidewire Software (GWRE) 4:01pm, $0.14
    • H&R Block (HRB) 4:03pm, $(0.37)


  • Gold Swings Below $1,400 After Report on Mediterranean Missiles
  • Copper Rally Reversing as Glut Expands to ’01 High: Commodities
  • Brent Oil Fluctuates as Lawmakers Urge Military Action on Syria
  • Soybeans Climb Most in Week as Lack of Rain May Hurt U.S. Crops
  • Copper Declines Following Report of Detection of Missile Launch
  • Nickel Seen Falling Toward Four-Year Low: Technical Analysis
  • Sugar Climbs in New York on Signs of Import Demand; Cocoa Gains
  • Natural Gas Rises as Warm-Weather Forecast Boosts Demand Bets
  • Gold Miners Set to Start Strike as South Africa Stoppages Spread
  • Tankers Worst Since 1997 as Africa Oil to China Slows: Freight
  • Carbon’s Four-Month Rally Faces EU Permit Hurdle: Energy Markets
  • Decades of Ruptures From Defect Show Perils of Old Pipe: Energy
  • Steel Demand May Follow Rig Count Higher as Crude Climbs
  • Rebar Falls First Time in Three Days as Demand Trails Futures


























The Hedgeye Macro Team













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.

Innovation's Hand

Economists everywhere have counseled governments to attend to everything except what matters most: innovation.”

-George Gilder


When Adam Smith published Wealth of Nations (1776), he wasn’t thinking about the American Revolution or Twitter – neither was he considering real-time streaming information in the palm of your hand as a birth child of Silicon Valley-style free market capitalism.


“The Wealth of Nations depicts macroeconomics as a “Great Machine” in which every cog of every gear, governed by an “invisible hand,” functions perfectly in its time and place, as smoothly and reliably as Newton’s gravity.” (Knowledge & Power, pg 28)


While that might make for an tidy intro to an economics textbook at Yale, it doesn’t reflect the new reality of what we’ve learned about economies and markets. They are non-linear. And they observe large doses of surprise (entropy), whose “opposites are predictability, order, equilibrium, and tyranny” (pg 34 - Gilder absolutely nails our framework in chapter 4, “Entropy Economics”).


Back to the Global Macro Grind


After the lowest volume week of 2013, the SP500 holds @Hedgeye TREND support of 1631 and #RatesRising looks just about right again this morning. We like growth stocks. We don’t like Gold or Bonds. Welcome to September.


“The most important feature of an information economy, in which information is defined as surprise, is the overthrow, not the attainment of equilibrium.” (Knowledge & Power, pg 30)


I make lots of little mistakes, but the baseline process behind not making the really big macro mistakes adheres to the 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy). Assuming Bernanke’s Fed (and the entire bond market) wouldn’t be surprised by bullish economic surprises has rendered itself the biggest macro mistake you could have made in 2013.


Why did the SP500 hold TREND support last week?

  1. JOBS: US weekly jobless claims hit another fresh YTD low last week (NSA rolling avg = -10.6% y/y, YTD lows)
  2. GROWTH: New Orders component of the August PMI accelerated to 57.2 versus 53.9 in July (fresh YTD highs)
  3. CONFIDENCE: US Consumer Confidence (U of Michigan Survey) bumped back up to 82.1 AUG vs 80.0 last

Well, maybe that’s not why the US stocks held support – maybe it’s just coincidence. But in our model all economic surprises matter to the extent that the market says they do. Against the heavy-hands of your big government gods, US interest #RatesRising  (see 10yr US Treasury Yield in our Chart of The Day) has fit US #GrowthAccelerating data since last November like a glove.


And, sorry Krugman fans – this simple real-time market model fits almost perfectly in the birthing zones of John Maynard Keynes and Adam Smith themselves. Check out the direness of it all, born out of UK style austerity:

  1. United Kingdom Producer Manufacturing Index (PMI) for AUG = 57.2 versus 54.6 in JUL = new highs
  2. United Kingdom Construction PMI for AUG = 59.1! (versus 57 in JUL) = new highs
  3. UK 10yr Gilts (Bonds) up to 2.84% this morning = +44bps (+18%) month-over-month (+121bps y/y)

Maybe that’s why the UK stock market (FTSE) held its intermediate-term TREND support line of 6378 too. Maybe not – maybe it’s just coincidence. Regardless, if the world is really ending, I don’t mind living in it while it lasts.


I know it’s crazy, but I have to say I’m loving life and Innovation’s Hand altogether this morning. Information empowers the average person like me to take on the tyranny of perceived wisdoms. Summer time is over, and it’s time to create!


Are you crazy? I can be; especially when I get bullish. June got me more bullish on buying growth (and shorting slow-growth assets like Bonds, MLPs, etc.). So did August. This time I could be dead wrong. But if I’m wrong that will mean consensus finally has it right.


Here’s my real-time sanity (consensus sentiment) check:

  1. Front-month fear (US Equity VIX) just ripped a +23% w/w move to another lower-high (TREND = 18.98 resistance)
  2. II Bull/Bear Survey just registered the least amount of Bulls in 2013 at 38.1%
  3. II Bull/Bear Spread (Bulls minus Bears) just dropped from +3310 in the 1st wk of AUG to +1460

In other words, since the US stock market registered all-time highs (1st week of August 2013):

  1. VIX = +44%
  2. II Bull/Bear Spread = -56%

And that’s ahead of the seasonal headwind in the most important leading indicator for US employment #GrowthAccelerating (NSA rolling Jobless Claims) turning into a tailwind (until February 2014) in September.




And so are the entrepreneurs and innovators who have been getting it done while a bunch of politically-partisan and compensation-conflicted folks in this country have spent the last 9 months whining.


We’ve always been the backbone of American Free-Market Capitalism, and unless you let some government dude take that liberty away from us, we’ll be cranking out the change you all want to see in this country while Krugman is sleeping.


Our immediate-term Global Macro Risk Ranges are now:


UST 10yr Yield = 2.71-2.93%


DAX 8180-8292

Nikkei 13,362-13,998

VIX 15.74-17.81

USD 81.83-82.29


Best of luck out there this week,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Innovation's Hand - Claims vs 10Y 082913


Innovation's Hand - Virtual Portfolio

Alpha Baby!

This note was originally published at 8am on August 19, 2013 for Hedgeye subscribers.

“I think I’m different. I’ve got alpha, baby.”

-Andy Kessler


That’s a quote from Andy Kessler’s foreword to the latest book that has surfaced to the top of my reading pile, Knowledge and Power, by “techno-utopian intellectual” (per Wikipedia), George Gilder.


“Everyone says that, of course, but most investors are all beta… when markets go up the beta warriors outperform, and when markets go down they get killed.” (Knowledge and Power, pg xii)


That sounds about right. If you want to see what the getting “killed” part looks like, check out the 2013 YTD returns of PMs who levered themselves up long of the bond market as it was traversing its all-time bubble highs.


Back to the Global Macro Grind


As a macro risk manager, most of your alpha is generated by not being long the stuff that is getting killed. From January to July, that meant not being long Gold, Silver, etc. Since May/June, that’s meant being out of Bunds, Gilts, and Treasuries.


No, we don’t have to wake up every morning and nail every tick in Apple (AAPL) to help you generate risk-adjusted alpha. Our primary risk management focus has always been aligned with Buffett’s 1st rule of investing – “Don’t lose money.”


I think I’m different because I’ve got the ability to cut an asset allocation to 0%. #OldWall banks and broker dealers won’t opt for that strategy because they need to support their new issue markets. Rule #1 (for them) is more like ABS (always be selling).


We have a 0% asset allocation right now to Fixed Income because it’s the 1st time we’ve ever had 2 of our top 3 Global Macro risk management themes focused squarely (and bearishly) on bonds:

  1. #RatesRising (http://app.hedgeye.com/media/595-ratesrising-q3-macro-theme-1)
  2. #DebtDeflation (http://app.hedgeye.com/media/597-debtdeflation-q3-macro-theme-2)

Since these are Q313 themes and the quarter is almost half over now, we’ve re-produced these themes with our new @HedgeyeTV videos (links attached) in order to re-communicate our strongest slides on the subject matter.


The latest addition to our senior research team, Director of Financials Research, Jonathan Casteleyn, also has a video up on the front page of our site titled “Bond Bear Market: Just Beginning.” So we think we’re being pretty clear on our view here.


So far, in July-August, Mr. Market agrees. Month-over-month, look at what’s happened to 3 major sovereign debts:

  1. US 10yr Treasury Yield = +36 basis points (+14%) to 2.85%
  2. Germany’s 10yr Bund Yield = +38 basis points (+25%) to 1.90%
  3. UK 10yr Gilt Yields = +43 basis points (+19%) to 2.70%

So, US stocks finally having a down-week for once notwithstanding, this is where the real negative alpha is eating into the standard #OldWall pie of asset allocations – via #DebtDeflation.


The economic data in the 3 aforementioned countries supports #RatesRising. Germany’s data has improved, sequentially, for the past few months and the UK’s data has been nothing short of fantastic relative to both absolute levels of years past and market expectations. In the USA, jobless claims shocking to the upside drove last week’s +25 basis point week-over-week move too.


Now that the SP500 has corrected -3.2% from its all-time closing high of 1709 in the first week of August, we have to ask ourselves (as we have many times this year) if we A) buy the equities dip or B) join the long list of #PTCs (professional top callers) who have had issues understanding that this is a growth investors market.


If you have a 0% asset allocation to US Fixed Income, your job gets a little less complex. If you just have to break-down the US Equity pieces of the Sector Style Factor pie, you’ll note that the slow-growth sectors still look the worst, especially for the month of August to-date:

  1. Utilities (XLU) lead losers at -4.4% MTD
  2. Healthcare (XLV) is -3.2% MTD
  3. Consumer Staples (XLP) is -2.7% MTD

In other words, with the SP500 -1.77% MTD, being “overweight” those slow-growth sectors is also a negative alpha position relative to something that’s growthier, like Tech (XLK), which is +0.3% for August to-date.


Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things out there that concern me about being long US growth equities. There always will be. But the market A) doesn’t care about my concerns and B) is a lot more concerned with the bubbles that are popping in anything fixed income and/or Yield Chasing that Bernanke #force-Fed people into over the last 5 years.


Getting out of the way of Bernanke’s Bubbles as they are popping – it’s the new alpha, baby!


Our immediate-term Risk Ranges are now:


UST 10yr 2.67-2.86%

SPX 1642-1678

VIX 13.21-15.22

USD 80.91-81.96

Yen 97.21-98.16

Gold 1326-1385


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Alpha Baby! - Chart of the Day


Alpha Baby! - Virtual Portfolio


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



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.




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 






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