Don’t Hate. Participate.

“To others, being wrong is a source of shame; to me, recognizing my mistakes is a source of pride.”

-George Soros


I’ve only ever bet on a fight once.  It was for no money and with a guy who just happened to be standing next to the keg with me at the time.  The fight itself was a late night, inebriated 3 vs. 1 event in the back of the ‘football house’ in Springfield, MA. 


I bet on the “1”.   


The #Tell, so to speak, was when the “1” stealthily, but deliberately, led the “3” to the fence in the back corner of the yard.   


“Find the nearest fence and put your back to it” is Getting Jumped 101 material - but a person would probably only know that if getting jumped had actually been an acute risk in life for some protracted period.   


If one’s collective life experience was capable of driving a self-defense instinct to be so ingrained as to be fully active on the back end of a 6 hour binge drinking session, then the odds of an upset victory are probably better than backyard consensus has them set. 


Taking high probability swings at mispriced circumstances isn’t confined to markets.  I’ll probably retire from amateur fight betting with my 1-0 record. 


Professionally, we recently found ourselves in a stirring analytical scrap of sorts with an elite hedge fund manager over the conclusion on an investing idea.  In this particular instance, we turned out to be right. 


In defeat, the aforementioned manager didn’t become embarrassed, inimical or spiteful.  He became a client.   


Being wrong is okay, “I don’t know” is the right answer more of the time than most would admit, and egoless-ness and honest self-reflection in defeat is not a #Process (or person) you want to bet against longer term.   


Back to the Global Macro Grind….


Regardless of the flavor of this morning’s employment data, we’ll be invariably deluged with sound bites lamenting the low level of labor force participation.  Despite its descent to old-hat, punditry talking point over the last five years, Trend movement in labor participation remains critical to the forward growth outlook. 


After all, if population growth is slowing and the share of that population that is working is declining, productivity has some heavier lifting to do to keep real per capita output going in the right direction. 


Demographic, cultural, and institutional trends are generally glacial and collectively serve to drive the broader, directional Trend in the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR).  Over the last 5 years, the straightforward, central question facing economists is what temporary (& potentially permanent) impact the shock of the Great Recession had on labor participation. 


From a research perspective, the aspirational goal has been to discern what the prevailing gap is between where we are currently on the LFPR and where we would have been without the cyclical impacts. 


Academic literature over the last 5 years is replete with analyses attempting to decompose the cyclical and secular components impacting labor force participation.  On average, the research suggests around 40-60% of the decline in the LFPR since 2007 could be attributed to cyclical factors. 


The truth is that attempting to parse the Cyclical and Trend components of Labor Force Participation, with precision, is a quixotic pursuit.  It’s some amorphous combination of the two. 


From an investment perspective, understanding the principal drivers of the LFPR, the key considerations facing the forward outlook, and the highest probability TREND trajectory hold more practical significance than decomposing the Cycle/Trend impacts with exact precision.   


With that in mind, let’s take an abbreviated, Socratic tour of Labor Force Participation.   


What has been the larger Trend in Labor Force Participation?

Taking a long-term view, the Chart of the Day below illustrates the 3 primary labor participation trends which have prevailed over the last 65 years.  Briefly, from 1948 to the mid 1960’s, participation was largely stable. 


From the 1960’s until the turn of the century, driven by Baby Boomers (born 1) entering prime working age (24 – 54) and a secular increase in female participation, LFPR showed a persistent increase. 


From 2000 to present, the trend has been one of decline as the median age of the workforce rose, Boomers began matriculating towards retirement and dual recessions all weighed on the participation rate.


Is Labor Force Participation sensitive to the Business Cycle?

The correlations aren’t exceedingly strong, but yes.  Here, it’s sufficient to simply observe the LFPR in the post-recessionary periods in the chart below.  In each instance, the participation rate dips in the wake of the cyclical downturn. 


So, labor participation shows some economic/business cycle dependence and the broader Trend since the turn of the century has been one of decline.  With no peri-recession tailwinds from cyclical or secular factors, the fact that Labor Force Participation declined in the wake of the Great Recession is not a surprise. 


What has been the impact of domestic demographic Trends?

We’ll explore the multitude of factors impacting the LFPR in more detail in a subsequent note.  Here, we’ll consider the impact of age demographics on the Trend movement in the LFPR. 


Historically, different age groups have shown typical, largely fixed, participation rates.  Labor Participation peaks progressively from age 16 into the mid 40’s, gradually declines to age 64, then drops precipitously.  Thus, as population shares of the different age groups change it impacts the prevailing, aggregate participation rate. 


In addition to plotting the actual LFPR (blue line), in the Chart of the Day, we show the estimated trajectory of participation based on the average 1 participation rate by age for those aged 16 years and older (orange line).  The extrapolation suggests greater than ~40% of the decline in the LFPR post-2007 could be attributed purely to age demographic trends.


Extending the forecast, demographic trends, in isolation, would predict LFPR to decline to 64.1% in 2015 and a further decline to 62.5% in 2020.  Clearly, the Trend remains one of decline. 


What sits as a primary swing factor for LFPR over the intermediate term?

The level of long-term unemployed associated with the great recession was unprecedented.  If the long-term unemployed do come back then we can expect upward ‘cyclical’ pressure on labor force participation as economic conditions improve. 


If, however, the LT unemployed fail to return to the labor force, the recessionary shock could be viewed to have changed the structural and secular outlook for labor market participation.  In effect, shifting the LFPR Trend line lower, compressing the existent cyclical gap (i.e. the spread between the orange & blue lines below), and lowering the potential upward pressure on the LFPR (& unemployment rate) as economic conditions improve. 


Regardless of the cyclical impacts on Labor Participation, growth in the supply of labor will continue to slow vs the multi-decade average. 


A TREND deceleration in working age population growth alongside a decline/flattening in labor force participation rate will put secular pressure on domestic labor supply, serving as a headwind to potential GDP and a tailwind to real wage growth.   As a result, productivity gains will be an increasingly important driver of real output growth over the coming decade(s).


Innovation drives productivity.  Human Capital drives innovation.  Circumstance will necessarily drive our collective pursuit of human capital.  We’ll be increasingly responsible for our own (economic) fate – fancy that.   


Our immediate-term Macro Risk Ranges are now:


UST 10yr Yield 2.82-3.06%


DAX 8187-8297

USD 82.12-82.95

Yen 98.53-100.48

Brent 114.18-117.98 


Enjoy the weekend.  


Christian B. Drake

Senior Analyst 


Don’t Hate. Participate.   - LFPR Demographics


Don’t Hate. Participate.   - Virtual Portfolio






Smoking areas at 16 gaming venues will be scaled back after the venues failed the government’s air quality tests for a second time.  The government tested 46 venues.  Penalties would be announced this month, along with the test results.


McDonald’s is set to release its August sales results before the market opens on September 10.  We expect global sales to be slightly worse than consensus expectations, led by notable weakness across the Europe and APMEA regions.  We expect the U.S. sales to be in-line with consensus, which would imply a sequential deceleration to 0.7% from 1.6% in July.


Earlier this month, we commented on July sales numbers and noted the rapid deceleration in two-year sales trends. Despite the anticipated weakness in August, we expect two-year sales trends to turn positive during the month.  We have been bearish on the stock since 4/25, when we added it to our Best Ideas list as a SHORT.  For 2013, we still believe MCD will have a difficult time hitting the numbers that Wall Street is expecting. 


Below, we provide charts with our estimates for each region of the world versus consensus expectations.  We will follow up the August sales release with our thoughts on the data and our updated view of the stock.  We continue to believe there is a disconnect between investors’ expectations and the company’s fundamentals.  As long as this remains the case, we are looking for more underperformance versus peer consumer and S&P 500 benchmarks. 
















Howard Penney

Managing Director


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UST 2YR: Monster Rip

Takeaway: The 2-year yield has put on a monster rip show in the last few weeks.

As you may have already guessed, I spend more time worrying about the long-end of the yield curve (Ben Bernanke marks the short end to model). But that hasn't stopped the 2-year yield from putting on a monster rip show in the last few weeks to 0.48%.


UST 2YR: Monster Rip - 2Y


What exactly constitutes a big rip? How about a 60% surge in a month.


Look, lots of (most?) people don’t model entropy risk on a percentage basis. We do here at Hedgeye. It works.


Got #RatesRising yet?

Initial Claims: Strong Like Bull

Takeaway: The labor market remains strong like bull. Maintain overweight exposure to credit-levered Financials.

Remarkably Consistent

We're beginning to feel like a broken record with our call on initial jobless claims, stating almost every week how the data is improving at an accelerating rate. This week's data again reflects that trend.


Nevertheless, we urge investors to continue to care. Why? With the broader market, and the Financials sector alongside it, gripped in uncertainty over whether we're poised for a meaningful correction, we continue to regard the claims data as the strongest indicator supporting our ongoing bullish bias and buy-the-dip view. Regrettably for those waiting patiently, there hasn't really been much of a dip. 


Initial Claims: Strong Like Bull - stein1


The bottom line is that the labor market is humming along nicely at this point with rolling non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) claims down 11.2% year-over-year (YoY), the fastest rate of improvement since May 2012. Additional anecdotal evidence continues to emerge that at least a portion of the broadening base of employment is a reflection of employers responding to Obamacare. The bottom line, however, is that the labor market tends to be very self-reinforcing. Baring a significant external shock, we see little reason to expect the current trajectory to deviate from its trend.



The Data

Prior to revision, initial jobless claims fell 8k to 323k from 331k week-over-week (WoW), as the prior week's number was revised up by 1k to 332k.


The headline (unrevised) number shows claims were lower by 9k WoW. Meanwhile, the 4-week rolling average of seasonally-adjusted claims fell -3k WoW to 328.75k.


The 4-week rolling average of NSA claims, which we consider a more accurate representation of the underlying labor market trend, was -11.2% lower YoY, which is a sequential improvement versus the previous week's YoY change of -10.4%

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