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Takeaway: Current Investing Ideas: CCL, DRI, FDX, FXB, GHL, HCA, RH, TROW, WWW and ZQK


Below are Hedgeye analysts' latest updates on our high-conviction stock ideas. Please note that we added two new names to Investing Ideas - Darden Restaurants (DRI) and Quiksilver (ZQK) this week. 

Here are CEO Keith McCullough's refreshed levels for each stock.


Trade :: Trend :: Tail Process - These are three durations over which we analyze investment ideas and themes. Hedgeye has created a process as a way of characterizing our investment ideas and their risk profiles, to fit the investing strategies and preferences of our subscribers. 

  • "Trade" is a duration of 3 weeks or less
  • "Trend" is a duration of 3 months or more
  • "Tail" is a duration of 3 years or less

Ideas Updates

The latest comments from our Sector Heads on their high-conviction stock ideas.

CCL – Got "Polar Vortex"? In case you missed it, Niagara Falls is frozen. Extreme cold temperatures have affected approximately 200 million people in the United States.

What the heck does this have to do with Carnival you're asking?


Gaming, Lodging & Leisure analyst Todd Jordan believes the ridiculously cold weather outside ought to get everyone thinking about escaping to warmer weather. That is a very good thing for cruisers, according to Jordan, and big beneficiaries include Carnival.

Shares of Carnival are up 15% since we added it to Investing Ideas. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is up around 2.5%. 

Incidentally, "Wave Season" has just started and promotions are rolling in. Our first look into Wave pricing is on January 20. We will provide analysis as it becomes available.

DRI – Restaurant Sector Head Howard Penney added Darden Restaurants to Investing Ideas this week. Click here to read the full report.


FDX  Hedgeye Industrials Sector Head Jay Van Sciver says shares of FedEx continued to hold up well this week.  For the record, shares of FDX have risen 45% since we added it to Investing Ideas, compared to a 17% return on the S&P 500.

Van Sciver notes that recent transport data from rails to trucking to airfreight suggest reasonably good industrial activity in calendar 4Q 2013.  That positive momentum may help FDX into 2014.  

FXB – The British Pound is holding its bullish formation, which we expect will continue to be supported by prudent monetary policy from the BOE and strengthening economic fundamentals.


We believe that positive UK economic data out this week and the BOE’s decision on Thursday to keep the main interest rate unchanged at 0.50% and maintain the asset purchase target will provide further support for the GBP/USD. PMI Services of 58.8 for DEC reflected another month of healthy expansionary activity. New Car Registrations were up 23.8% in DEC Y/Y (a level not reached since 2010) and signal to us that strong underlying confidence is returning to the consumer. In addition, Industrial Production was another bright spot, rising 2.5% in NOV Y/Y, and home price remain elevated and were up 7.5% in DEC Y/Y according to Halifax House Prices.

GHL – Greenhill & Company continues to be our preferred way to invest in a recovery in the mergers and acquisition market (M&A).  Global M&A volume has been flat for the better part of three years with global executives hesitate to engage in excessive deal making because of the current uneven economic recovery, new emerging regulatory rulesets which remain largely undefined, and still a corporate depression mentality remaining from the Financial Crisis.


However, the second half of 2013 has started to show a glimmer of hope of improved M&A activity driven by a recovering Europe, new fundraising from the Private Equity sector in the U.S., and recovering global stock markets that although corporation more valuable equity currencies to do deals. Greenhill is a well diversified advisor with penetration in each of these segments to capitalize on both a rebound in Europe and improved reinvestment cycles from domestic Private Equity firms. In a mid cycle M&A environment, we calculate that GHL has the most earnings leverage versus the other independent M&A advisors Lazard and Evercore and hence is our favorite long idea in the group.

HCA – Healthcare sector head Tom Tobin says HCA Holdings was the dog that got wagged by the tail when Community Health Systems (CYH) preannounced a dreadful quarter, at least in terms of volume, and then went on to say they expect to do at least as well as consensus is expecting in 2014.  Hospitals rallied, and HCA, at least for now, is trading above $50. 

Tobin has been watching two data points – maternity and flu –which he says tell a lot about what we need to know to forecast admissions.  These two items are responsible for a huge portion of admissions, and both have been weak.  In Tobin’s proprietary survey of OB/GYNs, maternity trends continue to trend down significantly.  And flu appears to be running 20% below last year's emergency levels. 

But neither of these cases pays very well or generates a great deal of profit.  Asks Tobin, if CYH announced their volume was down 10% in Q4, should we be worried about HCA?  Yes and no, says Tobin.  The chart below suggests HCA and CYH live in similar neighborhoods, but HCA has consistently performed much better.  “At some point performance in HCA becomes a concern,” says Tobin, “and we'll try and find a good point for an exit, but for now we'll stick with it.”


RH – Retail sector head Brian McGough calls Restoration Hardware “the biggest idea in retail today.”  The stock doubled in 2013, and McGough thinks it should triple within three years.  McGough’s thesis is based on sheer market share gain in the home furnishings space -- everything from furniture, to kitchen, to artwork, to collectibles, to literally everything someone might want to put in a higher-end home.  


Almost every RH bull (and there aren’t many) will hinge their thesis on square footage growth from grossly inadequate 9,000 sq/ft boxes to 40,000 foot anchor real estate.  McGough concedes that floor space expansion is important.  But he says it’s missing the point.  What good is having bigger stores without the appropriate mix of product to meaningfully take up productivity?  That’s where it all begins with RH, and that’s where McGough thinks the company is unmatched.  

McGough thinks RH will become to the home furnishing space what Ralph Lauren is to Apparel, and Nike is to Athletics.  Ultimately, the math translates to 1) square footage tripling, 2) sales/sq/ft going from sub $1,000 to $1,600 despite significantly larger boxes, 3) the RH Direct business growing by 2-3x. 4) Revenue topping out over $5bn vs. $1.5bn today. 5) Ultimately, McGough thinks we’ll see better than $10 in EPS power, with a 50% EPS compound annual growth rate over time. 

TROW – In our most recent report this week of asset related flows into mutual funds and ETFs, all equity related products tallied a $10.5 billion total inflow ($6.0 billion into mutual funds and $4.5 billion into equity ETFs) which compared to a $3.0 billion outflow in fixed income mutual funds and ETFs. This resulted in a net spread of $13.5 billion in favor of equity products considering the positive inflow into stocks and the outflows in bonds. This result this week is significant considering it is double the 2013 weekly average of just a $7.8 billion spread to equities which highlights that the asset allocation shift from bonds and into stocks is accelerating. When looking at a 52 week moving average of this relationship, this asset allocation shift is getting more pronounced in favor of equities which leads us to estimate that this investable trend is continuing (actually its accelerating in favor of equities).


As a result of this ongoing shift by investors, our favorite asset management stock remains T Rowe Price (TROW), a predominately equity only asset manager with industry leading stock fund performance that should gather outsized net new assets because of their top performing fund family.  TROW is set to report earnings on January 28th and we expect a well received release from the company considering our recent positive conversation with management.

WWW – Retail sector head Brian McGough says he’s “keenly aware of not wanting to overstay our welcome” onWolverine World Wide, given how it worked in 2013.  But McGough says that this is the first year where the real revenue synergy should start to kick in.  That’s usually not the right time to walk away from a name unless a) estimates are too high, or the stock is overly loved.

McGough says estimates are low by 20% next year, and then tack on an incremental 10% each year thereafter. To reiterate the underlying call: the Street is grossly underestimating the revenue growth opportunity of the PLG brands (Sperry, Keds, Saucony and Stride Rite).  The simplest way to put it is that the old “legacy” WWW is the most global footwear company in the world.  It sells about 65% of its units outside the US, and has seamless and sophisticated systems (SAP). The PLG brands, which are better quality overall, sell only 5% overseas, and that’s simply because its former owner (Collective Brands) spent capital first on Sperry, then on US Payless stores, and did not have anything left in the kitty for international distribution of PLG brands.

So now WWW can scale this superior content over its existing lean/mean infrastructure. McGough thinks it will drive an incremental $2bn in revenue over 5-years and an extra 400bp of margin.  In the end, this gets to earnings power of about $4.30, which is 50% ahead of what management guided at its recent analyst meeting. 

McGough concedes “WWW probably won't make you rich here, as it will likely take a good 4-5 years to double.”  McGough says he would rather get more aggressive on a pullback. But he says “we know people who have been waiting for a pullback for the last 50%.  In the meantime you’re paying a high-teens multiple for mid-20s EPS growth -- and this company has one of the best track records of anything in Consumer.”

ZQK – Retail Sector Head Brian McGough added Quiksilver to Investing Ideas this week. Click here to read the full report.


Macro Theme of the Week – Welcome To 2014

Hedgeye’s Macro team kicked off the new year this week with our 1Q14 Macro Themes call, the first of our quarterly Macro calls for 2014.

As we do four times each year, our Macro team put up what we see as the three key themes for the coming quarter.  These themes will guide our asset allocation and investment strategy as we head into the year.

As a reminder, last quarter’s themes were 

  • #EuroBulls 
  • #BernankeVsCongress 
  • #GetActive

This year starts off with Q1 themes: 

  • #InflationAccelerating
  • #GrowthDivergences
  • #FlowShow.

(Click here for a video of CEO Keith McCullough discussing the Q1 themes.)

The Hedgeye Process

We will dive into the three themes in upcoming Investing Ideas, laying them out in detail and tracking them as they unfold during coming weeks.  First, to reiterate what sets Hedgeye apart: we have spent our careers watching the crowd behavior of Wall Street.  Whether you call it Common Knowledge, Received Wisdom, Groupthink, or Mass Hysteria, the vast majority of the “smart money” (around 96%, according to our figures) tends to do almost exactly the same thing, at almost exactly the same time, over and over. 

This “rinse and repeat” cycle moves titanic sums of cash across the globe, charging commissions and management fees everywhere it goes, but doesn’t generally make you more money than average.  Indeed, if “average” is what you are looking for in your investment portfolio, then the really bad news is that, on average, the “average” investment professional often turns in below-average returns for their clients – even while charging average fees.  Replace the word “average” with “mediocre” and you start getting closer to the average truth.

In our ongoing commitment to not be Average, we look at what makes the average professionals “average” and note a few common themes that average financial professionals embrace as Gospel.  These include: reacting to key data points; embrace of Keynesian economic principles and government policies based on them; and adherence to standard metrics such as 50-day and 200-day moving averages (for market dynamics), and seasonally-adjusted employment data (for government policy).

Hedgeye’s macro process is a three-pillar structure, each pillar built to differentiate itself from, and take advantage of the way the “average” investor looks at the market. 

Global Macro Risk Management

The first pillar combines History, Math, and Behavioral Psychology. 

History: Most investors’ processes are based on a short time horizon – we hear people talking about 50-day and 200-day moving averages all the time, but no one even remembers what the bond market was doing fifty years ago.  The failure to observe how markets have behaved over very long time periods means most market professionals are taken by surprise by big events.  Wall Street and the media have come up with all kinds of names for stuff they failed to see coming.  Perfect Storm.  Black Swan.  Tail Risk.  Outlier Events.  All describe events for which almost no one was prepared.  And events for which risk managers should have been prepared.

This inability to look to the past leads the average investor to invest recklessly, believing that “this time is different.”  When their investments don’t work out, they smack themselves on the forehead and say “this has never happened before!”  To paraphrase a famous quote: Risk managers who do not study the disasters of investment history are condemned to repeat them.  At Hedgeye, we look to history to see what happened in the past, how it unfolded, and what its consequences were.  When faced with an unfamiliar phenomenon, we try to ask “When did this happen before?” and look to the historical record for guidance.

Math:  The average investor looks at economic theory, often expressed in key data points: if unemployment is at X%, then the equities market will do Y.  Hedgeye’s Macro work recognizes that, by the time the data point has been publicly announced, the trend has already taken hold – indeed, often it has already played out and is already being replaced by a new trend.  While the rest of the world is looking for proof that things have changed, we are looking for evidence that things are starting to change.  Hedgeye’s macro work focuses on the slope of the line, looking for indications that trends are starting to shift.  These changes are small – too small to be recognized as individual data points.  But the really important changes in macro tend to happen at the margin, in almost imperceptibly small ways.  By the time the change is obvious, it has already happened.  As a mathematician might say, we look at The Rate Of Change Of The Rate Of Change.

Behavioral Psychology: The average investor works from a standard menu of concepts.  One of these is Valuation – which leads to predictable outcomes, since everyone uses the same basic tools.  Another is “gut instinct,” either their own, or that of their investment guru.  Behavioral Psychology helps us to see through short-term market movements.  Investors, like other people, routinely believe that they know something no one else knows, that they have an insight no one else has, and that they will succeed where others will not.  This completely misses one of the few fundamental truths of the way the world behaves, which is Reversion To The Mean.  


Mean Reversion is a statistical concept that most people need to understand – because most people don’t want to believe it exists.  The fact is that Mean Reversion explains an awful lot of what you thought was Free Will, not to mention the economy.

If you’ve ever gone on a diet, you probably experienced Mean Reversion.  People have what the medical profession calls a “set weight,” the long-term average weight they tend to maintain.  You can go on an eating binge and gain ten pounds, but you will likely shed most of it over the next few months and return to more or less your “set weight.”  You can go on a diet and be thrilled when the scale shows you have lost ten pounds.  But try as you might, over the next few months, your weight will likely creep back to your “set weight.”  You have just experienced Mean Reversion, the statistical principle that, over long periods of time, most things tend to get back to where they pretty much have always been.”

The deep psychological reality is that most people believe Mean Reversion applies to everyone else, but not to them.  This allows people to fool themselves into believing that “this time is different.”  Then when they lose money they take solace in the fact that “this has never happened before.”  For this you paid for an ivy-league MBA?  There has to be a better way.

The second pillar of our macro process is Fundamental Analysis.  Hedgeye’s global macro model looks at Growth, Inflation, and government Policy (the “GIP” model).  History matters: where we’ve been will tell us a lot about how we got to where we are, and what we are doing today is a guide to where we are likely to be in the future. 

Our fundamental macro process uses a four-quadrant GIP model that tracks the shifting relationships between economic growth, inflation, and economic policy.  Says Hedgeye’s McCullough, “If you get the slope of the line of both growth and inflation right, you will get a lot of other things right – particularly in your P&L.”

The third pillar is Hedgeye’s proprietary quantitative modeling process.  During nearly ten years as a successful hedge fund manager, Keith developed a 27-factor model that tracks market levels in real time.  The model breaks price trends into three major durations that we call TRADE, TREND, and TAIL, measuring price trends over periods from three weeks, to three years. 

Hedgeye’s combination of fundamental and technical tools has allowed us to spot trends early, and has helped us guide our subscribers to investment success over the past five-plus years.  We welcome you to join us as Hedgeye launches into 2014.  Our macro work indicates there are some significant shifts taking place in global market dynamics.  Stick with us as we give you the call-outs.

Happy New Year from Hedgeye.