The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 20th of January through the 24th 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.
Take-away: We’re buying the dip in HLF as we think that the news about Chinese officials investigating Nu Skin is a separate issue from HLF, despite both businesses sharing risk on pyramid scheme claims.
What’s going on with NUS and HLF?
Today we added HLF as a buy in our Real-Time Alerts
Takeaway: While our conviction over the next 3-6M is unlikely to be anywhere near where it has been, we think it pays to #BTDB in the Abenomics Trade.
This note was originally published January 13, 2014 at 16:19 in Macro
JAPANESE ECONOMIC GROWTH IS LIKELY TO SLOW FROM THESE LEVELS
The consumption tax hike (scheduled for APR 1st) has likely been the most over-analyzed fiscal policy catalyst in the world over the past 6-12M, so we’re not going to waste your time adding to the slew of analysis. Japanese growth is a near-lock to slow in second quarter.
Where we are divergent from consensus is that we think Japanese economic growth slows in 1Q14E as well (i.e. sooner than the market might expect; Bloomberg consensus forecasts currently call for an acceleration to +3.1% YoY real GDP growth in 1Q14).
Considering that Japanese economic growth data has been white-hot in recent months/quarters, it’s not exactly going out on a limb to call for it to cool off, at the margins. Tough comps and #InflationAccelerating are threatening to suppress Japan’s consumer-aided recovery from currently elevated growth rates.
Moreover, despite marked improvement in domestic industrial production, manufacturing, capital goods orders, business sentiment, exports, etc., we believe that Japanese corporations have yet to fully buy into the sustainability of Abenomics – as evidenced by their forecasts for the USD/JPY cross and CapEx guidance that remains well off the peaks of previous economic cycles.
As such, the growth rates/index levels of the aforementioned indicators is at risk of slowing from currently-elevated levels until Japanese corporations get substantially more color on the much-anticipated “Third Arrow” of Abenomics (allegedly to be detailed in JUN).
DOES SLOWING GROWTH = DECLINING INFLATION EXPECTATIONS OR HAS “KURODA’S CASINO” BROKEN THAT RELATIONSHIP?
To the extent a noteworthy slowing of Japanese economic growth results in declining inflation expectations, we’d expect to see a [continued] correction in the USD/JPY cross and concomitant correction in the Japanese equity market. It’s worth noting that the USD/JPY cross has a +0.85 correlation to Japan’s 5Y breakeven rate over the trailing 3Y.
Source: Bloomberg L.P.
That said, however, it’s hard to have a high-conviction view on that relationship at the current juncture. The next 6-9M is likely to present Japanese policymakers with their first real test on the economic growth front since Kuroda materially altered the way the BoJ conducts its monetary policy operations.
If Shirakawa were still in charge, we’d actually think about shorting the USD/JPY cross and shorting the Nikkei on a TRADE breakdown in the respective markets. Recall that Japanese capital and currency markets were constantly testing Shirakawa’s will to implement the necessary measures to overcome deflation – a task he ultimately failed miserably at.
Haruhiko Kuroda is a different animal altogether, however. It remains to be seen how much faith the market will have in his willingness to add to the BoJ’s “Quantitative and Qualitative Easing” program and how quickly they anticipate him doing so (80% of economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect additional stimulus measures by SEP). Faith, as evidenced by the net length in the futures and options market remains high – for now at least.
We too think Kuroda & Co. will continue to fight hard to achieve “+5% monetary math” and that expectation underpins our respective long-term TAIL biases on the yen and Japanese equities as outlined at the onset of this note. Moreover, the preponderance of recent commentary suggests they stand ready and willing to react to any confirmation of lost momentum on either the growth or inflation fronts in the interim.
Furthermore, there is a rising probability that both the USD/JPY cross and Japanese equities start to actually cheer on bad economic data; that would represent a material inflection from trends observed in years past, but very much akin to what we’ve all observed in the US over the course of 2010-12.
These views lead us to conclude that the current correction in the USD/JPY cross and the Japanese equity market are just that – corrections. As such, while our conviction over the next 3-6M is unlikely to be anywhere near where it has been in months and quarters past, we still think it pays to #BTDB in the dollar-yen and Japanese equities if and when the opportunity presents itself.
Feel free to ping me with follow-up questions if you’d like to dig in further on a specific topic(s).
Associate: Macro Team
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Takeaway: From Bull to Bear, we briefly run through our short thesis following our conference call.
We added CAKE to the Hedgeye Best Ideas list as a SHORT yesterday at $47.51 per share.
Click here to access the presentation: NEW BEST IDEA: SHORT CAKE
IT’S BEEN A GOOD RUN
We have been bullish on CAKE for the better part of the past two years, but in this industry nothing lasts forever. In full disclosure, CAKE is a strong company with a good management team, so we will be disciplined with this short call.
The bottom line is that 2014 is setting up to be a difficult year for the company. To summarize our thesis, we believe the company’s three year run in improving margins is coming to an end. Specifically, we believe the declines in food costs, labor costs, and other costs have run their course.
Traffic has declined for four straight quarters, a trend that management must address soon. This suggests that 2014 could see an increase in labor and other costs as the company reinvests in store operations. Factor in the minimum wage increases and the ACA, and it is clear that incremental pressure is beginning to build.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 4Q13 EARNINGS
CAKE is scheduled to report 4Q13 EPS on 2/12. Current consensus estimates suggest the company will report 2.0% same-store sales at the Cheesecake brand and 1.9% on a consolidated basis. This would represent a slight slowdown in 2-year same-store sales trends of 30 bps. We believe that those estimates are aggressive and have not been adjusted lower during the quarter despite sluggish industry sales trends.
On the 3Q13 earnings call, the company gave fairly aggressive guidance for 4Q13, due to the easy comparisons from a year ago. The 0.9% comp from last year was the lowest of the 2012 and was impacted by the Presidential debate, Election Day, and Hurricane Sandy.
Management commented on the 3Q13 call: “The housing market continues to recover, the stock market is up, there really doesn’t appear to be any negative calendar issues or holiday shifts that are impacting the fourth quarter. I think that Thanksgiving and Christmas, there’s one less week between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We don’t really think that’s going to impact us.”
However, one less week seemed to have an impact on a number of retailers this holiday season. We are unsure why CAKE would be immune to these trends.
Consolidated revenues are expected to grow 4.1% in 4Q13 vs 3.5% in 3Q13, but we believe these numbers may also be aggressive given slower than anticipated 4Q13 trends.
Furthermore, the company is guiding to EPS of $0.57-$0.60 in 4Q13, based on a range of same-store sales between 1.5-2.5%. The street is assuming the company delivers at the high end of the EPS range, currently registering at $0.59. The current guidance for 2014 is for EPS of $2.29-$2.41, based on a range of same-store sales growth between 1-2%.
FOOD COST INFLATION WILL BE AN ISSUE IN 2014
In our opinion, the largest issues the company will face in 2014 is food inflation. This becomes an even bigger issue considering management has limited pricing flexibility given the decline in traffic over the past four quarters. Can they protect margins without perpetuating the recent decline in traffic?
Management is guiding to food cost inflation of 4-5% in 2014, driven primarily by shrimp and, to a lesser extent, salmon. The company estimates this could impact 2014 by as much as $0.07-$0.10.
As management stated on the 3Q13 earnings call: “We believe that we will be able to offset some of this pressure with slightly higher pricing, balancing our need to protect guest traffic and protecting our margins. As a result, we factored in a net of about $0.04 to $0.07 into our 2014 earnings per share sensitivity.”
However, management failed to account for the spike in milk and cheese prices we are seeing early on in 2014. In our opinion, this will add significant incremental pressure to the food cost line and will force management to lower their 2014 earnings guidance. We run through this thesis in our presentation, including more thoughts on the topics, our earnings sensitivity analysis and the notion that management will be “in a box” in 2014.
If you haven’t already, we encourage you to read through the slide deck. As always, we are available to talk. Please feel free to call any questions.
We added CAKE to our Best Ideas list as a high conviction SHORT yesterday.
After being the bull on CAKE for the majority of 2013, we have reversed course and turned bearish heading into the 4Q13 print and throughout 2014 for several reasons including, but not limited to:
Trading at a peak multiple, we see 20-30% downside to the stock in 2014 as full-year earnings estimates and expectations are revised down.
Click here for the full report: CAKE: BEST IDEA SHORT
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