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Takeaway: 1) Investors are debating the growth outlook. 2) #InflationAccelerating is working. 3) Hedge funds are regaining confidence in short selling

CONCLUSIONS:

  1. Making sense of which style factors to be over-indexed to and which to sell/short is becoming increasingly difficult to discern. For example, HIGH Consensus LT EPS Growth Expectations is outperforming the pack along with LOW Consensus LT EPS Growth Expectations. Clearly, with the US economy threatening  a trip to Quad #3 for the first time in over a year, investors are trying to figure out if they want to be completely in or completely out of the growth style factor.
  2. Another thing that is working in 2014 is our 1Q14 Macro Theme #InflationAccelerating. The spread between HIGH Consensus NTM Sales Growth Expectations and LOW Consensus NTM Sales Growth Expectations is the widest divergence among each of the individual style factor pairs. We interpret this as the market preemptively punishing those companies that won’t see enough sales growth to offset a likely increase in COGS and/or SG&A expenditures over the intermediate term.  
  3. Lastly, both HIGH and LOW Short Interest as a % of Float are among the worst performing style factors in the YTD. We interpret this as hedge funds reacting to finally seeing their shorts work (on an absolute basis) and looking for new names to short (vs. agreeing to “hide out” together in consensus short ideas amid a raging bull market).
  4. If the emerging signals highlighted above start to trend, we want to be doing the same – i.e. looking for un-shorted names that have low consensus sales growth expectations. A simple multi-tier sort our S&P 500 Style Factor Equity Screener shines a bright red light on PetSmart (PETM) and Aflac (AFL). Both are broken from an intermediate-term TREND perspective on our quantitative factoring. As such, they both warrant your full attention from a research perspective.

When in doubt, blame #EmergingOutflows. According to the most recent data from EFPR Global, YTD outflows from EM equity and debt funds are already at 79% and 32% of their respective 2013 outflow totals! Never mind that domestic economic growth is slowing on the margin (we’ll see if this fundamental TRADE becomes a TREND), we would agree that a race for the exits in EM assets has contributed to the jump equity volatility in the YTD (the VIX is up nearly +30% in the YTD and now bullish on our intermediate-term TREND duration).

MAKING SENSE OF EQUITY STYLE FACTORS IN THE YTD - VIX

That ramp in fear has investors broadly de-risking their portfolios at the margins. Specifically, the S&P 500 Index is down over -3% in the YTD, while US Treasury bonds have done little more than go straight up since their DEC 31st bottom. The former is now seriously threatening its TREND line of support, while the latter is demonstrably broken. If the SPX breaks our TREND line, there’s no real firm support down to our long-term TAIL line of support at 1678 (i.e. a hundred handles lower).

MAKING SENSE OF EQUITY STYLE FACTORS IN THE YTD - SPX

MAKING SENSE OF EQUITY STYLE FACTORS IN THE YTD - UST 10Y

From a style factor perspective, the YTD round-up is a bit more interesting. Making sense of which style factors to be over-indexed to and which to sell/short is becoming increasingly difficult to discern. For example, HIGH Consensus LT EPS Growth Expectations is outperforming the pack along with LOW Consensus LT EPS Growth Expectations. Clearly, with the US economy threatening  a trip to Quad #3 for the first time in over a year, investors are trying to figure out if they want to be completely in or completely out of the growth style factor.

MAKING SENSE OF EQUITY STYLE FACTORS IN THE YTD - UNITED STATES   HRM

Another thing that is working in 2014 is our 1Q14 Macro Theme #InflationAccelerating. The spread between HIGH Consensus NTM Sales Growth Expectations and LOW Consensus NTM Sales Growth Expectations is the widest divergence among each of the individual style factor pairs. We interpret this as the market preemptively punishing those companies that won’t see enough sales growth to offset a likely increase in COGS and/or SG&A expenditures over the intermediate term.  

Lastly, both HIGH and LOW Short Interest as a % of Float are among the worst performing style factors in the YTD. We interpret this as hedge funds reacting to finally seeing their shorts work (on an absolute basis) and looking for new names to short (vs. agreeing to “hide out” together in consensus short ideas amid a raging bull market).

MAKING SENSE OF EQUITY STYLE FACTORS IN THE YTD - Chart of the Day

Recall that equity hedge funds underperformed the broader market by the second most on record in 2013; the raging bull market likely forced a lot of hedge fund managers to concentrate their bearishness in a few consensus short ideas. Now it appears they may finally be branching out.

MAKING SENSE OF EQUITY STYLE FACTORS IN THE YTD - SPX vs. HFRX

If the emerging signals highlighted above start to trend, we want to be doing the same – i.e. looking for un-shorted names that have low consensus sales growth expectations. A simple multi-tier sort our S&P 500 Style Factor Equity Screener (which ranks companies by the various style factors on a percentile basis) shines a bright red light on PetSmart (PETM) and Aflac (AFL). Both are broken from an intermediate-term TREND perspective on our quantitative factoring. As such, they both warrant your full attention from a research perspective.

MAKING SENSE OF EQUITY STYLE FACTORS IN THE YTD - 7

MAKING SENSE OF EQUITY STYLE FACTORS IN THE YTD - 8

MAKING SENSE OF EQUITY STYLE FACTORS IN THE YTD - Style Factor Equity Screener

Best of luck out there,

DD

Darius Dale

Associate: Macro Team