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Poll of the Day Recap: 71% Believe the Economy Is Getting Worse

Takeaway: 71% WORSE; 29% BETTER

The U.S. economy stalled in the first three months of 2014 "growing" at a dismal 0.1% annual pace. "Don't panic," say consensus economists, "it's probably just the winter weather."


We know what we think, but we wanted to get your opinion in our poll of the day: Do you think the U.S. economy is getting better or worse?


Poll of the Day Recap: 71% Believe the Economy Is Getting Worse - brokenpig

At the time of this post, 71% agreed that it’s getting WORSE; 29% said BETTER.

Believing that the economy is getting WORSE, voters largely pointed fingers at the Fed:

  • “The real economy is getting crushed by the inflation that ‘doesn't exist.’ If the economy was really improving, the Keynesian demagogues wouldn't have to cheerlead so hard to convince everyone.”
  • “The market is where it is because of the FED, as they keep tapering the market will crack, they will then come back and confidence will be shot!”
  • “Consumer spending and borrowing will not come back for real until there are structural changes in this country to support job growth and keep real inflation under control.”
  • “I don't care what the stats/Fed/academics say about economy. If you don't see inflation accelerating across the broad in your daily living expenses, then you really have been living under a rock. Inflation slows growth = Fact.”

However, those who said the economy was getting BETTER noted these signs in contrast:

  • “Consumer spending, which accounts for roughly two-thirds of the economy, finally seems like it's picking up again.”
  • “Exports continue at a record pace and that's good for an economy in transition back to more manufacturing based economy.”
  • “A lot of stats look weak right now, but the Fed looks like they will actually prolong the taper. If they really shut down the printing press, the economy will finally be able to stabilize. It’s a longer term view - for the next quarter or two, things could suck wind and the equities market will probably correct - in this context a correction could be a harbinger of a stronger economy.”


Jobless Claims: Less Good

Takeaway: This morning's print shows considerable week-over-week softening.

Labor Data Hits a Speed Bump

As we pointed out last week, Easter week is notoriously choppy from a data standpoint so investors should take the data with a grain of salt. Based on this distortion, we've seen significant volatility in the data in the last couple weeks. For instance, on a year-over-year NSA basis, this week claims were up 5.1% as compared with down 8.3% in the prior week. The 4-week rolling average, the better measure, showed a decelerating rate of improvement, moving to -8.2% from -10.9% on a year-over-year basis.  


Jobless Claims: Less Good - 3 

We're not overly concerned by the sudden deterioration in this week's print as the ADP number for April was reasonably strong and the Challenger report, while up slightly month-over-month, was in-line with recent trends. That said, should we see a continuation of this week's print in next week's data that would be more disconcerting.


For now, it appears the labor market recovery remains on track, albeit at a moderately decelerating rate of improvement.

The Data

Prior to revision, initial jobless claims rose 15k to 344k from 329k week-over-week, as the prior week's number was revised up by 1k to 330k.


The headline (unrevised) number shows claims were higher by 14k week-over-week. Meanwhile, the 4-week rolling average of seasonally-adjusted claims rose 3k week-over-week to 320k.


The 4-week rolling average of NSA claims, which we consider a more accurate representation of the underlying labor market trend, was -8.2% lower year-over-year, which is a sequential deterioration versus the previous week's year-over-year change of -10.9%


Jobless Claims: Less Good - 2


Jobless Claims: Less Good - 5


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Editor's Note: This is an excerpt of a research note that was originally provided to subscribers on May 1, 2014 at 10:27 a.m. by Hedgeye’s Financials team Jonathan Casteleyn & Josh Steiner. Follow Jonathan and Josh on Twitter @HedgeyeJC and @HedgeyeFIG.

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Cartoon of the Day: Bloody Dollar

Takeaway: Give thanks for the Fed as the U.S. Dollar gets devalued to year-to-date lows following yesterday's Q1 GDP disaster.

Cartoon of the Day: Bloody Dollar - Dollar Dracula

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Superb start to 2014: strong group bookings, higher ADRs and improved F&B spend + higher transient ADRs = expanding operating margins and a strong outlook for several quarters. 




  • 2014 is off to a strong start - hotel demand continues to grow, particularly in our group business, allowing for increased ADRs across all segments.
  • Solid group demand in Q1 drove exceptional growth in F&B
  • Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter was $308 million. +8.8% YoY
  • Strong results due to:
  • RevPAR +6.8%
  • Occupancy +1.5%
  • Group business revenues +11% as demand increased by more than 6% and average rate improved by nearly 4.5%. All segments of group benefited from rate increases, and our corporate demand was up by more than 10%.
  • While the calendar change of Easter to April clearly boosted group activity, we saw solid demand improvement throughout the quarter.
  • Transient room nights were flat to 2013, but ADR +3.5% driven by both rate increases and positive mix shift especially in our higher price segments.
  • Transient revenues +3.3%
  • F&B and AV was +13.5% due to strong group activity
  • Banquet - revenue per group room nights >5%
  • Total F&B revenues +9.5% as catering activity was exceptionally strong in New York (Super Bowl) and West Coast hotels.
  • Strong flow through resulted in adjusted operating profit margin expansion of the 120 basis points and comparable hotel adjusted operating profit growth of 12.5%
  • Investment activity in Q1 saw the purchase of Powell Hotel in San Francisco for $75 million.
  • Invested $6 million in ROI CapEx - completed the expansion of the Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui
  • Invested $5 million in a series of energy conservation projects and the repositioning of the Cast & Plow Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey.
  • Invested >$13 million in the Novotel, Ibis,
  • Projects represent a total investment to date of approximately $105 million. 
  • Have a few assets currently on the market for sale and continue to pursue acquisitions given the difficulty in predicting the timing of completing these transactions - guidance does not assume the benefit of any transactions other than the ones we have already closed.
  • The remainder of 2014: demand growth throughout the U.S. should continue to be strong; GDP growth and business investment trend positively for the full year, and international travel continues to demonstrate robust growth.
  • Overall, occupancy in the portfolio is ahead of 2007 peak
  • Expect group demand to remain strong throughout the remainder of the year
  • Second quarter group activity will be lower, primarily because of the year-over-year Easter Holiday shift. O
  • Booking pace for 2014 continues to be quite strong as revenues are up 5.5% compared to last year. 
  • ITQFTY:  room night booked for the remainder of the year exceeded last year’s pace by more than 4%, with bookings for the month after April up nearly 10%. Approx 85% of our full-year expected group bookings on the books
  • Comparable hotel RevPAR growth for the year will be between 5% and 6%.
  • Expect comparable food and beverage revenue to increase 4% to 5%, which is a full point above prior estimate of the 3% to 4% increase.
  • Margins - incremental profitability and strong flow through from ADR and group results in adjusted margin guidance to 70 basis points to 120 basis points for the full year.

Operating & Financial Performance

  • West Coast RevPAR +14%, occ 450 ADR 700, expect continued out peformance
  • SF RevPAR +25%, Group +15% while transient +8%, mix shift ADR +16%, expect hotels to continue to outperform for 2014
  • Central & South RevPAR +250 bps, weak convention calendar and weather hindered Chicago; Florida less vacation travelers due to Easter shift; expect RevPAR to increase vs. Q1 and in-line with portfolio
  • East Coast RevPAR +260 bps, Boston weak down 270 bps, WDC flat, NYC +420 bps.  Boston weakness due to room renovations.  WDC negatively impacted by YoY comp to 2013 inauguration - expect challenges to persist due to new competition.  NYC - pursued group strategy for SuperBowl with NFL and Media also aided F&B uplift.
  • International: constant $ RevPAR +10.3%.
  • Lat Am RevPAR +21%, expect continued strong performance across Lat Am
  • Asia/Pac RevPAR +8.2% strong group and transient, Oz transient rates +9% in Q1. 
  • European JV +2.8% in constant Euro; increased F&B at 11 of 18 assets.
  • Costs: ex higher utilities operating margins +120 bps, F&B flow through 58.5%.
  • RevPAR driven by ADR = strong flow through.
  • 28% of full year EBITDA earned in Q2, therefore Q2 lwoer than 2013 because 1) sold land adjacent to Newport Beach  2) lost ebitda for assets sold  3) Hyatt Maui timeshare sales ($5M)
  • Redeemed/repaid $675M of debt with available cash and ended Q1 with approx $392M of cash and $782M of capacity under the credit facility.


  • Recovery of Group - seeing deeper trends to resort locations from gateway markets -- seeing growth across all markets, Q1 centered in NYC and West Coast.  Seeing growth across price points.  Catering contribution F&B per Group night up each of last two quarters, but increasing aggressively. 
  • Supply growth - mid 7% range in NYC in 2014 but strong 5% Group growth in NYC, likely struggle to generate ADR growth in NYC.
  • Why transaction market so quiet - pricing working way higher, fundamental problem is view cycle has a long runway as such sellers have no interest to sell nor impetus to sell. Expect 2014 activity to be greater than 2013.  
  • International transactions - capital global moves to opportunities, Asia, Middle East, US, etc.  Run into different investors in different markets, but sovereign wealth funds see consistently.
  • Acquisition market - given capital availability by PE and leverage, looking at more non-core (International, non-branded, etc)?  Looking internationally, would love to do more Palm San Francisco, some add'l limited service in certain markets, no plans for the Caribbean and would look to avoid Caribbean.  
  • Have teams focused on opportunities within global regions - each office focused on specific region.
  • Development opportunities - when not make sense vs. cycle - market by market analysis.  Repositionings still look good in most markets, new development limited, but select service development appears okay for now.
  • F&B guidance - also include F&B revenue increase?  View remainder of year based on Q1 results, also feel Q1 success portends better results for remainder of 2014.
  • Given guidance of 21% EBITDA in Q1 and revised 2014 EBITDA guidance - how big was Q1 beat?   $17M but also $3M insurance gain (was expected but not in Q1), so more like $14M. 
  • Holiday calendar shift in Q1 vs. Q2 - have not run analysis, but expect Q2 to be less strong vs. Q1.
  • Balance of dividends vs. opportunity to purchase assets - what prevents higher dividend - expect as EBITDA increases, so should taxable increase and such dividend should also grow.  Then what to do with FCF of $300M/year - acquisitions (property) or reinvestment in current portfolio.  If unable to grow through investment, then return capital to shareholder.
  • Brands with better/stronger RevPAR trajectory - no comment on brands within portfolio, ask the lodging operators. 
  • Why 2014 RevPAR guidance not increased based on Q1 strength - more comfortable after mid-point of the year, patient, but more comfortable in the higher end of the range for now. 
  • How/why outperform in WDC - better group strength in March as well as transient.
  • Banquet/F&B per room vs. prior peak and trajectory - 
  • Seattle or Denver transactions - Seattle convention center 
  • Chicago trends - harsh winter in Q1 and remainder of 2014 not as strong of a convention year
  • Renovations pipeline and benefit - relatively consistent levels of maintenance capex, not significant disruption which provide uplift.
  • Gain on Sale - why so large and tax impact small is there a 1031 exchange plan.  Philadelphia asset, gain baked into 2014 forecast and dividend. 
  • Pace  ITQFTQ +19% vs. Q1 2013, ITYFTY +4% room nights for year but for May - Dec +10%
  • Later Easter because stretched out spring break travel in Florida.
  • What percentage of portfolio needs higher maintenance capex - very small deferred capex, consistent capex investment, accelerated capex in 2010 and 2011.  Maybe six assets have some level of deferred capex but usually assets thinking about selling.
  • $70-$80M of reinvestment in portfolio
  • Group by month in Q1: Jan weakest; Feb slightly above 6%; March double digit growth%; April likely weaker than 2013
  • Group vs. Transient mix: leave $ on the table but how weather impact?  Yes weather impacted transient, but also transient rate was stronger 3.5% but increased transient business in lower priced markets while group was stronger in higher priced markets.
  • Balance Sheet:  V and Z notes - pre-payable, yes callable in 2016.

‘Black-Eyed George’ Can’t Catch a Break From Dollar Debauchers

Takeaway: After a horrendous Q1 GDP print, shall we buy US growth in May and pray?

The US Dollar is on its knees (at year-to-date lows) following the massive 0.1% U.S. GDP miss. Incidentally, if all the so-called economic “weather experts” nailed the weather, why didn’t they nail this number?


Right now, it looks like both the currency and bond markets are front-running a Yellen “un-taper” in May. We shall soon see.


‘Black-Eyed George’ Can’t Catch a Break From Dollar Debauchers - george whacked

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YUM: Conversation with CFO About Succession Planning

YUM announced this morning that Chairman and CEO David Novak will become Executive Chairman on Jan. 1, 2015, transitioning from his current role.  At this time, Greg Creed, Preisdent of Taco Bell, will become the next CEO of Yum! Brands.


Novak will then form the Office of the Chairman, which will include Sam Su (YUM Vice-Chairman and Chairman/CEO of the China Division) and Greg Creed.  According to the press release, "This new Office of the Chairman will partner as a triumvirate on overall corporate strategy and leadership development to propel continued growth."


We will be hosting a conference call with Yum! Brands CFO Pat Grismer next week on Tuesday, May 6th at 11am EST.  


Broadly speaking, we plan to hit on three key topics, including:


1. Succession planning

  • Pending CEO Greg Creed
  • Office of the Chairman

2. Taco Bell breakfast

  • How is it progressing?
  • What is the go-forward game plan?
  • What are the important benchmarks?

3. China Division

  • How is it progressing?
  • What is the go-forward game plan?
  • What are the important benchmarks?

Call Details

Toll Free Number:

Direct Dial Number:

Conference Code: 551668#



Howard Penney

Managing Director


Fred Masotta



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