Ironic Inflation?

“Irony is just honesty with the volume cranked up.”

-George Saunders


Since I won’t see any of our competitors on the Old Wall write about anemic stock market volume or US #ConsumerSlowing today, I stretched and cited an American short story writer from Texas. Since you don’t have a lot of time this morning, I’ll keep it tight.


“When I’m explaining something to you, if I’m being long-winded, and twisty… I could make you feel vaguely insulted. And you’d have a right to be.”

-George Saunders


Back to the Global Macro Grind

Ironic Inflation? - Sell in May 05.05.2014

The irony in talking about the truth on Wall Street today is that more and more people agree with it. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be a net short position in the SP500 (Index + Emini futures and options contracts = net short position of 10,057 contracts coming into the open yesterday).


If buy-side pros weren’t getting real on #InflationAccelerating slowing US growth, you wouldn’t be seeing every hedge fund in America that was running +60-80% net long on January 1 tightening up their net exposures to the growth side of the US stock market either.


Yesterday’s no-volume +0.19% bounce to lower-highs on the SP500 (Russell2000 was -0.3% on the day) had the following volume readings:

  1. Total US Equity Volume was DOWN -26% versus the 1-month average yesterday
  2. Total US Equity Volume was DOWN -40% versus the 3-months average yesterday

In other words, next to Easter Monday, it was the lowest volume Monday we have witnessed all year (and it wasn’t Easter Monday!). So what was it? Was it the weather? When the weather is nice on the East Coast, does everyone take Monday’s off?


You’d be hard pressed to convince me that as a country socializes its downside (and in doing so limits its upside) that its people don’t get lazier. Before you know it, it’ll be cool to work less than they do in France. Ah, la belle Providence, RI!


Enough of my opinion on this no-trust-no-volume-rally-to-all-time-bubble-highs. I’m sure everyone will be able to get out, at the same time. Here’s what else was happening in the real-world of #InflationAccelerating yesterday:

  1. Wheat prices up another +1.9% to +18% YTD
  2. Corn prices up another +1.9% to +16% YTD
  3. Coffee prices up another +0.9% to +77% YTD

I know, I know. If you back all this stuff out, there’s no inflation. Got it. If you can find me an employer who dynamically adjusts your paycheck to real-time food, shelter, and energy, let me know. I’ll short his stock.


BREAKING:Ruble Plunge Hitting Russians” –Bloomberg


Unlike some of Mike’s inflationary Big Government Intervention policies in NYC, that headline from his mother ship of market storytelling is economically accurate. When a government burns the purchasing power of its people (its currency), its poor people get hit, hard.


BREAKING: “US Dollar Hits Fresh YTD Lows, Hammering Americans” –NY Times



The NY Times, CNBC, and/or any of its government access offspring wouldn’t dare put what helped JFK get elected (“Strong Dollar, Strong America” on the cover of the NY Times #1960s). That would incriminate Obama for having a Down Dollar policy that is pulverizing America’s poor.


With the US Dollar Down for the 3rd consecutive week:

  1. The Euro is punching a fresh YTD high up at $1.39 (vs USD)
  2. The British Pound continues to crush it (+6% vs USD in the last 6 months) to a fresh YTD high of $1.69
  3. The Yen continues to signal bullish TREND in our model (vs USD) at +3% YTD

And that’s with these Japanese dudes printing what, 60-70 TRILLION Yens a year? Hooowah! Gotta love the irony in America’s domestic currency policy when compared to that.


In our government PIG model (our GIP – Growth, Inflation, Policy model, bass-ackwards), using the weapon of mass inflation (P – Policy) there are 2 big things the government can use to drive the value of your hard earned currency:

  1. FISCAL policy (to spend moarrr, or not, remains the question)
  2. MONETARY policy (to print, print, print, or to tighten, remains the question)

On the fiscal side, as US growth slows, you can bet your Madoff that Obama is going to spend. On the monetary side, as Janet realizes it’s not just the weather that the US Consumer is eating this summer, I think she’ll get easier (or rhetorically un-taper).


That’s Dollar Bearish, Rates Bearish, and real US Growth Bearish. Since the Policy To Inflate cranks up your cost of living. There’s no irony in that.


Ironic Inflation? - Chart of the Day


Our immediate-term Global Macro Risk Ranges are now as follows:


UST 10yr Yield 2.56-2.67%


RUT 1099-1140

USD 79.05-79.74

EUR/USD 1.37-1.39

Pound 1.67-1.69

Natural Gas 4.59-4.85

Gold 1

Corn 5.01-5.31


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

April 6, 2014

April 6, 2014 - 1



April 6, 2014 - Slide2

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TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP – May 6, 2014

As we look at today's setup for the S&P 500, the range is 34 points or 1.52% downside to 1856 and 0.28% upside to 1890.                                                       













  • YIELD CURVE: 2.20 from 2.19
  • VIX closed at 13.29 1 day percent change of 2.94%

MACRO DATA POINTS (Bloomberg Estimates):

  • 7:45am: ICSC weekly sales
  • 8:30am: Trade Balance, March, est. -$40b (prior -$42.3b)
  • 8:55am: Redbook weekly sales
  • 10am: IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism, May, est. 47.9 (prior 48)
  • 11:30am: U.S. to sell $35b 4W bills
  • Noon: DOE short-term energy outlook
  • 1:00pm: U.S. to sell $29b 3Y notes
  • 4:30pm: API inventories
  • 7pm: Discussion with Fed in St. Louis


    • Primaries today in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio
    • 9:30am: Attorney General Eric Holder delivers remarks at Correctional Workers Week Memorial Service
    • 9:30am: Senate Armed Services Cmte hears from Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey and services’ chiefs of staff on military pay
    • 10am: Senate Finance Cmte holds hearing on highway trust fund
    • 10am: Hillary Clinton speaks at Nat’l Council Behavioral Health
    • 1pm: Statoil CEO Helge Lund discusses his strategy at CSIS
    • 3pm: Senate Foreign Relations Cmte hears from Asst. Sec. of State Victoria Nuland on Russia
    • 7pm: Federal Reserve Gov. Jeremy Stein speaks at dinner held by Money Marketeers of New York Univ.
    • U.S. ELECTION WRAP: May Primaries; Buffett on Hillary


  • French President Hollande says GE bid undervalues Alstom
  • Barclays 1Q profit declines more than est. on fixed income
  • Ukraine unrest intensifies as toll rises from East offensive
  • Google to ask U.S. appeals court to throw out $30m Vringo jury verdict
  • Samsung says will challenge Apple patent infringement verdict
  • AstraZeneca chairman asks Cameron to stay bid-neutral: FT
  • Pfizer CEO willing to walk away from AstraZeneca bid: WSJ
  • Investors pushing U.S. banks for cash returns, special divs.
  • Credit Suisse put business probed by U.S. into separate unit
  • Fiat said to start Alfa Romeo model expansion with own funds
  • Sprint matches T-Mobile’s prepaid plan in Son’s price war
  • Coke, Pepsi to remove vegetable oil derivative from drinks
  • N.D. Sen. Hoeven says 3 votes short of Keystone cloture
  • Senate Foreign Relations Cmte meets on Russia, Ukraine
  • Fed Gov. Jeremy Stein speaks at 7pm NYU dinner


    • Akorn (AKRX) 6:00am, $0.15
    • AMETEK (AME) 7am, $0.56 - Preview
    • Arcos Dorados Holdings (ARCO)  8am, $0.02
    • Ares Capital (ARCC) 8am, $0.39
    • Arrow Electronics (ARW) 8am, $1.21
    • BCE (BCE CN) 7am, C$0.76 - Preview
    • Carrizo Oil & Gas (CRZO) 6:30am, $0.40
    • CBOE Holdings (CBOE) 7:30am, $0.56
    • Denbury Resources (DNR) 7:30am, $0.25
    • Dentsply International (XRAY) 7am, $0.56
    • Discovery Communications (DISCA) 7am, $0.71
    • Emerson Electric Co (EMR) 6:30am, $0.81 -Preview
    • FirstEnergy (FE) 8:30am, $0.42
    • George Weston (WN CN) 8am, $0.76
    • GNC Holdings (GNC) 8am, $0.76
    • Henry Schein (HSIC) 7am, $1.13
    • Hillshire Brands (HSH) 7:30am, $0.36
    • HollyFrontier (HFC) 7am, $0.77
    • Intl. Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) 7am, $1.25
    • Isis Pharmaceuticals (ISIS) 8:30am, ($0.24)
    • Magellan Midstream Partners LP (MMP)  8:30am, $0.68
    • Mosaic (MOS) 7am, $0.59  - Preview
    • NRG Energy (NRG) 6:49am, ($0.13)
    • Nu Skin Enterprises (NUS) 7:30am, $0.94
    • Office Depot (ODP) 7am, $0.03
    • Quicksilver Resources (KWK) 7:30am, ($0.07)
    • Radian Group (RDN) 7am, $0.22
    • Rowan Cos Plc (RDC) 8:00am, $0.20
    • Semafo (SMF CN) 8:23am, ($0.02)
    • Towers Watson & Co (TW) 6:00am, $1.48
    • Vantage Drilling Co (VTG) 7am, $0.08
    • Vishay Intertechnology (VSH) 7:30am, $0.18
    • Vulcan Materials (VMC)  8am, ($0.33)
    • Western Refining (WNR) 6:00am, $0.40
    • WestJet Airlines (WJA CN) 6:30am, C$0.63 -Preview
    • Zoetis (ZTS) 7am, $0.37 - Preview


    • Acadia Pharmaceuticals (ACAD) 4:01pm, ($0.13)
    • Activision Blizzard (ATVI) 4:05pm, $0.10
    • Agrium (AGU CN) 6:45pm, C$0.04 - Preview
    • Allstate (ALL) 4:05pm, $1.20
    • Electronic Arts (EA) 4:03pm, $0.11 - Preview
    • FireEye (FEYE) 4:05pm, ($0.53)
    • First Solar (FSLR) 4:05pm, $0.52
    • FMC (FMC) 4:15pm, $0.95
    • Forest Oil (FST) 4:22pm, ($0.02)
    • Frontier Communications (FTR) 4:01pm, $0.06
    • Groupon (GRPN) 4pm, ($0.03) - Preview
    • Iamgold (IMG CN) 5:04pm, $0.02
    • Liberty Global PLC (LBTYA) 5:40pm, ($0.08)
    • Marathon Oil (MRO) 4:03pm, $0.72
    • Matador Resources Co (MTDR) 4:05pm, $0.28
    • Microchip Technology (MCHP) 4:15pm, $0.62
    • Myriad Genetics (MYGN) 4:05pm, $0.45 - Preview
    • Oneok (OKE) 4:05pm, $0.37
    • Pioneer Natural Resources Co (PXD) 4:05pm, $1.06
    • Prospect Capital (PSEC) 4pm, $0.32
    • Qiagen NV (QGEN) 4pm, $0.22
    • Sun Life Financial (SLF CN) 5:10pm, C$0.66 - Preview
    • Trimble Navigation (TRMB) 4:02pm, $0.42
    • TripAdvisor (TRIP) 4:02pm, $0.54
    • Veresen (VSN CN) 4:22pm, C$0.05
    • W&T Offshore (WTI) 5:20pm, $0.21
    • Walt Disney (DIS) 4:15pm, $0.95 - Preview
    • Whole Foods Market (WFM) 4:03pm, $0.41
    • Zulily (ZU) 4:05pm, $0.00



  • Brent Rises as Russia and Europe Discuss Ukraine; WTI Advances
  • El Nino Alert Signals Drought, Flood Risks for World’s Farmers
  • Crop ETFs See 27% Surge in Assets on Weather Risks: Commodities
  • Nickel Advances as Ukraine Fuels Concern Supply Might Run Short
  • Corn to Soybeans Slip as U.S. Weather Outlook Favors Planting
  • Gold Near Three-Week High as Ukraine Weighed With U.S. Economy
  • Sugar Rises Amid El Nino Alert Update; Arabica Coffee Also Gains
  • Nickel to Rally 20% Further Amid Indonesia Ban, Survey Shows
  • G-7 ‘Determined’ to Cut Russian Energy Dependence, U.K. Says
  • British Coins Pass Test in 800-Year-Old Rite as Osborne Watches
  • Cushing Oil Storage Area May Empty in Weeks: Morgan Stanley
  • Oseberg Crude Exports Said to Jump to Seven Cargoes in June
  • Copper Supply Additions May Peak in 2014, Plunge 79% by 2020
  • No Petroleum No Problem for Pipelines Backed by Private Equity

























The Hedgeye Macro Team














Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.52%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.67%

Did the 10-Year U.S. Treasury Go Over the Waterfall?

Takeaway: Everything that matters in macro happens on the margin.

Editor's note: This research excerpt from CEO Keith McCullough was originally written before this morning's market open. For more information on how you can subscribe to Hedgeye please click here.


Did the 10-Year U.S. Treasury Go Over the Waterfall?  - niag1


So, did the 10-year US Treasury Yield just go over the waterfall of interconnected risk?


After one of the more epic 2 hour moves I’ve ever seen for the 10-year yield (between 8:30-10:30am on Friday), my long-term TAIL risk line of 2.60% broke (2.58% this morning).


Did the 10-Year U.S. Treasury Go Over the Waterfall?  - 05.05.14 10 year yield post nfp


Gold is breaking out again and European stocks don’t like it inasmuch as high multiple US Growth Stocks won’t.


After frustrating people who missed the rip higher to $1380 in early March, Gold has been consolidating and finally broke out above my immediate-term TRADE momentum line of $1292 on Friday.


There is 0% coincidence in that after the 10-year yield gave it direction. Gold loves falling bond yields.


Did the 10-Year U.S. Treasury Go Over the Waterfall?  - 05.05.14 UST vs. Gold

Cartoon of the Day: Monsters

Takeaway: Buy in May and pray or just go away?

Cartoon of the Day: Monsters - Sell in May 05.05.2014

TGT - New CEO Has To Take EPS Down -- A Lot

Takeaway: Anyone looking at near term implication of the mgmt chg is missing the big picture. New CEO has to take earnings down, before they can go up

Let’s be clear about what happened…Sheinhafel was fired.  Too many people are saying that he ‘stepped down’. Not to rub this in his face, as we respect anyone that stays with one employer for 35 years. But the reality is that Target is in a world of hurt right now. Ultimately, this mess is his fault, and a regime change is appropriate.  Importantly, anyone looking at this solely as a state of near-term affairs at TGT is missing the bigger picture. This emphasizes to us how critical it will be for a new CEO to right-size (take down) the earnings structure before it can build a company with respectable margins and return profile that is consistent with its Target banner.


Here are some of our thoughts.


  1. The company reports earnings in two weeks. This is about the time that the Board gets its preliminary Flash report on the state of financial affairs. No CEO was ever fired because ‘business is just too darn good’.
  2. Contrary to what the press is touting today, we don’t think he was fired because of the data breach – or even the ensuing weak store traffic.  If anything short-term related, it’s probably because he set such egregious expectations with both the Board and the investment community for positive comp AND improving gross margin.  
  3. But our rather strong view is that these are short-term events that most quality organizations could otherwise overcome. In this case, they exposed Target’s vast deficiencies throughout its business – arguably the worst e-commerce business in retail, it’s flawed p-fresh and Red Card initiatives, the lack of growth in its core US market, and the highly questionable strategy to look towards the Great White North as a means to find square footage growth.
  4. Some people might argue that a new ‘rock star’ CEO will come in, cut costs and take up margins. We mostly disagree. Yes, Target can afford the best of the best. But any great CEO worth their salt will come in, assess the challenges, and invest in the business such that it has the foundation to take the stock meaningfully higher over the period their options or RSUs vest. That means taking margins and earnings down before they can (hopefully) ultimately climb back up again.
  5. We’re not making any changes to our financial model today, but our strong inclination is to take down our EPS estimates – which are already 27% below consensus in the out-years of our model – a huge delta for a sleepy company like Target. We wouldn’t be surprised to see earnings fall below $3.00 while new management gets Target’s act in gear. This makes today’s 3% selloff all the more immaterial in the grand scheme of how much lower this stock can go.






Conclusion: We’re short Target. We think that the model that management is selling to the Street leaves no room for error. Everything has to go right, and nothing can go wrong. We’re in the twilight of a department store margin cycle, margins are at peak, our proprietary survey shows that visitation at Target stores is down materially, and worse yet, the share appears to be going to Wal-Mart. We could make a case that is one of the worst e-commerce businesses in retail, and it is certainly not making up for the shortfall in stores. Lastly, Canada expectations are extremely high, and our analysis of demographics around new Canadian stores leaves us with the view that management growth and profitability expectations are a pipe dream. In the end, we’re 27% below the consensus in year 3 of our model – which is a huge delta for this company. We get to downside to the high $40s ($13/14) if we’re right, but about $5/$6 upside if we’re wrong – that’s nearly 2.5 to 1. We’ll take that anyday on a sleepy mega cap retailer like Target.  


TGT - New CEO Has To Take EPS Down -- A Lot - tgt financials


Earlier this week, we published our 47-page deck on why we think Target is a short.  We can’t print all the slides here, but here are five that we think are among the most notable.


1. The Macro Setup is not pretty. We just finished the fifth year of a margin expansion cycle for department stores. When we look back historically, we don’t think that there’s ever been a ‘year 6’. And by a country mile, we’re trading at peak valuations on these margins. The core of the TGT call goes far beyond this, but this is an extremely uninspiring backdrop.


TGT - New CEO Has To Take EPS Down -- A Lot - tgt1


2. Visitation is down. We’re all tired of hearing about the Data Breach. But the reality is that the fallout is extremely notable. We just conducted our third Department Store consumer survey and we can gauge sequential changes in visitation intent on an absolute basis, and relative to other retailers. This shows how TGT went from 13 visits (TTM) in 3Q, to near 14 in 4Q (pre-Breach), to 11 today. That might not seem severe, but that’s 20% by our math.


TGT - New CEO Has To Take EPS Down -- A Lot - tgt2 


3. Share is going to Wal-Mart. Not exactly the retailer we’d want to lose share to if we were Target. When WMT takes share, it has a tendency to not give it back. We have a lot of research in our deck that shows how consumers rank them on price, discounts, and product quality. The trends are compelling.


TGT - New CEO Has To Take EPS Down -- A Lot - tgt3


4. Dot.Com can’t save TGT. When other retailers get into trouble with their stores, often e-commerce makes up the difference. Our analysis of’s traffic trends suggest that is performing just as poorly as the stores – if not worse. Based on our research, we can make a case that Target has one of the worst e-commerce businesses in all of retail.


TGT - New CEO Has To Take EPS Down -- A Lot - tgt4


5. Canada can’t save Target, either. We pulled up the lats and longs for both Canada and US stores, and then analyzed demographics in a 20-minute driving radius. Canada lacks the density and income characteristics around its stores that Target enjoys in the US. That’s not to mention that there is a cannibalization issue given that 11% of target customers already shop in Target US stores. Consensus revenue estimates assume that Target Canada outstrips share of wallet levels Target has in the US. The company’s guidance assumes productivity levels above US levels. We think both are extremely unrealistic.


TGT - New CEO Has To Take EPS Down -- A Lot - chart5








If we had five minutes or less with TGT’s CEO, here’s what we’d ask.


Here’s the deal…you have five minutes alone with the CEO of a company, leaving time for maybe three questions. If you value your time you’re likely to focus on the key critical uncertainties that exist in the market. And make no mistake, they exist for every company out there.


We’re going to explore these key questions one company at a time, and we’re going to start with Target – which we think is one of the better shorts in retail.


Here’s what we’d ask CEO Gregg Steinhafel if we had five minutes or less.


1. Who Are You Guiding? Who are you talking to with your guidance, Wall Street or Main Street? We’ve never had to ask this question before to a CEO. But the reality is that you’re saying that you are going to comp positive this year, AND Gross Margins will be up (in the US and in Canada). And all of this will happen while you are lowering prices to win back customers who left after the data breach. It seems like an impossible combination. That leads us back to the question – are you giving that guidance to Wall Street or Consumers? This is kind of like what Cruise Companies do during their peak booking season – they generally have positive comments because they’re talking to travel agents, not to Wall Street. If they say that bookings are weak, then agents will discount price more heavily. Similarly, is Target sending out this perplexing message to keep consumer opinion high, even if it means the potential to lower expectations with Wall Street later in the year.


2. Share Loss. Who do you think is gaining the most business from the customers who left? For argument’s sake, let’s assume that it’s Wal-Mart. Do you think that WMT is prepared to let that business go so easily? Will you match Wal-Mart if it comes down to price? In reality, the people that left did not leave because of price. They left because of trust. You might be able to buy back trust, but you’ll have to undercut Wal-Mart on price rather significantly. If that’s true, refer to question #1.


3. What does Target want to be? That sounds like a ridiculous question at face value. But the reality is that it used to be Wal-Mart vs Target – in share of market, share of mind and share of investment dollars. But as bad as Wal-Mart’s rap sometimes can be, it has over 10,000 stores under 71 banners in 27 countries. It has several formats – from Supercenters, to warehouse clubs, to neighborhood markets, and it is even beta-testing C-stores/gas stations. At least it’s trying to evolve. Target has just has one primary format in North America, with a token operation in India. The point is that Target used to be right there with WMT – but now it seems to be somewhere between WMT and Kohl’s. When you look out five to 10 years, what will Target look like?


Bonus Question (if he hung around an extra 2 minutes).

Do you think you fired your customer? JC Penney fired its customer. Ron Johnson said at the time that he did not. Lululemon fired its customer. Chip Wilson said at the time that he did not. Both of those retailers will likely take 2-3 years to get an acceptable portion of customers back. Do you think that you have fired your customer? Your guidance suggests that the answer is No. (Note: we’d give him all the credit in the world if he said Yes – because it would suggest he’s doing something about it).

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