Poll of the Day Recap: 60% Believe We Are Entering A New Phase of Market Turbulence

Takeaway: 60% voted YES; 40% voted NO.

Should we fear what lies ahead?


As the Wall Street Journal reported this morning, “a raft of unsettling events have shattered the relative calm of the U.S. stock market and put investors on edge.” Concerns over Iraq and rising oil prices, Fed Policy jitters and other worries helped trigger a 12% jump in the VIX fear gauge and sent the S&P 500 down 0.7% last week, its worst performance in two months.


We wanted to know what you thought: Are we entering a new phase of market turbulence?


Poll of the Day Recap: 60% Believe We Are Entering A New Phase of Market Turbulence - turbulence 


At the time of this post, 60% voted YES; 40% voted NO.


Those who voted YES had this to say:

  • Mass murder, religious warfare, ethnic cleansing, civil war.  but who cares?  The S&P is at an all time high!!!  Complacency in the face of serious global turmoil, plus strengthening economic fundamentals in the US/EU - which means the markets may soon run out of positive expectations to build on
  • ... but tops are a process. Markets are a few months away from a significant top
  • Bull markets cannot last forever, especially with the slow growth


Those who voted NO reasoned:

  • It doesn't appear stocks are being bought for economic reasons. It's buybacks and large players like sov wealth funds, those bailing from bonds, etc.



In Friday’s Early Look (Giddy Up) we highlighted the Fed G.19 Data from April which showed US revolving consumer credit balances rose at a month-over-month annualized rate of +12.3%, the fastest rate of growth since 2001.


While the (potential) inflection was certainly notable, historically, the series has been volatile and subject to significant revision, so the preliminary data is to be taken with some caution. 


In short, it was interesting but, in isolation, hard to build any specific conviction around.


This morning, we received some confirmatory data from Capital One (COF) who reported domestic card loans grew 1.7% MoM in May – a continuation of the strength observed in April.   


There are a few primary takeaways:

  • For COF, the increase in May was well ahead of typical May changes observed over the last decade and a second consecutive month of strength.
  • For consumer credit more broadly, the positive inflection in credit card loan growth is coming after more than 2.5 years of consistent, stagnant 0-1% growth. 
  • Consumption: Despite the acceleration in revolving credit, Household Spending in April was very soft and the collective Retail Sales data for April/May was very much middling

Whether or not rising auto and card balances is reflective of a confident, resurgent consumer or simply an attempt by households to maintain current levels of consumption in the face of rising food and commodity inflation remains open to debate. 


At present, we continue to think the data sides more with the later than the former. 






Christian B. Drake


Cartoon of the Day: Paying Rent

Takeaway: It's not cheap being an American consumer these days.

Cartoon of the Day: Paying Rent - Rent cartoon 6.16.2014

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DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis

We added DFRG to our Best Ideas list as a SHORT on 06/05/2014 at $27.27/share.


Last week, we released a 67 page Black Book detailing why we believe DFRG is a short.  The following note is a very brief summary of our presentation.  If you would like more information or a copy of the deck, please email us.


Our short thesis centers on three critical themes:

  1. Slowing Trends, Declining Margins – Company-owned two-year same-store sales and traffic have been decelerating steadily since 3Q11.  Meanwhile, restaurant level margins (LTM) and operating margins (LTM) have been declining since 2Q12.
  2. A Portfolio In Flux – Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse is a robust concept, but two-year same-store sales and traffic are decelerating.  The Sullivan’s concept is broken.  Grille is, at this point, nothing more than an unproven growth concept.
  3. Materially Mispriced – At 28.22x P/E (FY14) and 13.39x EV/EBITA (FY14), we believe DFRG is materially mispriced and fails to discount slowing trends, declining margins, rising commodity costs and other issues we’ve identified. Our SOTP analysis suggests significant downside.


As always, we like to put duration into context with all our longs and shorts.


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c2


Over the past two years, DFRG has outperformed the SPX and its Peers by 70% and 62%, respectively.


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c3


The financial performance of DFRG revolves around the performance of Del Frisco’s concept, with the brand generating 48.9% and 62.3% of revenues and restaurant level EBITDA, respectively.


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c4


What are the bulls saying?


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c5


Same-store sales are decelerating and remodels are not the panacea for Sullivan’s.


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c6


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c7


DFRG’s premium valuation is driven by the potential growth of the Grille concept.  With only 11 units, it is premature to call Grille a viable growth vehicle.  In addition, sister concepts traditionally have a poor track record.


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c8


Management is still trying to understand its target market for the Grille and appears unsure of what locations to select.


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c9


At 17.6%, Grille’s restaurant level margins are 1100 bps below that of Del Frisco’s.  This will continue to pressure the margin structure of the company, particularly with management’s current growth plans.


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c10


The Street loves the company.


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c11


But management has struggled to deliver on sales and earnings expectations.


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c12


DFRG is trading near its all-time peak on several valuation fronts.


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c13


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c14


Using a generous sum-of-the-parts valuation analysis, we find that the stock is grossly overvalued.


DFRG: Running Through Our Thesis - c15


Call with questions.


Howard Penney

Managing Director


Fred Masotta



Penney: $DFRG "Egregiously Overvalued"

Restaurant analyst Howard Penney details the three key reasons why he’s short the stock of Del Frisco’s, a high-end casual dining steak chain.

9 Behaviors That Can Undermine Investment Performance

Takeaway: Nine specific investing behaviors that are almost guaranteed to decrease your chances of success. Courtesy of the SEC.

By Moshe Silver


The SEC wants to remind you, Mr. & Mrs. Average Investor, that it really does care about you.  Earlier today, the Commission tweeted out a reprise of a 2010 report produced by the Library of Congress, at the request of the SEC Office of Investor Education and Advocacy.  The report highlights nine major reasons that your investment portfolio routinely underperforms. 


9 Behaviors That Can Undermine Investment Performance - sec tweet


For all our jaded skepticism about the SEC, their investor education pieces often point to real issues that plague private investors in their quest for profits and financial stability.  While today’s tweet doesn’t tell you how to invest successfully, it does tell you nine specific investing behaviors that are almost guaranteed to decrease your chances of success.  For that alone, it’s worth a look.


Today’s tweet is aimed at individual investors.  Bur here’s a tip from the Dark Side of Wall Street: the same behavioral patterns that have consistently made you a losing investor in the markets also plague the majority of investment professionals.  That’s why hedge funds as a class generally can’t outperform the broad market averages, or each other.  (See, for example, “Hedge Funds Trail Stocks For Fifth Year With 7.4% Return,” Bloomberg, 8 January 2014).  The article notes that “hedge funds last beat US stocks in 2008,” by losing less than the broad market (hedge funds down 19% as a group, versus a 37% decline in the S&P 500 – do you feel better now…?)


Here goes.


Active Trading Says the SEC, “the Report concludes that active trading generally results in the underperformance of an investor’s portfolio.”  Excessive turnover in your trading account hasn’t led to outsize profits – but it has contributed to the profits of the high-frequency traders.  Thanks for playing.


Disposition Effect: Holding onto your losers, and selling your winners. 


Focusing on Past Performance of Mutual Funds, While Ignoring Fees: Past annualized returns, as every prospectus is required to warn you, are not a guarantee of future results.  But heads up: past management fees, transaction costs and expense ratios generally are an accurate guide to what the managers of a fund will be taking out of your pocket, meaning no matter how well or poorly they do this year, you still have to claw your way back from that added 1%, 2%, 3%, or even more before you start actually generating profits.  If your mutual fund hits the hedge fund average of 7.4%, as noted by Bloomberg, but you pay 2.5% in expenses, how well did you actually do?  Are you smarter than a fourth grader?


Familiarity Bias: People “tend to favor investments from the investor’s own country, region, state or company.”  “I only invest in what I know” is a form of self-inflicted affinity fraud.  This lazy approach leads to a haphazard and lopsided portfolio with no strategic plan.


Manias and Panics The reason markets make bubbles is because everyone rushes in to buy as the price inflates.  The faster the price inflates, the more buyers panic and rush in.  When the last hysterical buyer has bought, there’s no one left to buy.  “Pop!” goes the bubble.  Tulip bulbs, anyone?


Momentum Investing: The financial equivalent of not looking at a weather forecast.  “Tomorrow is likely to be just like today,” you reason.  “Stocks went up today, so they’ll go up tomorrow.  I can buy them now on the way up, and I’ll sell them before they go down.”  ‘Nuff sed…


Naïve Diversification: You’ve been told you should diversify your portfolio, so you put 10% of your money into each of ten different investments without regard for varying levels of risk, broad market forces, or the potential for interactions that may magnify risks across the investments you have chosen.  “Diversification” doesn’t mean “buy lots of stuff.”  It means “buy a lot of uncorrelated stuff” so your holdings won’t all go up or down together.


Noise Trading: Following trends after they have become widely known.  If the headline on the front page of the financial section screams “Gold At All-Time High!” and you rush out and buy gold, you are a noise trader.  Says the Commission, you “have poor timing, follow trends, and overreact to good and bad news in the market.”


Inadequate Diversification: Last but not least, the Report identifies a tendency on the part of investors to buy a number of different stocks, but all in the same one or two sectors.  Buying five transportation stocks and seven natural resources stocks is not diversification.  If anything, it is excessively concentrating your portfolio in two closely correlated sectors.  It’s almost the equivalent of buying one stock, closing your eyes, and hoping for the best.


Moshe Silver is chief compliance officer at Hedgeye and author of Fixing a Broken Wall Street.


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