TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP – July 25, 2014
As we look at today's setup for the S&P 500, the range is 31 points or 1.21% downside to 1964 and 0.35% upside to 1995.
CREDIT/ECONOMIC MARKET LOOK:
MACRO DATA POINTS (Bloomberg Estimates):
WHAT TO WATCH:
COMMODITY/GROWTH EXPECTATION (HEADLINES FROM BLOOMBERG)
The Hedgeye Macro Team
Takeaway: If it turns out that WMT’s US CEO left to take the top job at Target, we’d look to get much heavier on the short side of TGT.
CONCLUSION: If it turns out that Bill Simon left his post as CEO of WalMart US to take the top job at Target, we’d look to get much heavier on the short side of TGT. We think that move would simply be disastrous for Target, and would set the company down a path that is simply uninvestable, and likely value-destroying.
WHY THIS WOULD BE A BAD MOVE
First off, there’s nothing wrong with Simon. The guy ran a $280bn business – nearly 4x the size of Target’s revenue base. Did WMT’s US stores knock the cover of the ball during his tenure? No. But you don’t get to be CEO of the largest division of the biggest company in the world (ranked by revenue) by being incompetent. Furthermore, Simon potentially knows more about how to collect customer data and use it to generate sales than everyone in the Target organization combined. Ultimately, for someone who thinks that the key for TGT is to be more competitive with WMT, then this would be a massive win.
But TGT Needs to Become Everything That WalMart is NOT. Trying to become WalMart is what got Target into trouble in the first place. Remember in 2008 when ‘Tarjay’ was actually inked in the Urban Dictionary to memorialize Target as a place where teens went to get trendy fashion at cheap prices? Well, management had the Branding equivalent of lightning in a bottle. Yes, WalMart envied it. So did Macy’s. So how did Target answer?
So think about it. TGT went from cool, edgy ‘Tarjay’ where it was the envy of most of its peers, with a relatively defendable customer and would actually compete on the fringes with the likes of H&M, to being the place where a person who cares about nothing but price, or shops there simply because they hate going to WalMart. It went from having a peer group where it had a notable competitive advantage, to putting itself right in the middle of four unique competitors – 1) WalMart, 2) Department Stores, 3) Dollar Stores, and 4) Supermarkets. As a bonus, it has Amazon.com hovering over its head plucking away every last sales dollar it can.
Oh, and by the way, once TGT realized this was a multi-year string of horrible decisions, it decided to look to a new venue for growth – Canada. We have a whole deck quantifying why that’s flawed. But by now that’s hardly an out-of-consensus view.
Our point is that this whole mess is why Steinhafel was fired as TGT’s CEO. It wasn’t due to the data breach. Maybe the breach was a good excuse, or a catalyst, for the Board. But it was not the reason for ousting him.
This brings us to why hiring Bill Simon as TGT’s CEO would be a very bad idea.
All of Target’s missteps over the past six years are a product of what we’d call ‘Retail 1.0’. Simon is the zen master of Retail 1.0. Unfortunately, upgrading to Retail 2.0 is the only thing that can save Target now, and we seriously doubt that Simon could do it. Importantly, if the Board hires him, then it shows us that it is content with Retail 1.0. That’s a multiple-compressing event, over time.
We don’t think that Target 2.0 will be achieved by rolling back the clock to try and recapture the string of excellence it had in the 2000s. That’s actually borderline impossible. It would be like taking a pickle and trying to make it a cucumber again.
It really needs someone to step in and change the paradigm. Target has tremendous assets – in its store base, logistics network, and (too many) people. The Board should not be looking at McMillon’s team at WMT for a new CEO, but instead should be looking at Jeff Bezos’ team at AMZN. That’s the place/culture to look for a winner that could not only fix Target’s dot.com business, but make it a Brand that anticipates where and how consumers will shop 5-10 years down the road.
What This Means For The Stock.
1) We’re going to give the TGT Board the benefit of the doubt on this one. We think that it is looking for a CEO who can make sweeping changes to create considerable shareholder value 4-5 years out (i.e. Target 2.0). We also think that anyone who takes on that challenge will make sure that he/she has the Board’s buy-in to spend the considerable capital needed to change this company so dramatically. Ultimately, we think that this could lead to TGT being the best performing stock in the S&P – in about 2019. Until then, it will be extremely slow and painful, and earnings and cash flow assumptions out there will prove to be way to high. For the record, this is similar to what we said about JCP when it was at $40. TGT could get cut in half under that scenario.
2) Scenario 2 is a little tougher. This is the Target Board sticking with Target 1.0. That means that we could see the stock pop on the news, like with any scenario, and that the new CEO will be making tweaks to boost near-term cash flow and earnings. That might take numbers higher, but it will seriously dampen the potential for any real growth in this business. Then you’re playing for a levered, low-growth retailer in year six of a retail margin expansion cycle – something we’ve never EVER seen go into year seven.
We still like the risk-reward on this one – a lot.
The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.
Takeaway: Both our quantitative signals and fundamental research support buying China here. This stance is in stark contrast to our previous view.
Last week, we put out a note titled “REITERATING OUR RESEARCH VIEW ON CHINA” in which the conclusion read: “Recent economic data supports renewed optimism across Chinese capital markets, but we don’t think improvement in the former is sustainable.” While we weren’t wrong on the stocks per se (fortuitously, we never developed enough conviction in our fundamental view to recommend shorting China), that was still the wrong call to make.
Specifically, our latest analysis of the many puts and takes throughout the Chinese policymaking spectrum leads us to believe the current acceleration in growth is sustainable for at least one more quarter (the jury is still out for 4Q14E).
That being said, we weren’t necessarily wrong to believe that the “mini stimulus” efforts out of Beijing in recent months would result in a marginal-at-best boost to growth. What we missed, however, is that Beijing’s spate of efforts would send a shockwave throughout the various layers of Chinese policymaking.
In particular, a rash of expansionary fiscal policy at the local government level would suggest that there is significantly more stimulus hitting the Chinese economy than meets the eye at the current juncture. This is in stark contrast to the headline guidance out of the State Council and PBoC, which continues to downplay the likelihood of a major shift in monetary or fiscal policy.
Essentially, what Chinese policymakers are doing is stimulating growth behind the scenes while protecting their credibility in light of the 2009-10 four trillion CNY stimulus package that more-or-less got them in the current mess to begin with.
Again, there are a lot of moving parts here, so we’ll do our best to summarize the many stimulus efforts introduced throughout the Chinese economy of late:
If you analyze any one of these measures in isolation, you’ll likely end up where we were prior to today: not all that impressed with China’s stimulus efforts. Analyzing them in conjunction, however, leads one to believe that there are indeed meaningful stimulus efforts being implemented across China’s state-run economy.
It’s worth remembering that mainland China has 32 provincial-level administrative units: 23 provinces, four municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing) and five autonomous regions (Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Ningxia, Xinjiang). In extrapolating the stimulus efforts of Hebei and Heilongjiang throughout the entire country, it’s easy to arrive at the aforementioned conclusion.
Is this trend of “mini stimulus(es) = major stimulus” sustainable enough to chase?
For now the answer is, “yes”. Real GDP growth was tracking at +7.4% YoY (i.e. only ~10bps south of the official target) when the bulk of these measures were rolled out, so perhaps policymakers want to see a meaningful acceleration in growth before they pull back on the stimulus reins. Moreover, CPI tracking well south of their official +3.5% YoY target in the YTD would seem to suggest they have plenty of scope to do so.
That being said, annualized currency weakness and easier policy should support a marginal acceleration in inflation from here.
But perhaps the real reason Chinese policymakers were content to ease monetary and fiscal policy of late was to shore up the country’s crashing property market.
Along those lines, many local governments have taken matters into their own hands by easing home purchase restrictions (27 of 46 cities did so yesterday). Moreover, last week’s statement out of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) would seem to suggest that such easing in property markets at the local level have the official blessing of Beijing as well.
This is a major positive given the dour nature of China’s property market trends. New home prices fell in 55 of the monitored 70 cities last month – the most since JAN ‘11 when the government changed the way it compiles the statistics. This data point followed earlier data which showed a continued sharp deterioration in property price trends nationwide:
Such targeted easing measures have indeed stabilized China’s property market – albeit at brutal levels of new investment (i.e. land areas purchased and housing starts), demand (i.e. value and volume of building sales) and confidence (i.e. CREIS Real Estate Climate Index). Supply growth (i.e. housing completions) continues unabated, but that should slow in the coming months with decelerating units under construction and contracting levels of new investment.
Lastly, there are two more things to note as far as sustainability is concerned:
In our investment framework, which anchors heavily differential calculus and prospect theory, going from “absolutely horrendous” to merely “really bad” is bullish insomuch as going from “bad” to “good” is. This is especially true when the quantitative signals support it – which they now do for China in both of our proprietary risk management models.
Looking to Keith’s factoring of price, volume and volatility, the Shanghai Composite Index has now undergone a bearish-to-bullish TREND reversal and is threatening to do the same on a long-term TAIL basis as well:
Looking to our TACRM system, I’ve had the “great pleasure” of being told that “Old China” exposures (i.e. the CHIX and CHXX) were “BUYS” every day since JUL 3rd. Base metals, which remain overexposed to China from a marginal demand perspective, have been signaling “BUY” as well in recent weeks.
In spite of these signals, however, I chose to anchor on my existing fundamental research view on China, which obviously did not rhyme with what the market was signaling. Classic rookie mistake. Now, we are content to let the market dictate our interpretation of China’s macro fundamentals.
***CLICK HERE to learn more about TACRM’s world-class signaling capabilities***
GROWTH/INFLATION/POLICY TRENDS: BULLISH
Having spent my entire analytical career at Hedgeye, I have not yet had the opportunity to develop some of the more traditional skills in the sell side research toolkit, such as storytelling about “feel” and “valuation”. Instead, we’re confined to storytelling about slopes, deltas and inflections in the data – which is exactly what the following table attempts to supplement:
The key takeaways to highlight from this table are:
Indeed, Chinese economic growth has stabilized on a slew of monetary and fiscal easing measures and certain segments of the Chinese economy (e.g. trade data and credit formation… the latter of which is supported by BoP stabilization) are showing marked improvement on a trending basis.
All told, both our quantitative signals and fundamental research support buying China here. This stance is in stark contrast to our previous view, which concluded that investors would do better to stay out of China altogether.
While we’re certainly not making the case that China has turned the corner from a long-term TAIL perspective, we do see considerable upside to Chinese equities – specifically “Old China” exposures – with respect to the intermediate-term TREND. Because of the casino-like nature of the high-beta Chinese equity market, Chinese “investors” tend to extrapolate recent trends and “over-discount” in both directions.
As such, we think international equity investors should advantage of this phenomenon on the long side of Chinese equities; long-only fund managers should appropriately overweight China. Ping us with any follow-up questions.
Have a great evening,
Associate: Macro Team
Outspoken free market economist and TV personality Larry Kudlow explains why America is suffering from the "worst recovery since World War II" and offers solutions on how the U.S. can regain its economic footing once again.
Hershey reported Q2 results that were largely in line with consensus -- $1,578.4M of sales rose 4.6% Y/Y (excluding FX), a sequential improvement vs 2.4% in Q1, but the company signaled weaker in-store activity and will likely face increasing commodity cost pressure in 2H. EPS of $0.76 rose 5.6%, albeit off the easier comp of the year.
HSY cited weakness in the quarter from the C-store channel on a continued challenged macro environment that’s impacting consumer spending and higher levels of in-store competition.
The stock is trading down -2% intraday on the release and is down over 14% since its ytd high in late February. The market’s discount has come alongside the company’s strategy of volume driven sales. This strategy changed last week when the company issued an 8% price increase across all of its products, citing increased commodity costs, in particular from dairy costs (note: Mars raised pricing ~ 7%).
Commodity cost pressure remain square on our radar. In the quarter, the company saw a 230bp decline in GM – and for the remainder of the year expects these costs to be a headwind to GM on the year, falling hardest in Q3. Below we show longer term charts of milk and cocoa, each up 15% and 13%, respectively ytd, that should also pressure results.
The company stressed its 2H plan for increased innovation (beyond what was previously planned) to make up for weakness seen in the quarter, but we think there’s a threat to the business in the back half of the year as many of the issues cited in the quarter continue to play out: weak macro environment; commodity cost inflation; impact of a price hike on demand; and increased shelf space competition. Any hiccups with advertising and promotion to reach the consumer will also be a negative drag.
Further, and as we show below, comps get more difficult on the top and bottom lines as we move out over the next 2-3 quarters.
We’re cognizant that HSY is entering the holiday-rich second half of the year in the U.S. that could help to make up for underlying weaknesses. However, the business is also experience weakness internationally. In the quarter, international sales were up 7%, however China slowed sequentially and Mexico sales were down -5% Y/Y due to FX headwinds. Taken together, there are winds blowing against the company across all of its regions.
We are not currently involve in HSY in our Real Time Alerts portfolio, but our quantitative levels below suggest a bearish TRADE and TREND outlook on the stock.