Risk Management Update: SP500 Levels, Refreshed...

My inbox started to get peppered around noon when Larry Kudlow apparently started talking about the Prices Paid side of Tuesday’s ISM report. Heck, 2-days late and about $40/oz in the price of gold discounting stagflation later, we have to salute the man for noticing. CNBC calls that segment the “Call of The Wild.” I couldn’t make that up if I tried.


I used to have wild monkeys and sharks hanging out on these charts. Now is no time for that. The monkey chase to higher-highs is over, so is Squeezy The Shark’s chomping on the consensus Depressionista community. We’re nestling right back into a manageable trading range here.


I have a major immediate term TRADE line of resistance forming at 1005 (dotted red line in the chart below), and immediate term TRADE support down at 987.


After being bullish on employment in recent months, I have shifted to looking for a worse than expected unemployment report tomorrow. That, perversely, could end up being US Dollar bearish. What’s bad for the buck can be good for stocks. On the other hand, anything can happen when we’re dealing with a report that the manic media monkeys can swing from the chandeliers on.


I continue to take down my invested exposure.


Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Risk Management Update: SP500 Levels, Refreshed...  - a1


SSS Initial Take

Not surprisingly another month of mixed results, with the split between upside/downside vs. expectations at 14 to 11 respectively.  Notable upside came from the “cap” (generally the larger, more relevant names making up the retail landscape).  



  • The divergence between KSS positive performance and JCP’s negative 7.9% result continues to highlight 1) how KSS’ off-mall real estate strategy is inherently helping its traffic performance while JCP remains more of a hostage to the mall and sluggish traffic, and 2) how KSS’ offensive strategy in taking market-share from now liquidated Mervyn’s can help contribute to overall momentum.  Keep in mind that KSS’  will actually open 37 former Mervyn’s location later this month, which will accelerate profitable market share gains in the Southwest region.


  • COST reported a better same store sales result but importantly highlighted a second month in a row of improving non-food comps.  Hardlines performed slightly better than softlines, with key positive results coming from sporting goods, toys, seasonal, hardware, and domestics.  Overall, non-food categories posted slightly negative same store sales and marked the second month in a row of a sequential improvement.


  • With AEO and ARO both reporting slightly better than expected results, ANF continues to stand out the sole teen-retailer where momentum is not improving.  Despite reducing prices in attempt to be more competitive, same store sales consistently remain amongst the worst in all of retail.  While I noted earlier in the week that inventories at a local store were so thin there were bare shelves, I’m beginning to wonder if now the problem isn’t just price perception.


  • GPS reported better than expected results driven by strength at Old Navy and a sequential improvement at Gap stores.  Even with years of negative comp compares, it appears that marketing and merchandising efforts are beginning to take hold.  Old Navy’s back to school marketing campaign was a key driver of the division’s +4% result for the month.  Gap’s re-launched denim was also well received, especially in the women’s category. 


SSS Initial Take - 1 year SSS 9 09


SSS Initial Take - 2 year SSS 9 09

Apparel Outperforming Footwear on the Margin

With the exception of UA and Jordan, footwear sales are not keeping track with the stronger numbers we are seeing in apparel. The charts enclosed tell all. The good news is that ASPs remain strong. But with rising inventories in the athletic channel, price point strength might be short lived. For the first time in a while, we prefer the family footwear channel.


Apparel Outperforming Footwear on the Margin - Sporting Goods Table


Apparel Outperforming Footwear on the Margin - Footwear Table


Apparel Outperforming Footwear on the Margin - Sporting Goods Chart


Apparel Outperforming Footwear on the Margin - ASP BTS


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 80.46%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.35%


Over the last 90 days, we have large hotel loan defaults seem to have picked up. This trend should continue over the next 18 months and probably presents interesting opportunities for the well-capitalized.



As hotel performance continues to deteriorate in 2009 with no real signs of a 2010 recovery, the level of defaults on large hotel loans is accelerating.  Loan sponsors are increasingly depleting their reserves and funding debt service out of pocket as realized results fall short of original expectations.  Despite very low interest rates, anything short of an imminent return to peak earnings levels seen in 2007 makes the prospect of recovering "equity value" very unlikely on many loans underwritten in 2006 -2007. For this reason, as maturities loom, we are seeing more and more owners hand back the keys.  In some cases, as we wrote about in "A PROACTIVE DEFAULT" on 06/09/09, sponsors aren't even waiting for maturity.


According to Real Capital Analytics, owners of more than 1,000 non-casino hotels have defaulted on $16.8BN in loans and we expect many more to follow suit as the CMBS maturities bubble in 2010 and 2011. California accounted for approximately 275 of those defaults/foreclosures with roughly 80% of those hotels financed during 2005-2007.


Given the ongoing pick up in large loan defaults in lodging, it's no surprise that many hotel companies are taking advantage of the open markets to issue debt and equity.  This strategy allows them to accumulate dry powder to capitalize on banks flipping recently foreclosed upon properties.  As the number of defaults grows, we expect to see some attractive deals come to market, especially for those buyers that have the balance sheet and liquidity to wait a few years.  This is probably just one of the many reasons why we have seen so many equity issuances in the real estate land lately and why Hyatt is looking to go public now.


Below are some details on some recent large defaults:

  • Sept 1: Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund V defaulted on a $192.5MM mortgage on the 310-room Maui Prince Hotel in Maui
    • Property included two golf courses and 1,194 acres of undeveloped land
    • Loan was part of a 2007 vintage CMBS deal maturing July 9, 2009
    • MS and Dowling Co. purchased the resort for $575MM from Seibu Group in early 2007
    • Operating income fell to a loss of $4.3MM in 2008 from a profit of $1.3MM in 2007 and is trending towards a loss of $6.5MM for 2009
    • Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) was 0.16x at 12/31/2008 
    • The resort was also encumbered by $227.5MM of mezzanine debt and a $30MM junior note
  • August 28: Lowe defaults on $322MM of primary and secondary loans on 582-room Terranea Resort on 102 oceanfront acres in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
    • Lowe opened the hotel in June 2009 at a cost of $480MM
    • Corus Bank declined to fund the last $12.5MM of Lowe's construction loan; the shortfall caused Terranea to fail to meet the requirements to receive a promised loan from the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and subsequently fell behind payments on its secondary loan with Cascade Investments
    • A notice of default on the secondary loan ($142MM) was followed by a notice of default on Terranea's primary loan ($180MM)
  • August 28: Lowe stopped making payments on an $84MM (193K/key) loan against the 436-room Sheraton Universal hotel in LA
    • Loan was part of a 2007 vintage CMBS deal that carried a 5.8% coupon and matured Feb 2012
    • Net Cash Flow for 2008 fell to -411k from 350k in 2007
    • DSCR fell to 0.07x at 12/31/2008 from 1.43x at 12/31/2007
    • Lowe acquired the hotel in Jan 2007 for $122MM (280K/ key) from Walton Street Capital and SCS Advisors with plans to upgrade the property
  • June: Hampshire Group informed its lenders that it will stop making payments its $110MM loan on the 220-room boutique Dream Hotel in Manhattan
    • Loan was part of a 2006 vintage CMBS deal which Hampshire obtained after completed $51MM of renovations and rebranding the property which it owned since 1997
    • Net Cash Flow for 2008 fell 11% in 2008 to 7.8MM 
    • DSCR fell to 1.26x at 12/31/2008 from 1.41x at 12/31/2007, and has continued to drop in 2009
  • Other June defaults include:
    • $190 million Pointe South Mountain Resort in Phoenix, AZ
    • $117 million Loews Lake Las Vegas in Las Vegas, NV



AUGUST 3, 2009



By no means could anyone call the PSS -7.3% comp good, but after seeing PSS, DSW and Famous Footwear (BWS), one thing that is clear to me is that the family footwear space has probably seen its bottom. The charts herein speak for themselves.












Some Notable Call Outs


  • While the benefit of lease negotiations has been talked about on just about every call this earnings season, management mentioned that Collective Brands is realizing 15-20% reductions on leases.  With rent accounting for ~15% of COGS and roughly 20% of the store base up for renewal each year. One of PSS’s tailwinds heading into 2010 just got stronger.


  • Oxford Industries (owner of Tommy Bahama) noted that demand for their Spring/Summer 2010 lines are stronger than expected. While most wholesalers have taken a more conservative approach to inventories heading into the 2H, improving business is resulting in the pulling forward of deliveries and what inventory happens to be on hand. With OXM in a similarly under-inventoried position, they too are having to ramp business to meet demand.


  • Among the regions of strength noted on OXM’s call was…Hawaii? It was suggested that the swine flu could be impacting retail as vacationers decide to reroute plans from destinations like Mexico where the epidemic is in full swing to alternative destinations. Florida was also highlighted as having a notable rebound through August.  





-Samsonite files for bankruptcy and reorganization - Samsonite Company Stores, the U.S. retail division of Samsonite Corp., filed both a Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy court protection and a prepackaged plan of reorganization on Wednesday in a Delaware bankruptcy court. The store division, based in Mansfield, Mass., said it expects to exit Chapter 11 in 45 to 90 days. Under the terms of the reorganization plan, creditors would receive 100 percent of their claims. The plan includes cutting Samsonite’s 173-store count by 47% and streamlining operations. Parent company Samsonite Corp. is not a party to the filing. Donald E. Walden, vice president for finance and chief financial officer of Samsonite’s store division, said in an affidavit filed with the bankruptcy court that U.S. sales in 2008 were $108.1 million, down from $112 million in 2007. <>


-Banglaesh's exports of finished garments to Japan increased over 100% - Banglaesh's exports of finished garments from Bangladesh to Japan has increased over 100% in the fiscal year 2008-09, valued at US $74.381 million ascompared to $28.035 million in the previous year. The country has reduced its finished garment imports from China, which helped its industry to increase its sales in Japan, according to Fazlul Hoque, President Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA). Hoque said that Japan is a ready market for Bangladesh as it produces high-quality products which are exactly what the Japanese market need. The ongoing trend indicates that the apparel exports of Bangladesh will reach billion dollars in the next five years. Japanese leading retail chains Uniqlo has also been purchasing from Bangladesh and is planning to make an initial investment of $100 million, added Hoque. <>


-Chinese ambassador urged the EU to relax its anti-dumping measures - Chinese ambassador has recently urged the EU to restrain its use of anti-dumping measures against imports from China and called for more dialogue and cooperation. "We saw re-emergence of anti-dumping cases against China recently. We're very concerned about an increasing number of Chinese enterprises received unfair treatment," Song Zhe, Chinese ambassador to the EU said. "But we believe between China and Europe, there is more cooperation than competition, more opportunities than challenges. At present, it is urgent to strengthen economic and trade cooperation by maintaining mutual flow of trade and investment and creating more business opportunities," he added. Faced with the worst economic crisis in decades, the EU has launched a series of anti-dumping actions against China this year, covering a wide range of Chinese products. As from late July, the 27-nation bloc took five separate decisions in just three weeks. <>


-Hundreds of American Apparel employees must leave due to illegal immigration status - Hundreds of American Apparel Inc. workers must leave the company because they were unable to prove their immigration status or fix problems with their employment records, the company said Wednesday. The terminations come two months after the Los Angeles manufacturer and retailer announced that a government inspection had found that about 1,600 of its workers didn't appear to be authorized to work in the U.S. About 200 more had been found to have discrepancies in their employment records. Among the infractions found were some employees' use of fake Social Security numbers. "There are approximately 1,500 workers facing termination during the month of September," said Peter Schey, a lawyer for American Apparel. The company "is very disappointed and disheartened at having to terminate a very large number of workers who by and large have been reliable contributors to the success of the company." All of the affected workers are based at the company's manufacturing facility in downtown Los Angeles, Schey said.  Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to discuss American Apparel specifically, saying the federal agency was "not at liberty to discuss fines levied in work site enforcement cases until the fine amount becomes final." <>


-Retail sales for all core outdoor stores combined (chain, internet, specialty) declined 4% in July - Select equipment, outerwear and several footwear categories grew this July. Year-to-date sales totaled $2.6 billion, down 4% from the same period a year ago. <>


-China Resources Says It May Sell Stake in China Joint Venture With Esprit - China Resources Enterprise Ltd., the local partner of SABMiller Plc, may sell its stake in the venture it has with clothier Esprit Holdings Ltd. as it seeks to focus on retail, food and beverage businesses. <>


-New Balance and aerie by American Eagle Launch Fitness/Lifestyle Shoe - New Balance and aerie by American Eagle announced the introduction of the New Balance 600, a new fitness lifestyle shoe. The NB 600 is available beginning today exclusively at all aerie standalone stores across the country. Offered at $65, the shoe is designed to complement aerie f.i.t.™, aerie’s fitness and workout wear line. The NB 600 features a comfort molded EVA sole unit, Abzorb (a proprietary cushioning foam that resists compressions for all day comfort) and a lightweight mesh upper. The 600 is available in two trendy color combinations of grey/pink and white/lime, the perfect solution for the girl who wants an athletic look without sacrificing fashion. “With this program we have the opportunity to reach a style-savvy consumer with fashionable athletic footwear that merchandises with the incredible range of aerie,” says Steve Gardner, strategic business unit manager for New Balance Lifestyle. “It’s a program that brings a fresh perspective to product and merchandising, while synergizing these two great brands.” <>


-Chico’s tries on a new distribution center - After making an investment of $15 million and adding about 189 full-time jobs, Chico’s in August made the move to a new 300,000-square-foot distribution facility that will give the retailer room to expand through 2016. <> leads the e-retailer pack in August response time - For the seventh month running, gave shoppers the fastest high broadband access time among large web retailers, says Gomez. In August produced a high broadband response time of 4.04 seconds.  <>


-Cato brings on new board member - The Cato Corporation reported that on August 27, 2009 the Board of Directors appointed Mr. Bryan F. Kennedy, III to fill a vacancy on the Board effective September 1, 2009. Mr. Kennedy is President and Chief Executive Officer of Park Sterling Bank. Mr. Kennedy currently serves on the board of Park Sterling Bank and as Chairman of the Board of Hospice and Palliative Care-Charlotte Region. <>


-Quick look at expectations for today's same store sales - August same-store sales results, being reported today, are expected to be better than July’s and mark the last month of difficult comparisons with 2008 dating back to the days before last September’s financial crisis. August comps will provide a better idea of how this year’s later back-to-school season has shaped up.  In retailers’ favor is a series of state tax holidays that shifted to August, putting more pressure on July, but working against them is a later Labor Day than in 2008, sales for which will fall into September. One factor could neutralize the other. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, retail sales for the week ended Aug. 29 fell 0.5% from the prior week and 0.7% from the comparable week in 2008. The first week of August came in flat versus the prior week but sales were up 0.4% on a year-over-year basis. ICSC predicts August comps declined between 3.5% and 4%.  <>


-Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. wants to be the biggest around - Tadashi Yanai, chairman of the firm, said Wednesday that the Japanese apparel company aims to grow its annual sales by more than seven times to 5 trillion yen, or $53.7 billion, by the year 2020. And analysts don’t think the goal is that far-fetched. “We hope to become the biggest maker and retailer in fashion,” Yanai said during a press conference. “The dream will come true if we can grow our business by at least 20 percent each year.” The executive reiterated Fast Retailing is eyeing potential acquisitions, especially in Europe, but said there are few attractive companies on the market right now. Even without acquisitions, he said he thinks the company can reach 1 trillion yen, or $10.74 billion, in sales by 2010. <>


-Thom Browne offers new line of clothes with lower price points - Thom Browne is establishing two new ranges that will be priced 30% to 40% lower than his fashion-forward runway offerings, making him the latest men’s designer to adopt a strategic focus on lower prices and repositioned staples — as Tim Hamilton, Duckie Brown and others have also done recently. The new Thom Browne ranges, launching for spring 2010, do not have distinct labels but are known unofficially as Thom Browne “classics” and Thom Browne “red/white/blue.” Initiating with a few styles, they are expected to grow to 50 percent of the collection and broaden the market for the brand. <>



RESEARCH EDGE PORTFOLIO: (Comments by Keith McCullough): BBBY, KSWS


09/02/2009 03:25 PM


McGough and Levine continue to have a very high level of conviction that the earnings recovery will be there for BBBY. KM


09/02/2009 03:18 PM


So far, this dog has acted exactly like what McGough called it - a dirty wet dog. There is value here, and that's why I am buying more of it on red. KM

Big Water

“When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya”

–Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald


This week I have been writing my morning missives from our family house on the Big Lake that the Ojibways call “Gitchigumi”, meaning "Big Water".


Thunder Bay is at the head of Lake Superior. Canadians call it The Lakehead. It’s a much safer place than CNBC. It’s quiet and you’d really have to look long and hard to find any finance oriented groupthink. That said, there are plenty of other things to worry about up here – lots of bears and Big Water.


Gordon Lightfoot wrote that the Big Lake “never gives up her dead.” We locals are always mindful of that and we’re always managing risk appropriately.


As most of you know, in addition to hockey, I’m big on metaphors. In the past week we’ve somehow successfully traversed the Big Water of a US stagflation unwind with the following Early Look titles:


“Part of Hell” = 8/26

“Ball Underwater” = 8/27

“Numb is The New Deep” = 8/28

“Duration Mismatch” = 8/31

“Circumstances Rule” = 9/1

“Danger Ball” = 9/2


This, of course, all started with one of our favorite behavioral strategists, the late George Carlin, reminding us that, “I'm not concerned about all hell breaking loose, but that a PART of hell will break loose... it'll be much harder to detect.”


We then moved toward marking our own bottom in what we’ve labeled the Burning Buck (covering our short position in the US Dollar and selling mostly everything, other than Gold, that was priced in those Dollars). Then the Ball Underwater (the US Dollar) shot to the upside, and everything else is history. The SP500 has been down for 4-straight days, correcting -3.5% from her YTD high of 1030.


Whether you agree with us or not that that the ISM Prices Paid report was a Danger Ball (stagflation preview), or that the US Dollar remains THE driving factor in global macro right now, is up to you. This morning, US Dollar down (pre-US market open) has US Equity futures indicated up, and no matter where you go this morning, there’s that Big Water again.


The Buck started to Burn again intraday yesterday (see our midday note titled “US Dollar Update: Pandering Politicians”) for 2 reasons: Tim Geithner spoke and the Fed’s FOMC Minutes were released. As predictable as the sun rising on the East of our Big Lake this morning, Geithner will trot his squirrel hunting gear out to the G-20 meetings in London and tell the world of revisionist financiers that it’s “too early” to raise rates or remove free money stimulus. Get this guy some Sapporo.


The Fed’s Minutes were just an analytical shame. There is no credibility in a currency which is dominated by a US Federal Reserve that is as politicized as this one. If you changed the script to Japanese, you wouldn’t be able to discern which bureaucratic nation penned the outlook. Bernanke’s group-thinkers said that there was “uncertainty” about nearly everything other than the Great Depression Part 2 being a certainty. Gee, thanks guys.


Yesterday, I spent most of the day covering shorts and buying equities. To be clear, I was already playing with a lead here in September and consciously opted to play that move aggressively. I was doing so with tight stops. With the US Dollar down this morning, I suspect that I might get some good prices to sell into, and I will. The $30/oz monkey chase in Gold was a little much for me yesterday, so I sold into that strength too.


When there is Big Water like this coming on deck, there are no established rules. The first Nobel Prize in Economics wasn’t handed out until 1969. This game of managing global market risk is far from an established science.


The Big Water I see this morning has nothing to do with anything other than what’s there. I’m not one of those Wall Street “strategists” who is being rained on that will say with a straight face that he isn’t getting wet.


If I end up selling everything I am long in the US this morning, I’ll probably smile and go on with my day. The Thunder Bay Firefighters Golf Classic is tomorrow, and my Dad is retiring. I’m sure I can learn a thing or two about managing risk from the boys who fight the real stuff with Big Water every night.


My risk management model hears that ole cook coming on deck saying “fellas it’s too rough to feed ya.” So I have shifted our Asset Allocation to a very defensive posture. We are long low-beta sectors and low-risk income generating macro positions (Healthcare, Utilities, TIPs, and Chinese Yuan). I think selling strength today, taking a step back from the Big Water, and watching it settle for a few days is the best way forward.


My immediate term TRADE resistance line for the SP500 is 1004. For the Nasdaq, I’m up at 1991.


Best of luck out there today,






XLU – SPDR UtilitiesWe bought some low beta dividend yield on its lows on 9/2. Utilities traded down 1% and they should act ok during stagflation fears. 


XLV – SPDR Healthcare We’re finally getting the correction we’ve been calling for in Healthcare. It’s a good one to buy into. Our Healthcare sector head Tom Tobin remains bullish on fading the “public plan” at a price.


EWH – iShares Hong KongThe current lower volatility in the Hang Seng (versus the Shanghai composite) creates a more tolerable trading range in the intermediate term and a greater degree of tactical confidence.


QQQQ – PowerShares NASDAQ 100We bought Qs on 8/10 and 8/17 to be long the US market. The index includes companies with better balance sheets that don’t need as much financial leverage.


CYB – WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan The Yuan is a managed floating currency that trades inside a 0.5% band around the official PBOC mark versus a FX basket. Not quite pegged, not truly floating; the speculative interest in the Yuan/USD forward market has increased dramatically in recent years. We trade the ETN CYB to take exposure to this managed currency in a managed economy hoping to manage our risk as the stimulus led recovery in China dominates global trade.


TIP– iShares TIPS The iShares etf, TIP, which is 90% invested in the inflation protected sector of the US Treasury Market currently offers a compelling yield. We believe that future inflation expectations are currently mispriced and that TIPS are a efficient way to own yield on an inflation protected basis, especially in the context of our re-flation thesis.





LQD – iShares Corporate Bonds Corporate bonds have had a huge move off their 2008 lows and we expect with the eventual rising of interest rates that bonds will give some of that move back. Shorting ahead of Q4 cost of capital heightening as access to capital tightens.


EWJ – iShares Japan While a sweeping victory for the Democratic Party of Japan has ended over 50 years of rule by the LDP bringing some hope to voters; the new leadership  appears, if anything, to have a less developed recovery plan than their predecessors. We view Japan as something of a Ponzi Economy -with a population maintaining very high savings rate whose nest eggs allow the government to borrow at ultra low interest levels in order to execute stimulus programs designed to encourage people to save less. This cycle of internal public debt accumulation (now hovering at close to 200% of GDP) is anchored to a vicious demographic curve that leaves the Japanese economy in the long-term position of a man treading water with a bowling ball in his hands.


SHY – iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bonds  If you pull up a three year chart of 2-Year Treasuries you'll see the massive macro Trend of interest rates starting to move in the opposite direction. We call this chart the "Queen Mary" and its new-found positive slope means that America's cost of capital will start to go up, implying that access to capital will tighten. Yields are going to continue to make higher-highs and higher lows until consensus gets realistic.

Early Look

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