This note was originally published at 8am on January 05, 2011. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.
“He who will not economize will have to agonize.”
Sitting at my desk in New Haven this morning, what I do know is my own pain. What I don’t know, is what someone else’s feels like. We’ll see how the levered-long US stock market bulls feel on the first tweak today. This isn’t a snap, yet – this is a tweak.
The agony of defeat isn’t new to global macro markets as of this morning. It’s been new to US Treasury and Emerging Debt Markets since November. It was new to the Gold market yesterday during a $40/oz swoon (we’re short GLD). What goes around in terms of mean reversion risk, eventually comes around. You can learn this lesson in a variety of ways in life. In markets, the best way to learn this lesson is the hard way.
If you didn’t raise your Cash position in the last week, it wasn’t because we didn’t tell you to. We started the year with a 61% US Cash position in the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model and the US Dollar Index has been up every day for the year-to-date (including this morning).
Yesterday, on commodity market weakness we invested 6% of our cold hard cash into oil and corn. Now we have 55% of our hard earned capital in cash. Being in Cash means you can invest it lower.
To be sure, there is absolutely no doubt that you can ride Hi-ho, Silver and call yourself Captain Cowboy on the ride to everything making higher-highs, until they don’t. So you better have a risk management plan when the music stops.
In addition to Gold selling off hard yesterday, US small cap and housing stocks got creamed, trading down -1.8% and -1.5% respectively (XBH and IWM). This morning, European stock markets and US Futures are getting hit hard after Portugal raised 6-month paper at a yield of 3.68% (vs 2.04% last!) and Asia closed down across the board.
This interconnected game of risk has always been “on” – it’s just when everyone stops paying attention to the moving parts that it starts to be a lot more fun. On balance, our intermediate-term TREND view on the global economy remains intact:
1. Global Growth Slowing
2. Global Inflation Accelerating
3. Globally Interconnected Risk Compounding
Now, before a US centric stock market bull gets his/her shirt in a knot about this, allow me to kick off this morning’s Global Macro Grind with a remedial reminder that all of the aforementioned points start with the word Global. That’s right, say it just like Paul Newman had the owner of the Charlestown Chiefs say “H-owned”… G-lo-bal… G-lo-bal…
In terms of the global macro data points that are in my notebook for 2011 to-date, here’s the grind:
- South Korean inflation (CPI) jumps to +3.5% in DEC vs +3.3% in NOV and the Korean government declared “war on inflation”
- South Korean exports slow, sequentially, from their NOV highs of +25% to +23.1% in DEC
- Polish Inflation (CPI) jumps to +3.1% in DEC vs +2.7% in NOV and 2-year bond yields in Poland are pushing to +4.9% this morning (highest in a year)
- Chinese manufacturing (PMI) drops for the 1st time in 5 months (53.9 DEC vs 55.2 NOV) as growth continues to slow
- German manufacturing (PMI) accelerates again sequentially to a new high of 60.7 DEC vs 58.1 NOV
- German unemployment stays unchanged m/m at 7.5% for DEC vs NOV
- Brazil’s newly elected President, Dilma Rousseff, kicks off the New Year calling inflation trends pushing to +6% y/y “the plague”
- Pakistan’s PM loses his majority and a key Governor is murdered overnight as Pakistan now has to face the Taliban and +15.48% inflation
- UK manufacturing (PMI) remained flat, sequentially, in DEC vs NOV at 58.3
- Indonesia’s inflation (CPI) accelerates, sequentially, to +6.96% DEC vs +6.33% NOV
- European Union inflation (CPI) accelerates to a 2-yr high of +2.2% in DEC vs +1.9% in NOV
- Australian manufacturing index slows for the 4th consecutive month (pre JAN floods) at 46.3 DEC vs 47.6 NOV
- Thailand inflation (CPI) ramps, sequentially, to +3.0% DEC vs +2.8% NOV
I’ll go Lone Ranger (sans le hi-ho, Gold) and stop at point #13 just to push my own book and summarize that if Captain American Stock Picker (he’s back!) wants to tell me that “growth is back!”… and that the rest of the world’s growth and inflation risks cease to exist… that he/she may want to, at a bare minimum, economize that bullishness and wait for lower prices.
Back to the USA, where consensus is running rampant that the US consumer is Just Lovin’ It (except the collapse of MCD’s stock), this morning’s ABC Consumer Confidence reading (it’s weekly) dropped for the 2nd consecutive week (i.e. dropping both weeks post Christmas shopping) back down to minus -45. That’s only a few points away from its all-time low and even a Thunder Bay Bear on some things US Equities would call that agonizingly cold!
My immediate term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are now 1261 and 1270, respectively. A close below 1261 puts 1237 in play.
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
POSITION: Long UUP, Short FXE
One of the most enjoyable aspects of evolving my investment process from Global Consumer in 2003 to Global Macro today has been having the opportunity to un-learn, re-think, and re-learn.
Being right on a currency move is a lot different than being right on what Bill Ackman is going to allegedly file on next. Maybe that’s why my batting averages are higher trading currencies?
Whatever the interconnected reasons for our successes trading the US Dollar over the last few years, we don’t want to break something that doesn’t need fixing, yet. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that day will come – and maybe soon – but until it does, we’ll call the last 17 long and short calls we’ve made on the US Dollar Index what they are - alpha.
From a risk management process perspective, for us to stay long any security for an extended period of time, that security needs to be bullish on both our immediate-term TRADE and intermediate-term TREND durations. The US Dollar Index currently remains bullish on both.
- TRADE signal = November 4th where we bought it
- TREND line support = $78.70
The question now is whether or not the US Dollar Index can breakout to higher-highs on a long term TAIL duration?
Luckily, we don’t have to answer that question today. In the immediate-term, the best we can do is measure the last price, volume, and volatility in our model in order to come up with our most immediate-term TRADE lines of upside resistance (in the chart below we show that line at $80.98).
All the while, of course, we are coagulating all of the fundamental data we can legally get our hands on, including the fundamental TRENDs in other FX that have an impact on the USD Index basket (Euro, Yen, etc…). In addition to being long the US Dollar, we are short the Euro (FXE).
The US Dollar is now up in 8 of the last 10 weeks and is confounding as many of the USD perma-bears today as the concept of “Euro-parity” confused those who shorted the Euro at the bottom of June, 2010. We like counter-cycle moves – and we love trading currencies.
A bullish currency TREND is bullish for America. Let’s hope that the official convening of the 112th Congress doesn’t screw this up.
Hope, after all, is not an investment process.
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
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“Everything has a price. I’d buy anything at a [certain] price if it’s not going to zero”
-Hedgeye Managing Director of Financials, Josh Steiner; 1/5/11
Conclusion: Australia’s economic fundamentals are deteriorating and we expect near-term weakness in their equity market and currency as a result. We do, however, like both Australian equities and its currency over the intermediate-to-long term and will be looking to buy them on a pullback.
Position: Cautious on Australian equities and the Aussie dollar over the near-to-intermediate term; bullish on the intermediate-to-long term.
On December 2, we published a note tilted: “Moderation Down Under”, whereby we outlined several factors that are explicitly bearish for the Australian economy (email us if you need a copy). I’ll save you the time by omitting the details, but, briefly, they are as follows:
- Chinese growth is slowing and the full extent to which China could tighten and slow its growth is being disrespected by global equity markets;
- Rising interest rates are weighting on Australian consumer confidence and boosting the savings rate; and
- Weakness in Australia’s Manufacturing sector continues unabated, contracting for the fourth consecutive month in December to 46.3. Australia’s Service sector also exhibited signs of recent weakness:
In addition to these bearish factors, layer on “biblical” and “unprecedented” flooding (as termed by State Premier Anna Bligh) in the Australian state of Queensland spanning an area the size of both Germany and France combined. The region accounts for roughly 20% of the nation’s A$1.28 trillion ($1.29 trillion) economy and is the location of 73% of the nation’s coal production – Australia’s largest export commodity.
Given this confluence of factors which could lead to slowing growth domestically, why be long Australia?
The answer comes down simply to price. We are bullish long term on Australia because of its commodity production as rising demand from developing nations that may perpetuate global supply shortages. In addition, burgeoning sovereign debt issues in the E.U. and the U.S. will likely serve to keep a floor under commodity prices over the long term TAIL.
In addition to its positive exposure to commodity inflation, we want to be long countries where sobriety reigns supreme in its fiscal and monetary policy (i.e. Australia, Germany and Canada). RBA Governor Glenn Steven’s wasn’t afraid to raise Australian interest rates several times last year to ward off inflationary pressures and Prime Minister Julia Gillard is currently weighing spending cuts to make good on her election promise to balance Australia’s budget in three year’s time. The current flooding in Queensland won’t help, but it will likely help us find a better entry price on the long side when it’s all said and done. Moreover, at 22% of GDP, Australia’s public debt load compares rather favorably with countries we isolate as the worst from a fundamental perspective for a variety of reasons (Spain, U.S. and Italy).
In other news, today's global macro run finally produced some bearish sentiment (albeit moderately bearish) surrounding The Great Down Under. Regarding the Aussie dollar, Thio Chin Loo, currency strategist at BNP Paribas said today:
"The markets are playing it with a very cautious attitude and if China continues to step on the brake to slow growth, then the bets will still be on the downside for the Aussie dollar at the start of the year. So I wouldn't dismiss if the weather situation does not improve or the Chinese policy makers would decide to enact further tightening measures, then the Aussie could clearly break parity."
We expect more bearish sentiment to creep into the market and weigh on the Aussie dollar and Australian equities – at which point we’ll be looking for an entry on the long side of either. To Josh’s point above, every investment has a price and duration. Irrespective of the fundamentals, getting both of these correct is the key to making money on either the long or short side.
From a quantitative perspective, Australia’s All Ordinaries Index is broken from an immediate-term TRADE perspective and bullish from an intermediate-term TREND perspective.
Position: Long Germany (EWG); Short Italy (EWI), Euro (FXE)
While Estonia made news joining as the 17th country to use the Euro as a common currency in the New Year, Europe’s economy continues to be centered on its sovereign debt and deficit issues, with the bailouts of Greece and Ireland in 2010 functioning as mere fiscal band aids. As we’ve pointed out for over a year, we see these fiscal issues plaguing Europe over the next 3-5 years; in the near to intermediate term we’re tasked with managing risk around the volatility throughout the region.
Currently we’re playing Europe’s Sovereign Debt Dichotomy with a short position in Italy (we re-shorted the etf EWI yesterday on strength), a short position in the Euro (FXE), and continued long exposure to Germany (EWG) in our Virtual Portfolio.
However, the data that’s new on the margin is two-fold:
1. Inflation is rising throughout the Eurozone, including the Eurozone CPI average that rose to +2.2% in December Y/Y (versus 1.9% in November), the first time it’s been above the ECB’s 2% target since November 2008; and Eurozone PPI that rose +4.5% in November Y/Y (versus 4.4% in October).
In the chart below we show the growing divergence of CPI across select countries. We continue to emphasize that inflation should rise globally on an absolute basis. When it comes to an investment decision in Europe, we like Germany’s low inflation outlook given the set-up for slowing growth in the region in 2011. (Germany too saw a rise in CPI to 1.9% in December Y/Y versus 1.7% in November, see chart below).
Further, it’s worth note that the inflationary pressures are real (out of pocket expenses) for consumers – the highly publicized and debated austerity programs included measures to raise VAT, and the New Year marked the official increase: the UK from 17.5% to 20%; Spain boosted to 18% from 16%; and Portugal plans to raise its VAT to 23% this year.
Also, weakness in the Euro versus major currencies due to the debt and deficit imbalances could spur inflationary pressures in 2011. We’re currently short the Euro etf FXE with a TRADE (3 weeks or less) range versus the US Dollar of $1.32-$1.35. Certainly, given the magnitude and duration of Europe’s sovereign debt issues, we could foresee significant downside to the common currency that would create its own inflationary pressures.
2. Germany, despite our bullish outlook, is showing signs of “topping” from a fundamental perspective vis-à-vis the Manufacturing and Services PMI.
As the historical PMI chart below shows, from a mean reversion standpoint we see the probability of a move to the downside in these numbers far outweighing the upside over the next months. The 60 line is historically a heavy resistance level. A downturn in the data however isn’t a huge conceptual surprise given that the German economy should slow in 2011 versus 2010: Bloomberg currently estimates GDP at 2.55% in 2011 versus 3.60% in 2010.
Finally, it’s worth refreshing our charts of sovereign bond yields and CDS as a proxy for risk. The takeaway is that both indicators are confirming a continued heightening in the risk trade, and in some cases all-time highs. Interestingly, today’s sovereign bond issuance from Portugal of €500 million found sufficient demand, however at a significantly higher yield demonstrating the increased risk premium that is demanded by investors. The 6-month paper yielded 3.68% (versus 2.04% in September!).
As yields have raced higher over the last year particularly for the PIIGS, and this despite bailouts of Greece (May) and Ireland (December), the equity performance of the periphery also showed marked underperformance. Greece’s Athex was the worst performer globally year-to-date at -35.6% and is down -10.2% since 1st wk of December. And Spain’s IBEX 25 and Italy’s FTSE MIB tumbled -18.1% and -12.4% respectively ytd, to round out some of the worst performing indices globally ytd.
In 2011 we’ll be picking our spots in Europe. We have long biases on countries like Germany and Sweden and short biases on Spain, Italy, and Greece.
R3: REQUIRED RETAIL READING
January 5, 2010
- Keep an eye out for the US introduction of Canadian brand, Joe Fresh. The extreme affordable men’s and women’s fashion line is a more recent endeavor from Club Monaco’s founder, Joseph Mimran. Interestingly, the low-priced line is sold exclusively at Canadian grocer Loblaw’s. Here the in the states, the line will make its debut in a freestanding, company owned location on lower fifth avenue in New York City.
- In a sign that TV isn’t entirely dead and the economy may be on the rebound, Academy Award commercial spots are commanding $1.7 million per 30 second spot. This marks a measured increase from 2010 at $1.5 million and 2009 at $1.3 million. No word yet on whether JC Penney will continue to use Oscar night as its premier marketing venue for yet another year.
- A Gallup study suggests the post-Christmas blizzard had a substantial impact on spending over what would normally have been a key shopping weekend. In the first two days of the day-after-Christmas blizzard that affected more than 20 states east of the Missouri River, consumers' average daily spending fell by nearly 50% in the East and by 55% in the Midwest, compared with their average spending over the four days prior to Christmas. By contrast, spending in the South and West fell by no more than 11% over the same time period.
OUR TAKE ON OVERNIGHT NEWS
Macy's Ramps E-Commerce Operations - In a dramatic buildup of its online operations, Macy’s Inc. will add 725 positions at macys.com and bloomingdales.com. over the next two years. Macy’s said it was the single biggest growth maneuver to date in the 15-year-old online operation. Macys.com was launched in 1996 as an information-only Web site but later that year started selling merchandise. Macy’s relaunched the site in 1998, recognizing the potential of the channel. Bloomingdales.com was launched in 2001. The announcement has broad implications for the retail industry, which in the past two years has done more firing than hiring but now sees e-commerce as the biggest avenue for growth. “Macy’s is just the tip of the iceberg. What you see happening here is going to accelerate throughout the industry,” said Les Berglass, chief executive officer of Berglass+Associates executive search firm. “E-commerce represents the greatest need for talent, relative to its size, both for top talent and the folks to support this talent.” According to Berglass, brick-and-mortar retailers experienced a 25 percent average increase in their e-commerce business this holiday season, more than double their overall increases. “Add smartphones, iPads and soon-to-be-released new versions of the tablet, the growth accelerates even more,” Berglass said. “While e-commerce now is 10 percent of the retail universe, it accounts for more than 20 percent of our search practice today.” <WWD>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: We believe similar announcements from other traditional bricks and mortar retailers will become commonplace this year. With consistent and robust growth in e-com across the board, infrastructure investments are much needed to play catch up on volumes that are beginning to make a difference.
Sears Hires Lana Cain Krauter - Sears Holdings Corp. has tapped Lana Cain Krauter as senior vice president and president of its apparel business, both online and in stores. The retailer has been struggling with its apparel offering, but the company noted that Cain Krauter is an apparel veteran, most recently serving as president and chief merchandising officer for Bealls Department Stores Inc., and, before that, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s and children’s apparel at J.C. Penney Co. Inc. Cain Krauter also held senior roles at Goody’s Family Clothing, and Sears, Roebuck, where she oversaw women’s ready-to-wear, intimate apparel, accessories and import teams. Cain Krauter will report to John Goodman, executive vice president of apparel and home. He cited her track record in brand, product and customer-loyalty program development, as well as her ability to create “high-performance teams.” “I am excited to add such an accomplished leader to our apparel team,” added Bruce Johnson, interim ceo and president of Sears Holdings. “Under John’s leadership, we are transforming our softlines business. Additionally, we’re continuing to attract high-caliber talent to the company who are focused on satisfying the customer.”<WWD>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: The apparel leadership revolving door spins yet again at SHLD. History suggests this a tough role to fill, no matter what resume comes along with the “president” title.
Luxury Key to December Comp Results- Luxury shoppers helped lift December comparable-store sales, but analysts, already coming down from their holiday highs, questioned if consumers could keep up the pace as economic headwinds accelerate. Despite winter blizzards and fears that shoppers would play Scrooge this Christmas, December comps proved robust and are likely to rise between 3.4 percent and 3.6 percent when retailers report results on Thursday. “I’m reluctant to say that things are back,” said Mike Berry, director of industry research for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. According to SpendingPulse — which estimates total U.S. retail sales made by cash, check or credit card — total apparel sales rose 10.9 percent in December over a 2.3 percent increase last year. Women’s apparel grew 6.1 percent, which was its best performance of 2010, as men’s apparel rose 9.9 percent. Family and children’s apparel jumped 12.4 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively. Luxury sales expanded 8.5 percent, the biggest increase for the sector since last spring. Footwear sales increased 10.8 percent while jewelry sales rose 10.4 percent, bolstered by a 15.6 percent leap in sales at independent jewelers. The big loser in December was the department store segment, which brought in a negative 1.4 percent comp. Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate is that the department stores reporting comps on Thursday will have a median increase of 3.8 percent. <WWD>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: While we do expect sales to come in strong for the month of December, we don’t put much credence into the MasterCard numbers. Historically these statistics tend to be overly bullish when used as a proxy for actual results.
Irving Place Acquires Dots- Betting the combination of trendy fashions and value will continue to pay dividends, Irving Place Capital acquired Dots, a Glenwillow, Ohio-based retailer with more than 400 stores in 26 states. John Howard, chief executive officer of Irving Place, told WWD the retailer could expand to 1,000 doors with some additional funds and the right kind of attention. Dots has sales of about $400 million. Terms of the deal, which closed Monday, were not disclosed. “The company’s doing quite well,” Howard said. “It’s a question of how can we help nudge it to do better.” Irving Place has plenty of experience from which to draw, having invested in Aéropostale, New York & Co., The Vitamin Shoppe, Seven For All Mankind, Stuart Weitzman and, through a collaboration with Creative Artists Agency, J Brand. “They’re fast on their feet,” said Howard of Dots. “They’re not a vertical retailer, so they go to the markets. They’re not fashion leaders — they’re kind of quick followers. That’s a recipe that you can do without designing your own product. It’s not commodity apparel, it’s fashionable apparel. Why buy something that’s plain when you can buy something that’s special and pay the same price?” <WWD>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: More M&A and this time with a retailer that many probably haven’t visited. This may be the fashion apparel equivalent of FDO or DG.
Kellwood Acquires Sportswear Brand - Kellwood Co. started the New Year on an active note, closing on its acquisition of contemporary sportswear brand Rebecca Taylor. Terms of the deal, which closed on Tuesday, were not disclosed. Financial sources said the funding for the purchase was by both Kellwood and its parent, Sun Capital Partners. Rebecca Taylor and her business partner Elizabeth Bugdaycay, who together founded the firm 15 years ago, will remain with the company. Michael Kramer, Kellwood’s president and chief executive officer, promises more acquisitions on the horizon for 2011, and sources said that Gryphon could be the next target on Kellwood’s contemporary radar. The two firms are said to be in talks about a possible acquisition. “This is an awesome brand. Rebecca and Beth are incredibly talented people,” Kramer said. Market sources said the brand’s volume is in the $45 million range, similar to Vince’s sales when Kellwood acquired that brand in September 2006. Vince’s volume has since grown to about $150 million annually. The firm acquired Adam, headed by Adam Lippes, and Isis in 2010. According to Kramer, the plan is to build Rebecca Taylor through additional doors for its wholesale business, a more sophisticated Web presence with improved fulfillment functionality and, in particular, through the increased presence of freestanding retail stores from the company’s current portfolio of two. <WWD>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Kellwood continues on its path towards building the ultimate portfolio of small to medium sized contemporary sportswear brands. With the era of the billion dollar mega-brand essentially over, this stealth approach to growth may ultimately prove to be one of the more unique business models in fashion apparel.
Totes Isotoner Acquires Acorn Products - Accessories marketer Totes Isotoner is expanding its foothold in the at-home and comfort markets with the recent acquisition of Acorn Products, an icon in the slipper category. “Now is the ideal time for Acorn to add the critical mass necessary to maximize growth opportunities we see in the global marketplace today and in the future,” said John Donnelly, formerly president and CEO of Acorn and now GM of the brand. Isotoner’s global footprint and depth of resources, he said, will enable Acorn to provide products and services to customers well beyond its current capabilities. Acorn has a broad range of products, including its original Slipper Sock and more recent introductions in the performance outdoor category. “We have a long heritage in quality comfort products,” said Donnelly. “We will continue to build upon the unique heritage of the brand and the product direction in place today.” <WWD>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Acorn=comfort. We wonder of Acorn will ultimately stay true to its slipper roots or is now contemplating some sort of comfort shoe product extension?
French Market Authority to Debate Hermès Request - The board of France’s stock market regulator will meet on Thursday to examine a request by Hermès to be exempted from buying out minority shareholders in its attempt to fend off a potential takeover bid by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, according to market sources. The 16-member committee of the AMF, headed by president Jean-Pierre Jouyet, will debate the issue but will not necessarily publish a ruling on the same day, the sources said. Officials at the AMF declined comment. LVMH revealed last month that it has boosted its stake in Hermès to 20.2 percent after its initial stock acquisition of a 17.1 percent share of capital through cash-settled equity swaps. The AMF is separately examining whether LVMH violated market rules by buying the shares via equity swaps. Though LVMH chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault has said he is not seeking full control of the maker of Birkin handbags and silk scarves, Hermès has vowed to protect itself from what it considers an unwelcome suitor. <WWD>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: The saga continues with further clarity expected Thursday.
Twitter Users Share More Info - Twitter’s user base has experienced infamous growth over the past couple years, with the company announcing in December that 100 million new accounts had been opened in 2010 and eMarketer estimating that the US Twitter population rose from 18 million in 2009 to 26 million last year. The social media service may also be beginning to mature as a community. According to research from Sysomos, users’ following habits have changed dramatically since 2009. That year, nearly two in five Twitter users around the world followed five people or fewer. By 2010 that group had been sliced nearly in half, indicating more participation among users. There was also a sharp difference in the proportion of accounts who were followed by five or fewer other users, dropping from 46% of the total in 2009 to 32% in 2010. Tweeting is still a relatively niche phenomenon among the population as a whole, with a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey indicating just 8% of US web users participate in the service. But those users may be developing a deeper relationship with the site that will keep it a vibrant community for marketers. <emarketer>
Hedgeye Retail’s Take: The key takeaway here is the stickiness of Twitters’ users, which appears to be increasing. Given the two-fold increase in several profile metrics year-over-year, these figures indicate a successful conversion of what many users probably considered a ‘trial period.’
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