Client Talking Points
Ahead of our central-planning Fed overlord doing his un-elected thing, in hopeful relief the U.S. Dollar rallied to another lower-high versus the Yen. Japanese stocks loved that. They closed up +1.2%, but just inside of 14571 Nikkei TRADE resistance as USD/YEN fails at 98.42 resistance. Keep your head up out there. This can all reverse within 24 hours. So just know where your mean reversion risks are.
Delivering alpha with a playbook Hedgeye GIP Model move triangulating Growth Inflation & Policy (Growth Stabilizing as Inflation Slows to -0.1% year-over-year CPI for October). This is the upside to a #StrongEuro. That’s why we call the Global Macro Theme for Q413 #EuroBulls.
We're Breaking Bad as interest rates front-run Ben Bernanke’s impact on U.S. #GrowthSlowing. The last three U.S. economic data points for September/October all slowed (see Pending Homes, Retail Sales, and Consumer Confidence). There's no support now for the 10-year to 2.40% then 2.27%. In the unlikely event that Bernanke whispers anything about being rational on monetary policy (read "tapering"), the breakout line is 2.60%.
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Top Long Ideas
In line with our #EuroBulls Q4 theme, we’re long the German DAX via the etf EWG. With European fundamentals showing improvement off low levels, we expect outperformance from Germany, and in turn for the region’s largest economy to pull the rest of the region higher. ECB policy remains highly accommodative and prepared to aid any of its sovereign members to preserve the Union. Inflation remains moderate and fundamentals are positive: confidence readings and PMIs are up since June, with factory orders trending higher and retail sales inflecting to push the trade balance higher. Finally, the unemployment rate has held steady at the low level of 6.9%, all of which signals to us that Germany’s economic climate is ramping up.
WWW is one of the best managed and most consistent companies in retail. We’re rarely fans of acquisitions, but the recent addition of Sperry, Saucony, Keds and Stride Rite (known as PLG) gives WWW a multi-year platform from which to grow. We think that the prevailing bearish view is very backward looking and leaves out a big piece of the WWW story, which is that integration of these brands into the WWW portfolio will allow the former PLG group to achieve what it could not under its former owner (most notably – international growth, and leverage a more diverse selling infrastructure in the US). Furthermore it will grow without needing to add the capital we’d otherwise expect as a stand-alone company – especially given WWW’s consolidation from four divisions into three -- which improves asset turns and financial returns.
Financials sector senior analyst Jonathan Casteleyn continues to carry T. Rowe Price as his highest-conviction long call, based on the long-range reallocation out of bonds with investors continuing to move into stocks. T Rowe is one of the fastest growing equity asset managers and has consistently had the best performing stock funds over the past ten years.
Three for the Road
TWEET OF THE DAY
I'll probably take Commodities up from 0% after Bernanke speaks - need to hear from my overlord 1st @KeithMcCullough
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s imperative that the Fed begins to taper.” -BlackRock's Larry Fink (after Fink begs the Fed not to taper)
STAT OF THE DAY
$17,000,000,000: Banks have agreed to fork over more than $17 billion in settlements with U.S. regulators so far in 2013. That's up from a little over $10 billion in 2012. And that doesn't include the $8 billion that JPMorgan Chase may get hit with soon.
This note was originally published at 8am on October 16, 2013 for Hedgeye subscribers.
“You know that the Englishman’s idea of a compromise is? He says, some people say there is a god. Some people say there is no god. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two statements.”
-William Butler Yeats
I would hardly call myself a classical music aficionado, but I do enjoy tuning Spotify into classical music while grinding away in the office. One of my recent favorites, “Fanfare for the Common Man”, was written by American composer Aaron Copland for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1942. (Incidentally, the Chicago Blackhawks use this as a pre-game song as they enter the ice.)
Copland’s idea for the fanfare came from a speech by then Vice President of the United States, Henry Wallace. He gave this speech at a time when Americans were debating wartime strategy and America’s role in the post-World War II order. One of Wallace’s key points in the speech was that any post war peace should be such that it makes the common man better off for the long run.
This morning it seems our two great political parties, and their esteemed leadership, are coming together on a compromise to benefit the common man. According to reports this morning from our contacts in Washington, the Senate deal that is on the table is to extend U.S. borrowing authority through February 7th and fund the government through January 15th 2014.
Thank goodness that these folks are looking out for the common man by cobbling together a deal that my 11 year old niece could have negotiated. Despite the short term and non-materiality of this proposed agreement, it still has two hurdles – a) Ted Cruz, or another Senator, could filibuster and delay passage until next week and b) Speaker Boehner in the House could opt not to send the bill to the floor for an up / down vote.
There is one data point out this morning that gives me great confidence that the debt ceiling will be resolved orderly. No, it’s not that credit default swaps are trading lower, that Libor is benign, or that gold has been selling off, but rather that the ultimate contrarian indicator, a ratings agency, Fitch specifically, placed the U.S. credit ratings on negative watch yesterday.
Back to the global macro grind . . .
A major call-out this morning is the Shanghai Composite which is down almost -2%. This weakness is being driven by the property sector which is under pressure based on local news reports that longer term regulations could be in place soon for controlling property in China.
Being the price and market driven analysts we are, the move in Chinese equities this morning is certainly a red flag in our notebooks, but isn’t changing our more positive view on China. In the Chart of the Day today, we highlight China Foreign Exchange Reserves, which have continued to build even as money has left other emerging markets in recent quarters.
Admittedly, though, China is hard to ignore as it compromises more than 30% of the world’s foreign currency reserves. Japan is a not so close second at about 10%. After that we have Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Russia rounding out the top 5.
From the currency war perspective, there is certainly a bit of People’s Bank of China manipulation going on as exports were admittedly a little soft in September and the Chinese Yuan is eclipsing twenty year highs. Of course no rational person could blame the PBOC for playing games with their reserves as the U.S. central bank continues to confuse the market with its intentions. To taper, or not to taper, that is the question?
Sadly, if we can actually get the debt ceiling and government shutdown resolved in the next day or so, then all eyes will once again be fixated on the Fed. We’d be remiss this morning if we didn’t at least highlight how ineffective the program of quantitative easing has been. Hat tip to David Einhorn from Greenlight Capital for flagging this in his recent investor letter:
“In August, the San Francisco Fed published an economic research paper that estimated that the $600 billion spent on QE2 added a meager 0.13% to real GDP growth in late 2010 (about $20 billion) and that the benefit fades after two years. Given that, what practical difference does it make whether the Fed buys a monthly $85 billion or $75 billion or no additional securities at all for that matter?”
Buying any good, even say jelly doughnuts, as Einhorn highlights, has a more direct impact on economic activity than QE. After all, that is actually how the real economy works. We buy and sell goods and the velocity of money grows the economy naturally.
Interestingly, based on the math above, the Fed could actually be the worst investor in history. Just imagine a $600 billion capital allocation that generates a 0.13% return! Even there my 11 year old niece could do much better.
Our immediate-term Risk Ranges are now:
UST 10yr yield 2.66-2.73%
Keep your head up and stick on the ice,
Daryl G. Jones
Director of Research
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“It’s imperative that the Fed begins to taper.”
Not to be confused with what the CEO of Blackrock (and PIMCO) and anyone who was running levered long Bernanke’s Bond Bubble was saying from June to August (when they weren’t positioned for bonds getting smoked), this is new.
We should have been tapering now for a few months so, on the margin this is progress, I guess. Don’t forget that guys like Fink and Bill Gross get paid to “advise” our un-elected Fed Chairman on timing. There’s no conflict of interest there vs The Rest of Us, of course.
Fink went on to say in Chicago yesterday that “we’ve see real bubble-like markets again. We’ve had a huge increase in the equity market. We’ve seen corporate-debt spreads narrow dramatically.” Ya think? Bubbles, bubbles, and more bubbles. Now our central planning overlords are going to time both how we inflate and pop them. #cool
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
I’ll be seeing some of our top clients in NYC today, and it’s always interesting to see the whites of people’s eyes on USA central-market-planning days. When Bernanke shocked anyone who wasn’t on the inside of it all that he wasn’t going to taper on September 18th, I was seeing clients in Chicago. The look on people’s faces as they checked their iPhones and crackberries was flabbergasting.
I highly doubt Bernanke is going to signal a taper today. But I highly doubted he was going to cancel his entire “communication process” and not taper last time! So what do I know. I’m just a man in a room trying to let Mr. Market tell me who has inside information.
What I do know, and to a degree this is Fink’s blazingly obvious point, is that into both month-end (and Mutual Fund year-end) tomorrow we have a US stock market that is bubbling up to all-time highs.
Check this puppy out:
- Yield Chasing is Back! Slow-growth Consumer Staples stocks (XLP) = +7.9% for the month!
- SP500 at an all-time high (on no volume) = +5.4% for the month and +24.4% for the YTD
- Russell2000 at an all-time high = +32.0% YTD!
Now if you’ve been A) bullish on US stocks and B) bearish on Gold, Commodities, and Bonds for most of 2013 like we have, you’re pseudo cool with all of this. Commodities (CRB Index, 19 Commodities) are actually -5.1% YTD, so being completely out of some big asset classes has been as important as being long US growth when it was actually accelerating.
Now, not ironically, US #GrowthSlowing is what’s starting to marinate, sequentially (month-over-month) in SEP-OCT:
- US Pending Home Sales (SEP) reported earlier this week slowed -5.6%
- US Retail Sales #GrowthSlowing was reported yesterday at -0.1% vs +0.3% in AUG
- US Consumer Confidence for OCT dropped -11% month-over-month to 71.2 from 80.2 SEP
Isn’t this whole Bernanke Down Dollar, Rate Repression thing awesome?
To review our playbook, when they are happening at the same time:
- Down Dollar, Down Rates = #GrowthSlowing signal
- #StrongDollar, #RatesRising = #GrowthAccelerating signal
In other words, Fink finally has his policy lobby to Bernanke right. There is no US Growth Policy other than letting economic gravity occur. The only hope for 3-4% US growth (and a 4% 10yr Yield, $65 Oil, etc.) is via a consistent #StrongDollar Tapering Policy.
#StrongCurrency is cool guys. India is doing it. The British are doing it. So now all we need are all of our wonderfully and politically connected men and women of the United States of Centrally Planned America to do it.
Fink just did it. My boys tell me that back in the day he was a big Jimmy Carter Democrat. Today, he’s plugged into Obama’s ear too. So he can do this! Warren, you can do it too. Yes You Can!
If the US doesn’t do this, Europe will be the better place to allocate your capital in 2014. If the USA’s said free-market leadership signs off on Burning The Buck and Japanese Rate Repression, the Euro, Pound, and Swiss Franc are going up. If that continues to happen, you’ll basically have the exact same call we made on US growth almost a year ago occur in Europe:
- #StrongEuro, #StrongPound, etc. = deflates European inflation
- Inflation slowing = real/inflation-adjusted economic growth stabilizing, then accelerating
At the beginning of Q413 we called this Top Global Macro Theme #EuroBulls. And with Spanish consumer prices (CPI) dropping to NEGATIVE year-over-year in the most recent month (-0.1% y/y OCT vs +0.9% in SEP), we’ll reiterate that call again this morning.
As for the popping of the bubbles, to paraphrase my pal Hemingway, at first it happens slowly (#GrowthSlowing), then like in November of 2007, it happens all at once. After locking in its YTD low on September 2nd (when we were long growth), our Bull/Bear Sentiment Spread just ripped to a fresh YTD high this morning – that’s a +60% move to the bullish side in 2 months. #bubbly
Our immediate-term Risk Ranges are now:
UST 10yr Yield 2.40-2.60%
Spain’s IBEX 9588-10,097
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
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