Takeaway: The slope of the line in the claims series is improving sharply. This morning's numbers are the strongest YTD.
Battleships & Bathtubs
This week's initial claims data brings the "streak" of good news to three weeks, and almost a trend makes. Notably, this week's improvement is the strongest we've seen YTD. The year-over-year change in non-seasonally adjusted initial claims came in at -16.4%, a sharp acceleration vs the prior week's 7.1% improvement and the previous week's 13.2% improvement. That brought the 4-wk moving average to -10.7%, as compared with -7.5% and -7.1% in the preceding two weeks. Remember, a more negative number is better as it reflects a faster rate of improvement.
The weather has been a much-maligned scapegoat for softening labor data through the first 2-3 months of 2014. While we may never know the full extent of the role weather played, it stands to reason that if, in fact, weather was at least partly to blame for softness in Jan/Feb then we would expect to see improvement by late March/April, and that is exactly what we're seeing. Coincidence? Possibly, but it's worth considering. As my colleague Christian Drake, on our macro team, reminded me this morning: the labor market is a battleship and turns very slowly, but is subject to lots of short/intermediate term distortions. #Indeed.
Capital One (COF)
Our favorite way to play this rebound in the labor market remains Capital One (COF). We continue to think the company is poised to beat the quarter - they report next Thursday before the open - and the seasonal pattern of outperformance from late January to early July is strong. Unsecured consumer lenders like Cap One are high-beta plays on claims because with only nominal loan growth, stable margins and expenses the one lever the company has is credit, and claims has always been the best leading indicator for credit.
Prior to revision, initial jobless claims fell 26k to 300k from 326k WoW, as the prior week's number was revised up by 6k to 332k.
The headline (unrevised) number shows claims were lower by 32k WoW. Meanwhile, the 4-week rolling average of seasonally-adjusted claims fell -3.75k WoW to 315.75k.
The 4-week rolling average of NSA claims, which we consider a more accurate representation of the underlying labor market trend, was -10.7% lower YoY, which is a sequential improvement versus the previous week's YoY change of -7.5%
The 2-10 spread fell -3 basis points WoW to 233 bps. 2Q14TD, the 2-10 spread is averaging 232 bps, which is lower by -7 bps relative to 1Q14.
Joshua Steiner, CFA
Jonathan Casteleyn, CFA, CMT
Client Talking Points
Fed Minutes yesterday remind you that these un-elected, lagging economics majors have a 0% policy to fight inflation. So, whether you like it or not, you are going to get more inflation, and that is going to slow consumption growth moar – buy bonds on growth slowing, because that’s all the 10-year yield trades on.
Beef prices hit an all-time high yesterday (LA Times), and while all-time is a long time, do not call this inflation. The CRB Index powered to new highs yesterday at +10.7% and Gold charges forward this morning back to +10% year-to-date. Silver is up +2.5% this morning too. This is Fed front-running 101.
Consensus continues to expect our call from last year (#RatesRising), and rates continue to fall. A 2.65% 10-year yield is basically yelling that the rate of change in US growth from here is down, not up. Meanwhile, the SPX risk range is wide open now to 1830-1890. Should be fun.
|FIXED INCOME||20%||INTL CURRENCIES||22%|
Top Long Ideas
Hologic is emerging from an extremely tough period which has left investors wary of further missteps. In our view, Hologic and its new management are set to show solid growth over the next several years. We have built two survey tools to track and forecast the two critical elements that will drive this acceleration. The first survey tool measures 3-D Mammography placements every month. Recently we have detected acceleration in month over month placements. When Hologic finally receives a reimbursement code from Medicare, placements will accelerate further, perhaps even sooner. With our survey, we'll see it real time. In addition to our mammography survey. We've been running a monthly survey of OB/GYNs asking them questions to help us forecast the rest of Hologic's businesses, some of which have been faced with significant headwinds. Based on our survey, we think those headwinds are fading. If the Affordable Care Act actually manages to reduce the number of uninsured, Hologic is one of the best positioned companies.
Construction activity remains cyclically depressed, but has likely begun the long process of recovery. A large multi-year rebound in construction should provide a tailwind to OC shares that the market appears to be underestimating. Both residential and nonresidential construction in the U.S. would need to roughly double to reach post-war demographic norms. As credit returns to the market and government funded construction begins to rebound, construction markets should make steady gains in coming years, quarterly weather aside, supporting OC’s revenue and capacity utilization.
Darden is the world’s largest full service restaurant company. The company operates +2000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, including Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn and Capital Grille. Management has been under a firestorm of criticism for poor performance. Hedgeye's Howard Penney has been at the forefront of this activist movement since early 2013, when he first identified the potential for unleashing significant value creation for Darden shareholders. Less than a year later, it looks like Penney’s plan is coming to fruition. Penney (who thinks DRI is grossly mismanaged and in need of a major overhaul) believes activists will drive material change at Darden. This would obviously be extremely bullish for shareholders and could happen fairly soon driving shares materially higher.
Three for the Road
TWEET OF THE DAY
China's March Exports -6.6% y/y; Imports -11.3% y/y! @KeithMcCullough
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"A man with no imagination has no wings." - Muhammad Ali
STAT OF THE DAY
Come grilling season, expect your sirloin steak to come with a hearty side of sticker shock. Beef prices have reached all-time highs in the U.S. and aren't expected to come down any time soon. The retail value of "all-fresh" USDA choice-grade beef jumped to a record $5.28 a pound in February, up from $4.91 the same time a year ago. The same grade of beef cost $3.97 as recently as 2008. (Los Angeles Times)
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The Los Angeles Times just reported beef prices have hit an all-time high and aren’t expected to come down any time soon. Meanwhile, coffee prices are up almost 70% YTD as the CRB Food Stuffs index itself is up approximately 20% YTD.
Takeaway: There is no inflation. Just ask one of these unelected and unaccountable government guys.
No inflation for four years.
That’s what this Keynesian character from the Minnesota Fed (Narayana Kocherlakota) said earlier this week. I couldn’t make this up if I tried, but here’s his explanation:
"The low inflation in the United States tells us that resources are being wasted...I’ve said that the FOMC is undershooting its price stability objective and is expected to continue to do so. But we should all keep in mind that this outcome—and especially the forecast for continued undershooting—typically means that the FOMC is also underperforming on its other objective of promoting maximum employment."
In related news, our Q2 Macro Themes released to subscribers on Tuesday has the exact opposite view. Ping firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Someone is smoking something here, and since I don’t do drugs, I don’t think it’s me. This guy is cheering on the very thing that is slowing real growth (#InflationAccelerating).
Simple equation: Fed Minutes = Burn The Buck --> Commodity Inflation rips.
Take a look around this morning:
- COMMODITIES: freshly squeezed YTD highs in commodity #InflationAccelerating (CRB Index +10.7% YTD)
- COFFEE prices up 68% YTD
- BEEF prices hit all-time record high in US
- GOLD: ramps the whiners another new one (back to +10% YTD); Silver (which we're long in #RTA too) +2.5% this morning too
Your un-elected Fed says food prices are "non-core" to American life. Try telling that to average Americans in the grocery store. In other words, there is no inflation. Just ask one of these unelected and unaccountable government guys smoking Keynesian crack.
Takeaway: RH/WSM vs BBBY/PIR tag team – no contest. KER looking for sports brands -- LULU? TGT and WMT battle over granola. LB/Vicy sheds outerwear.
BBBY and PIR Both Put Up Less-Than-Stellar Results. But there's an Important Theme.
Look at the SIGMA trajectory for both retailers. Sales down, inventories up, weak margins. But how come that is in such stark contrast to what we saw out of RH and WSM? Aside from better product, merchandising, and marketing, there's a structural factor as well. BBBY generates only 4% of its sales online. PIR is only at 5%. That means when people don't want to leave their homes due to weather, sheer laziness, or whatever, BBBY and PIR are at a competitive disadvantage. RH and WSM, however, generate nearly half of their respective sales online. They both have the ultimate channel hedge to complement their premium product offering. This quarter it made a difference.
BBBY may have printed earnings that are in line with prior guidance, but any way we slice it, this SIGMA trajectory looks horrendous. A 6% sales decline on a 5% inventory build is was out of character for BBBY.
As bad as Bed Bath looks, Pier 1 looks even worse. Not enough sales, way too much inventory, and no margin to be found.
KER - Gucci Owner Kering to Consider Buying Sports Brands
- "...Kering SA will consider acquiring sports and lifestyle brands in three years as it assesses the performance of the Puma label, Chief Executive Officer Francois-Henri Pinault said."
- "Any deal will hinge on Kering’s ability to reverse the fortunes of Puma...which has been undertaking a reorganization since 2009, he said in an interview in Hainan, China. Pinault, who’s also Kering’s chairman, said he’s 'convinced' the Paris-based company should have a sports-and lifestyle-oriented business."
Takeaway: The list of premium sports brands that Kering can buy is actually quite small. But there's one that is a) premium, b) global, c) in need of major help, and d) is run by a fellow Frenchman. In case you have not guessed already, that's Lululemon.
WMT and TGT Fight Over Granola
Takeaway: Wal-Mart offering organics at a 25%+ discount is a daunting development for incumbent organic brands at WMT. But what's more interesting is that TGT came out with a simultaneous announcement that it will dramatically up its organic product -- but it is not bringing price into the equation. Ultimately, will people want a better brand selection at Target, or a focused selection with deep discounts at WMT? Our sense is that Wal-Mart will win this one. But the wild card remains how each company conveys the value proposition to consumers.
WMT - Walmart to Offer Organic Line of Food at Discount Prices
- "Walmart plans to announce on Thursday that it is putting its muscle behind Wild Oats organic products, offering the label at prices that will undercut brand-name organic competitors by at least 25 percent."
- "For now, Walmart will carry the Wild Oats label, which is owned by the Yucaipa Companies, a private investment firm, only in its pantry section, with items like tomato paste, chicken broth and cinnamon applesauce cup. Over 90 percent of its offerings at Walmart will be organic…"
- "Instead of hitting the entire national market at once, Walmart will first introduce Wild Oats at 2,000 stores in the coming months, only half of its national footprint, and then roll it out to the rest of the country. Mr. Sinclair said that concerns about supply kept the retailer from introducing the brand in all its stores at once."
TGT - Target Ups Organic Offering
- "The mass retailer is expanding its selection of natural, organic and sustainable brands under the 'Made to Matter' umbrella."
- "The 'Made to Matter — Handpicked by Target' collection is comprised of 17 leading natural, organic and sustainable brands. Target is making the products more accessible to consumers. Merchandise will be available throughout the store, both in the products’ usual aisles and as part of displays for the collection. Select products also will be available on target.com and Target’s mobile app."
- "'Made to Matter' brands include Annie’s Homegrown, Burt’s Bees, Chobani, Clif Bar & Co., Ella’s Kitchen, Evol, Horizon Organic, Hyland’s, Kashi, Method, Plum Organics, Seventh Generation, SheaMoisture, Target’s Simply Balanced, Vita Coco, Yes To and Zarbee’s Naturals. 'The Made to Matter' collection includes all products now offered at Target by the participating brands and at least one new exclusive item from each brand."
LB - Victoria's Secret Trims Apparel Collections
- "WWD has learned that Victoria’s Secret will be narrowing its apparel offering by dropping most of its wovens, outerwear, denim and some of the dress offering as well. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of revenues will be shed, with one apparel source estimating anywhere between $500 million and $750 million of volume."
- "Changes to the Victoria’s Secret collection will begin being evident right away but most noticeably by next fall. The decision to cut back, revealed internally at L Brands headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, impacts Victoria’s Secret Direct. It does not affect the Victoria’s Secret stores, which stick to the core offerings. It also does not affect Pink…"
Takeaway: No argument here. The reality is that if you ask a hundred consumers what Victoria's Secret does best, not a single one will say 'denim'. The one product extension that makes sense to us is Yoga, where it has had very good success (which will continue).
VNCE - Vince Unveiling Kids' Collection in June
- "The brand’s new kids’ line will be launched in June at stores such as Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, as well as 25 kids’ specialty retailers, select Vince locations and vince.com. The collection is licensed to Tawil Associates in New York, which is Vince’s second licensing partner. Its first is with Brown Shoe for women’s and men’s footwear."
- "For girls, retail prices range from $24 for a tank to $598 for a scuba leather jacket. For boys, prices start at $34 for a crew-neck T-shirt and go as high as $398 for fall and winter jackets."
Takeaway: It's way too early in Vince's lifecycle to be extending into kids. It's one thing to sell a T-shirt for $75 and jacket for $1,000 to an adult, but to push a $500 price point for an 8-year old? Seems a bit extreme for product that from 20-feet away looks like it might have come from Uniqlo at 1/10th the price point.
ANF - ABERCROMBIE & FITCH NAMES JOANNE C. CREVOISERAT EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
- "Abercrombie & Fitch Co. today announced that Joanne C. Crevoiserat has been named Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the company, a position she is expected to take up in May, 2014."
- "Since 2007, Ms. Crevoiserat has served in a number of senior management roles at Kohl's Inc., most recently as Executive Vice President of Finance and prior to that, as Executive Vice President of Merchandise Planning and Allocation. Prior to Kohl's, Ms. Crevoiserat held senior finance positions with Wal-Mart Stores and May Department Stores, including serving as CFO of the Filene's, Foley's, and Famous-Barr brands."
GPS - Gap CEO Glenn Murphy Compensation Falls
- "Murphy’s total reported compensation was $18.7 million, 24 percent below the $24.6 million reported for 2012, according to Gap’s definitive proxy filed this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission."
- "His salary was unchanged at $1.5 million while his cash bonus — or non-equity incentive plan compensation — fell 40.5 percent to $2.7 million from $4.5 million a year ago, when he received the highest amount possible under Gap’s compensation plan."
- "Combining salary and bonus, the cash portion of his compensation fell 30.4 percent to $4.2 million from $6 million in 2012."
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