This note was originally published at 8am on December 03, 2014 for Hedgeye subscribers.
“The key to wealth preservation is to understand the complex processes and to seek shelter from the cascade.”
-James G. Rickards
If you’ve proactively prepared your portfolio for the phase transition of market expectations from inflation to #deflation, congrats. Not being long cascading things like Oil, Energy stocks, and Russian Rubles has been key to your wealth preservation in the last 3 months.
But how many people really think about their net wealth this way? How many people start with Warren Buffett’s 1st Rule of Investing: “Don’t Lose Money?” How many services that you pay for are equipped to monitor complex systems in a dynamic way so that your expectations of risk are constantly changing alongside analyzable factors?
I spent some time discussing these questions at the annual Hedgeye Company Meeting yesterday in Stamford, CT. In order to illustrate how risk manifests slowly, then all at once, I showed what I think was a fantastic 4 minute video on Glacial Calving (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC3VTgIPoGU). I’d love to see how Draghi and Yellen would centrally plan smoothing that.
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
Yesterday I used the snow-pack metaphor to discuss market risk factors that have a rising probability of cascading into asset class draw-downs. The idea was inspired by my friend Jim Rickards, who wrote an awesome chapter called “Maelstrom”:
“An avalanche is an apt metaphor of financial collapse. Indeed, it is more than a metaphor, because the systems analysis of an avalanche is identical … An avalanche starts with a snowflake that perturbs other snowflakes, which, as momentum builds, tumble out of control… The dynamics are the same, as are the recursive mathematical functions used in modeling the process.”
-The Death of Money, pg 265
Unless they are just looking at “charts”, I think almost everyone who gets paid real money to pick stocks, bonds, commodities, etc. has a bottom-up process to analyze securities. In fact, some are quite impressive. But how impressed are you with the systems of analysis our profession uses, from a top-down perspective?
Going on 16 years into this, my experience has been a learning one. The more I read, the less I know. But the more I observe how consensus thinks about top-down macro risks that are developing in this dynamic ecosystem of market expectations, the more opportunity I see in learning more of what not to do, out loud.
You see, while I certainly don’t make the same “money” I used to make on the buy-side, I am making a difference in my learning experience. When you open yourself up to the critique of the crowd (daily), you’re actually forced to learn faster.
In terms of big bang losses of wealth (draw-downs), the lessons, unfortunately, tend to be more expensive for the many, and profitable for the few. That’s why I think making money at the all-time highs in asset price inflation becomes next to impossible, without protecting for the downside risks associated with an avalanche (deflation) like the one we just saw in Energy markets.
Never mind snowflakes, there are two big snowballs that are going to hit you square in the forehead on Thursday and Friday:
In isolation, even for people who don’t do macro (but have a macro opinion on everything!) both of these events probably matter. From an interconnectedness perspective, fully loaded with time/price for both Euros and Yens relative to where European and Japanese equity markets are right here and now, these events matter as much as any we’ve seen in months.
Here’s the system’s setup:
In other words, measuring the system’s risk within a “risk range” (where being at the top and/or bottom end of the range increases the probability of a short-term reversal), the probability is as high as it’s been of seeing a big macro reversal.
There’s that word again, probability…
If you’ve never gone heli-skiing on a mountain with identifiably risky snow-pack factors, try it and you’ll get my point. I’m not saying you are going to break your leg going down a certain path – I’m saying some paths/situations have higher probabilities of that happening than others!
Whether you are skiing, or risk managing your portfolio alongside already cascading asset class paths (like high-yield Energy stocks, Silver futures, Brazilian stocks, etc.), you should always be asking yourself a lot of questions:
There are obviously a lot of questions to ask yourself, all of the time – and maybe that’s why some people don’t “do macro” the way we do. It requires a ton of rinse/repeat systems analysis, yes. But, more importantly, it always puts you at the epicenter of the uncertainty of the system… and stock picking tends to “feel” more certain than that.
Our immediate-term Global Macro Risk Ranges are now:
UST 10yr Yield 2.16-2.30%
WTI Oil 64.55-70.36
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
“Skeptical of Oil & Gas Capital Spending…Energy-related capital spending looks like ‘mining capital spending-lite’”
– Hedgeye Industrials 4/21/2014 CAT: Defining Differences & The Segment Formerly Known As Power Systems
2015 is not shaping up well for CAT. While some other industrials offer exposure to pending declines in upstream oil capital spending, we think CAT has greater exposure than the market appreciates. We also believe CAT provides broader positives as a short/underweight, such as exposures to other resources-related capital equipment, likely credit losses, and problematic corporate controls. We have been bearish on CAT since Hedgeye Industrials launched in 2012, and the tail of the thesis – declining energy-related capital spending and credit issues at its captive finance subsidiary – is finally coming into view.
Consensus estimates for CAT’s 2015 EPS have hardly budged since late October. This is odd, since expectations for 2015 upstream oil capital spending, a key CAT end-market, have certainly declined. CAT provided its initial 2015 top-line guidance with its 3Q 2014 earnings report, calling for, give or take, zero growth. Consensus just assumed margin expansion in 2015, translating that flattish top-line guidance into 8% EPS growth.
Excluding a transaction or similar rabbit-out-of-the-hat solution, we expect both sales and EPS to be lower in 2015 vs. 2014. We think something in the $5.00 -$6.50 range is a reasonable expectation for the initial guide in January vs. current consensus of $7.00. Our guess is that management will want to set initial expectations low to avoid a repeat of the 2013 serial guidance cuts.
We really wonder if current holders have examined to whom CAT has provided financing in its quest to sell equipment. CAT Financial has disclosed a “material weakness” relating to “Allowance for credit losses”, although the disclosed adjustments so far have been fairly small. Caterpillar Financial has ~$35 billion in assets (although we do not hear much about it) and lends to mining and oil/gas companies, too. There will be credit issues, in our view. Losses at captive finance companies are typically greeted with a mix of confusion and disdain in the Industrials sector.
Here is a brief summary of why we expect the 2015 guide to come in well below consensus, and below anticipated 2014 results:
Are investors missing CAT’s upstream exposure?
We think that E&T has more upstream exposure than investors realize. First, the margins correlate reasonably well to metrics like rig count, as best we can estimate.
Second, some oil and gas sales can get miscategorized. For example, gensets may get categorized as electric power, even if the unit is for an oil and gas application. Remote mines, offshore platforms, and onshore drilling sites tend not to have ready electricity grid access. Consider this article - http://thebakken.com/articles/685/generators-evolving-with-the-bakken.
Consider Aggreko's end-market mix in North America, which shows about 1/3 of sales to oil & gas and mining. Given CAT's product set and relationships, we would be surprised if it were a smaller part of the mix.
Would You Want These Receivables?
And these are the ones that the company discloses in its mining finance pitch book… We covered this in more detail a couple of weeks ago.
There is also likely to be credit exposure on the oil & gas side. We do not know how big the exposure is today, but in 2009 it was expected to grow to several billion dollars. We would guess that the growth has exceeded those earlier expectations.
In terms of exposures circa a few years ago, the drilling and well services names may be troubled, while the compression names look largely okay.
CAT is still advertising onshore financing, but we would bet credit standards have tightened just a bit this quarter. Tighter credit is an obvious negative for new equipment sales.
Upshot & Valuation
CAT has high quality products and employees, but has become a bit ‘low quality’ from an investor perspective, we think. There is an S.E.C. review of the company's accounting, some fantastically unfortunate acquisitions, numerous guidance gaffs, and clear strategy issues. We suspect CAT shares will put in a bottom when management is either changed, or does a 180-turn on strategy. If CAT earns, say, $5.00 in 2015, ex-items, and has some of the credit, accounting, management, and strategy issues that we anticipate, a 12x-15x multiple might prove generous. To us, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that the shares could trade in the $60-$75 range (although we do not like a P/E framework), and possibly even lower if it gets messy.
Still, the 2015 guidance we should see when CAT reports on January 26 will likely miss consensus, and we would expect the shares to underperform into that report. It also seems like a short-run cover the news event, but that decision can wait.
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When your country’s central bank raises its interest rate a monster 650bps to 17% (as the Russian Central Bank did early this morning local time) and the currency still doesn’t go up, Houston, we have a problem.
By all accounts, we saw some of the most epic swings (ever) across Russian markets today. The whipsaw moves beg the important question: during these desperate times in Putin’s Russia, will we witness desperate measures taken?
In today’s Hedgeye Poll of the Day we asked: “Will Vladimir Putin take major military action in 2015?” The response was 65% “YES” versus 35% “NO”. Clearly, taking a “major” action to inflect the price of oil could be seen as desperate to some, or as a necessity to others.
We run though the current risk set-up impacting Russia below and offer accompanying charts illustrating current risks. While it remains unclear exactly how conditions will play out from here, the risk has markedly increased to the upside (over even just the last 24 hours).
Four factors worth considering upfront:
1) OPEC may have an agenda to tighten the screws on Russia and other countries with high break-even prices;
2) Currency crashes can be expedient and self-perpetuating;
3) Russia’s economic isolation and nationalism may extend the prospect of economic recovery;
4) The heavy ties of Russia’s largest companies to the State could expedite and heighten the sovereign risk profile.
A key news item to this entire story was released yesterday: the Russian government disclosed that state-owned Rosneft needed to raise capital, with help from the Central Bank, to cover $6.9Bn in a USD-denominated bridge term-loan due early next week. Rosneft issued $10.9Bn in new bonds at Friday’s exchange rate with large, State-owned banks buying the issue. The banks then deposit the bonds with the central bank, and Rosneft is financed with the printed Rubles. Rosneft, due to the current sanctions, is unable to roll the term loan with western banks, and so squarely looks like it desperately needed the money from the CB to foot the bill next week. Of note is that Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin is a close ally with President Vladimir Putin. The next unsecured USD-denominated debt from Rosneft is a $7.1Bn payment due February 2015.
While we look from the outside, on the streets the purchasing power of the Ruble is evaporating, quickly. Despite Putin’s popular approval rating still in the 80s, we’d be overweight the “YES” camp that in fact a crashing Ruble will propel him to take some form of desperate action.
We suggest you consider these risks to protect your portfolio during this downslide.
Takeaway: In today's call, we expanded upon our negative outlook for EM asset prices with respect to the intermediate-to-long term.
Amid rapidly declining asset prices, we held a conference call today to expand upon our bearish outlook for emerging markets over the intermediate-to-long term. The presentation and its conclusions were organized as follows:
CLICK HERE to access the replay podcast.
CLICK HERE to access the aforementioned presentation (~75 slides).
As always, we’re available to field any follow-up questions you may have and are more than happy to set up a call with you to discuss these risks live; just shoot us an email as needed.
Have a fantastic evening,
Associate: Macro Team
Editor's note: This prescient research note excerpt was originally published by Hedgeye Industrials Sector Head Jay Van Sciver on March 12, 2014.
High Returns (Eventually) May Beget Low Returns
Looking at the recent declines in iron ore and copper prices, we are reminded of how challenging capacity additions can be in capital intensive industries. In the commodity section of our March 2013 Mining & Construction Equipment black book, we reviewed the supply outlook for copper and iron ore. The coming supply increases in these metals, driven by a super-cycle/bubble in mining capital investment, seems likely to keep prices under pressure for years to come. Copper may rally here and there, but the tidal wave of capacity appears to us somewhat inescapable. That seems the case even in a relatively strong “Old China” growth scenario, where the country continues to suffocate itself.
As for iron ore, it seems absurd to dig up rocks in the Amazon, ship them by rail to the east coast of South America, load them on a boat to ship them all the way to ports in China, where they are then taken to some of the dirtiest and least efficient steel mills in the world to be processed into construction materials to building buildings that few people actually use, but are built largely just to goose regional GDP statistics or protect wealthy owners against inflation. If that interpretation is correct, the excess capacity in seaborne iron ore one day might be quite staggering. Looking at Vale’s share price, this is increasingly old news, and we look below at what might be next.
Note: Forecast taken from March 2013 Mining & Construction Equipment slide deck
Of course, iron ore and copper are not alone. In many capital intensive industries, elevated investment impacts capacity on a significant lag. What other basic industries are investing at above “trend” rates?
Below, we present a table of the ratio of Capital Spending to Depreciation & Amortization (Capex/D&A) for the S&P 500 and S&P 400 Industrials, Utilities, Energy and Materials sectors’ sub-industries. In the table, a ratio of 2 would suggest that the index constituents representing that sub-industry are spending twice the level of depreciation and amortization. While we understand that this does not adjust for historic cost accounting in D&A, certain acquisition-related items and myriad other challenges, it does provide a ruler to measure relative investment over time. Another potential flaw is that a lack of investment may indicate a lack of opportunity, such as industries facing secular decline. In mature industries populated by larger capitalization competitors, differentiating these situations is reasonably straightforward.
What Does The Table Imply?
To us, it suggests that caution is warranted when extrapolating the current performance of CAT’s Power Systems division (or Energy & Transportation segment, but we will call it Power Systems until at least the end of 1Q because retitling is not substantive). Nearly all of CAT’s Power Systems key end-markets are investing well above depreciation and amortization. We have previously discussed energy sector capital spending, but it is useful to see the exposure for gas compression, locomotives and power generation, as well. In many ways, Oil & Gas capital spending could look like mining capital spending circa mid-2012. CAT, CMI, DRC and several others may also, eventually, see normalization energy-related capital spending impact results.
The table above also suggests that several construction and building products industries are not over-investing, spending at or below D&A, despite a potential significant rebound in demand. Building products is an industry we like from the long side, not simply from a cyclical perspective, but also because of structural improvements over the past decade.