On this morning’s institutional Macro Call, Keith discusses the importance of having a daily process rather than relying on a crystal ball or moving "monkey" averages.
Keith highlights the great run in bonds, how ugly things really are in Europe and the epic down move in commodities.
***This is a complimentary peek behind-the-macro-scenes of our daily Morning Macro Call for institutional subscribers.***
Constipation over Greece? You bet! The political indecision leading to a call for snap general elections on January 25th has sent Greek bonds down -7.4% and Greece’s Athex Index down -24% over the last month.
There’s also spillover talk this week of Greece exiting the Eurozone as a result of an article in the German publication Der Spiegel over the weekend. The article cited an unnamed German government source who said both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble have a contingency plan for a Greek exit, labeling it manageable.
The story helped send the EUR/USD to a 9 year low near $1.1865; however, Merkel’s government was quick to counter the article by saying it will continue to support Greece in the Eurozone.
What can we as investors believe as the fate of Greece?
Below we give the puts and takes on why we believe it’s unlikely that Greece exits the Eurozone. While elections on January 25th threaten to increase global market risks over the next weeks (into and out of the event), the recent trend suggests downside risk is much more concentrated in Greek markets (rather than the broader Eurozone markets). WE EXPECT THIS TREND TO PERSIST.
This new dynamic, where Greek news and events do not drag down international markets (or at least to a much lesser extent), may in fact suggest that Greece’s risk profile is different this time as is the sovereign community and banking industry who are much more prepared for the potential of a fallout.
That said, we assign less than a 10% chance that Greece exits the Eurozone, as we believe both the Greek and Eurozone/international community will be incentivized to make concessions where needed (regardless of how a coalition forms after elections) so as not to rock the cradle of the Eurozone project.
We continue to expect weakness in the EUR/USD (the cross remains broken across its TRADE, TREND and TAIL duration levels). Eurozone headline risk mixed with the prospect of QE with which ECB President Mario Draghi continues to tease the market (along with outlining for a Q1 2015 release). We’re not buyers of Greek or European equities here. Note that both the STOXX50 and STOXX600 are broken across our TRADE and TREND levels.
The Political, Cultural, and Financial Climate Spell NO Exit
Eyes on January 25th – the date of the Greek snap general election: keep in mind that despite polls suggesting that the far left anti-austerity Syriza party (headed by Alexis Tsipras) leads in polls (by around ~3% ahead of the ruling conservatives New Democracy) his party stands far from an absolute majority even if it takes the top spot.
Some Key points that suggest the likelihood of No Exit:
Risk Rising – This Time Is Different?
The dynamic around Greece may in fact be different this time. While in past years since the crisis began, the smallest of Greek news had the power to tank global markets.
If we look to our European Financial monitor as an indicator, this time around we see a major spike in Greek banks' CDS (widened between 159 and 229 bps last week), whereas Bank CDS throughout the region was flat to slightly down, on the whole. Additionally the big downside moves in the Greek equity and debt market since PM Samaras called an early presidential election were largely contained domestically. Surely these are partly indications that governments and market participants are more comfortable with the prospect of a Greek exit.
However, we believe the political, cultural, and financial points mentioned above spell the very unlikely probability that Greece exits the Eurozone anytime soon. Given the interconnectedness of markets and also the still very bloated and weak sovereign and fiscal state of Greece, it appears that any gains that could be realized by its own currency and central bank to set interest rates are trumped by fears of weak growth and the inability to pay down its debt and raise credit if were to go at it alone.
Once again it appears that the Eurocrats will continue to trumpet their Eurozone project and the Greeks believe their own prospects are better if they stay IN rather than OUT of the union.
We’ll be waiting and watching (with an investment in Greece on sidelines) as we approach elections on January 25th.
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Takeaway: ICSC-strong data point driven by discounting. COH-This Is A Really Bad Deal. IBM-dot.com Holiday sales +14% but AUR -8%
EVENTS TO WATCH
FDO - Earnings Call: 10:00am
BBBY - Earnings Call: 5:00pm
Takeaway: Strong start to the year with a +3.8% reading. Our sense -- which is likely to be backed up with the data points that come out over the next week from the companies -- is that this was driven by promotional activity due to greater than usual excess inventory available after the Holiday.
COH - COACH TO ACQUIRE LUXURY DESIGNER FOOTWEAR BRAND STUART WEITZMAN
Takeaway: Coach’s purchase of Stuart Weitzman is the ultimate sign of its perennial mediocrity. When Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren, or Tory Burch want to get into the shoe business, they use their greatest asset to get there – their own brand name. When Coach wants to get there, it buys somebody else’s brand name. That’s almost all we need to know. Link to the full not can be accessed by clicking the link (COH - This Is A Really Bad Deal).
IBM: 2014 Online Holiday Sales up 14%, Mobile up 27%
Takeaway: This data point syncs with what we've seen from other sources that track online spending during the holiday season. ComScore reported that sales were up 15% from 11/1 - 12/21 and Channel Advisor #'s for 11/27 - 12/21 reported a similar number at 14%. These numbers represent a sequential acceleration. With IBM accelerating from 8.5% in '13 to 14% in '14 and ComScore up 500bps from 10% in '13. That make sense to us given the accelerated shift we've seen during the Holiday season from in-store to online. That's the positive, on the negative side AUR was down 8% according to IBM. Contrary to most peoples opinions, online sales are a drag on profitability for retailers who don't own content. The best example we have of that is KSS where online EBIT margins are 600bps below Brick and Mortar. So not only is the online channel cannibalizing what otherwise would have been B&M sales at a less profitable rate, retailers drove that growth through a heavy dose of discounts. Not the earnings driver many of the retailers need this 4th quarter.
KATE - Kate Spade Swimwear Debut
Saban Brands Purchases Mambo
IBM: Retail Cyber Attacks, Victims Drop in 2014
Takeaway: Coach’s purchase of Stuart Weitzman is the ultimate sign of its perennial mediocrity.
Coach’s purchase of Stuart Weitzman is the ultimate sign of its perennial mediocrity. When Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren, or Tory Burch want to get into the shoe business, they use their greatest asset to get there – their own brand name. When Coach wants to get there, it buys somebody else’s brand name. That’s almost all we need to know.
But there are so many other parts of the transaction that don’t make sense to us.
1) Coach’s $574mm bid bested that of Advent International – a savvy investor whose job it is to make high quality acquisitions. Advent was the one who stepped in to buy half of Chip Wilson’s LULU stock for $845mm as the former Lululemon Chairman backed away from the company. Advent has a very long holding period, and is not afraid of high near-term valuation. So why should Coach, which has never done an acquisition in its life, be comfortable paying more than someone with a better balance sheet/access to capital, and one of the best track records of creating value with retail acquisitions?
2) Sycamore Partners has owned Weitzman for less than a year – through its acquisition of Jones Apparel Group in February 2014. We can’t imagine that it would have shopped Weitzman so quickly if it’s view of its prospects were ‘just so good’.
3) This is an example where one private equity firm shopped a company (Weitzman), and bypassed another PE company in favor of a strategic investor who is willing to pay more with shareholder’s capital.
4) Don’t forget that Jones bought Weitzman in 2Q10. If there’s one thing you can say about JNY (and I’ll go to the mat on this one with historic examples), it’s that the company was second to none when it came to acquiring content/licenses and drawing out near-term cash flow at the expense of long term value. We’re near certain that this deal will end up costing COH well North of $574mm.
The punchline: We covered our long-standing short about nine months ago in the low $30s. The cash flow characteristics of the company were simply too attractive to us, which made an acquisition/LBO all too plausible – even if Coach is forever relegated to an outlet brand. But now the acquiree has turned acquirer. So to own Coach today you have to actually believe that 1) the (new) management team can turn around the core brand over a multi-year duration without sacrificing profitability, and 2) that this new deal will not destroy value. We can’t believe either of those things.
If it weren’t for the likelihood that COH can engineer earnings growth for a few quarters as it integrates Weitzman, we’d go outright short today. If the stock works as earnings bounce, we’ll be the first to jump on board the short side. This one is now on our Short Bench.
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