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Let’s play the riddle game.
Q: What happens when the preponderance of economic data is: A) slowing on both a sequential and trending basis, B) consistently and fervently missing expectations and C) just plain bad (like this morning’s 1Q GDP revision, for example)?
A: You double seasonally adjust it and make it better.
Q: What happens when the economy is: A) in the latter innings of an above-average length economic expansion (Z-Score = +0.4x vs. all cycles over the past century to be exact), B) slowing into extremely difficult base effects that should perpetuate the slowest annual rate of nominal GDP growth since 2009 and C) mired with a myriad of [horribly misunderstood] secular headwinds?
A: The Fed hikes rates on that.
LOL! (pardon the millennial in me)
Regarding the first question, the consistent and fervent missing of expectations for economic data is eerily reminiscent of the start of 2007 when it just continued and continued and continued until the cycle completely rolled over.
Regarding the second question, trends across a variety of indicators put us roughly ~12 months away from recession.
That may sound like good news to investors, but our predictive tracking algorithm has YoY real GDP growth slowing throughout the balance of 2015. In lay terms, we believe the U.S. economy is past peak in rate-of-change terms and sliding down the slope to an eventual cliff (i.e. recession). That’s our call and we’re sticking to it.
As detailed in the previous chart, today’s negative revision takes our full-year estimate for real GDP growth down to +2% (from +2.3% prior). Both the Fed and Street are up at +2.5%, both of which continue to careen down from perpetual expectations of rainbows-and-puppy dogs (i.e. 3-plus percent growth) earlier this year.
All told, we reiterate our call to be long of long-duration in its many forms: TLT, EDV, VNQ and GLD (gold has historically performed well in down-dollar and down-interest rate environments and we think the June 17th FOMC statement has a high probability of being dovish and dollar-bearish).
We also think the current entropy of U.S. demographic trends (i.e. they’re getting worse at their fastest rate ever, like now) is likely to continue supporting our lower-for-longer thesis on interest rates.
Going back to the data, the government might be able to double, triple or quadruple seasonally adjust the national accounts, but they can’t smooth corporate earnings.
The proverbial “they” better keep the buyback machine revved up! On that note, the $141B announced buybacks in April was the largest month on record per Birinyi Associates.
Moreover, buybacks are on pace to reach $1.2T in 2015, which would break the record of $863B from – you guessed it – 2007 (i.e. the last time Keith made the #LateCycle Slowdown call, which caused organic earnings growth to slow, which effectively forced companies to forgo investing in their businesses in order to keep the “game” alive with financial engineering).
As an aside, it’s worth noting that core capital goods orders and factory orders are declining on a YoY basis at -0.6% and -5.3%, respectively.
Jumping back to buybacks, the three weeks ended 7/24, 7/31 and 8/7 are the three busiest weeks for S&P 500 constituent earnings releases. In advance of those weeks, we would expect market liquidity to dry up on reduced buyback execution (blackout periods). It’s worth noting that whisper numbers put buyback execution at upwards of ~30% of total institutional volume at major sell-side desks.
Removing such a massive bid from the marketplace amid a decided slowing of growth and the Fed out to lunch in terms of teetering on making a major policy mistake by hiking interest rates, could make this summer feel as “interesting” as the summer 2011 was…
Happy month-end Friday and best of luck out there!
In this brief excerpt from today's edition of The Macro Show, Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough reveals how many companies mishandle stock buybacks and how that affects Joey Stockpicker.
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Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from recent research from our Retail team. For more information on our various product offerings please click here.
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In case you somehow missed it, seven FIFA officials were arrested in Switzerland earlier this week as part of a global bribery scheme centered around illegal cash payments and marketing/broadcasting rights.
Nike appears to be caught in the fray, identified in the indictment as 'Sportswear Company A'. For starters, the relationship with the Traffic Group (NKE paid the company $30mm from 1996-99) looks questionable. The owner and founder plead guilty to racketeering and money laundering charges late last year and forfeited about $150mm.
The way the scheme worked, Traffic would acquire marketing rights for large soccer events and then auction them off the broadcasting and marketing rights to the highest bidder (or best connected bidder). The fact that the relationship with Traffic kicked off just days after Nike signed a deal with the Brazilian Soccer Federation adds a little fuel to the speculation fire.
We actually view this to be not entirely dissimilar to the zoning/real estate bribery scandal Wal-Mart battled in Mexico and the fraud Reebok 'allegedly' committed in India. We'd never in a million years say that this is 'part of doing business' overseas for any multinational. But it absolutely underscores the risk management procedures that are necessary once companies move beyond US borders.
As it relates to any financial impact, we're not too worried about Nike's exposure. We're more concerned about changes in regulation around FIFA and other leagues that deal with product and broadcasting licenses. In Nike's case, regulation is bad. It has a clear financial edge over any other sportswear company anywhere in the world, which is a major asset in a deregulated licensing environment.
But if the field of play is more standardized, then we'd argue that it could accrue disproportionately to smaller brands like UnderArmour.
Takeaway: We are removing Muni Bonds from Investing Ideas.
Please be advised that we are removing Muni Bonds (MUB) from Investing Ideas today. Below is a brief note from CEO Keith McCullough explaining our decision.
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After seeing this morning's GDP report then a horrific Chicago PMI print of 46.2 in a month where the "weather" turned, I'm getting increasingly concerned that we might be too right on this #LateCycle slowdown.
Munis do have credit risks don't forget. The City of Chicago's bonds, for example, were downgraded to junk earlier this month by Moody's.
Oh, and MUB is at the top-end of its immediate-term risk range, so I'd rather signal buy lower, when they're at the low-end of the range anyway.
Takeaway: Binary setup. Next print is likely a disaster, but we can’t explicitly rule out M&A before then. Best play is options if possible.
We are planning on hosting an update call next week to address incremental developments to our short thesis and discuss the M&A landscape. In the interim, see the below notes for supporting detail, and let us know if you have any questions.
YELP: The New Major Red Flag (1Q15)
04/30/15 08:53 AM EDT
YELP: Salesforce Productivity?
03/16/15 08:10 AM EDT
YELP: Debating TAM
06/30/14 01:10 PM EDT
YELP: Death of a Business Model
04/04/14 10:05 AM EDT
Hesham Shaaban, CFA
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