Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough joined Fox Business host Liz Claman this afternoon to discuss how to invest following a dovish March Fed meeting. In the panel was U.S. Global Investors CEO Frank Holmes and Jefferies Chief Financial Economist Ward McCarthy.
In this excerpt from The Macro Show this morning, Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough responds to a subscriber’s question on investing in a world riddled with global central bank interventionism.
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Takeaway: Whatever the Fed decides to do or say today, this week's industrial production and retail sales data reaffirms our dour US economic outlook.
Investors are waiting with bated breath for the FOMC statement and Janet Yellen's testimony. Unfortunately, no matter what the Fed does or Yellen says today, the Fed is not omnipotent and cannot arrest economic gravity.
Case in point... today's industrial production number which yet again affirms our view that sections of the U.S. economy are already in recession.
Or how about Retail Sales? That too was disappointing.
(...That's just this week's data.)
We've got a 73-page slide deck laying out our view that U.S. economic growth is stalling. Here's a taste:
CLICK TO WATCH
But why pay attention to all of this when Janet Yellen is simply going to tell us it's "all good" at 2:30PM ET?
Takeaway: Flying Blind + Blind Faith = a great SHORT selling combination...
Editor's Note: This is a brief excerpt from a recent institutional research report written by our Restaurants team. If you would like access to our research please email email@example.com.
Chipotle (CMG) is on our Hedgeye Restaurants Best Ideas list as a SHORT.
Even with a disastrous sales update after the close, we still feel like we’re fighting an uphill battle on the CMG short call, but make no mistake, our conviction level is very high! The CMG management team is flying blind and has no practical experience in recovering from one of the greatest foodborne illness disasters ever experienced by a restaurant company. That opinion and the blind faith the street has put in this management team makes for a great SHORT selling combination.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
In part, our conviction level remains high because the company was experiencing growth related issues in 3Q15, prior to the company’s 4Q15 sales related issues. Bottom line, CMG should have slowed unit growth following the 3Q15 earnings and not accelerated it! The three biggest problems the company faced then and still face today are:
- Limited supply of quality real estate
- Significantly higher lease rates for the sites they do open
- Lower average unit volumes
Taken together, all three suggest significantly lower returns and an increased likelihood that the company will not get the units open on time, or will compromise the quality of the openings to meet Wall Street expectations.
The other key to the SHORT case...
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Takeaway: February Housing Starts bounced off easy sequential and Y/Y comps, but softening builder confidence (HMI 58) bodes poorly.
Our Hedgeye Housing Compendium table (below) aspires to present the state of the housing market in a visually-friendly format that takes about 30 seconds to consume.
Today’s Focus: February Housing Starts & Permits
We knew this morning’s Starts data for February was going to be solid; Base effects were exceedingly easy given severe weather last year and seasonals were equally supportive as each of the last two years saw weather depressed Februaries give way to rebound strength in April/May (see 1st chart below). Next month’s March data should benefit from a similar dynamic.
So, we successfully hurdled the easy comp, now what?
The answer carries some duration sensitivity:
- Total Starts | Flat-lining: New construction activity has shown a clear but crawling trend higher since 2010 and the longer-term mean reversion upside to average historical levels of activity remains an opportunity. Inclusive of the sequential improvement in February, however, Total Starts have been flat to down for the last 10-months (see 2nd chart below) and permits, while stable-to-modestly better, aren’t signaling a meaningful acceleration over the nearer-term.
- SF vs MF | Mix Shift: Mix has shifted over the last year as multi-family activity has moderated back towards 2014 levels while SF construction has shown offsetting improvement. Whether funding stress and a higher cost of capital for CRE weighs on multi-family construction remains to be seen. Domestic age and racial demographics will remain supportive of rental demand for the foreseeable future but rental affordability is already stretched and Shelter inflation in this morning’s CPI report made another higher high at +3.28% YoY. A similar pace of rental price inflation could persist further but rental cost burdens are already at historic highs and rent price growth can only run at a steep premium to income growth for so long.
- Starts vs Sales | A Tale of Two Slopes: Builder Confidence sits at a 9-month low and the slope of sales in the New Home Market is negative (3rd chart below). These measures stand in notable contrast to the flat trend in total starts and positive slope in SF construction over the TTM.
On balance, the data mosaic across housing continues to support our negative outlook. As the data stands, we would not view slowing HPI, decelerating volume growth in the existing market, flatlined Starts activity and negative 2nd derivative trends in New Home Sales and Builder Confidence as a particularly bullish fundamental factor constellation, especially heading into the seasonally tough 2Q/3Q equity performance periods (see last 2 charts below).
About Housing Starts & Permits:
The US Census Bureau records the number of new housing units that have obtained permits for construction and those that have begun construction. This data includes new buildings intended primarily as residential units. The US Census Bureau defines a start as, “Start of construction occurs when excavation begins for the footings or foundation of a building.”
Joshua Steiner, CFA
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