[UNLOCKED] Early Look: The Taming of Profits

Editor's Note: The Early Look below was written by Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough one week ago. It crystallizes many of our current thoughts about the precarious macro setup and why we think U.S. equities are in trouble. Click here to get it delivered in your inbox weekday mornings.

*  *  *  *

“No profit grows where no pleasure is taken.”

-William Shakespeare

 

And, generally speaking, no multiple expansion grows when there’s no corporate profit growth. Rather than The Taming of the Shrew (i.e. where that Shakespeare quote comes from), USA is seeing The Taming of Profits.

 

No, I’m not talking about the taming of US stock market profits and/or returns (i.e. the ones that were negative in 2015 and mostly negative for 2016 YTD) – I’m simply talking about US Corporate Profits, which were reported to have remained in #Recession on Friday.

 

No worries. We’ll probably be the only ones on Wall St. writing about it this morning. If only the bulls of the 2015 peak warned you that Q415 corporate profits would slow another -540 basis points sequentially (vs. Q3 when they first went negative) to -10.5% year-over-year.

 

[UNLOCKED] Early Look: The Taming of Profits - recession cartoon 02.22.2016

 

Back to the Global Macro Grind

 

As Darius Dale wrote to our Institutional clients on Friday, you have to go all the way back to the depths of the 2008 Financial Crisis (Q408) to find a worse year-over-year decline in US Corporate Profits.

 

“More importantly, Q4 marked the 2nd consecutive quarter of declining corporate profit growth… such occurrences have been proceeded by stock market crashes in the subsequent year for at least the past 30 years (5 occurrences).”

 

Since Q4 ended on December 31st (they haven’t been able to centrally plan a change in the calendar dates yet), has anyone considered why we just saw the worst 6 week start to a stock market year ever? Yep, it’s the Profit vs. Credit Cycle (within the Economic Cycle), stupid.

 

Ok. If you’re not stupid, but really super smart and still blaming “the algos and risk parity funds” for the AUG-SEP and DEC-FEB US stock market declines, but giving them 0% credit for the JUL, OCT, and MAR decelerating volume bounces… all good, Old Wall broheem, all good.

 

Many who missed the economic cycle slowing from its peak (and the commensurate profit #slowing and credit cycles that always come along with such a rate of change move) will blame the US Dollar for that.

 

They, of course, wouldn’t have blamed Ben Bernanke devaluing the US Dollar to a 40 year low for the all-time high in SP500 Earnings (2015) though. That would be as ridiculous as blaming the machines and corporate buy-backs for market up days.

 

Last week the US Dollar came back, and the “reflation” trade didn’t like that. With the US Dollar Index +1.2% on the week:

 

  1. The Euro (vs. USD) fell -0.9% on the week to +2.8% YTD
  2. The Yen (vs. USD) fell -1.4% on the week to +6.3% YTD
  3. The Canadian Dollar (vs. USD) fell -2.0% on the week to +4.3% YTD
  4. Commodities (CRB Index) fell -2.4% on the week to -2.3% YTD
  5. Oil (WTI) fell -4.1% on the week to -1.3% YTD
  6. Gold fell -2.5% on the week to +15.3% YTD

 

Yeah, I know. Those 5 things are just the things that have immediate-term inverse correlations of 79-99% vs. the US Dollar, but there’s this other big thing called the SP500 that now has an immediate-term (3-week) inverse correlation of -0.80 vs. USD too.

 

Imagine that. Imagine the machines stopped chasing the hope that the Fed fades on their rate hike plan, the US dollar gets devalued (again), and all of America keeps arguing about the “inequality” gap having nothing to do with Fed Dollar Policy?

 

You see, when you devalue the purchasing power of a human being:

 

A) Almost everything they need to buy to survive goes up in price as the value of their currency falls

B) A small % of human beings (i.e. us) get paid if they own the asset prices we are “reflating”

 

And if you’re not a human being (i.e. you’re a US corporation) and your profits are falling, all you have to do is lever the company up with “cheap” US debt, buy back the stock with other people’s money, lower the share count, and pay yourself on non-GAAP earnings per share.

 

#America

 

While small/mid cap US Equities reverted to their bear market mean last week (Russell 2000 down -2.0% on the week and -16.7% since US Corporate Profits peaked in Q2 of 2015), so did a few other US Equity Market Style Factors that had had a big 1-month bounce:

 

  1. High Beta stocks were -2.0% on the week
  2. High Leverage (Debt/EBITDA) stocks were -1.9% on the week
  3. High Short Interest stocks were -1.7% on the week

*Mean performance of Top Quintile vs. Bottom Quintile (SP500 companies)

 

At the same time, Consensus Macro positioning remained what most US stock market bulls would have to admit they want/need from here (Down Dollar => Up Gold, Commodities, and Oil):

 

  1. Net LONG position in USD (CFTC futures/options contracts) was -2.16x standard deviations vs. its TTM average
  2. Net LONG positions in Gold and Oil held 1yr z-scores of +2.45x and +1.33x, respectively

 

In other words, in the face of both the economy and profits slowing, Wall St. wants to go back to that ole story of Burning The Buck, I guess. It’s sad and it probably won’t work… but, as Shakespeare went on to say about profits and pleasures, “study what you most affect.”

 

Our immediate-term Global Macro Risk Ranges are now:

 

SPX 1983-2061
RUT 1060-1107
USD 94.68-97.01
Oil (WTI) 36.06-42.91

Gold 1208-1275

 

Best of luck out there this week,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

[UNLOCKED] Early Look: The Taming of Profits - 3 28 Profits Down  Stocks Down Slide 39


SECTOR SPOTLIGHT | Live Q&A with Healthcare Analyst Tom Tobin Today at 2:30PM ET

Join us for this edition of Sector Spotlight with Healthcare analyst Tom Tobin and Healthcare Policy analyst Emily Evans.

read more

Ouchy!! Wall Street Consensus Hit By Epic Short Squeeze

In the latest example of what not to do with your portfolio, we have Wall Street consensus positioning...

read more

Cartoon of the Day: Bulls Leading the People

Investors rejoiced as centrist Emmanuel Macron edged out far-right Marine Le Pen in France's election day voting. European equities were up as much as 4.7% on the news.

read more

McCullough: ‘This Crazy Stat Drives Stock Market Bears Nuts’

If you’re short the stock market today, and your boss asks why is the Nasdaq at an all-time high, here’s the only honest answer: So far, Nasdaq company earnings are up 46% year-over-year.

read more

Who's Right? The Stock Market or the Bond Market?

"As I see it, bonds look like they have further to fall, while stocks look tenuous at these levels," writes Peter Atwater, founder of Financial Insyghts.

read more

Poll of the Day: If You Could Have Lunch with One Fed Chair...

What do you think? Cast your vote. Let us know.

read more

Are Millennials Actually Lazy, Narcissists? An Interview with Neil Howe (Part 2)

An interview with Neil Howe on why Boomers and Xers get it all wrong.

read more

6 Charts: The French Election, Nasdaq All-Time Highs & An Earnings Scorecard

We've been telling investors for some time that global growth is picking up, get long stocks.

read more

Another French Revolution?

"Don't be complacent," writes Hedgeye Managing Director Neil Howe. "Tectonic shifts are underway in France. Is there the prospect of the new Sixth Republic? C'est vraiment possible."

read more

Cartoon of the Day: The Trend is Your Friend

"All of the key trending macro data suggests the U.S. economy is accelerating," Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough says.

read more

A Sneak Peek At Hedgeye's 2017 GDP Estimates

Here's an inside look at our GDP estimates versus Wall Street consensus.

read more

Cartoon of the Day: Green Thumb

So far, 64 of 498 companies in the S&P 500 have reported aggregate sales and earnings growth of 6.1% and 16.8% respectively.

read more