Cartoon of the Day: Squirrelly

Cartoon of the Day: Squirrelly - S P 500 cartoon 06.08.2016


This one speaks for itself.

Capital Brief: What Clinton's California Win Means For The Democratic Party

Takeaway: Golden State Warrior, Bernie Weakened; A Better Way

Capital Brief: What Clinton's California Win Means For The Democratic Party - capital brief


Editor's Note: Below is a brief excerpt from Hedgeye Potomac Chief Political Strategist JT Taylor's Capital Brief sent to institutional clients each morning. For more information on how you can access our institutional research please email


Capital Brief: What Clinton's California Win Means For The Democratic Party - hillary lates


With wins in CA, NJ, SD and NM last night, Hillary Clinton has now fully assumed the mantle of presumptive Democratic nominee. She has been victorious in a majority of the primaries, garnered three million more votes than her opponents, has 2,497 pledged delegates to Bernie Sanders’ 1,663, and has 571 superdelegates to Sanders’ 48. The party will now begin to unify around her with a popular president by her side as she moves into the next phase of her campaign. She and her allies will continue to define and dismantle Donald Trump and his policies.


Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton super PAC, has allocated $20 million for an ad buy against Trump – building on her effective foreign policy speech last week pegging him as unfit to be president. Clinton will also need to reassess her trust and likeability factors – repairing and retooling her image will be critical - it will become her advantage when voters decide the “lesser of two evils.”



Bernie Sanders is all but out of the race – but that doesn’t mean he’s dropping out...In order to be viable for the nomination at this juncture - Sanders’ only option is to flip superdelegates – something that remains completely unrealistic (he’s flipped one in six months). He and some in his inner circle have been hard-pressed to accept his fate, but nonetheless he says he will not relent until the convention. With Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of Clinton and President Obama’s expected soon, Sanders risks becoming a pariah in his party the longer he holds out.


Speaker Ryan rolled out a wide-ranging conservative agenda just a few weeks ahead of the Republican convention in July. The product of several task forces and dozens of meetings with House members outlines conservative proposals for jobs and the economy, taxes, health care, national security, constitutional authority, and poverty. The plan is a byproduct  of the autopsy of the failed 2012 Romney campaign as well as Ryan’s vision for an optimistic agenda for his Congressional colleagues and the party writ large. Ultimately, in the face of Trump terrorizing the party – the proposal gives Republicans a platform to run on in the fall, trying to put the Republican party back on track.

Remember Our Healthcare Team's #ACATaper Call? It's Happening.

Takeaway: Healthcare job openings posted the slowest growth rate in 7 quarters and provided confirmation of our Healthcare team's #ACATaper theme.

Editor's Note: Below is an excerpt from an institutional research note written by Healthcare analysts Tom Tobin and Andrew Freedman on healthcare employment. Why is this important? As our analyst Tom Tobin wrote in an article that appeared on Investopedia earlier this year:


"The Affordable Care Act created legions of newly-minted medical consumers which benefited the bottom line of the companies that cared for them... [in other words] ACA has created a year-over-year comparison so enormous that healthcare stocks will probably unwind rather violently."

Our healthcare team calls the coming "unwind" the #ACATaperHealthcare job openings are essentially a proxy for this massive pull forward of demand. That's why today's slowing JOLTS data (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) was so critical.


Remember Our Healthcare Team's #ACATaper Call? It's Happening. - healthcare pills


Of the thousands of macro and fundamental data series we track on a daily basis, Healthcare Job Openings (JOLTS), proves to have the most consistent and reliable relationship to utilization trends in the industry.


Despite a slight sequential uptick in the absolute number of Healthcare Job Openings (1,015 April / 957 March), on a trending basis, growth was the slowest in 7 quarters with the 3-month YoY growth rate at +12.2%.  


Remember Our Healthcare Team's #ACATaper Call? It's Happening. - HC Jolts 6 8


Why does that matter?


JOLTS as a percentage of Healthcare Employment remains extended at +2.1 standard deviations, suggesting there is a lot more downside to go as the #ACATaper takes hold and the U.S. Medical Economy mean reverts.


The latest JOLTS and Employment report is consistent with an organic growth slowdown at AHS and implies a sequential decline in adjusted same-store admissions volume at HCA, and is a sign of potential weakness for HOLX’s diagnostic business.


Remember Our Healthcare Team's #ACATaper Call? It's Happening. - HC Jolts HCA 6 8


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Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.30%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.51%

Benn Steil: Donald Trump Is a Clear and Present Market Danger


Would a Trump presidency be bad news for the global economy and markets? Benn Steil, director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "The Battle of Bretton Woods" thinks so. He discusses the disconcerting and adverse consequences a Trump presidency may have with Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough.

Nothing To See Here, Move Along: World Bank Slashes Growth Outlook

Takeaway: The World Bank cut its 2016 global growth forecast amidst a rally in 10yr Treasury and Russian equities.

Nothing To See Here, Move Along: World Bank Slashes Growth Outlook - Slow growth cartoon 09.11.2015 copy


In global #GrowthSlowing news, the World Bank just released its most recent 2016 year-end growth forecasts. It should come as no surprise to our subscribers, but the results aren't good.


The World Bank cut its 2016 global growth forecast to 2.4% from 2.9% projected in January. A slew of other country specific outlooks were cut as well, including China, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Japan, and U.S. (See the chart at the end of this post for more on the estimates.) 


What happens when growth slows?


With Swiss and German bond yields setting new lows, it's no surprise the 10yr Treasury yield is tumbling too. Here's some analysis via Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough in a note sent to subscribers earlier today:


"If reflation was real growth, the 10yr wouldn’t be setting itself up for all-time lows – but you already know that. Risk Range on UST 10yr is now 1.64-1.79% after barely trying to bounce yesterday from its jobs day bomb."



Meanwhile, in international markets...


All is not well.


Consider the World Bank's assessment in its "risks to the outlook" section:


"In a weak growth environment, the global economy is facing increasingly pronounced downside risks. These are associated with deteriorating conditions among key commodity exporters, disappointing activity in advanced economies, rising private sector debt in large emerging markets, and heightened policy and geopolitical uncertainties. Other major downside risks over the medium term include increased protectionism and slower catch-up of large emerging markets toward advanced economy income levels. The possibility of delayed benefits from lower energy prices remains an upside risk."


Which gets us to the massive rally in Russian equities...


Additional analysis from McCullough:


"Forget Chinese demand continuing to slow (see this morning’s Export numbers for details), the real alpha out there next to being long real world #GrowthSlowing and Bond Proxies is in anything that looks like a commodity, including countries – that’s not a new story; that’s simply reflating the deflation (RTSI up another +0.8% this morning and +5% m/m)."



Below is the breakdown of the World Bank's forecasts and the GDP revisions for your own perusal. It confirms what we've long known:


Global #GrowthSlowing


Click to enlarge 

Nothing To See Here, Move Along: World Bank Slashes Growth Outlook - real gdp


About Everything: The Bullish Case for Life Insurance

The industry has been down, but its prospects are brightening.


Editor's Note: In this complimentary edition of About Everything, Hedgeye Demography Sector Head Neil Howe discusses why life insurance company shares have been beaten down since the Great Recession, but makes the case for their comeback. "Looking forward, there are a lot of positive trends at play. Gen Xers are waking up late to save for retirement, while risk-averse Millennials are trying to prepare early, promising to drive demand steadily upward for decades to come," Howe writes.


About Everything: The Bullish Case for Life Insurance - metlife 6 7


The life insurance industry has problems.


Or at least, what’s left of it has problems. In 1988, there were 2,343 U.S. life insurers, but by 2014 that number had plunged to a mere 830.


Sure, giants like MetLife, Prudential, Manulife, and AIG still have hundreds of billions in total assets. But investors have soured on these companies since the Great Recession. Manulife’s stock prices have dropped by two-thirds since the end of 2007. Industry heavyweight MetLife still sits well below its pre-recession peak. Lincoln Financial has lost a quarter of its value in the past year alone. As for the remains of AIG, they are in danger of being dismembered and devoured. 


About Everything: The Bullish Case for Life Insurance - life insurance 6 7 2


Earnings season sure didn’t help these companies’ stock prices. Prudential saw its total revenue slide more than 4 percent year over year. AIG badly missed Wall Street’s estimates, tallying just $0.65 in operating income per share (compared to a consensus $1.00). MetLife’s YOY earnings, meanwhile, plunged a full 9 percent.


So yes, this industry has its issues, but they’re well-known—and are already priced into the market.


“Minimum return guarantees.” Today’s life insurers are hamstrung by yesteryear’s optimism. Moody’s estimates that guaranteed products—whether life insurance policies or annuities—make up as much as 80 percent of insurers’ balance sheets. Most of these products carry a minimum payout of 3 percent or more.  


What’s wrong with that? Nothing, if it’s the 1980s and the rate on 10-year treasuries is bobbing around near double digits. But today, with long-term rates sinking toward zero, these guaranteed payouts are a bleeding wound.


The “interest-rate risk” triggered by imbedded guarantees is greatest for fixed annuities, which are often locked into a single rate of return over the life of the product—as well as for “universal life” policies that accrue cash value at a fixed rate.


About Everything: The Bullish Case for Life Insurance - life insurance 6 7 3


Demutualization. In the old days, the big mutually owned (or privately held) life insurance companies could keep their eye fixed on long-term returns. These firms could match long-term obligations with long-term assets without listening to what bean-counters might say about the changing net worth of their companies quarter to quarter.


But all that changed during the bubbly exuberance in the late ‘90s, when insurers from MetLife to Prudential thought they would be worth a lot more if they went public. And now these companies are saddled with the result: investors who constantly want to know what their stock is worth now, now, now.


In search of a higher immediate return that they could advertise to their shareholders, these newly public insurers have turned to riskier asset classes. In 2004, corporate and government bonds made up 74 percent of life insurance portfolios—a share that slid to 58 percent by 2014. Now more than ever, their assets rise and fall with each market swing—and there’s clearly been much more falling than rising going on lately. 


“Too-big-to-fail” regulations. In 2014, under Dodd-Frank rules, three of the biggest life insurers by assets (MetLife, AIG, and Prudential) were classified as “systemically important financial institutions” (SIFIs)—meaning they had to meet liquidity requirements and hold more capital on hand than your average life insurer. MetLife has since wiggled out from under its SIFI categorization, perhaps opening up the door for the others to follow suit.


Competition from other savings vehicles. According to consultancy LIMRA, sales of life insurance policies have declined 45 percent since the mid-‘80s. Today, roughly 30 percent of American households today have no life insurance at all (not even a term policy)—up from 19 percent three decades ago. Most of this decline has been in “whole life” policies with a strong savings component.


Why? Competition. A century ago, life insurance was the only way a typical American family could save anything for the future. Then we added Social Security. Later we added defined-benefit pensions. And still later we added a whole array of voluntary options, from 401(k)s to IRAs. These retirement savings vehicles aren’t just plentiful: They’re efficient, easy to use, low-cost, and (often) tax sheltered.


Sure, in the near future, life insurance will continue to suffer from its legacy problems—guarantees that are “in the money” plus competition from other forms of tax-free savings. But firms that can manage these challenges have a lot to look forward to.


The retirement savings crisis. By any measure, working-age Americans are saving far too little to retire when they plan to or with as much as they need—and they’re just beginning to wake up to that fact.


The National Retirement Risk Index shows that more than half of Americans aren’t putting away enough to retire without a steep drop in living standards. 


About Everything: The Bullish Case for Life Insurance - life insurance 6 7 4


Of these non-savers, a huge share belong to Generation X. The 35- to 54-year-old demographic now populated by Xers has seen its median household financial assets slide since 1989. 


About Everything: The Bullish Case for Life Insurance - life insurance 6 7 5


And what’s worse is what’s left after all the new debt they’ve accumulated. Median household net worth has downright plummeted. Back in 1989, the typical 35- to 44-year-old household had a net worth about $100,000 (in today’s dollars). Now it’s below $50,000. Net worth among 45- to 54-year-olds have dropped by nearly half as well. 


About Everything: The Bullish Case for Life Insurance - life insurance 6 7 6


How is this generation ever going to retire? Keep in mind that public retirement benefits are going to become stingier, not more generous, in the years to come—as today’s breaking age wave puts ever more pressure on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and related programs.


My conclusion: Gen-Xers will have no choice but to ramp up their savings steeply in the years ahead. And much of these new savings will flow into products offered by the life insurance industry. Indeed, over the last three years the personal savings rate has already been rising. This rise will continue—putting some deflationary drag on the economy as a whole, perhaps, but enabling millions of 40- and 50-something households to repair their balance sheets.


Low rates of return. Life insurance execs complain a lot about low long-term rates—not just because of the hit they take in guaranteed payouts, but also because they think it makes their products look unattractive. These worries are unfounded. Quite simply, everything looks unattractive nowadays. 


About Everything: The Bullish Case for Life Insurance - life insurance 6 7 7


In fact, low rates could easily cause people to save more. In the short run, sure, low interest rates suppress savings. But in the long run—once everyone expects low rates to continue indefinitely—the correlation reverses. (The world’s ZIRP-  and NIRP-fixated central bankers have yet to figure this out.) Households and pension funds eventually realize they must put away ­more money each year to hit their retirement targets. Plus, workers in a low-interest-rate environment can’t count on their own income to grow as fast in the future—which further boosts the need for extra savings.


Favorable demographics. From the ‘90s onward, Boomers moving into midlife have helped push much of the life insurance industry away from its traditional whole-life product line and toward various kinds of annuities. Now, as Boomers move past age 65, that strong demand for annuities is fading.


Meanwhile, the demographic tide is about to turn. Census population projections show that, over the next fifteen years, Millennials will swell the ranks of 30- to 39-year-olds and then the ranks of 40- to 49-year-olds. This will provide a much-needed boost in demand for traditional life insurance. 


About Everything: The Bullish Case for Life Insurance - life insurance 6 7 8


Generational change. More than just their sheer number, Millennials’ cautious worldview will fuel even greater demand for life insurance.


For starters, they’re already saving as much as possible to avoid falling into the quicksand of retirement catch-up that they’ve seen happen to so many of their parents. In this effort, life insurance is one more way to save.


But life insurance isn’t just another savings vehicle for Millennials. This generation also wants to be protected from risk—which is the name of the game for life insurers. For Millennials, there’s no such thing as “playing it too safe.” Many are already buying whole-life insurance well before the age at which they’re likely to use it. In the workplace, they’re fueling new demand for voluntary life insurance policies that will keep their loved ones solvent no matter what happens. Among workplace benefits, according to a 2015 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Millennials are the only generation that regards life insurance as important as retirement savings.


It’s not just married Millennials, either. Some single twentysomethings are taking out policies as well, just in case—presumably to reimburse Mom and Dad for all those years of rent-free living.


In fact, insurers could even leverage this need for protection into a service that walks Millennials through everything they need to know about finance—in which life insurance is just one piece of the puzzle. Look no further than Massachusetts Mutual’s “Society of Grownups,” a program chalk-full of whole-life advice for prudent young consumers. (The tagline: “Helping you find your inner adult.”)


About Everything: The Bullish Case for Life Insurance - life insurance 6 7 9


  • Up until recently, life insurers have been plagued by difficult challenges. Their guaranteed products have left them vulnerable to “in the money” payouts. They’ve also been pressured to prove profitability to their shareholders amid a long-term slide in the demand for their flagship products.
  • But looking forward, there are a lot of positive trends at play. Gen Xers are waking up late to save for retirement, while risk-averse Millennials are trying to prepare early, promising to drive demand steadily upward for decades to come.

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