Vietnamese Inflation Backs Off

Recall that Vietnam signaled the global inflation cycle very early, back in November of 2007. Today’s inflation report for July could very well signal the top of inflation becoming consensus. Inflation in Vietnam slowed for the 1st time since October 2007, coming in at +1.1% month over month, versus last month’s +2.1% increase.

While +27% year over year inflation is hardly deflationary. The point here is the sequential monthly rate of change. I think this will be broad based across country level inflation reports as the July data is released in August.

Inflation is consensus. Now the focus shifts to trying to find when/if it slows.


RISK REMAINS! Corn plant roots are shallow due to flood conditions earlier in the year and are currently more vulnerable to dry weather conditions. This year's crop is pollinating later than normal which puts it in harm’s way for hotter/dryer August conditions. The lateness of the growth could potentially expose the roots to frost. The same situation holds true for Soy.
  • Texas: EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and Texas Governor Rick Perry agreed to delay the renewable fuels waiver decision - if prices continue to drop during the delay period it becomes more likely that the EPA will deny the waiver (7/24 was original deadline.) Cattle lobbyists maintain that current RFS mandate, coupled with any unforeseen weather issues, could drive corn to $8 for 2009 season when mandatory blending goes into effect. To put it in context: There are 162 operating ethanol plants with 41 under construction or expansion In the US, with almost all running at significantly less than total capacity. Total US ethanol capacity is estimated at 9.4B gallons currently.
  • Canada: C.D. Howe Institute (economic think tank) sponsored study by University of Guelph (top agricultural sciences school in Canada) has stirred protest from bio-fuels industry groups. Study contends that there are no demonstrable environmental benefits of current bio-fuel process. Canadian media have linked study to World Bank report earlier this year which contended that bio-fuels were responsible for 75% of global food inflation.
  • South Korea: Increasing use of black sea barley for stock feed -Ukraine/Russia harvest expected to be good. This potentially has a negative pressure on Barley buyers in NA as Canadian farmers were more focused on Corn & Wheat due to pricing.
This chart shows pricing levels for the most recent closing price next to the prior closing price for CBOT corn futures contracts maturing between September 08 and December 10.
This chart shows pricing levels for the most recent closing price next to the prior closing price for CBOT wheat futures contracts maturing between September 08 and December 10.

Jobless Claims Ramp - The "Trend" Moves Higher

US weekly jobless claims came in at 406,000 this week, up from last week's revised print of 372,000. Both the absolute level of claims and the 4 week average re-assert the concerning "Trend" of a deteriorating US employment picture.

Inflation is dampening, but so is US economic growth. That dynamic needs to be understood.

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In the second quarter, MCD’s same-store sales increased 3.8% - that’s the good news. The bad news is that 75% of MCD’s same-store sales gain was traffic. With MCD having raised prices by 4%, the average check is declining significantly. Can you imagine what the franchise community is thinking! Inflation is everywhere and people are spending less in our restaurants. But we have more of them!

So what is driving the check lower?

First, the average check at breakfast is lower than the rest of the day. Second, the focus on beverages is putting downward pressure on the check as not every purchase is with a full meal. Third, the push to advertise the dollar menu at the expense of full priced items is putting pressure on the check.

Senior management at MCD believes this is “healthy.” Healthy for whom? To help stabilize margins MCD is dependent on raising menu prices. So the trend is for customers to buy lower priced items and at the same time the company is raising prices.

  • Something has to give!


The federal minimum wage will rise to $6.55 an hour on July 24th, the second of three annual 70-cent increases passed by Congress last May. With housing markets collapsing, financial markets in disarray and the economy looking at a consumption recession, the increase in minimum wages could complicate a challenging environment.

Raising the minimum wage over the next two years regardless of changes in economic conditions could accelerate inflationary pressures. In addition to increased labor inflation, restaurants and retailers are among the sectors impacted the most by rising commodity prices and slower consumers spending. If companies try to raise prices to offset minimum wage hikes, on top of current pricing trends, they run the risk of lower guest counts.

This Bull Isn't Spanish

This bull is Asian. This bull is Small Cap. This Bull is Short Interest – This bull is a stock picker!

This is a bull shark ripping the underbelly of everything complacent and consensus. The last thing you want to be short out there in these trading waters this morning is a high short interest Chinese internet company like say, (BIDU -trading +13%). Realizing that you’re smarter than everyone else didn’t pay you staying short the US Financials this past week, nor is it going to pay your “fundamental” short Amazon (AMZN) or Qualcomm (QCOM) bets this morning (they’re trading +8% and +10% respectively). If you’re short a trifecta ticket with Chipotle (CMG), Sketchers (SKX), and Ryland (RYL) – you’re a winner!

CMG and SKX are trading down -12% and -13% pre-open, respectively, and yes they have high short interest – but that factor gets wiped aside on alpha day, so be careful out there – some of these bulls are not like the others. I have to give some Obama knuckles to my partners, Brian McGough and Howard Penney, for nailing these two shorts in their portals. Great job, Gentlemen.

I know this has to be a frustrating month for some, if not for many. I’ve been bearish on the market’s “Trend” for 9 months, but I’m having another good month riding this bull “Trade”; lucky me, I guess. Understanding where we go next continues to weigh to the bullish side of an extended “Trade” higher, and as depressing as my notes may have been in months past, it is only too ironic that I am depressing the shorts with these key strokes. This is a complex market system of interconnected factors. They change daily, and they must be respected.

In the last 72 hours we’ve been issued macro facts that are outright bullish. Most of these factors center around deflating an inflation bubble. You can find these facts littered all over the world. They’re fairly straightforward too. So let’s go through a list of 9 bullish factors, for starters:

1. Oil broke my support level of 126.16
2. CRB Commodities Index broke my support level of $428
3. US Dollar recovered from crisis zone, through my resistance level of 72.61
4. US Treasury 10 year yields rallied through my resistance level of 4.05%
5. Brazil raises interest rates overnight to 13%, and remains hawkish
6. US Federal Reserve rhetoric changes to explicitly hawkish after Plosser and Bernanke comments
7. Canadian and Brazilian stock markets continue to break down (Food and Oil inflation proxies)
8. Russian, Norwegian, and Middle Eastern equities (Energy inflation proxies) continue to break down
9. Asian currencies and stock markets strengthen in tandem

The facts have changed, and unless these levels reverse in unison, there is no reason to be short this bull shark. That does not mean I want to buy everything. That certainly does not mean I want to run out and buy US Financials after they have ripped the shorts for a +30% 6 day move. It means, I don’t want to be long commodities (including Gold); and it means I want to be picking stocks, assets, and country’s that fit the macro short squeeze profile. Vietnam reported the 1st of global inflation numbers we will see for July, and it was the 1st sequential deceleration since guess when – October 2007. I am looking for CPI and PPI July inflation reports to decelerate, globally.

China traded up +2.6% overnight to 3053 on the Shanghai Index. As I said yesterday, that’s a contrarian macro “Trade” that I think works. Conversely, a country that’s levered to the Euro pinned up at 1.57, and hostage to their own balance sheet malaise like Spain is, should be avoided like the bubonic plague. Spain reported a whopper of an unemployment number this morning at +10.4% year over year, and Spain’s stock market is trading down -1.1% as a result, taking its cumulative losses from October 2007 to -26%.

This bull is a “Trade” that can run for longer than some “wanna be” short sellers can remain solvent. This bull isn’t Spanish. This bull needs to be understood.

*Full Disclosure: I am long FXI.

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