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Motivated Illusions

“A man must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings.”

-Albert Einstein

 

One basic risk management premise that we operate with here at Hedgeye is that people lie. I know that sounds a little harsh, but it is what it is. The truth about lying is that people do it.

 

Some people don’t know they aren’t telling the truth. Some people don’t know what they don’t know. Some people wake up every morning and get paid to be willfully blind. The power of combining groupthink with compensation has unlimited potential, and the risk embedded therein works both ways.

 

Rather than create a list of liars this morning, I’ll take my queue from the college campus my office sits on and make this basic risk management lesson sound more academic. I’ll label these global macro risks Motivated Illusions:

 

1. Greece

 

Motivate Illusion: One of the top headlines on Bloomberg this morning is “Greek Financial Crisis Is Over, Rest of Euro Region Is Safe, Prodi Says.” Now this comment from the former head of the European Commission, combined with Greece’s Prime Minister telling Washington groupthinkers yesterday that Greece has been the victim of “unprincipled speculators and malicious rumors” is what it is – over the top.

 

Reality: After their one-week global storytelling road-show that spammed us from Germany, to France, to the USA ends, Greece will be selling another 10 BILLION Euros in debt to the marketplace. Piling debt, upon debt, upon debt is what a country who has lived through generations of serial default does. Watch what they do, not what they say...

 

2. China

 

Motivated Illusion: China isn’t going to continue to tighten monetary policy, raise the value of its currency, or raise interest rates any further.

 

Reality: That’s a Western view held by debtor countries that cannot afford to lose their flailing hopes that levered up Chinese demand is going to save their deficit spending. Overnight, China reported a +46% year-over-year export growth number for the month of February. That’s up huge versus an already big January export growth rate of +21%. While the entire political leadership of the Western world tries to remind you that this is still the great depression and we have no global inflation, you can read tomorrow’s pending Chinese inflation report for what it will be to the Chinese – inflationary.

 

3. US Federal Funds Rate

 

Motivated Illusion: Ben Bernanke is going to keep rates of return on his citizenry’s hard earned savings accounts (or fixed incomes) at ZERO percent in perpetuity. There is no inflation because the narrow calculation that the government has changed 9 times since 1996 doesn’t say there is any…

 

Reality: If we haven’t recognized that massive credit issuance and sovereign debt and currency crises, globally, haven’t led to 8 centuries of predictable inflation, please go back and re-read Reinhart & Rogoff’s “This Time is Different.” Apparently some of the boys at the Fed have been doing the required reading. Charles Evans (Fed head of Chicago) gave a speech last night and didn’t use the phrase “exceptional and extended” when talking about prospective monetary policy. Instead he said the Fed would keep rates low “for some time” and when asked after the speech what “exceptional and extended” means, he said “3 to 4 FOMC meetings.”

 

Call Goldman Sachs esteemed Fed forecasters this morning and ask them if that was the duration and definition they thought Bernanke’s Fed was using in defining “extended and exceptional” when Goldman laid out their forecast that the Fed was on hold until they get their 2011 bonuses. Depending on their answer, I’ll tell you who is storytelling. By the way, the FOMC meetings are 8 times a year, and by Q2 the clock on “3-4 meetings” runs out.

 

Markets don’t lie; people do. The score on all 3 of these Motivated Illusions is right up there this morning for all participants in this game to see:

  1. Despite rallying +2% early this morning on people hoping Prodi isn’t lying, Greek stocks have lost over -27% of their value since October 14, 2009.
  2. Despite having some of the best GDP and export growth stats in the world so far in 2010, China closed down another -0.66% overnight (down -7% YTD), because local investors realize that growth like this will be met with higher interest rates and/or an appreciated Chinese Yuan.
  3. Despite interest rate doves hoping government bonds higher, global interest rates continue to make a series of higher-lows and higher-highs.

At a point, reality gets recognized by the investors who win or lose every season by discerning who is motivated to elude them. As reality sets into Mr. Macro Market’s prices, consensus becomes the direction of those prices… and the game of trying to figure out who doesn’t know what they don’t know goes on.

 

My immediate term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are now 1122 and 1149, respectively. On yesterday’s rally in both US Tech and Volatility, I sold out of both my XLK and VXX positions, and I bought US Healthcare (XLV) on the pullback.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

LONG ETFS

 

XLV – SPDR Healthcare — Healthcare was down again on 3/9/10 in the face of “Obamacare” inspired fear. While we fear we may be early here, it’s better than fearing fear itself.

 

UUP – PowerShares US Dollar Index Fund — We bought the USD Fund on 1/4/10 as an explicit way to represent our Q1 2010 Macro Theme that we have labeled Buck Breakout (we were bearish on the USD in ’09).

CYB - WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan — The Yuan is a managed floating currency that trades inside a 0.5% band around the official PBOC mark versus a FX basket. Not quite pegged, not truly floating; the speculative interest in the Yuan/USD forward market has increased dramatically in recent years. We trade the ETN CYB to take exposure to this managed currency in a managed economy hoping to manage our risk as the stimulus led recovery in China dominates global trade.

TIP - iShares TIPS — The iShares etf, TIP, which is 90% invested in the inflation protected sector of the US Treasury Market currently offers a compelling yield. We believe that future inflation expectations are mispriced and that TIPS are a efficient way to own yield on an inflation protected basis.
 

SHORT ETFS

 

SPY – SPDR S&P500We moved to neutral (from bearish) on the S&P500 on the week of February 22. At 1139, for the immediate term TRADE, we’ll go back to bearish. This market is finally overbought. We shorted SPY on 3/5/10.  

 

EWP – iShares SpainThe etf bounced on 3/3/10 in part from a strong day from Banco Santander, the fund’s largest holding in the Financials-heavy (43.8%) etf. We shorted Spain for a TRADE again on 3/5 as every sovereign debt risk has a time and price to be short of. We have a bearish bias on the country; massive unemployment, public and private debt leverage, and a failed housing market remain fundamental concerns. 

 

IWM – iShares Russell 2000With the Russell 2000 finally overbought from an immediate term TRADE perspective on 3/1/10 and added to it on 3/2; we got the entry price that the risk manager makes a sale on strength. 

 

GLD – SPDR Gold We re-shorted Gold on this dead cat bounce on 2/11/10. We remain bullish on a Buck Breakout and bearish on Gold for Q1 of 2010, as a result. 

  

XLP – SPDR Consumer Staples Another capitulation squeeze is in full motion for the short sellers of everything "consumer". Shorting green as inflation starts to creep into the system again.

   

IEF – iShares 7-10 Year TreasuryOne of our Macro Themes for Q1 of 2010 is "Rate Run-up". Our bearish view on US Treasuries is implied.


US STRATEGY – Financials Charge

The S&P 500 finished slightly higher by 0.17% yesterday, on a 25% improvement in volume.  Notably, the advance-decline line deteriorated by 149 to 371.  In our sector study it was surprising to see that 5 of the 9 sectors we track declined on the day.

 

For the second day this week, there were no big MACRO data points to help drive any one theme.  The RISK AVERSION saw some signs of life with the dollar up by 0.2% and commodities flat to slightly higher.  This dynamic seemed to weigh the most on commodity equities, particularly Energy (XLE) and Materials (XLB).  The Hedgeye Risk Management models have levels for the Dollar Index (DXY) at:  buy Trade (80.21) and sell Trade (80.87). 

 

The VIX traded slightly higher over the past two day but continues be broken on all three durations - TRADE, TREND and TAIL.  The Hedgeye Risk Management models have levels for the volatility Index (VIX) at:  buy Trade (17.08) and sell Trade (18.72).  Yesterday we sold our position in the VXX. 

 

For the past three day the Financials (XLF) has been one of the best performing sectors and yesterday was no exception.  Within the XLF, banking led the way, with the BKX +0.6%; the regionals were mixed with some renewed focus on capital needs.  Credit-card and credit/risk-sensitive mortgage insurers were also stronger on the day.

 

Yesterday, we sold out position in Technology (XLK). The XLK has been leading the market higher this week, and now it’s finally immediate term overbought. Yesterday, both tech and telecom outperformed the broader market.  The semis finished down slightly with the SOX down 0.2%; TXN was a drag following its mid-quarter update. Software was a bright spot with the S&P Software Index +0.7%.

 

Surprisingly, consumer stocks lagged the broader market yesterday.  In the Consumer Discretionary (XLY) retail snapped a three-day winning streak with the S&P Retail Index 0.5%.  On the positive side restaurants largely extended their outperformance despite weaker-than-expected Jan/Feb same-store sales out of BKC. 

 

Yesterday the Materials (XLB) finished lower for a second straight day.  The strong dollar can take most of the blame.  CF, X and FCX were the three worst performing name in the sector. 

 

As we wake up today, equity futures are trading above fair value ahead of another light day for corporate and MACRO data points.  As we look at today’s set up the range for the S&P 500 is 27 points or 1.8% (1,122) downside and 0.4% (1,149) upside. 

 

Copper gained for a second day after China’s imports of the metal rose 10% in February, adding to confidence that the economic recovery is gaining momentum.  In early trading copper is trading lower after declining slightly yesterday.  The Hedgeye Risk Management Quant models have the following levels for COPPER – Buy Trade (3.36) and Sell Trade (3.50).

 

Gold is slightly higher in early trading, after trading flat yesterday.   The Hedgeye Risk Management models have the following levels for GOLD – Buy Trade (1,105) and Sell Trade (1,145).

 

In early trading, oil is trading little changed as analysts forecast rising crude supplies in the U.S.  The Hedgeye Risk Management models have the following levels for OIL – Buy Trade (80.24) and Sell Trade (82.69).

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

US STRATEGY – Financials Charge - sp1

 

US STRATEGY – Financials Charge - usd2

 

US STRATEGY – Financials Charge - vix3

 

US STRATEGY – Financials Charge - oil4

 

US STRATEGY – Financials Charge - gold5

 

US STRATEGY – Financials Charge - copper6

 


PFCB: REAL TIME NOTES

PFCB notes on Mr. Vivian’s ad lib presentation:

 

Pei Wei is what people are looking at most closely

  • 12-18 months ago it was suggested that PFCB abandon the concept
  • Mistakes corrected
  • Last 6 quarters have shown improvement in operations
  • Comfortable putting capital down to work
  • 3-4 new Pei Wei units this year, 10-15 in 2011, and a number larger than that in 2012 (maybe 20-25)
  • More next year (existing markets except Chicago)

 

Pei Wei had positive traffic last year

  • The expectation is that comps will be positive this year
  • Pei Wei unit potential is around 500 units

 

Currently all units are company-owned.  The company is not against using partners to grow this concept but management wanted to first make certain that they could make money with Pei Wei.  PFCB would be more open now to having those conversations (not currently having any conversations with potential partners for Pei Wei).

 

Bistro

  • Very good concept
  • Struggling over the last couple of years to grow traffic but that is beginning to change
  • Looks like we’re going to be moving into positive territory as we move out of this year
  • If we’re negative this year, negative first half, positive second half
  • Business is slowly improving, when you dial out weather

 

190 Bistros, PFCB thinks 250 is the right number

  • First priority with cash is to build restaurants
  • Likely they will build ten or so too many and then have to find the right number

 

Bistro universe is shrinking so opportunities are less apparent

 

 

How do you evaluate returns at the unit level, when does it not make sense?

  • ROIC
  • pfcb.com investor relations page has a return on invested capital section with the returns of each year (‘07, ‘08 and ‘09)
  • Capitalizing lease, 30% return is PFCB’s aim
  • Last year, Bistro was 36% and Pei Wei was 28%

 

 

Q: Ever considered international expansion?

A: Yes. Three agreements outside of USA – Mexico, Middle East, and The Philippines.  Partners will likely open other international locations also.  PFCB is not committing any capital to international expansion.

Actually get a call a week from Asia for to expand there…

 

 

Q: Dividend…

A: Progressive dividend…rather than initiate a fixed dividend, we thought it made more sense to fix payout ratio and let dividend float. Better results will aid shareholders.  Ratio fixed @ 45% of Net Income.  Investor responses to the dividend announcement: He has been told that PFCB is the #2 in restaurant group in terms of payout

 

He has also heard that people are saying that the initiation of the dividend signals that PFCB’s growth is coming to an end. Bert’s response to that comment is that PFCB is producing a lot of cash…bistro is self sufficient. Pei Wei is nearing self sufficiency. Both concepts will soon be able to fund their own growth. Both international growth and the frozen food venture are not requiring any capital.

 

The right amount of cash on the balance sheet is $40/50mm so anything above that we are going to figure out how to best return it to shareholders.

 

 

Q: Unit economics of Pei Wei?

A: Cost $750k – 800k cash (recently took $50K out of the cost). Including lease obligations, it is about $1.4M-$1.5m, all in. Excluding a small group of under achieving units, Pei Wei generates about $37K-$38K per wk in sales

 

 

Q: Maturity curve?

A: Bistro reaches maturity in about 18-24 months.  Pei Wei hits the curve quicker. It is an easier model from an operational standpoint so maturity should be approximately 12-18 months.

 

PFCB extended a $10m line of credit to Sam Fox for True Foods Kitchen restaurants to build 3-5 restaurants. The agreement includes some provisions to allow PFCB to convert its loan to equity, but that decision is still a couple years away.

 

 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

 


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FL: Hedgeye Internal Q&A

KM's quick ping to Hedgeye Retail team when FL stock turned down "FL - anything coming out of the meetings thats neg?"  Levine's quickie answer is below. More details to come later.

 

From Levine

Probably a bit of hype going in.  a little short on specifics as it pertains to product improvements (i.e what programs are forthcoming?).  areas of risk, such as the dividend, were put to rest.  It’s not going anywhere. 

 

Now this is an execution story, with the plans laid out in front of the Street.  I walked away confident that we’re spot on with our thesis and that the opportunities are big.

 

The only complaint I heard was that some people were hoping to gain exposure in greater depth to the management team, beyond the top 4 guys.  This didn’t happen although I’m sure this is still evolving.

 

Hicks saw our powerpoint and told me I was spot on with where they’re going.  Keep in mind that the work we’ve done is in far greater depth than what they spoke about today.  This is where the true upside lies…

 

Eric Levine

Hedgeye Retail

 


Spanish Piggy

Position: Short Spain (EWP)

 

I have been getting a lot of questions/emails today about Spain (I wrote negatively about it in my Early Look note this morning). Hopefully the “speculator” fun-cops over in the left wings of Europe don’t come after me. I am but one man, with an innocent chart and mouths to feed.

 

When it comes to size and scope, at $1.6T in GDP Spain’s economy is approximately 4.7x larger than that of Greece ($338B in 2009). There are 46.7 million people in Spain versus 11.3 million in Greece. That’s a lot of people who are likely offended by being called a Spanish Piggy.

 

When it comes to balance sheet and deficit problems however, the financial data doesn’t lie; politicians trying to put lipstick on it do. At 11.4%, Spain’s deficit to GDP rivals that of the USA’s and over $654 billion in public debt is pushing up against a worrisome risk manager’s level of 44% of GDP.

 

Because I am focused on these mathematical realities doesn’t make them new. That said, I am also very respectful of the fact that the last time the obvious risks implied by Spanish leverage started to freak people out, stocks went a lot lower than where they are currently trading.

 

In the chart below, you can wrap your head around the risk/reward of being short Spain’s stock market. Since the most recent YTD low established on February 5th, 2010 on Spain’s IBEX 35 Index at 10,103, Spanish stocks ripped the shorts for an expedited +9.4% rally. We short sellers of piggies call that an entry point.

 

We are using our intermediate term TREND line of resistance at 11,385 (red line in the chart below) as our risk management line. You can also use that as your stop loss level if you think there is risk that this Spanish Piggy can fly higher. With a Global Bubble in Bailout Politics forming, anything can happen…

 

KM

 

Spanish Piggy  - spain


PSS: Looking for Another Strong Quarter

There are many tools we use to prep for a quarterly earnings release. As it relates to PSS, we included several of them below. The bottom line is that we’re well ahead of the Street. The consensus is looking for a loss of $0.26. We’re at a loss of $0.10. Could we be aggressive? Perhaps.

 

We need to temper comp expectations given the pull forward into 3Q from the Oprah promotion as well as the fact that PSS is not benefitting as much as some other retailers due to its lack of meaningful exposure to the ‘toning’ category. But when all is said and done they’re still going up against a -11% slide in traffic last year. A positive low/mid single digit comp is perfectly reasonable.

 

On the margin side, we’re coming out at a +470bp boost in margins versus last year. Yes, that’s a sequential reacceleration. But PSS is looking at the most favorable sales/inventory spread it’s seen in years. If there were ever a time to come in strong on the gross margin, now is it. If there’s any area we’d point to on the cost side that might be aggressive, it is our assumption for a 1% boost to SG&A – as we could see a potential pick up in incentive comp spending given the rebound in operating performance this year.

 

So yes, we’re anything but conservative headed into this print. But even if we soften up our comp and SG&A expectations, we have a tough time modeling a loss that starts with a $0.2 handle.  Is this a trade into the print? We don’t think so…not after a 18% run in the stock over the past 4 weeks. But we don’t think they’ll give enough ammo relative to expectations to cause a mass exodus from this name.

 

 

PSS: Looking for Another Strong Quarter - PSS 1 Revenue Slide 3 10

 

PSS: Looking for Another Strong Quarter - PSS 2 EBIT Slide 3 10

 

PSS: Looking for Another Strong Quarter - PSS Comp Store Estimate w NPD 3 10

 

PSS: Looking for Another Strong Quarter - PSS CompTrends Ind 3 10

 

PSS: Looking for Another Strong Quarter - PSS SIGMA 2 10

 

 


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