FOMC Update: Professional Politics

Sadly, in what is becoming a proactively predictable statement of conflicted US Federal Reserve monetary policy, Ben Bernanke opted to pander to the easy money policy that has amplified both the volatility of markets and the cyclicality of price inflation/deflation since he took his lead from Alan Greenspan.


Our advice this morning was to respect the cost of capital. Promising a risk free rate of return of ZERO percent to both domestic and foreign investors will not inspire investment. We live in an interconnected world where capital seeks yield. Ask the Brazilians and Chinese what they think about that…


Whatever you do, don’t ask Ben Bernanke and his troubadour of the willfully blind at the Federal Reserve for an economic forecast. If he didn’t see economic growth and inflation in the last 12 months he’s definitely not going to see it now. Like a broken clock, he’ll eventually get it right – the double dip we are forecasting for both the US economy and US housing will be here come Q4. By then, Bernanke will be formally cutting his economic forecasts.


As a reminder, Bernanke’s forecasts on US economic growth are about as far out in the stratosphere of nod as we have seen in some time. That said, given his outlook, he should have the Fed Funds Rate at least 100 basis points higher than where it stands today (he is looking for upwards of 4% GDP growth in the US in 2011). So it’s time he either raises rates in line with his forecast or just takes a chainsaw to his forecasts.


Wait – he can’t cut his forecasts because lowering the GDP estimate will make the US deficit/GDP calculation look worse than Greece’s come 2011. Better hope for another “great depression” that “no one could see coming”, then cut forecasts after the fact I guess…


In today’s statement he went as far as to say that the “labor market is improving gradually.” I couldn’t make that up if I tried. If he’s forecasting these kind of economic growth numbers, I guess he needs to provide a narrative to support the forecasts – this is called confirmation bias (bad).


Looking at the latest monthly US unemployment report and round of May housing numbers, Mr. Macro Market has already provided the only economic forecast that should matter to Americans. As any good risk manager who has managed real capital in his or her life would say, it’s on the tape.


Maybe he’s not serious about forecasting. Maybe he just is who he is – a good natured academic trying his best to be a professional politician.



FOMC Update: Professional Politics - 1

NKE: Thoughts Ahead of the Print

Look for a big beat and a shift in EBIT guidance to be sales+GM to sales+SG&A leverage. It's important to understand the underlying rationale as to why. If people don't get it and the stock trades down, then opportunity knocks for those not involved.



A few considerations heading into Nike this evening.


First off, I’m at $1.17 vs. the Street at $1.05.


2) The big beat should be on revenue. I’ve got ‘em growing 11.4% -- vs. the Street at 8.9%.


3) They might choose to spend some of the upside on the SG&A line, but I’m inclined to think that they show more than one might think. Keep in mind 2 things…

   a) This is their 4Q, and they don’t have as much leeway to push/pull rev and costs between quarters.

   b) The prior year, Nike laid off 7% of its workforce. Morale was awful. The people that made the cut are pumped to be part of the starting lineup. Above all incentives, people at this company are paid based on hitting pre-tax income targets. They NEED to get paid this year.


4) Even though trendline futures should accelerate 300-500bps, Don Blair is likely to be cautious with guidance – like he is every quarter without fail.  My sense is that the company will stand by its ‘high single digit revenue growth and mid-teens EPS growth’ model for the year, though the constituents may change. Why?

   a) The co will have to acknowledge that 1H revenue will be strong – as futures will dictate so. But it will not give any color on 2H.

   b) In that regard, as NKE anniversaries FX benefit on GM and World Cup spend on SG&A, the margin equation will likely shift from being a GM story in 1H to being an SG&A leverage story in 2H.

   c) Tack on the perceived uncertainty about the Yuan (even though Nike’s revenue organization is nearly as big as its sourcing organization in China – ie a Yuan revalue is a near wash), and I don’t think that this guidance will make people step on the accelerator to buy the stock due to a potential ownership rotation – even with a big print.


If the multiple compresses despite better earnings, this is a great shot for those who thought they missed this name on the first ride up.

Softlines Production in China: A Deeper Look

Here's a look at share trends over time for producers of US apparel and Footwear. Don't get caught in the web of extrapolated changes in the Yuan across Softlines retail.


Without a doubt, the question I’ve been peppered with the most this week has been what the dispersion is of apparel and footwear production by country – especially China. Not a surprise given the revaluation of the Yuan.


Here’s some eye candy showing the obvious…that about 36% of apparel that we wear is made in China, but closer to 76% of footwear.  Facts are facts, but I think that these numbers can be misleading. First off, why did China’s apparel share triple over 8 years? Partially bc an archaic quota system was removed that opened up apparel trade between the US and non-WTO countries. But also because the currency arb allowed it to occur. If a strengthening Yuan makes production cost-prohibitive, then several things will happen – 1) China will likely lower its VAT tax to offer some form of relief to exporters, and 2) other Asian and Latin American countries are likely to gain share vis/vis undercutting China on price.


This is not to say that there will not be transitional pains…but simply that we cannot look at Macro changes like this in a vacuum.


Softlines Production in China: A Deeper Look - Apparel Import Table


Softlines Production in China: A Deeper Look - Footwear Imports

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New Home Sales Collapse - Not Surprising


We've been a broken record for a while on the coming collapse of housing activity following the April 30 expiration of the government's tax credit-induced false reality. This morning, new home sales data finally reflects what purchase applications have been telling us for the last seven weeks. New home sales came in at 300k, down 40% month over month from last month's 504k seasonally adjusted annualized rate. April (the prior month) was actually downwardly revised to 446k from 504k, so pegging this month's number of the revised number looks a tad better - down 33%. Inventory was basically flat at 213k vs 211k last month (though last month was revised up to 214k, suggesting a nominal inventory decline.


This was the lowest sales level since 1963, the year record-keeping began. Not a positive sign for the housing market.










Purchase Applications Suggest More Pain to Come


MBA mortgage purchase applications dropped another 1.2% this week sequentially. This brings the tally to six of the last seven weeks that purchase applications have fallen sequentially. For reference, to put things in context, purchase applications are down 70% from the highs in 2005/2006 and are levels not seen since 1. Taking the YTD 2010 applications, which includes the tax credit stimulus, applications are at levels not seen since 1 (including the stimulus!).




The stage is now set for a much weaker-than-usual summer housing environment. Housing-sensitive stocks could be at risk heading into the 2H10 and 2011 time frame.


We have an extensive report coming out on this topic on Friday, which Josh Steiner will summarize on a conference call at 11am on Friday for subscribers of his Financials research. Email if you are interested in learning more about his product and the call.


Joshua Steiner, CFA


Allison Kaptur


Plenty of red on the screen yesterday and today.


CPKI’s slashing of guidance continues to impact the restaurant space.  Accordingly, casual dining declined the most yesterday, with the average decline among casual dining stocks that I follow being 3.3%. 


Here are a few notable points that emerged in the past 24 hours:




  • Brinker has entered into a new $400 million senior credit facility consisting of a $200 million revolver and a $200 million term loan.   The liquidity afforded by the unfunded revolver plus $160 million in proceeds from the sale of On the Border amounts to $360 million (or 23% of the market cap), making the company a natural buyer of the stock.  This is consistent with the plan outlined by the company during their analyst day in March.



  • Strong sales for period 5 from Hardee’s.



  • Tim Horton’s is looking to capture more market share in the United States with a revamp of its concept, including a redesigned bakery-café look as well as upscale menu offerings like baked goods and espresso-based drinks



  • Presentation yesterday disclosed that it expects profits in India to hit $100 million by 2015.
  • Taco Bell opening in UK .



  • Reported disappointing numbers after the close on Monday and that was reflected in yesterday's decline.



  • Possibly facing lawsuits over toys, could drag out bad publicity.



  • Introduced new chicken sandwich on premium whole grain bun.
  • “Nutritionally improved”.



  • Arby's has appointed restaurant industry veteran Warren Chang to a new position to improve customer experience



  • Tom Cawley sells 5,698 shares of PEET on 06/22/2010 at an average price of $41.95 a share



  • As of July 1st Starbucks will make Wi-Fi access available for free at more than 6700 Starbucks coffee shops.



  • Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said Tuesday that certain of its ratings on Landry's Restaurants Inc. remain on "CreditWatch" with negative implications after the company's CEO raised his offer to take the company private.



  • The prospect of pronounced seafood cost inflation is part of McCormick & Schmick's issues and the stock underperformed yesterday.  This seafood cost impact is being felt again today by KONA, DRI, RT and MSSR which are all trading down this morning.



TALES OF THE TAPE - stocks 623





Howard Penney

Managing Director

The Real Winners/Losers of World Cup

Let’s face it. Western Europe hasn’t exactly shown up thus far for World Cup. There are 6 negative standouts. 4 of 6 are Adidas teams. One is Umbro (NKE) and one is Puma. Of the 6 winners, they are evenly split between Nike and Puma.



We’ve seen our fair share of upsets thus far in the initial round of World Cup play. The biggest is probably the stone cold reality that Western Europe has – thus far – failed to show up for the event. Specifically, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain (and of course…poor ‘ol Greece) need to overcome insurmountable odds in order to make a push into the next round.


Slovenia, Serbia, Portugal, Holland, Switzerland and Denmark are surprising on the upside.


Of those surprising on the downside, 4 of the 6 are Adidas teams. One is Umbro (Nike), one is Puma.

Of the 6 surprising on the upside in Europe, 3 are Puma and 3 are Nike. Sorry HErbert (Hainer -- Adidas CEO).


Ironically, the big winner in all of this is Brooks, which endorses only one team – Chile – which has performed far beyond expectations.


I bring this up not out of human interest, but because the magnitude of this event on a world stage can, and will, have regional economic consequences. The poorly managed brands will let the winners of a match dictate their product/brand fate. The well-managed brands will use either victory or loss to establish an emotional connection with a consumer to build the brand (remember what Nike did when Liu Xiang in China when he disappointed at the Beijing Olympics).


The Real Winners/Losers of World Cup - World Cup 2010

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