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This insight was originally published on July 15, 2010 for subscribers. RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to SELECT MACRO content in real-time.

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Oh, down in Mexico
I never really been so I don't really know
Oh, Mexico
I guess I'll have to go
 - James Taylor
 
Conclusion:  We are short Mexico via the etf EWW due to its exposure to sequentially slowing growth in the U.S., drug wars that are accelerating, and declining oil revenue.

On July 6th we initiated our short position in Mexican equities.  Currently, we are down -1.8% on the position.  As Risk Managers, we aren’t happy being down on any position, even if just a couple of percent.  Call us lucky, or call us Risk Managers , but we have fortuitously only used one allocation for this position, so we still have the opportunity to average down up to three total allocations.
 
The short thesis for Mexico is threefold: oil, drug wars, and U.S. exposure.
 
Oil:

  • The oil industry in Mexico is nationalized via PEMEX, the Mexican oil conglomerate.  In 2004, Mexico was producing 3.5 million barrels per day and that number is expected to be 2.5 million barrels in 2010, or a 29% decline over six years.  The bulk of this decline has come from the Cantarell field, which has declined ~70% from its peak production in 2004 (2.1MM barrels per day).  In the most recently reported quarter ending March 2010, oil production by Pemex was flat y-o-y, but the long term trend of declining volumes remains intact.
  • PEMEX funds an estimated ~35% of the federal budget of Mexico, so as the production of oil declines over time, the federal government will be required to find other sources to fund its budget, or will be required to cut government spending.  In terms of general economic growth, the declining aspect of this national funding mechanism will be a sustained headwind well into the future. The chart below of Mexican oil production on a daily basis shows this clear trend of declining production.

MACRO: SHORTING MEXICO . . . AYE CARUMBA! - chart1

Drug Wars:

  • In 2009, there were more than 6,500 fatalities attributed to Mexican drug wars.  To put this in perspective, in the totality of the Iraq War, over an almost six year period, less than 4,500 U.S. troops were killed.  Based on year to date results in the Mexican drug war, the number of fatalities is expected to exceed 10,000 in 2010.  Currently, the Mexican government has over 45,000 troops directly focused on the drug war.  As the drug war continues to accelerate, alongside the headlines of murders, it will have a direct and significant impact on one Mexican industry: tourism.
  • Tourism is one of the most important industries to the Mexican economy.  Globally, Mexico ranks tenth in tourism with more than 23 million tourist visitors every year.  In 2008, U.S. dollar spending by tourists was north of $13 billion.  In aggregate, tourism contributes roughly 13% of Mexico’s GDP.  Clearly as drug war violence accelerates, as it is, it will have a negative future impact on the tourism industry, a key driver of the Mexican economy.

Trade with the United States:

  • Given the massive shared border and the nature of the North American Free Trade Act, Mexico is inextricably tied the economic fortunes of its largest trading partner, the United States.  Mexico is the United States’ third largest supplier of goods at ~$177 billion in 2009, which is more than 15% of Mexican GDP.  The United States is Mexico’s single largest export market.  Therefore, as the United States slows, so too will Mexico.
  • In an attached chart we’ve outlined GDP growth in Mexico versus the United States.  The data for the past few years show us, not surprisingly, that there is a high correlation of growth rates between the two countries.  Additionally, the last down turn indicated that the Mexican economy has a tendency to overreact to the downside versus the United States.  Specifically, in 2009 Mexico experienced negative growth of -7.9% and -10% in Q1 and Q2 of 2009, which lagged the troughs in U.S. GDP growth of -5.4% in Q4 2008 and -6.4% in Q1 2009 by one quarter.


Given these systemic risks to Mexican GDP growth, we continue to like Mexico on the short side and will average in as prices permit.

MACRO: SHORTING MEXICO . . . AYE CARUMBA! - chart2


Daryl G. Jones
Managing Director