Monthly Archives: May 2014

1,900; now what?

May 27, 2014
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1,900; now what?

The US stock market, the best market in the world for a multitude of reasons, hit new highs on Friday, ascending to the 1,900 level, on a closing basis. The market is confounding because of the lack of normal draw-down (no meaningful pull-backs in a long enough time to be scary) and because many high profile stocks or stock indexes are way off recent highs. Yet the market is at a new high. This is based on capitalization weightings. An example can be found in the Russell 2000; comprised of the smallest 2,000 stocks within the Russell 3,000 (top 3,000 stocks in the US). The Russell 2000’s market capitalization is only about 8% of that of the Russell 3000. Select internet, growth, biotech, and small-cap stocks are under significant...

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Big Orange; Home Depot 1Q results soft on weather – outlook a positive signal for housing

May 20, 2014
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Big Orange; Home Depot 1Q results soft on weather – outlook a positive signal for housing

Home Depot (HD) 1Q14 results reflect a benefit to earnings, net of tax, of $61m from a sale of a portion of the company’s equity ownership in Home Depot Supply Holdings (HDS). Exclusive of this gain, HD reported EPS of $0.96 relative to consensus estimates of $0.99. A miss in a difficult to predict quarter with spring arriving late. Nonetheless, the stock is bid based on commentary for “robust” May sales, a period less impacted by weather, and likely reflecting some pent-up demand from the spring. The colder than seasonal weather in 1Q also weighed on gross margin indicating that margin trends remain on plan. HD doesn’t see evidence of a slowing housing market; commented on heavily in financial markets. HD’s big ticket items are outperforming small ticket and...

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The widow maker trade spreads from Japan to the US

May 19, 2014
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The widow maker trade spreads from Japan to the US

Since 1990, one trade that has always lost money, over any reasonable time period, has been the shorting of JGBs (Japanese 10-year). This trade, unique in its consistency, developed its own name; “the widow maker”. With JGBs yielding 57 bps today, the widow maker is alive and kicking. Over the past 24-year time period, JGB yields peaked around 8% in 1990, and trended steadily lower since. Within the US bond market, through the second half of 2013, into 2014, consensus developed on the inevitability of a sell-off, and potentially severe one. A one-sided consensus view is always dangerous in any market, creating heightened risks as new information is gleaned. The recent bout of inconsistent economic data, and degree to which active market participants were on the same side of...

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Whole Foods proactively lowering prices; an opportunity for the patient

May 7, 2014
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Whole Foods proactively lowering prices; an opportunity for the patient

For a retailer, cutting prices generates a certain amount of self-inflicted pain through the P&L. The problem is rather intuitive; existing customers continue to purchase the same amount of goods at the new lower prices (hurts sales growth) and it takes time, to an uncertain extent, to attract new customers to the better value offering. Whole Foods faces a dilemma because its tremendous success over three decades has attracted new competition in the form of copy-cat stores and a change to more up-scaled/organic offerings at traditional grocers. On the company’s conference call, founder, John Mackey, pointed out clearly: “Whole Foods is no longer a bunch of hippies selling products to other hippies”. Anyone visiting the stores knows he is exactly right – Whole Foods is now main-stream for the...

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April employment report; strength broadens to lower-end

May 2, 2014
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April employment report; strength broadens to lower-end

This month’s job report will rightly be questioned; late-winter/early spring weather for much of the country was horrible in February and March, and this morning’s report reflects payback from depressed activity making results appear better than they actually are. Nonetheless, trends in April, and thus far year-to-date, reflect a potentially important change in labor market dynamics; the broadening of job creation to the lower-end segment of the job market. This emerging trend represents the start of a sea-change towards “normalization” in the job market – looking more like what it used to look like pre-financial crisis, finally. The implications for lower/middle income consumption, the housing market, inflation, and corporate input costs are crucial. Data points supporting signs of broadening: U6 unemployment rate fell to 12.3% from 12.7% (this metric...

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