Posts Tagged ‘ Europe ’

Heinz – An Emerging Market Food Leader

May 29, 2012
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Heinz – An Emerging Market Food Leader

Heinz (HNZ) had an Analyst Day on Thursday last week with about four hours of management presentations and Q&A posted on the investor relations section of the Heinz website. This presentation is a wonderful way to understand the Heinz business model and appreciate the strategic vision of the company. Heinz stock had a relatively strong run hitting new all-time highs around $55. Post-results, the shares have pulled back based on fears relating to the extent of reinvestment into restructuring projects, weakness in the frozen entrée category, exposure to Europe, and a near-term reduction in sales expectations as the company is being hit by foreign exchange and focusing on some low hanging fruit margin opportunities. Despite the concerns, Heinz is very well positioned strategically with a number of positives within...

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Europe’s Prisoner’s Dilemma – LTRO Needs to Continue for Years

May 22, 2012
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Europe’s Prisoner’s Dilemma – LTRO Needs to Continue for Years

European leaders have inadvertently created one of the financial world’s largest negative feedback mechanisms. By issuing long-term refinancing operations (LTRO) with cheap ECB funding for terms up to three years and encouraging European banks to take the funding and purchase assets such as sovereign debt, the ECB effectively has encouraged the European financial system to purchase and hold “money good” European sovereign debt. With cheap funding available and the ECB encouraging banks to take the money and invest/lend a situation was created where the natural buyers of sovereign debt were propped up and supported. With many of the bonds in Spain and Italy having maturities in the vicinity of 5-10 years, there is a good chance that the LTRO will need to continue for a number of years until...

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First the Japanese Yen and then Gold – There is No Safe Haven Currency Panacea

March 1, 2012
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First the Japanese Yen and then Gold – There is No Safe Haven Currency Panacea

Beware of the one-way, one-speed runaway train! Usually in the normal chain of events the train stops, lets the passengers off, turns around, and starts going the other way. In a rare circumstance, all hell breaks loose and the train can’t be turned around and runs off the track and over the cliff. In the investment world it is rare to find this type of “accelerating in your favor (or against you)” investment theme. Two recent moves highlight how risks can be largest in the most comfortable havens. In less than a month, the seemingly invincible Yen has sold off from 76 to 81 (the USD dollar now buys 5 more) which is a 6.6% move, and a very large one-month move for the currency market. Not to be...

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2012 Global Investment Themes and Predictions

January 3, 2012
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2012 Global Investment Themes and Predictions

In 2011, the stock market experienced some dramatic swings, heightened volatility, managed some months of tremendous strength and sickening weakness. After an exhausting ride, the S&P 500 index returned to precisely where it started. For those who appreciate extreme precision, the market was down on the year based on the second decimal point of the index. The S&P 500 started the year at 1,257.64 and officially closed at 1,257.60. That is about a third of a basis point down and the reason the final index return has been recorded as: (0.00%). Of course the actual return that investors received includes dividends, and on this measure the S&P 500 total return was 2.11%. After clarifying the details, the market essentially tread water for the year. We commence 2012 with much...

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Lack of Confidence – A Key Driver of Investment Returns in 2011 – An Opportunity and Risk for 2012

December 20, 2011
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Lack of Confidence – A Key Driver of Investment Returns in 2011 – An Opportunity and Risk for 2012

2011 has been a difficult year for most investors. Market sentiment oscillated throughout the year and generating returns has been exceedingly difficult to come by, let alone maintain. The world experienced at least three distinct crisis; Japanese nuclear disaster, Arab Spring, and Sovereign Debt contagion through Europe. All three of these events were enough to knock the market down for a spell but the global economy was resilient enough to keep growing. Growing global GDP created an environment where corporate earnings rose, achieving new highs on the year. S&P 500 earnings will come in at close to $97 in 2011, up from about $86.50 in 2010. Earnings will register double digit growth of around 12% while the S&P is down 4% ytd. It isn’t difficult to see that the...

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Investing Ahead of a European Recession

December 14, 2011
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Investing Ahead of a European Recession

Investing ahead of a recession is like a trip to the dentist for a filling when the Novocain isn’t quite right. You know you are in for some pain, but it’s unclear just how much, and how long it will last. Europe is accepting the German path forward, which will at a minimum, lead to plenty of pain for many countries. Spain, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Italy, and France are all experiencing, or likely to experience, a recession. Forward looking indicators are declining, confidence is dashed, austerity being implemented, European financial assets down sharply, and interest rates higher. The ECB is taking a minimalist approach to fighting the recession and the 17 countries in the Eurozone have different agendas, interests, and policy aims. In the background of the economic recession, there...

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The Rest of Europe Can’t be German

December 12, 2011
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The Rest of Europe Can’t be German

The EU Summit and ECB meeting which transpired last week are likely to be the final supporting actions by Eurozone officials this year. The tack forward for Europe has been clarified; move ahead with the long and arduous process of fiscal unification, supported by a reactive ECB. The path ensures two outcomes; that there will be flare ups along the way which will negatively impact sovereign debt/currency markets, and that Europe’s economies will continue to slow as the mending process is drawn out. The way forward will be the German way forward, and the rest of Europe will need to accept it in the near term. Germany has the strongest and most robust economy in the Eurozone. German unemployment is low and the euro has already depreciated to levels...

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Standard & Poors Places Europe on Negative Credit Watch – World Set for Downgrade!?

December 6, 2011
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Standard & Poors Places Europe on Negative Credit Watch – World Set for Downgrade!?

I find it rather ironic that Standard & Poors placed the EU-17 on negative credit watch on the same day the market provided the strongest one-day positive assessment to peripheral Europe’s sovereign credit outlook since August (borrowing costs were down sharply on Monday). I have no issue with actually conducting a downgrade of the entire EU-17, but question how this is of any meaning or particular use to investors? Standard & Poors changed its methodology, and incorporated its own political forecasts into the ratings process, which renders the conclusions difficult to interpret. Not that the ratings were of much predictive use in determining credit quality before this change (see 2008). The question now arises; how does one utilize information from a mostly backward looking set of ratio based credit...

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Germany’s First Failed Bond Auction – The European Crisis Continues to Spread

November 23, 2011
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Germany’s First Failed Bond Auction – The European Crisis Continues to Spread

Germany failed to get bids for 35% of the 10-year bonds auctioned today. Yields are up about 10 basis points this morning. The increase in borrowing cost is insignificant for Germany. Yields are still well below 2%, and Germany continues to benefit from the combination of very low borrowing costs, and a declining euro which helps support export competitiveness. The first sign of German bond market stress does highlight the risk the EU-17 is flirting with; the breakdown in confidence across the entire region. What started as a crisis in Greece has spread one-by-one to the rest of the European sovereigns. The reason the crisis has spread is not based upon profligate actions by the rest of the Eurozone. On the contrary, progress has already been made across Europe...

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Emerging Market Currencies Signaling More Risk Aversion

November 22, 2011
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Emerging Market Currencies Signaling More Risk Aversion

For almost a decade, emerging markets have been in a bull market with high growth rates, declining interest rates, and capital inflows. During the financial crisis, emerging markets were hit like financial assets around the world, and capital flowed out of the asset class. Over the course of 2010, and most of 2011, emerging market currencies strengthened once again. Recently, the European financial crisis cast doubts on the risk appetite for emerging market investment. EM currencies experienced a sharp, across the board, selloff in September 2011. Currencies such as; the Brazilian Real, Mexican Peso, and Indonesian Rupiah quickly declined by 20%. Part of the decline was based on the start of EM central bank rate cuts but the majority of the move was simply risk aversion. Many of the...

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“Super” Committee – Lack of Progress Heightens Risks to Economy and Financial Markets

November 21, 2011
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“Super” Committee – Lack of Progress Heightens Risks to Economy and Financial Markets

The US “Super Committee” failed to make any progress on the sole task it was created for: deficit reduction. It now appears probable that there will be an announcement today stating the committee has “failed to reach its mandated goal of reducing deficits over the next 10-years by $1.2 trillion dollars”. An announcement of this sort would be particularly discouraging because the committee looks unable to achieve even partial success. At a time when the global economy and financial markets are experiencing a crisis of confidence in the future, this result is a major letdown. The US economy has been incredibly resilient despite the confidence-sapping political ineptitude, and the political/financial breakdown in Europe. The main issue with a potential “lack of result” announcement from the Super Committee is not...

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Europe’s Crisis Spreads as Spain, Belgium, France, the Euro and EU-17 get Questioned – How Does It End?

November 16, 2011
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Europe’s Crisis Spreads as Spain, Belgium, France, the Euro and EU-17 get Questioned – How Does It End?

For a number of months, the financial crisis in Europe has been explained under the guise of sound versus unsound policy. If this were indeed the case, the fix would be simple; eliminate unsound and unsustainable policy and voila, the problems would just go away. European leaders have shifted blame continuously from one problem to the next. First the issue was speculators, then Greece, then Ireland, then Portugal, then Spain, then Belgium, then Italy, then the need for austerity, then the macro economy, and now the problem has erupted to everywhere. The current set of events will hopefully amount to a positive development as it becomes clear that the problem is the construct of the Eurozone itself. Europe’s misguided attempts to reform its way out of a crisis are...

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