One can debate whether QE has benefitted Main Street or Wall Street until one is blue in the face, even though five years later, the answer is perfectly clear to all but the staunchest Keynesians and monetarists (and if it isn't, just pay attention to the 3:30 pm S&P ramp every day). One thing, however, that is undisputed is what the market itself says about where the QE money ends up when it is being spent by its recipients. And that story is so simple even a Keynesian would get it. Stated briefly, luxury retailers such as Tiffany, Coach and LVMH are now up 500% since the Lehman lows, and about 30% above the prior cycle highs. On the other hand, regular retailers such as Macy's, Kohl's and JC Penney are barely up 100% from the crisis lows, and still more than 30% below the last bubble highs.
But this year was supposed to be different... Early-year prospects for a revival in consumer spending quickly faded in the wake of the lagged impact of the $148 billion tax hike that began the year. As Bloomberg's Joe Brusuelas notes in the following brief interview, combined with a slower pace of hiring and sluggish wage growth, the result will probably be another in a string of disappointing holiday shopping seasons. It is increasingly doubtful that consumers have the wherewithal to meet the ambitious National Retail Federation forecast for a 3.9% increase in holiday spending to $602.1 billion. Brusuelas believes a 2 to 2.5% increases appears closer to the mark given the economic and policy challenges in place this year.
Across the entire curve, credit spreads on JCPenney are exploding. The curve is inverted with the market indicating an almost 50% chance of default within the next 2 years (specifically in 2014 as opposed to pre-2013 Xmas). The stock price is collapsing further (though we suspect a gaggle of analysts calls to catch the accelerating knife - just as we saw last time). At $6.30, this is the lowest stock price since March 1981, on the back of yet another downgrade (this time with a $1 target) by none other than the same Mary-Ross Gilbert who proclaimed the most recent quarter a success and suggested buying the debt in just August.
Planned job cuts in the third quarter rose 25% from a year ago. With September jobs cuts up 19% from last year, it represented the fourth month in a row in which job cuts were higher than the same month last year. Despite the current trend, employers are on pace to cut roughly the same number of jobs that were cut last year. We already have declining real wages. Small businesses are geting wiped out by taxes, regulations, and Obamacare. These mega-corporations are firing thousands. Retail and restaurant sales are plunging. Consumers are scared straight and are reducing credit card debt. Government spending in states and localities is declining because they are required to balance their budgets. The Boomers are old, with no savings. They can no longer live in a delusionary credit bubble. Sounds like a reason to buy stocks.
It just keeps getting worse and worse for Bill Ackman. A few weeks after the epic humiliation, not to mention even more epic losses, he suffered on his now defunct JCP long position (despite ample warnings by the likes of Zero Hedge who said long ago JCP is merely a melting icecube and fast-track Chapter 11/7 candidate) all those who predicted (such as Zero Hedge back in January) that an epic HLF short squeeze would result in the aftermath of Ackman's Herbalife short announcement leading to Ackman's ultimate capitulation, have been proven correct. Moments ago, in a letter to investors, Bill Ackman just announced that he has covered over 40% of his Herbalife short position, with his forced buy-in explaining the endless move higher in Herbalife stock in recent weeks. The explanation of being forced out of nearly half of his position is amusing: "we minimize the risk of so-called short squeezes or other technical attempts by market manipulators to force us to cover our position." So Ackman is forced out by his Prime Brokers so as not to be forced out by market manipulators? That's an interesting explanation for what is a far simple situation: booking your paper losses.
Structural declines in miles driven, middle and working-class income and rising competition from dollar stores may be leading to Peak Walmart. Walmart's model of superstores built on the edge of town with an inventory/distribution system based on high turnover may have reached the point of diminishing returns. Peak Walmart may also presage Peak Mall Shopping and Peak Retail in general. The poaching of competitors' customers appears to be replacing real growth, and perhaps the impending demise of JC Penney is simply the first of many such victims of the retail shark pool.
Don't Blame Free Market Capitalism ... We Haven't Had It for a While
So Many Lies, So Little Time: JCP Sells 84 Million Shares Via Goldman Sachs Hours After Telling CNBC It Won't Sell EquitySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/26/2013 16:08 -0500
Remember when one after another JCPenney executive lined up earlier today, mostly using that damage control TV outlet known as CNBC, to promise that JCP does not, repeat not, need emergency public equity funding? Guess what: they were lying. Just out from Bloomberg:
J. C. PENNEY ANNOUNCES PROPOSED PUBLIC OFFERING OF COMMON STOC
J. C. PENNEY COMMENCED PUBLIC OFFERING OF 84 MILLION SHARES
And the punchline:
- JC PENNEY TO OFFER SHARES VIA GOLDMAN SACHS
Yep: the same firm that just killed JCP two days ago, is now diluting the stock some more.
- This won't end well: Islamists call Cairo protest march as Egypt death toll mounts (Reuters)
- JPMorgan Said to Expect Multiple Fines for Whale Loss (BBG)
- Ex-bosses at JPMorgan unlikely to face charges in 'Whale' scandal (Reuters)
- China could target oil firms, telecoms, banks in price probes (Reuters)
- For once, it's not the weather's fault: U.K. Retail Sales Increase More Than Forecast on Heatwave (BBG)
- Japanese visits to shrine on war anniversary anger China (Reuters)
- India Fighting Worst Crisis Since ’91 Seeks to Buoy Rupee (BBG)
- Japan Signals Corporate Tax Cut a Long Shot as Deflation Eases (Reuters)
- Indonesia Tackles Graft in Energy Sector (Reuters)
- Merkel Touts Strength of German Economy (WSJ)
- and... British stuntman who parachuted into London Olympics opening ceremony as James Bond dies in fall (AP)
Impatient Ackman Sacks Interim JCP CEO Ullman, Approaches Ex-CEO Questrom As Chairman, Demands New CEO StatSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/08/2013 11:12 -0500
CNBC reports that Ackman, apparently disgusted with the performance of JCP stock, has just sacked the interim CEO, Mike Ullman, he appointed in April and has sent a letter to JCP that a new CEO should be in place in 30-45 days, and also that former CEO Questerom has agreed been approached to return as Chairman. That's all great but we have two questions:
- Shouldn't the next CEO of JCP be really the Chief Restructuring Officer, and as such be appointed by the ad hoc or official, committee of unsecured creditors (aka the post-petition equity)? After all everyone knows how this story ends. And in that regard, we are confident Alix Partners has quite a few retail Chief Restructuring Officers in its rolodex.
- Has Ackman sued Ullman? Considering the petulant hedge fund manager's recent M.O., this would be the logical move.
- Finally, if Ackman is so confident in the retailer, instead of diluting others perhaps he should just invest his entire net worth and prefund the company's cash burn for one more year. After all, what's the risk, right?
That said, providing shorts with a higher point from which to reshort JCP is always a welcome development.
If yesterday was the worst day in years for Bill Ackman following the surge in his proclaimed mega short HLF and the plunge in his beloved JC Penney, today may just redeem Pershing Square's P&L at least slightly following a company press release that denies the report published yesterday by the Post alleging CIT had cut its factoring ties with JCP vendors.
Those hoping for a slew of negative news to push stocks much higher today will be disappointed in this largely catalyst-free day. So far today we have gotten only the ECB's weekly 3y LTRO announcement whereby seven banks will repay a total of €1.1 billion from both LTRO issues, as repayments slow to a trickle because the last thing the ECB, which was rumored to be inquiring banks if they can handle negative deposit rates earlier in the session, needs is even more balance sheet contraction. The biggest economic European economic data point was the EU construction output which contracted for a fifth consecutive month, dropping -1.7% compared to -0.3% previously, and tumbled 7.9% from a year before. Elsewhere, Spain announced trade data for March, which printed at yet another surplus of €0.63 billion, prompted not so much by soaring exports which rose a tiny 2% from a year ago to €20.3 billion but due to a collapse in imports of 15% to €19.7 billion - a further sign that the Spanish economy is truly contracting even if the ultimate accounting entry will be GDP positive. More importantly for Spain, the country reported a March bad loan ratio - which has been persistently underreproted - at 10.5% up from 10.4% in February. We will have more to say on why this is the latest and greatest ticking timebomb for the Eurozone shortly.
- Cyprus leader invites family firm probe (FT)
- How the Fed fueled an explosion in subprime auto loans (Reuters)
- Wal-Mart Customers Complain Bare Shelves Are Widespread (BBG)
- JC Penney CEO gets no bonus, stock award after dismal year (Reuters)
- New Bird Flu Virus Kills 2 in China, Sparking WHO Probe (BBG)
- Algorithms Play Matchmaker to Fight 7.7% U.S. Unemployment (BBG)
- Fed hawk Lacker and dove Evans face off over inflation (Reuters)
- Infamous silver market "cornerer" WH Hunt Becomes Billionaire on Bakken Oil After Bankruptcy (BBG)
- Japan Auto Sales Fall on Subsidy End as Korea Extends Drop (BBG)
- Black Hawks Near North Korea Show Risk in U.S. Command Shift (BBG)
- SEC Embraces Social Media (WSJ)
- Tesla Touts ‘True Out of Pocket’ Financing for Model S (BBG)
- U.K. Banks Try to Dodge Bonus Caps by Defining Risk-Taker (BBG)
It is clear now that we must have been wrong about the economy. No more proof is needed than the fact the Dow has gone up 1,500 points. Everyone knows the stock market reflects the true health of the nation – multi-millionaire Jim Cramer and his millionaire CNBC talking head cohorts tell us so. Ignore the fact that the bottom 80% only own 5% of the financial assets in this country and are not benefitted by the stock market in any way. It is time to open your eyes and arise from your stupor. Observe what is happening around you. Look closely. Does the storyline match what you see in your ever day reality? It is them versus us. Whether you call them the invisible government, ruling class, financial overlords, oligarchs, the powers that be, ruling elite, or owners; there are powerful wealthy men who call the shots in this global criminal enterprise. No amount of propaganda can cover up the physical, economic, social, and psychological descent afflicting our world. There’s a bad moon rising and trouble is on the way.
“For many young Greeks, the election in Italy now provides a model. If the population of the third-largest economy in the euro zone so openly opposes the austerity measures, then the exit of individual countries from the euro zone is no longer taboo.” Der Spiegel
Italy will be holding another election, which puts the country in a dead calm until there is a functioning government. The key in Italy is the outsider and comedian Beppe Grillo whose party has put the government in dysfunction and in parallel has created a monster of an uprising against corruption within both political parties. The movement itself is larger than Grillo and may be the well-springs of copycat movements throughout southern Europe that threatens the euro and the establishment. It’s a disruptive a movement and would be like a Ron Paul to U.S. political parties. No matter the outcome, the bottom line is Italy will remain a drag on eurozone equity prices until there is a resolution.