BLEAK FLASH PMIs
Last Friday, Markit released its flash PMIs fo the U.S., the Eurozone and Japan. I have not seen any mention of them in the mainstream media, even though they were highly informative on the continued slowdown in world economies. In case you missed my earlier posts:
- EUROZONE FLASH PMI POINTS TO SLUGGISH GROWTH
- U.S. FLASH MANUFACTURING PMI DROPS TO 50.8
- JAPAN FLASH MANUFACTURING PMI COLLAPSES
Department Stores Need to Close Hundred of Sites, Research Firm Says U.S. department-store chains need to close hundreds of locations if they want to regain the productivity they had a decade ago, according to real-estate research firm Green Street Advisors.
The real-estate research firm estimates that the closures could include roughly 800 department stores, or about a fifth of all anchor space in U.S. malls.
Sears Holdings Corp. alone would need to close 300, or 43%, of its Sears stores to regain the sales per square foot it had in 2006, adjusted for inflation, according to Green Street. (…)
Sales at the nation’s department stores averaged $165 a square foot last year, a 24% drop since 2006, according to company disclosures and Green Street estimates. Over the same period, the stores reduced their physical footprint by 7% in aggregate. (…)
“There’s a misperception out there that when we close a store, that business transfers online,” Ed Record, Penney’s chief financial officer, told analysts in November. “When we close a store, particularly in a small market, we see our dot-com business go down.”
A spokesman for Nordstrom said that all of its stores are profitable, and closing stores “is not our normal practice.” (…)
The store glut has important implications for the country’s weaker malls, which rely on their anchors to drive foot traffic. “If department stores were to move forward and aggressively streamline their physical presence it could result in several hundred malls no longer being relevant retail destinations,” he said.
Next oil downturn? Looming gasoline glut threatens crude’s rebound A rebound in oil prices this year from 12-year lows is in danger of coming to a crashing halt, as the main engine of global demand growth for the past several years starts to sputter amid signs of a gasoline glut.
In an about-face, companies are using hedges to lock in prices that they turned their noses up at a few months ago. (…)
Despite the uptick in activity, U.S. producers have hedged just 36% of their expected output for 2016, according to Citi Research. In past years, they hedged about half of their production. (…)
The market is so volatile, shale companies are jumping to sell their future output whenever the price pops, said Sameer Panjwani, an associate at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., an energy investment bank in Houston.
“You do things when you can, not when you have to,” he said. (…)
Offshore rig operators reel from oil rout Seadrill, Ensco and others report losses as producers curtail costly projects
IMF cuts Gulf GDP growth forecast to 1.8% Oil-dependent region lowers spending to contain fiscal deficits
Cheap Oil Shaved $390 Billion From Mideast Economies in ’15 The International Monetary Fund estimates the Middle East’s oil-dependent economies have missed out on $390 billion in oil revenues last year and face up to $150 billion in income losses this year as a result of cheap oil prices.
The drop in revenues stemming from the export of oil is the direct result of the plunge in crude prices from around $115 a barrel in the middle of 2014 to below $30 at the start of the year and now above $40, the IMF said. (…)
The IMF estimates that the oil exporting countries in the Middle East will see 10 million young people being added to the workforce in the next five years. Mr. Ahmed warns that the current pace of job creation is insufficient to absorb the new labor market entrants.
“If jobs continue to be created at the same rate as in the last few years, you will end up with 3 million (additional) unemployed by the end of this five-year period,” Mr. Ahmed said. The IMF estimates average youth unemployment to be around 20% in the region. (…)
The Global Oil Complex: The Doha Narrative
By Hubert Marleau, Palos Investment
Over the past the five days, I have read as many articles and comments as I possibly could to get in order to understand what took place in Doha last Sunday. What I have read confirms that the geopolitical scene in the Middle East is dangerous and perhaps even impossible to reverse.
(…) The 18 oil-producing countries representing about half the world’s crude output that attended the conclave, believed that a deal to freeze production would be the start of a process to stabilize oil prices. Several Saudi officials signaled on Saturday evening that the Kingdom would consider a freeze without Iran’s participation. A draft agreement was circulated. Almost everyone was under the impression that within an hour or two a deal would be signed.
Then out of nowhere, by late Sunday afternoon, the meeting that was supposed to clinch a deal that had already been agreed became a farce descending into confusion. The talks collapsed and Saudi Arabia surprised the group and even their allies by reasserting a demand that Iran must also cap its oil production.
However, Iranian officials were not about to negotiate and it was reported that on Sunday that veteran Ali al-Naimi received a call from the new kid on the block in Riyadh; the 30 year old deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and favoured son of King Salman. Mohammed bin Salman has risen to a position of almost unrivaled power with control over sensitive portfolios like oil, defense and the economy. He scuttled all hopes of brokering the first global output deal in 15 years that could of mark a new level of cooperation between non-Opec oil producers and Opec members.
The question to ask is “How can we go from agreeing to everything on Saturday and turning everything upside down on Sunday?”. There are probably several reasons. In our opinion, the main ones are:
1. Saudi Arabia believes that in the end Russia and Venezuela, which have strong ties with Iran, should have used their influence to bring the Iranians to some kind of geopolitical terms, such as reducing military aid to Syria and Yemen and/or economic like capping oil output at a certain level. The former being more important because there is a proxy war going on between the two countries. Russia, Venezuela and Iran are at most risk. The pain of not freezing is set to deepen more with the foes than with the allies like Qatar, Kuwait and UAE. It’s like a form of punishment.
2. Saudi Arabia may want to take its market share policy to the next level as it still has sufficient spare capacity to increase oil output. The Saudis could immediately increase oil output by more than 1 million barrels a day to 11.5 million if demand presented itself and a further 1 million to 12.5 million nine months later.
3. Saudi Arabia wants to calibrate its ties with the US to ensure that Washington remains a trusted and supportive ally of the Kingdom’s posture to remain the leader in the Middle East and retain its intent of asserting regional influence. Underlining Saudis’ hegemony and governorship in this delicate and dangerous region, the deputy crown prince assembled an antiterrorism coalition of more than 30 Muslim nations.
In this regard, Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran and pursued a with-us or against-us strategy in efforts to assemble a broad anti-Teheran bloc. Gulf countries tend to blame Iran for some of the violent conflicts and disagreements in the region. Mr. Obama was in Riyadh on Wednesday and so perhaps the Saudis decided on Sunday to wait until they had a talk with Obama. The next oil meeting is in June. The Saudis could then comply with a production freeze if they clear the air with the US president.
The Saudis are not happy with the US diplomatic rapprochement with Iran and reestablishment of cordial relations. Obama wants either a “cold peace” between Iran and Saudi Arabia or a self-regulating balance of power for the region. This is not an easy policy to implement for the US footprint in the region has significantly reduced while that of Iran has increased as a result of the nuclear deal achieved last July.
The bottom line is that Obama wants to create an environment in which America’s middle-east allies rely less on the White House. Ultimately, he believes that it’s not the job of the US to solve every problem in the Middle East. In this connection, Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran and set a coalition of allied nations. Moreover, the Saudis recently threatened to sell all or a huge portion of their US dollar holdings that they stash as official reserves, if they get blamed for 9/11. The official reserves of Saudi Arabia is around $600 billion. It’s complicated! A point has been reached where confusion exists and the Saudis are suspicious as to whether the US is still a faithful ally and partner. “Give me your trust and I will freeze output”
OPEC is facing a prisoner’s dilemma. Should be read by all who are interested in the geopolitical aspect of the global oil complex (http://www.postnewsreport.com/opec-is-facing-a-prisoners-dilemma/)
In reality, nobody can predict what will happen over the shorter term. Longer term, like all commodities, oil will self-balance supply with demand overshooting on both sides.
First, Bespoke’s tally of all NYSE companies. We will get Q1 results from over 800 companies this week.
So far this earnings season, 309 companies have reported their Q1 numbers. While that’s just 20% or so of the total amount that will report this season, it’s enough to get an early read on how the numbers are coming in. Of the 309 companies that have reported thus far, 63% have beaten consensus analyst earnings estimates. Below is a chart showing the historical quarterly earnings beat rate going back to 1999. As you can see, a 63% beat rate for this season would be slightly stronger than last season’s beat rate, which itself was the strongest reading post since 2010. (…) (Bespoke)
- Factset’s weekly summary:
Overall, 26% of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings to date for the first quarter. Of these companies, 76% have reported actual EPS above the mean EPS estimate, 14% have reported actual EPS equal to the mean EPS estimate, and 10% have reported actual EPS below the mean EPS estimate. The percentage of companies reporting EPS above the mean EPS estimate is above both the 1-year (69%) average and the 5-year (67%) average.
The blended (combines actual results for companies that have reported and estimated results for companies yet to report) year-over-year earnings decline for Q1 2016 is -8.9% (-9.3% last week), which is below the expected earnings decline of -8.6% at the end of the quarter (March 31). Seven sectors are reporting a year-over-year decline in earnings, led by the Energy and Materials sectors. Three sectors are reporting year-over-year growth in earnings, led by the Telecom Services and Consumer Discretionary sectors.
If the Energy sector is excluded, the blended earnings decline for the S&P 500 would improve to -3.6% (-4.2% last week) from -8.9%.
In aggregate, companies are reporting sales that are 0.1% below expectations. This surprise percentage is below both the 1-year (+0.6%) average and above the 5-year (+0.7%) average.
The blended sales decline for Q1 2016 is -1.2%, which is below the estimated sales decline of -1.1% at the end of the quarter (March 31). Five sectors are reporting year-over-year growth in revenues, led by the Telecom Services and Health Care sectors. Five sectors are reporting a year-over-year decline in revenues, led by the Energy and Materials sectors.
If the Energy sector is excluded, the estimated revenue growth rate for the S&P 500 would jump to 1.6% from -1.2%.
So, a pretty big hit on margins. Factset’s tally shows that Q1 estimates have actually improved a little last week with and without energy. Thomson Reuters’ data also improved a little and TR is now showing –7.1% for Q1, back to where it was on April 1.
While still very early in the season, corporate guidance is pretty good so far.
At this point in time, 20 companies in the index have issued EPS guidance for Q2 2016. Of these 20 companies, 10 have issued negative EPS guidance and 10 have issued positive EPS guidance. The percentage of companies issuing negative EPS guidance is 50% (10 out of 20), which is below the 5-year average of 73%.
FYI, guidance for Q1’16 was 33 negative and 6 positive on Jan.29. The big difference is from IT companies with a 6/4 pos/neg ratio for Q2 vs a 3/17 ratio for Q1. TR sees IT earnings down 0.6% in Q2 after -4.9% in Q1 and +2.5% in Q4’15.
Corporate guidance is important as we get into the middle month of Q2 as the economy is not providing much positive guidance so far:
- retail sales have been pretty slow;
- car sales seem to have past their cyclical peak;
- housing is far from vibrant;
- manufacturing keeps weakening with Markit’s April flash PMI slipping to 50.8 as “US factories reported their worst month for just over six-and-a-half years in April, dashing hopes that first quarter weakness will prove temporary.”
- wages are rising faster than revenues.
Other non-official data confirm the lack of momentum in the economy: in the U.S., the AAR railcar loadings keep declining at a fast clip and Evercore ISI company surveys continue to weaken, including the important retailers survey which just dropped to a 3-year low. Abroad, Markit’s April flash PMIs showed a sinking Japanese manufacturing…
Both production and new orders declined markedly, with total new work contracting at the fastest rate in over three years. The sharp drop in total new work was underpinned by the fastest fall in international demand since December 2012 (…)
…and a stagnant Eurozone economy:
The eurozone economy remains stuck in a slow growth rut in April, with the PMI once again signalling GDP growth of just 0.3% at the start of the second quarter, broadly in line with the meagre pace of expansion seen now for a full year.
Markit has discontinued its Chinese flash PMI but we can infer from the others that new orders from China are not strengthening. From the March China PMI:
Manufacturing production in China increased for the first time in a year during March, albeit at a marginal pace. Higher output was supported by a renewed rise in total new work. As was the case for output, however, the rate of expansion was marginal. Some companies commented on an improvement in underlying client demand. Weak foreign demand remained a drag on new order growth, however, with new export business falling for the fourth month in a row.
In all, there is an obvious lack of momentum in world economies which is why central bankers keep looking for ways and means to rev the engines. Their bag of tricks now seems offering essentially untested tools with totally “unknown unknowns”.
At 2091, the S&P 500 Index is 0.8% above its “Rule of 20” fair value of 2074 using trailing EPS of $117.46 (per TR) and core inflation of 2.2%.
There really seem to be very few positive catalysts around the corner that could boost investors mood such that they would be willing to bid equities much above their current elevated levels. In fact, Citigroup’s Economic Surprise Index failed again to move into positive territory as Ed Yardeni (next 3 charts) illustrates. Note that the ESI has not been positive for over one year now, indicative of how weak the economy has been given economists’ natural moodiness.
Yet, the bull/bear ratio is back to neutral…
…while equities rose 3.8% above their still falling 200-d m.a.:
And here come May, June, July, August, September…
(…) Gundlach, who oversees $95 billion for Los Angeles-based DoubleLine, said negative rates would not help fight deflation but withdraw liquidity from the market because people would rather hoard cash than invest or deposit it in a bank account.
Negative interest rates “are the stupidest idea I have ever experienced,” the newspaper Finanz und Wirtschaft quoted Gundlach as saying on its website on Saturday.
“The next major event (for financial markets) will be the moment when central banks in Japan and in Europe give up and cancel the experiment.” (…)
He also thinks Trump would be the best candidate for the US economy (via Zerohedge)
In the short term, Trump winning would be probably very positive for the economy. He says a lot of contradictory things and things that are not very specific. But he does say that he will build up the military and that he will build a wall at the border to Mexiko. If he wins he’s got at least to try those things. Also, he might initiate a big infrastructure program. What’s his campaign slogan? Make America great again. What that means is let’s go back to the past, let’s go back to the 1960s economy. So he might spend a lot of money on airports, roads and weapons. I think Trump would run up a huge deficit. Trump is very comfortable with debt. He’s a debt guy. His whole business has had a lot of debt over time and he has gone bankrupt with several enterprises. So I think you could have a debt-fuelled boom. But the overall debt level is already so high that you start to wonder what would happen after that.
Tech Shares Fail to Join the Party Technology shares are struggling to regain favor with investors, even as the rest of the U.S. stock market is back near record heights.
Business conditions for old-line tech stalwarts like International Business Machines Corp. and Intel Corp. have grown tougher, while Microsoft Corp. and Google parent Alphabet Inc.disappointed investors with their results this week. In addition, one of the sector’s key sources of support—successful stock-market debuts by highly anticipated tech companies—also has dried up.
The result has been a selloff. Technology companies in the S&P 500 fell 1.9% Friday, nearly erasing the sector’s gains for 2016. Alphabet’s 5.4% fall Friday was its biggest since October 2012 and wiped out $29 billion from its market capitalization.
Investors have pulled a net $4.5 billion from technology mutual funds and exchange-traded funds in 2016 through the end of March, according to Morningstar. That follows three years of net inflows. (…)