Private Wealth

Weekly Research Briefing: Trick or Treat

October 31, 2023

Good news. Given the record low temps on Tuesday night, your home/office kitchen is going to be overflowing with Halloween candy this week. Record highs two weeks ago to record lows this week. And Cat-5 Hurricanes developed from nothing in 24 hours. Interesting times. Enjoy the candy corn.

So, it is FOMC week. What will Jerome say? Expect lots of bark with no bite. The Fed is done raising rates. Just look at what 5% Treasury rates are doing to the economy. And look at how quickly inflation is falling. Raising the Fed Funds rates again will be like showing The Ring to your five-year-old and expecting to get a night of sleep for the next six months. More interesting right now in D.C. is how much debt the U.S. Treasury is going to have to issue in the Q4 and whether or not the market will absorb it. And don't forget that the House is going back to work to avoid a Thanksgiving government shutdown. Sounds like the new Speaker is on board with keeping the government open. Outside of Washington, the American auto industry will be getting back to making vehicles again. Good news for holiday spending and those looking to buy that new vehicle. Israel/Gaza remains a key concern and distraction for the financial markets. It feels like one day at a time there with continued hope that the hostages will be released, and that aid will get into Gaza to help the Palestinians.

November is now on deck. The S&P 500 has gained 9 out of 10 times in November over the last 10 years. Will this year be the usual treat or is a rare trick in store? With interest rates where they are and Q3 earnings coming in a bit uninteresting overall, it is tough to see the market wanting to sprint higher. For stocks to jump up, we need rates to fall, earnings to re-accelerate or some big positive news in the outstanding geo-political events. Until that happens, the fixed income universe is a hard one to beat. Plenty of very cheap stocks out there but where is the catalyst? M&A deals continue to occur every week as strategic investors and private equity grab their favorite targets. But are you ready to buy and hold a basket of cheap stocks when you can make 5-15% over in the world of fixed-income and credit? Take the treat and leave the trick. Have a great Halloween.

The markets have done the Fed's work so no more rate hikes will be needed...

Now the game board shifts to when will slowing growth and inflation allow for future rate cuts. Let the guessing begin.

Federal Reserve officials have said for more than a year that beating inflation could require them to hold interest rates higher for longer than investors expected.

The swift run-up in long-term Treasury yields—to around 5% from 4% in early August—suggests Wall Street now agrees. As a result, borrowing costs for U.S. businesses and households are rising in ways that could allow the Fed to suspend its historic run of interest-rate increases.

Because a resilient economy threatens to slow recent progress on inflation, the impact of higher yields on the economy is set to feature prominently in deliberations at the Fed’s two-day policy meeting that begins Tuesday. The central bank, which lifted its benchmark short-term rate to a 22-year high in July, is expected to hold it steady this week. Since March 2022, the Fed has raised interest rates at the fastest pace in four decades to combat soaring inflation.

Higher yields can tighten financial conditions through lower stock valuations, a stronger dollar and wider spreads between Treasury yields and private lending rates...

Economists at Deutsche Bank estimate that with the run-up in yields since September, financial conditions have tightened enough to reduce economic activity by 0.6 percentage point over the next year, which the economists say is equal to roughly three interest-rate increases of a quarter-point each.

A similar analysis by Tilda Horvath, a former Fed economist who is now at a Geneva-based research firm called Underlying Inflation, shows the recent rise in term premiums could more than substitute for a final quarter-point rate rise that most Fed officials projected at their September meeting.


Last week's Q3 QDP result was a banger...

@LizAnnSonders: 3Q23 GDP +4.9% (q/q ann.) vs. +4.5% est. & +2.1% prior … strongest quarterly growth since 4Q21

Now that the Q3 is booked, let's look into the Q4 and see what the Atlanta Fed is predicting...

@AtlantaFed: On October 27th, the initial GDPNow model nowcast of real GDP growth in Q4 2023 is 2.3%.

And S&P Global's PMI data agrees with the Atlanta Fed sense of economic strength...

US companies signaled a marginal expansion in business activity during October, following broadly stagnant output seen in August and September. Manufacturers and service providers alike reported improved activity levels as the downturn in demand moderated. The rise in total output was the quickest for three months.

Demand conditions at manufacturers improved for the first time since April, while service providers saw a slower drop in new orders.

Meanwhile, inflationary pressures softened. Cost burdens rose at the slowest pace for three years, with firms moderating hikes in selling prices at the same time. The rate of charge inflation eased to the weakest since June 2020 and was slower than the long-run series average. Firms were reportedly keen to pass through any cost savings made to customers in a bid to drive sales.

S&P Global

The PCE data also dropped last week showing a continued slowing in prices toward the Fed's inflation target...


Speaking of deflationary pressures, the prices paid index at the K.C. Fed is falling faster than the Chiefs touchdown points production...

@LizAnnSonders: Disinflation pressure building as prices paid component of October
@KansasCityFed Manufacturing Index fell to lowest (and first time in negative territory) since May 2020

And not just a U.S. phenomenon: Germany's inflation slowed to +3.8% in October from +4.5% in September (4% expected) and the lowest since August 2021...

@WilliamsonChris: #Inflation in #Germany is plummeting, just as the #PMI has been signalling. CPI now already down to 3% in October with the PMI suggesting it has further to fall.

U.S. housing continues to slow and the call-backs to the office and surge in mortgage interest rates have now slowed the migrations between U.S. states...

Interstate migration and the level of existing home sales go hand in hand. Transactions in existing homes rose from an annualized rate of around 5.25 million a year prior to the pandemic to 6.5 million in late 2020 and early 2021 at the height of the migration boom, the fastest in 15 years.

Now, homes aren't selling so homeowners aren’t moving. Since the pandemic boom, existing home sales have collapsed by 40% as of last month.

We have some confirming data courtesy of the USPS, which began publishing monthly change-of-address statistics at the ZIP code level during the pandemic so researchers could track migration trends.

The USPS has complete monthly data through May 2023, which covers most of the period we’ll get population numbers for in December. The data show, for instance, that requests for change of address to the popular destinations of Florida, Idaho and Texas fell by 9.5%, 13.9% and 10.9% respectively — matched by slowdowns in moves away from California and New York — in the first five months of 2023, compared with the first five months of 2022. Existing home sales have fallen even more since May, suggesting even less interstate migration in the second half of the year.


New updated housing estimates from Wells Fargo suggests a much better environment in 2024 and 2025...

The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate falling to 6.39% in 2024 and 5.70% in 2025 joined by rising prices and unit home sales.


An improvement in mortgage rates and housing activity would be welcome news to this entire universe...

J.P. Morgan

As for U.S. stocks, we have now entered our fourth market correction in the last two years...


A big reason for the current correction has been that the stock market has lost its battle with the rise in risk free-rates...

If stocks are going to make a move higher, they are going to need a fall in Treasury yields or much higher earnings. It is as simple as that.

Apollo Academy

Goldman Sachs thinks that ongoing economic weakness will cause interest rates to pause...

In the past two weeks the market has apparently entered a new phase of the rising rate saga and begun to downgrade its economic growth outlook alongside higher yields. The sharp underperformance of cyclical stocks signals concern that the recent tightening of financial conditions will hamper economic growth. Unlike in September, the defensive Utilities sector has outperformed MTD despite potential headwinds from high leverage. Perceived “quality” stocks with strong balance sheets, high profit margins, and high returns on capital have continued their outperformance.

Looking forward, a further weakening of the economic growth outlook would likely support our interest rate strategists’ view that yields will not rise much further. Our economists agree with the “higher for longer” interest rate outlook espoused by most clients but believe that yields are unlikely to rise much beyond current levels on a sustainable basis. Despite this week’s 4.9% 3Q GDP print, our economists expect a deceleration in the sequential real GDP run-rate to 1.6% in 4Q. The historical experience of sharply rising bond yields suggest this slowdown would be a short-term positive for equity prices to the extent it constrains bond yields. But ultimately the market reaction to weakening growth data will depend on the magnitude of the deceleration and whether it rekindles the widespread recession fears that have characterized much of the last 18 months. While interest rates matter for equity valuations, the long-term trajectory of stock returns is determined by earnings growth, so “bad news is good news” cannot last for long.

Goldman Sachs

Barron's makes the case for buying bonds as this weekend's cover story...

I won't disagree that there seems to be more upside right now in the public fixed-income markets. Of course, I am very biased toward private credit with most being issued with double digit yields currently, in the event you have space in your portfolio for this asset class.

It’s Time to Stop Crying About Bonds and Buy Them Instead

The bull case starts with the fact that today’s entry point is the best in years. Yields across the Treasury market, at about 5%, are the highest since 2007. Investment-grade corporate bonds pay an average of 6.3%, a yield not seen since mid-2009. For someone in the 24% tax bracket, a 30-year municipal with a triple-A rating yields 6.1% when its tax advantage is included. (Although junk bonds average 9%, their “spread” over Treasuries is fairly narrow, indicating they aren’t cheap.)

As bond prices decline, their yields climb. An end to the bear market would send prices higher and yields lower.

Higher yields can solve a lot of problems. If inflation were still running at 9%, the income generated by bonds would be of scant use as higher prices would wipe out purchasing power; even 5% inflation would make it a wash. Inflation, though, isn’t the worry it was just a short while ago.

Treasury inflation-protected securities, or TIPS, maturing in both five and 10 years are pricing in inflation of 2.5%, implying that expectations are well anchored. At those levels, Treasuries are generating yields of 2.5% after inflation, the first time “real yields” have been meaningfully positive in over a decade.

“The real rate is so attractive that you don’t need to venture very far out on the curve and your yield will work for you,” says Rick Rieder, chief investment officer of global fixed income at BlackRock (ticker: BLK).


With half of the S&P 500 earnings now in the books, the % of beats has been sliding downward...

BofA Global

More importantly, forward earnings expectations have continued to be cut...


Among the biggest earners last week, Microsoft, Amazon and Meta delivered while Google disappointed. Now it is Apple's turn at the tape...

@bespokeinvest: Microsoft $MSFT is the lone mega-cap above its 50-DMA as we enter the new trading week. Apple $AAPL is back to where it was six months ago after round-tripping a move from ~$168 to $195 that it had from May-July.

This is the last big week of earnings for the Q3. Apple is Thursday afternoon...


Looking at last week's earnings, Microsoft's Azure has reaccelerated and growth will remain in the mid 20s for the next three quarters...

Stock Market Nerd

So many good things to say about Azure and their AI progress...

Difficult to see how Microsoft is not a top position for every large cap equity manager looking for big, open-ended growth businesses. I know that it would have been in my top 3.


Amazon had a $40 billion swing in their free cash flow in 4 quarters. Crazy...

@TheTranscript_: FCFs are improving too: "The largest driver of the improvement in free cash flow is our increased operating income, which we're seeing across all three of our segments"

And remember when no analyst wanted to touch Intel's stock in the $20s, eight to twelve months ago?

"Revenue exceeded our expectations across all major lines of business. Gross margin was 45.8%, 280 basis points better than our guidance, driven by higher revenue and ASPs and better sell-through of previously reserved inventory." - Intel Corporation CFO David Zinsner

The Transcript

A big credit read out of Capital One last week as their charge-offs may have peaked...

@wabuffo: $COF (Capital One) - US credit card net charge-off rate dropped in Sept. They appear to be normalizing at levels below their pre-pandemic historical performance.

Mastercard showed solid Q3 trends with a bit of slowing in volumes into October...

I would have to think the disruption in the Middle East had an impact on global spending in October.


Still concerns in the commercial real estate markets according to Costar...

@TheTranscript_: Costar Group CFO: "What we are now seeing in the property markets are some of the worst conditions in decades. I suspect this is the first time that many people on this call have experienced high inflation and interest rates like some of us enjoyed back in the '80s & '90s.."

And Otis Elevator confirms that new installations will become more difficult...

$OTIS - "we now believe the New Equipment market in the Americas is going to be down mid-teens, and we're really seeing that with the highest impact being the interest rates remaining high. It really is impacting new project starts"


But Halloween spending is showing no slowdown...

@MikeZaccardi: Halloween spending expected to jump 15% YoY

Neither are Ugg or Hoka sales...

[DECK] Reports Q2 $6.82 v $4.41e, Rev $1.09B v $958Me; Raises FY24 guidance

  • Raises FY24 $22.90-23.25 v $22.36e, Rev $4.03B v $3.98Be, gross margin ~52.5-53.0% (prior: 52%)
  • Raises FY23 op margin ~18.5% (prior: 18%)
  • Inventory $726M v $925M
  • Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) net sales +38.8% y/y
  • Ugg brand $610.5M, +28.1%
  • Teva brand $21.5M, -28.4%
  • Hoka brand $424M, +27.3%
  • Comments: The strength of demand for our HOKA and UGG brands continued to drive exceptional performance, producing record revenue and earnings for Deckers in both the second quarter and first half of fiscal year 2024.


The Golden Arches put up a beefy set of numbers on Monday with U.S. comps +8.1%...


  • Comparable sales +8.8% vs. +9.5% y/y, EST +7.79%
  • US comparable sales +8.1% vs. +6.1% y/y, EST +7.5%
  • International operated markets comparable sales +8.3% vs. +8.5% y/y, EST +8.51%
  • International developmental licensed markets comparable sales +10.5% vs. +16.7% y/y, EST +8.27%
  • EPS $3.17, ADJ EPS $3.19 vs. $2.68 y/y, EST $2.98
  • Revenue $6.69B, +14% y/y, EST $6.52B
  • Operating income $3.21B, EST $3.04B


Chipotle beat comps, revenues, margins, earnings and sees higher comps in the Q4. Go burritos!

"And the consumer is clearly under pressure with inflation over the past year and pretty much everything with gas and groceries and really across the board, higher interest rates. We continue to do well not just across our income levels, but with the lower income, they're holding up really well. They're really hanging in there at the same -- at about the same level as our medium and high-income level." - Chipotle Mexican Grill CFO John Hartung

The Transcript

Ozempic what?

Dow component Coca-Cola Q3 results topped estimates and boosted its annual sales and profit forecasts on strong demand and higher prices/now sees FY organic revenue growth of 10%-11% (vs. prior 8%-9% view) and raises year profit to 7%-8% from prior 5%-6% view) – also said average selling prices rose 9% in Q3, while overall volumes also grew 2%.

Hammerstone Markets

Both AutoNation and Southwest Airlines are seeing solid consumer demand...

"But despite concerns of affordability, consumer demand for vehicles remains relatively healthy. And during the quarter, partly because of improved New Vehicle supply and stable Used Vehicle inventory, we saw double-digit year-over-year growth in new vehicle sales and strong sequential growth in Used Vehicle volume. And frankly, this is the first time in 8 consecutive quarters that we've seen growth in combined New and Used Vehicle volumes for automation. So I think that's very positive." - Autonation CEO Michael Manley

"Revenue strength was driven by solid leisure demand throughout the quarter and by managed business continuing to come in largely as expected…overall, demand remains healthy.. October performance has been strong to date and bookings for the holidays as a whole are also strong." - Southwest Airlines Co. Chief Commercial Officer Robert Jordan

The Transcript

Customers 1, Employees 1, Shareholders 0...

Even with solid ticket demand and healthy prices, Southwest Airlines cannot fly to a higher stock price. Its stock is flat over 9 years and only +33% over 20 years. If you were lucky enough to buy at the post-GFC low near $5 then you are up 3.5x on your white knuckled purchase. But the S&P 500 is up 6x over the same 14 year timeframe. Adding in total dividends over the entire 20 years throws in about $3.75 which doesn't move the return needle much.

Southwest Airlines has a great brand name and franchise, but its shareholders are being stuffed into the overhead bins. The board of LUV should invite the board of Costco Wholesale to Dallas for a presentation on how to reward customers, employees and shareholders equally. In the meantime, Southwest and most all airline stocks will remain trading tunas around global macro events. I believe, they will also continue to lack any meaningful presence in private equity portfolios until they learn how to generate returns for their owners.

If Southwest Airlines cannot get Costco to pay a visit, this podcast with one of COST's long-time board members should easily suffice...

October 30, 2023 - Charlie Munger

We sit down with the legendary Charlie Munger in the only dedicated longform podcast interview that he has done in his 99 years on Earth. We’ve gotten to have some special conversations on Acquired over the years, but this one truly takes the cake. Over dinner at his Los Angeles home, Charlie reflected with us on his own career and his nearly 50-year partnership at Berkshire Hathaway with Warren Buffett. He offered lessons and advice for investors today, and of course he shared his speech on the virtues of Costco once again (among other favorite investments). We’re so glad that we got the opportunity to record and share this with you all — break out your notebooks, tune in, and enjoy the singular wit and wisdom of Charlie Munger.


Your large cap company buys mid cap company deal of the weekend...

A $5b REIT sees bigger as better and decides to merge with a $35b REIT.

Realty Income Corp., an owner of convenience stores, warehouses and other commercial real estate, agreed to acquire Spirit Realty Capital Inc. for $5.3 billion in an all-stock transaction.

Spirit shareholders will receive 0.762 newly issued shares of Realty Income for each share that they own, according to a statement Monday. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2024.

The transaction is expected to diversify Realty Income’s tenant base, create $50 million in annualized synergies and build a real estate investment trust with an enterprise value of $63 billion, according to the statement.


And double fun in the REIT sector this weekend as another large cap buys a small cap...

This time in the medical and health care real estate space as $9b Healthpeak Properties buys $2b Physicians Realty Trust in another all-stock deal. Headquarters to remain in Denver of course.

Oh look. Another crushed public stock price...

How long until a strategic investor or private equity removes this stock ticker from the trading boards? Public investors threw in the towel so now it is time for another set of owners to come in and takeover.

Worldline SA sent a fresh shockwave through Europe’s fintech sector on Wednesday, cutting its sales outlook and warning of economic challenges that pushed its stock down by more than half.

The French-based payment processor, which services more than 1 million merchants globally, cited weakness in the German market and increasing fraud and cybercrime risks that prompted it to cut ties with some clients. The stock plunge wiped €3.8 billion ($4 billion) off the market value, lowering it to about €2.7 billion.

Investors were still digesting other bad news from the industry when Worldline issued its dramatic warning. Just a day earlier, UK-based CAB Payments Plc saw its share price drop 72% after it cut its revenue guidance. And back in August, Adyen NV suffered a selloff after the company’s first-half results fell short of expectations.

Investors are starting to lose patience with fintechs, which surged during the pandemic as lockdowns pushed more people online for shopping and other daily business. Since then, worries over lofty valuations and a broader slowdown in consumer spending amid a cost-of-living crisis have brought the high-flying stocks back to earth.


My disappointing news item from Friday...

Because I have mentioned numerous times in the last 13 years that one should always buy J.P. Morgan stock when Jamie Dimon does, I should make a comment on Friday's news that he is now selling shares for the first time. Well, we knew that someday he would eventually lighten his holdings and diversify the family portfolio. To his credit, he now owns $1.2 billion worth of J.P. Morgan stock that he has accumulated in compensation and outright purchases over the decades. Is his decision a clear signal to go and sell all of your copycat 2009, 2012 and 2016 buys? I'd say no. But it is also not a sign that the company's stock is trading at a rainy day discount price or else he would have likely waited on the filing. This is still one of the greatest companies and CEOs in the world. If you can find a better run financial company trading with significant more upside at today's prices and do not care about the capital gains, then maybe you should consider diversifying some of your gains also.


Thought this was a great note in the weekend Barron's...

It shows the difference between a global macro investor and a pure stock investor. Very relevant to today's equity markets.

While I had both Klarman and Lynch on the line, I had to ask them about stocks. First Klarman: “The market is scary and vulnerable. The geopolitical strains seem heightened rather clearly. I think in some ways the magnitude of the disaster of the Fed holding rates at zero for a decade is now much more clear.”

As for Lynch, he says, “We’ve been in an incredible bear market for two years,” except for basically 10 big stocks. Stocks are almost selling for less than cash. Look at the Russell 2000.” Is he bullish on the Russell 2000? “Absolutely,” he says. “I love it when stocks go down.”


Speaking of, small cap stocks became even more broken last week...

Small caps have now retreated to a ridiculous 10-year annual return rate of 3.88%...


One of the biggest players in asset management sees a mountain of private debt being created in the next five years...

BlackRock Inc. predicts that the global private debt market will roughly double to $3.5 trillion by 2028, one of the most bullish calls to date on the growth of the industry.

The money manager is forecasting that “tectonic shifts” in financial markets will spur more borrowers to seek out private funds for financing, especially as some banks pull back from lending, according to a note published on Thursday by Amanda Lynam, BlackRock’s head of macro credit research.

“As the private debt market continues to grow in size, its capability to compete directly with the public debt financing markets will likely expand,” Lynam wrote, adding that there is growing appetite among institutional and retail investors for the assets.

BlackRock said it expects private debt to grow at about a 15% compound annual rate over the next five years. The market is currently estimated at $1.6 trillion and could reach $1.75 trillion by the end of the year, according to the paper. Preqin Ltd., which tracks data on the alternative investment market, said this month that private debt globally will reach $2.8 trillion by 2028.


Toyota is hinting that it has found the holy grail of battery technologies...

If true and it can be replicated in mass production, then its disruptions will be wide and long. Lighter EVs that run twice as long on a charge shorter than your Chipotle stop. Also, EV batteries that don't catch on fire. A potential for an electric airplane. An end to the reliance on China for graphite and other rare minerals.

Batteries now underpin the prodigious task of overhauling the global energy and transport system to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. While the cost to make lithium-ion batteries has plummeted, allowing electric car sales to take off in recent years, the bare bones of the technology have remained little changed since commercialisation.

After three decades of incremental optimisation, however, that orthodoxy could soon be upended. Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, has indicated in recent weeks that it is close to a manufacturing breakthrough for a potentially game-changing technology: solid-state batteries. Hype has been building since a series of announcements on the next-generation technology by the Japanese car manufacturer in June. Its market capitalisation has surged by $26bn since then.

If successful, Toyota could start selling EVs that are safer, can recharge more rapidly and can drive 1,200 kilometres on a single charge — around double the company’s current average — as early as 2027.

Financial Times

Walked past this one recently in Dallas...

(I took this picture)

This is an amazing chart. Helps to explain the Hertz Rental concerns last week...

@charliebilello: The average price of a used Tesla is now $28k lower than the peak price in July 2022, a 41% decline. $TSLA

Wall Street lost a legend last week...

I was lucky enough to work with him during his days at Morgan Stanley. A great thinker and one of the nicest people in the world of finance. A super curious person who wanted to learn, study and work every day of his life. And he did. Byron made our world a better place.

Byron Wien’s 20 Life Lessons

I was scheduled to speak about the world outlook at an investment conference in 2012, and shortly before my time slot, the conference organizer said the audience was more interested in what I had learned over the course of my career than what I had to say about the market. I jotted a few notes down and later expanded and edited what I said that day. Others have since encouraged me to share my thoughts with a broader audience. In the decade since, I have come back to them time and again to test their resonance and staying power, and find them still broadly applicable.

Here are some of the lessons I learned in my first 80 years, which I continue to practice as I enter my 90’s...


Speaking of great people, this is a brilliant documentary...

You don't have to be a football/soccer fan. But if you are a fan, then expect plenty of footage and stories that you have never seen nor heard.

David Beckham is the kind of world-famous athlete whom everyone thinks they already know. In the ’90s, he joined Manchester United from humble working-class beginnings in East London, arriving on the pitch with a drive and determination to win. The public didn’t quite know what to make of him: He was both a pretty boy dating Spice Girl Victoria Adams, and a brilliant footballer with deadly free-kick accuracy. But in the 11 years he played with United, Beckham helped lead them to become the best football team on the planet, though not without serious setbacks.


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