The Greek's Week Ahead has been engineered to prepare you for events that could impact your portfolio this week.
China's on my mind, with the topic discussed in so many major financial publications recently, including the Greek's Friday copy
. Also, Chinese regulators took three key actions Friday evening, ahead of Tuesday's planned strategic economic dialogue in Washington. Chinese representatives are scheduled to meet with the Treasury Secretary and Fed Chairman. So, China is in focus.
I wrote on Friday that while China's central bank's actions are well-intended and the direction correct, the magnitude of change is inconsequential. It seems Chinese regulators are taking the lead from the U.S. Fed in using small steps to achieve an ultimate goal, and avoid shocking the marketplace. By taking the medicine in smaller doses, you give it a chance to work before overdosing and rendering your economy unconscious. Still, the 18 basis point rate hike the Chinese central bank undertook Friday seems a bit too precise and even ridiculous considering the double digit rate of China's economic growth last quarter. I really think the government needs to specifically target it's equity markets with its restrictive efforts. For instance, it should place restrictions on profiteering brokerage houses. Something more than 300,000 brokerage accounts were opened per day last week, and I read the average is humming along at about 250,000 a day. Now, as a percentage of population, maybe that's not so staggering, but it still seems to be driving a speculative fervor in China's equities. On Friday, I suggested, and I admit I may be uninformed here, that China should limit individual investment as a percentage of liquid wealth. That way it could limit gambling, though I'm sure those inspired enough would just open accounts for grandma and grandpa to get around the rule. Still, the harder you make it for your populous to place their life savings at risk, the better you slow a runaway market. Now, normally I would scream "communism!" but we're talking about communist China here so it's all cool.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the potential catalysts that could bring the tightrope walking Chinese equity market to a thunderous crash. There are arguments to be made about valuation, and whether it really is too high or not, after all, growth is stellar as well. It's just that when you come so far so fast, you have to ask, what's changed to make this new P/E threshold so suddenly okay. Not enough, in my view. This is the same China that is building its military faster than any nation worldwide. It's still the same country pointing missile after missile toward Taiwan and barking at every whisper of its independence. It's the same China that seems to take position opposite America on just about every major international issue. It's the same China that is okay with a nuclear Iran. And yet, it's the same China that helped broker a deal with North Korea.
I've nailed the catalysts that can tank the Chinese, and likely global markets, to the two I view most important. The first is clear. If Chinese regulators take significant enough action to cool market speculation or economic growth, it could be interpreted as too aggressive and start an avalanche of capital retreat. The pace of new account growth and flow of capital has thus far overcome restrictive moves, including the big one in late February. Investors have become use to the government's efforts at this point, and it would take something new to shake them. Natural disaster could do the trick. Something like a massive earth quake in Hong Kong for instance. But, that's just not predictable.
The very predictable catalyst that I see as a serious threat to global equities and especially Chinese equities, due to valuation sensitivity, is Iran. China and Russia have taken up position against the United States on the nuclear issue. Russia likely does so in order to win allies, but China has a much more logical reason. Let's talk about Russia a bit here, and explain why I think Russia's opposition to the United States regarding Iran is superficial.
Russia stands to benefit most from a Middle East enveloped in war, and it's actively positioning itself to better benefit. When, yes when
, Iran is bombed, it will retaliate. Iran has likely learned well from studying its neighbor's pummeling at the hands of the United States and allies. It must know that every minute lost in such a war is a minute it becomes further powerless in defending itself and impotent at injuring others. The U.S. likes to take out command and control and air defense systems initially, and then move on to high priority targets and offensive threats. So, I don't think Iran is going to sit on its missiles and wait for a sunny day to fire away. I think the minute the bombings begin, you can expect missiles to fly toward energy facilities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, nuclear facilities in Israel and wherever American interests lie that Iran's arm can reach. I think civil war is likely to really begin in Iraq, and the Shiite majority is likely to overrun the country, possibly aided by an influx of Iranian troops... if they can get through U.S. air strength. As chaos takes over and oil prices skyrocket, Russia's intact production becomes ever more profitable and critical to European and Chinese energy needs. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying Iran has any chance at defeating us, but it does have opportunity to injure us and impact the global economy. Heck, that's why we haven't done anything yet.
Iran is a key supplier of energy to China and the east. This is the reason India sides with China against conflict with Iran. But China really bothers me. China is loading up its strategic oil reserves, just as the United States is. The Chinese realize the Iranian and Middle Eastern spigot is at risk, and I suspect China is more than a little concerned about that. Imagine what happens when the lights go out and the production lines fizzle to a halt in China. What chaos will befall Chinese equities.?. If you can only make money in equities when stocks rise, as in China, a mass exodus seems likely to burst through the bottleneck when downside catalyst arrives. A combination of Eastern emerging market free-fall and surging energy prices should be enough to create possibly one of the worst one day collapses of equities in, well ever. Somebody just reminded me about a biblical mention of a 200 million man eastern based army moving into the Middle East during the "end of days." Domestic coal runs much of China's plants, but that Middle Eastern resource could inspire troop movement if it was cut off long enough. Hey, I'm not Nostradamus here, I'm just saying...
The announced rate of oil flow to the U.S. strategic reserve would fill it by about March of 2008, but I doubt we are in the business of accurately telling our enemies when we'll be ready to attack them. After all, we've filled the reserve twice just before attacking Iraq, and Iran knows it. So, you can expect oil flow to the reserve to be just an undetectable tick above the reported amount, but over the course of a year, that tick of a difference could shave a couple months off the attack date. I seriously doubt I have an Iranian government following, so hopefully that intuitive secret is safe with you guys... The reason I believe the bombing of Iran is a matter of when versus if, is because I can't imagine any scenario where Israel accepts living with a nuclear Iran. I expect that all negotiations now are meaningless in light of that fact, and are basically serving as lip service to the Chinese.
So, basically, I'm saying the party is clear to roll on in China for a while. Sure, we could get a correction here or there, but I think the big hit is coming when Iran is bombed. There's also serious risk that a paranoid and tense Iran could preempt action by the U.S. or Israel or a global coalition. Global coalition is not likely in my view, as it would just allow China, Russia or someone else to tip off Iran. Still, with no site of a bombing through the summer, unless Israel or someone else is thinking one step ahead of the strategic mind of the Greek, I can't see this kind of capital flow stoppable for a while. So, party on Garth.
Now that we've outlined the next nine months for you, let's take a look at the week ahead
The week ahead is light on economic data, before the month end GDP revision, and light on earnings reports, with the season mostly behind us. However, there will be some key reports from the retail sector and important housing and durable goods order data.
As earnings season comes to an end, conference season starts up. JP Morgan's technology conference in Boston kicks off the schedule on Monday
. And, who could forget the "Investing in Water Infrastructure" conference in New York.
Limited Brands will hold its shareholder meeting, and the day's earnings schedule includes a key report from Lowe's Co. (LOW), which follows a poor quarter at rival Home Depot (HD). Also reporting on Monday, look for American Science & Engineering (ASEI) the homeland security play, Campbell Soup (CPB), Apollo Group (APOL), NetEase.com (NTES), Pacific Sunwear (PSUN), Perry Ellis (PERY), Saks Inc. (SKS), TRINA SOLAR (TSL) and others.Tuesday
looks like the highlight of the week with a slew of regular consumer reports. Last week's ICSC-UBS Store Sales report showed decent weekly growth, and retail data has not been too dire yet. Well, that's outside of WalMart and Home Depot's poor news. Wall Street Greek has been sounding the alarm, as we expect rising cost pressures on the consumer and tightening lending standards to soon crack into spending.
The less reliable Redbook Survey is out on Tuesday morning as well as the State Street Consumer Confidence Index. While there is no consensus estimate available to me, the index has trended like this: Jan 85.0; Feb 90.4; Mar 100.6; April 91.7. The State-Street Index measures levels of risk within investment portfolios, not participant attitudes. Clearly the amount of consumer metrics available Tuesday will be useful in painting a clearer picture.
In Washington, Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke will meet with the Chinese in the second U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue. Not far away, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond will release its manufacturing survey. New York and Philadelphia reported solid numbers last week, but we attributed much of that to the importance of the port in New York. While Richmond reports, its Fed Chief will be in New York addressing inflation at NYU.
On the conference circuit, Morgan Keegan will kick off its home-land security technology conference and Citigroup launches its health care event in New York. Anheusher-Busch (BUD) and Morningstar have shareholder meetings scheduled for Tuesday. The earnings calendar includes American Eagle Outfitters (AEO), Analog Devices (ADI), BJ's Wholesale Club (BJ), Computer Sciences (CSC), Dycom Industries (DY), GigaMedia (GIGM), Medtronic (MDT), Men's Wearhouse (MW), Staples Inc. (SPLS), The Children's Place (PLCE), Tsakos Energy Navigation (TNP), United Natural Foods (UNFI) and others.Wednesday
brings the weekly Mortgage Bankers Association Purchase Applications report measuring weekly trends in new mortgage and refinance activity. We continue to expect weekly refinance fluctuation due to rate change, but an overall static to downward trend to persist. The weekly Petroleum Status Report should show continued build in oil and gasoline, and we think this should help to ease oil prices after last week's rise on Nigerian rebel interference and other refinery disruption.
Short master Jim Chanos and Bill Miller key the 12th annual Ira Sohn Investment Research Conference in New York. Boeing is scheduled to hold its investor conference, while earnings news is due from Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), Ansoft (ANST) Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS), Eaton Vance (EV), Foot Locker (FL), Gamestop (GME), Gymboree (GYMB), Limited Brands (LTD), Pep Boys (PBY), Ross Stores (ROST), Synopsis (SNPS), Target (TGT), Tween Brands (TWB) and others.
The week's key economic news is scheduled for Thursday
. April durable goods orders are seen rising only 0.9%, after climbing 4.3% in March. April new home sales are scheduled for 10:00 a.m. release. Bloomberg's consensus sees the annual pace at 860,000, compared to 858,000 in March. March was disappointing, as the consensus was looking for 890,000. Logic and the data lead us to believe the consensus may be close this time around. Initial jobless claims will also be announced early Thursday, and the data has been very positive of late. Wall Street Greek anticipates we'll see decreased hiring trends before layoffs begin. New claims are expected to measure 310,000, according to Bloomberg. That would be up from last week's report of 293,000, but the level still reflects a healthy labor market. Thursday's natural gas report will be important in deciding if nat gas prices can hold up after last week's warm summer weather forecast helped them higher.
Clorox and Home Depot (HD) will host an analyst day and a shareholder meeting, respectively, while the earnings schedule will be headlined by home builder Toll Brothers (TOL). Other notable earnings reports include Aeropostale (ARO), AnnTaylor Stores (ANN), Barnes&Noble (BKS), Charming Shoppes (CHRS), Deb Shops (DEBS), Gap Inc. (GPS), Hormel Foods (HRL), Mentor Graphics (MENT), Mylan Laboratories (MYL), Sanderson Farms (SAFM), The Buckle (BKE) and others.
Existing home sales are due for release Friday
at 10:00. Existing homes dominate the market, so this data is more important than new home sales as a barometer of housing health. Expectations are for a 6.2 million annual pace of sales in April, versus a pace of 6.12 million in March. I expect a weaker figure in light of April weather conditions, but those conditions may also be reflected partially in May sales. The logic here is that some time passes between when a house is seen and inspected and when it is bid upon and sold. If the weather kept them away in April, maybe the sales impact will be partially seen in May. I read a separate report placing expectations at 6.1 million, versus 6.2 seen by Bloomberg's consensus.
Friday's earnings scene includes Agilysys (AGYS), Gulf Oil, Royal Bank of Canada (RY) and a handful of others. We hope you found value in this week's edition and wish you a good week trading.
Despite recent real estate softness, there remain pockets of strength. Some real estate markets continue to thrive near growing beach communities, like for instance Panama City Beach, Florida, which is scheduled to gain a new international airport soon. An affiliate of mine has a condominium project (684 units - zoned for up to 1,342) in Panama City Beach, next to a championship golf course and within a mile of the beach, that he is considering selling. If you have interest in such a property/project, I can put you in touch with him. Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Labels: Week Ahead