Doubling Down on Digital Infrastructure Thematic Leader

Doubling Down on Digital Infrastructure Thematic Leader

This content is for members only
Adding two Middle-class Squeeze call option positions ahead of earnings this week

Adding two Middle-class Squeeze call option positions ahead of earnings this week

This content is for members only
Cocktail Investing Ep. 24: As Amazon becomes the Death Star of retail, the Fed still looks for inflation in a deflationary world

Cocktail Investing Ep. 24: As Amazon becomes the Death Star of retail, the Fed still looks for inflation in a deflationary world

In this week’s program, Tematica’s investing mixologists, Chris Versace and Lenore Hawkins discuss the week’s economic data, relevant political happenings and share where they have spotted a few of the latest Thematic Signals. A few highlights include:

 

  • While most Wall Street economists are still forecasting Q2 GDP to be around 3 percent, the NY Fed’s Nowcast and the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow are below 2 percent, with an even lower forecast for Q3. We point out what they are likely seeing that the usual Wall Street suspects are missing and why this could be problematic for 2Q 2017 earnings season.
  • With the first half of 2017 almost over, only one other year going all the way back to 1928 has had a smaller maximum drawdown in equity indices during the first half. Find out what tends to happen in years where the first half sees such a steady move up.
  • The yield curve is giving us a very different message from the major equity indices. We discuss what and why this is important for investors.
  • We talk about what is happening in oil, on the demand as well as supply side, and what it means for the economy, geopolitics and earnings expectations for not only oil companies, but the entire S&P 500.
  • We wrap up our discussion with a focus on Amazon (AMZN) on its whirlwind of recent announcements from its acquisition of Whole Foods (WFM) to Nike (NKE) now selling some of it products directly to the online giant. We also explain why Amazon is THE poster child for thematic investing.
  • Finally, as if retail isn’t suffering enough from the retailing Death Star of Amazon, we discuss why a new report on retail and the food & beverage industries is a positive for our Safety & Security investing theme.

 

And be sure to tune into next week’s podcast when Lenore and Chris talk with Security-as-a-Service provider Alert Logic about the evolving world of cybersecurity. All that plus what to focus on next week and of course all the usual Cocktail Investing Podcast goodness.

Companies mentioned on the Podcast
  • Amazon (AMZN)
  • Amplify Snack Brands (BETR)
  • Apple (AAPL)
  • Bonobos
  • BP (BP)
  • Chevron (CVX)
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS)
  • Finish Line (FINL)
  • Foot Locker (FL)
  • Kroger (KR)
  • Marathon Oil (MRO)
  • Nike (NKE)
  • Sprouts Farmers Market (SFM)
  • Safeway Inc.
  • United Natural Foods (UNFI)
  • Wal-Mart (WMT)
  • Yum Brands (YUM)

 

Resources for this podcast:
Chris Versace Tematica Research Founder and Chief Investment Officer
Lenore Hawkins Tematica Research Chief Macro Strategist
Is a Safer, More Entertaining and Eventually Autonomous Car Near?

Is a Safer, More Entertaining and Eventually Autonomous Car Near?

It seems every day we hear about the inevitability of the autonomous car, a member of our Disruptive Technology investing theme, with many hoping that it will usher in a new area of safety.  According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, 3,287 people die, on average, every day in road crashes. That translates into 1.3 million deaths annually with an additional 20-50 million injured or disabled. Globally, road crashes are the 9th leading cause of death.

Clearly, there is room for improvement and Apple’s (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook agrees, citing the auto industry as ripe for a major disruption in a recent interview on Bloomberg Television. According to Cook, there are three vectors of change intersecting: autonomous driving, electrification of the auto and ride-sharing. From our thematic investing lens, this is where Disruptive Technologies meet the Connected Society.

Cook revealed that his company is focusing on autonomous systems, referring to it as a very important core technology that is probably one of the most difficult AI (Artificial Intelligence) projects to work on. Apple has hired over 1,000 engineers to work on the technology and just this April secured a permit from the California DMV to test three self-driving sports-utility vehicles. The company is clearly also focused on the ride-sharing vector of change, as last year Apple invested $1 billion — pretty much chump change for the company these days — in Didi Chuxing, the biggest ride-hailing service in China. As for electrification, it remains to be seen if Apple will develop their own electric vehicles or partner and sell their technology.

Apple is not alone, as the electrification leader Tesla (TSLA) continues to break new ground and Alphabet (GOOGL) is working on autonomous technology in partnerships with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU)and Lyft. BMW (BMWYY), in cooperation with Intel (INTC), reports that it intends to have Level 3, 4 and even 5 capabilities for self-driving by 2021. Level 3 is defined as conditional automation that requires a driver to intervene in certain situations, but aren’t obligated to be constantly monitoring progress. Level 4 is full autonomy, while Level 5 requires zero input from a driver to navigate city and highway roads and is expected to be at least on par with the performance level of a human driver.

 

A Conversation with One of the Pioneers of In-Car Information & Entertainment

To better understand the evolution of the smarter vehicle, on a recent episode of Cocktail Investing, Tematica Research’s Chris Versace and Lenore Hawkins spoke with Ted Cardenas, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Car Electronics Division at Pioneer Electronics Corp (PNCOY). Given that about 95 percent of his company’s business is related to auto and the company will reach its 80th anniversary next year, we thought he’d have some valuable insight. This is the company that introduced the consumer laser disc in 1979, the car CD player in 1984 and GPS car navigation in 1990, with around four decades in the car entertainment space.

Ted pointed out to us that compared to home or office-based technologies, the car is a seriously brutal local for innovation where electronics need to be able to withstand extremes in temperatures, moisture and vibrations – not exactly the friendliest environment! We discussed how the increasingly Connected Society allows for not just millions of on-demand songs, but also delivered the “killer app” of real-time traffic information thanks to all those GPS enabled smart phones tagging along with their drivers.

The Connected Society has materially changed product development for the car as well as it also means connected companies. The need for higher and higher speed data networks and the innovations that allow for and take advantage of them means that companies no longer have to, or should for that matter, go it alone. Each company is only part of the solution as we see more specialization taking place with the consumer benefiting from a simple, usually intuitive solution in which all the complexity has been blissfully hidden.

In this new development paradigm, relationships are increasingly important as companies specialize within the solution set and we’ve seen some of the complexity offloaded to smartphones, allowing for greater flexibility as consumer can choose which device best fits their needs. For Pioneer, this means offering in-dash multimedia receivers that are compatible with popular smartphone interfaces and apps such as Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto ™, and Waze®, as well as features such as Bluetooth® music streaming, hands-free calling, Spotify® and Pandora®.

Pioneer isn’t just innovating within entertainment and communications as the company is also developing advanced driver assist for both OEM and aftermarket, allowing owners of older cars to benefit from the latest in safety improvements. When asked about his expectations around the timeline for the truly driverless car, Ted framed his analysis in the context of the evolution of in-car GPS systems – an evolution by degrees rather than a binary event.

The first GPS systems were developed by Pioneer and were used to figure out where you were on a map, but could not provide point-to-point directions. Those first systems also didn’t provide 100% coverage, so drivers could find themselves driving into a GPS void when traveling in areas not covered by the devices internal maps. Over time the map coverage became increasingly more complete and turn-by-turn directions evolved from available only in highly-trafficked areas into the most remote. He suspects we will see something similar with driver-assist that will offer more thorough assistance in more populated areas with less as one gets into more rural areas. Over time the level of assistance and coverage areas will expand.

Finally, we discussed how the increasingly smart car will also do more of the heavy lifting when it comes to maintenance, providing a more seamless driver experience that not only provides autonomous transportation, but monitors and schedules its own maintenance needs. We likely not alone in looking forward to the day when we no longer find ourselves noticing that little oil change reminder sticker a few months and few thousand miles late. The car of the future will be safer, smarter and a lot more entertaining.

 

Companies mentioned on the Podcast

  • Alphabet (AAPL)
  • Apple (AAPL)
  • BMW (BMWYY)
  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU)
  • Intel (INTC)
  • Pandora (P)
  • Pioneer Electronics (PNCOY)
  • Tesla Motors (TSLA)
Cocktail Investing Ep. 23: The Evolution of the Safer, More Entertaining and Eventually Autonomous Car

Cocktail Investing Ep. 23: The Evolution of the Safer, More Entertaining and Eventually Autonomous Car

It seems every day we hear about the inevitability of the autonomous car, a component of our Disruptive Technology investing theme, with many hoping that it will usher in a new area of safety.  To better understand the evolution of the smarter vehicle, Tematica Research’s mixologists Chris Versace and Lenore Hawkins spoke with Ted Cardenas, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Car Electronics Division at Pioneer Electronics Corp (PNCOY).

Pioneer isn’t just innovating within entertainment and communications as the company is also developing advanced driver assist for both OEM and aftermarket, allowing owners of older cars to benefit from the latest in safety improvements. When asked about his expectations around the timeline for the truly driverless car, Ted framed his analysis in the context of the evolution of in-car GPS systems – an evolution by degrees rather than a binary event.

 

Companies mentioned on the Podcast
  • Alphabet (AAPL)
  • Apple (AAPL)
  • BMW (BMWYY)
  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU)
  • Intel (INTC)
  • Pandora (P)
  • Pioneer Electronics (PNCOY)
  • Tesla Motors (TSLA)

 

Resources for this podcast:
  • Chris Versace – @_ChrisVersace
  • Lenore Hawkins – @EllesEconomy
  • Tematica Research – https://www.tematicaresearch.com
  • Pioneer Electronics – http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/PUSA/

 

Chris Versace Tematica Research Founder and Chief Investment Officer
Lenore Hawkins Tematica Research Chief Macro Strategist
Tematica’s Take on Trump’s Tax Proposal

Tematica’s Take on Trump’s Tax Proposal

This week a one page outline was released for President Trump’s tax plan, which includes slashing the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent, reducing and simplifying individual tax rates and a “one-time” lower repatriation tax, (at a rate TBD) for the more than a trillion dollars in corporate cash being held outside the US. While policy proposals such as these tend to be fraught with negotiations and pushback that could ultimately alter the final outcome, it’s already being reported that House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday said Trump’s plan is 80 percent aligned with House Republican proposals. That likely raises the probability of Trump’s plan getting more support than the first attempt at repealing and replacing the Affordable Car Act, but even so, it still doesn’t guarantee passage.

From our perspective, there are several questions left to be answered (the proposal was less than 200 words after all), including the eventual Congressional Budget Office scoring on the deficit potential, but directionally speaking investors should ask, “Who benefits?” There are thousands of companies across the S&P 500 and S&P 1500 as well as the Wilshire 5000, but individual investors are likely to look for a handful of stocks that could see a relatively outsized reduction in their tax burden should the corporate tax rate be reduced.

Said another way, which companies are likely to see a dramatic drop in their corporate tax rate even after some Washington haggling occurs?

Here are a few:

  • Aging of the Population candidate CVS Health (CVS), which derives nearly 100 percent of its sales inside the United State and had reported tax rates of 38-39 percent in 2015 and 2016;
  • Wealth management and online brokerage company Charles Schwab (SCHW), another Aging of the Population candidate, is also predominantly U.S. focused when it comes to its revenue stream and its 2015-2016 tax rate was 36.5-37.0 percent;
  • A third example is Southwest Airlines (LUV), which resonates with our Cash-strapped Consumer investing theme, which recorded corporate tax rates of 35.5-37.1 percent over the last few years.
  • While its reported corporate tax rate was lower than the above three companies, Connected Society company Verizon (VZ) would also see its bottom line vastly improved should the corporate tax rate fall meaningfully from the 31-34 percent rate it paid in 2015 and 2016.

In any of the above cases, a meaningful tax cut would allow a far greater percentage of the company’s operating profit to fall through to its net income line, which in turn would lead to a meaningful improvement in reported earnings per share. The lingering question is whether investors would see through that below the operating line improvement in earnings per share or fall into the trap of “faster earnings growth year over year means greater P/E multiple expansion?”

In our view, it rather resembles a cousin to investors paying stretched valuations for earnings growth that has been fueled by stock repurchase initiatives, especially if reported net income actually fell year over year.

Odds are there will be much back and forth in Washington over the coming weeks and months as even the White House has backed off Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s goal of passing tax reform by August, setting a new year-end target date in the process.

Getting back to House Speaker Ryan’s 80 percent comment, it means there is some 20 percent that would need to be reworked. One area that has been mentioned is the border adjustment feature, which has been viewed as one way to fund President Trump’s infrastructure program. That spending initiative, which is sorely needed per the latest report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers, would be a boon to companies ranging from Caterpillar (CAT) to Granite Construction (GVA) and other infrastructure related ones.

In its current form, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the border adjustment tax doesn’t work, but as Washington gets ready to haggle over Trump’s tax plan it could mean the border adjustment tax gets rethought as well. If so, we could see investor concern over rising costs for apparel companies that source heavily outside the US as well as those outside the US that derive a meaningful portion of revenue and profits from sales inside the U.S. Examples of the former would include Gap (GPS) and Michael Kors (KORS), while the latter would be companies lie Diageo (DEO) and Unilver plc (UL).

As the back and forth gets underway in Washington,  investors should continue to search for companies that could benefit from lower corporate taxes and do their due diligence on the underlying business. Given our thematic investing strategy, we’d argue that as investors do that they should factor in the various tailwinds associated with our more than 15 investing themes into their thinking.

Looking at the bigger picture, the release of this one-page, sub-200 word outline understandably gave the market pause if only due to the brevity of the proposal, as we close in on the administration’s 100th day. The market rose dramatically post-election because investors believed that the new administration would usher in a more business-friendly regime that would stimulate the economy. The market’s weakness Wednesday was likely along the line of, “That’s it? Nearly 100 days in and that’s all you have for us?” This is one more area in which the market got ahead of itself based on hopes with reality being a bit less encouraging. In time, the administration may very well put together a comprehsive plan that is compelling to Congress, but with less than 200 words and only 7 numbers nearly 100 days in, the market is left scratching its head.

Two More Thematic Tailwinds Are About to Change Healthcare

Two More Thematic Tailwinds Are About to Change Healthcare

Healthcare expenditures are being driven by a combination of our Aging of the Population and Rise & Fall of the Middle Class investing themes, but there are two other Tematica themes that are poised to change the how, where, when and why people consume healthcare — Connected Society and Disruptive Technology. There is little argument that today’s healthcare is filled with wasteful spending and paperwork but given connective platforms such as smartphones and wearables,  and disruptive technologies like apps, GPS, and sensors, healthcare is about to be turned on its head.

Last year Americans spent an amount equivalent to about 18% of GDP on health care. That is an extreme, but other countries face rising cost pressures from health spending as populations age.

In rich countries about one-fifth of spending on health care goes to waste, for example on wrong or unnecessary treatments. Eliminating a fraction of this sum is a huge opportunity.

Consumers seem readier to accept digital products than just a few years ago. The field includes mobile apps, telemedicine—health care provided using electronic communications—and predictive analytics (using statistical methods to sift data on outcomes for patients). Other areas are automated diagnoses and wearable sensors to measure things like blood pressure.If there is to be a health-care revolution, it will create winners and losers.

Andy Richards, an investor in digital health, argues that three groups are fighting a war for control of the “health-care value chain”.One group comprises “traditional innovators”—pharmaceutical firms, hospitals and medical-technology companies such as GE Healthcare, Siemens, Medtronic and Philips.

A second category is made up of “incumbent players”, which include health insurers, pharmacy-benefit managers (which buy drugs in bulk), and as single-payer health-care systems such as Britain’s NHS.

The third group are the technology “insurgents”, including Google, Apple, Amazon and a host of hungry entrepreneurs that are creating apps, predictive-diagnostics systems and new devices. These firms may well profit most handsomely from the shift to digital.The threat to the traditional innovators is that as medical records are digitised and new kinds of patient data arrive from genomic sequencing, sensors and even from social media, insurers and governments can get much better insight into which treatments work. These buyers are increasingly demanding “value-based” reimbursement—meaning that if a drug or device doesn’t function well, it will not be bought.

Overall, telemedicine is expected to grow rapidly. In America, GPs will conduct 5.4m video consultations a year by 2020, says IHS Markit, a research firm. Britain’s NHS is testing a medical AI from a London-based startup called Babylon which can field patients’ questions about their health. A paid service called Push Doctor offers an online appointment almost immediately for £20 ($24).

Source: The wonder drug: A digital revolution in health care is speeding up | The Economist

Latest UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study confirms the accelerated shift that has Gap and other retailers questioning their business models 

Latest UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study confirms the accelerated shift that has Gap and other retailers questioning their business models 

Given the data junkies that we are, we are always looking for confirming data points and this one while a bit self serving certainly confirms the accelerated shift toward digital commerce. We define digital commerce to include both online and mobile shopping. Given the growing install base of connected devices, collapsing time to customer from Amazon and others, and consumer psychographics, we see this acceleration only picking up speed. Pretty much, tracking as expected for our Connected Society investing theme. As this happens, we’ll also see benefits ripple through to our Cashless Consumption investing theme.

According to the fifth annual UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, 51% of all purchases made by respondents were made online. This is up from 48% in 2015 and the first time in the study’s five-year history that figure went above 50%. The study is based on a comScore survey of more than 5,000 U.S. online shoppers.Considering this result, it is not too surprising that 17% of consumers plan to shop less in store, shifting time to their electronic devices. The use of smartphones is up 10 percentage points to 77% during the past two years, and respondents report a better mobile experience with satisfaction up eight percentage points to 73% since 2015.

Source: UPS: Online shoppers shift purchase habits | Chain Store Age