This Week in Summary 11/18/2022

Nov 18, 2022 | Bubble Monitor, No Bull Economics

Bubble Monitor Chart
Bubble Monitor Chart

We are devoting a lot of real estate in this newsletter to Target’s recent 3Q22 commentary as we believe this provides very important insight for our readers. This report of a dramatic downturn in consumer spending managed to reverse last week’s mid-term relief rally.

Sales Performance

  • 3Q22 comps increased +2.7% y/y on top of +12.7% a year ago & +20.7% during 3Q20.
  • Traffic increased +1.4% y/y (a good thing) on top of +12.9% during 3Q21.
  • However, during the first 2 months of 3Q22, comps were up +3% before deaccelerating to under +1% in October. Further, October’s sales softened dramatically during the 2nd half of the month with a much higher promotional mix during that time.
  • Target’s preliminary November results are in-line with October trends, and according to 3rd party research, the general merchandise categories for the entire industry contracted by -14% during the first week of November (reflecting that double-digit increases in food & beverages are driving a very significant change in shopping behavior with consumers now shopping very carefully on a budget).

Consumer Commentary

  • Target reports that consumers are feeling increasing levels of stress, driven by persistently high inflation, rapidly rising interest rates & an elevated sense of uncertainty about their economic prospects. While many consumers have relied on borrowing or savings to manage their weekly budgets this year, these options are starting to run out.
  • Consumers are finding it increasingly difficult each week as more of their household budget goes towards the needs of the family (primarily food), which limits the amount available for discretionary purchases.
  • Resultantly, Target’s guests are exhibiting increasing price sensitivity, becoming more focused on & responsive to promotions and more hesitant to purchase at full price.
  • Some guests are trading into smaller pack sizes, opening price point options or owned brands to reduce their spending on a single trip. Others are opting for larger pack sizes or stocking up when items are on promotion, knowing they will receive greater per unit value.
  • The NY Fed recently reported that household debt climbed to $16.51 trillion at the end of 3Q22, up +2.2% over 2Q22 as mortgage balances rose by +$282 billion q/q to $11.67 trillion and credit card debt grew +15% y/y (the largest increase in 20+ years).
  • Walmart recently reported that it is picking-up trade-down sales from the $100k+ demo.

Increased Thefts

  • Target reported a $400MM loss from theft for the YTD period through 9/30/22 as organized retail crime has spread from some localized geographies to expanding circles. The stolen goods are often sold online.

Supply Chain Costs

  • Container rates in global shipping have come down by about 1/3 in recent months & management expects to see further reductions in those rates going forward as they remain about 3x higher than Target was paying in 2019.
  • Domestic transportation rates have declined since the beginning of the year but remain higher than a year ago & double 2019 rates.
  • Fuel costs, which are a major driver of its domestic transportation expense, are still running 2x+ 2019 levels despite having moderated in recent months.

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Darden 1Q24: Sales +11.6% Y/Y, Comps +5.5% Y/Y

Darden reported that industry same-restaurant sales increased +0.9% and industry same-restaurant guest counts decreased -4.2% during its fiscal 1Q24. The chain’s comps outperformed the industry by +4.1% and its traffic outperformed by +4.3% (= flattish traffic for Darden during the quarter).

Job Market Looks Solid

In this chart, we subtract total quits from total hires. The excess of hires over quits looks very good relative to the historical level even though the positive gap recently dipped slightly. Workers are staying at their jobs longer even as they continue to have new employment opportunities.

The Economics of Politics

As the U.S. gears up for the 2024 elections, it is important to consider changes to our elections and governance that can unite the citizens of this great country.

2Q23 Retail Same Store Sales

NoBull’s Retail Same Store Sales Report benchmarks 80+ large consumer retail companies by domestic same store sales including annual (2019 – 2022) and quarterly results (2Q22 to 2Q23).

Walmart Investor Presentation: Inflation Here to Stay

While general merchandise prices are lower y/y, they remain elevated compared to 2 years ago. As Walmart does not believe general merchandise and food (dry grocery) & consumable prices are ever going to completely disinflate, management suggests the need for a country-wide wage increase rebalancing.

Interesting Conversation with Fed Chair Powell

Okay, Powell didn’t actually take our call, but we offer a transcript of a potential discussion between the Fed Chair and John Q. Public. It’s very insightful, so please read on.

The Problem with Investment Diversification

Every investment advisor and business student knows that portfolio diversification is key to wealth building. Show me an investor who can beat the S&P 500 Index by buying a few handpicked stocks and I will show you a hedge fund manager in the making. However, there is a huge problem with this strategy that no one is talking about.

Part 3: Analyzing Performance of Low-Income Oriented Retail Companies

We created an index for the financial performance of 5 low-income oriented retail companies to assess the health of this demo. While we recognize that these companies have benefited from the trade-down of higher-income consumers, things look reasonable at least through calendar 2Q23. 

Part 2: Incremental Interest Payments Squeeze Disposable Income

In this post, we quantify the pressure on disposable income driven by credit card & auto loan payment increases since the onset of the Fed rate hikes in early 2022 in addition to the impact of the coming resumption of student loan payments in October 2023.

Part 1: Keeping an Eye on the Consumer’s Top-Line

The consumer’s top-line benefits from a high employment rate, generous raises, and a healthy savings rate which indicates an income surplus.

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