August 17: Daily Contrarian Reads

Worst Restaurant Recession since 2009

“July proved to be a tough month for chain restaurants,” the report said. Foot traffic at chain restaurants fell 4.7% in July year-over-year. Same-store sales fell 2.8%, the 17th month in a row of year-over-year declines, the longest downturn since 2009. On a two-year basis, same-store sales fell 4.2% from July 2015, and traffic fell 8.7%. Sales rose in only 12 markets and fell in 183 markets. California was once again the least bad region, with same-store sales down 0.7% and foot traffic down 3.6%. In other words, no region had positive results. The Midwest was the “worst region” with sales down 3.6% and foot traffic down 5.2%.

Colossal Hypocrisy: When It Comes To Election Interference, Washington Has No Peer

Indeed, paranoia seems more intense in Washington than Moscow. Democrats and Republicans alike have convinced themselves that the Russian Federation, a shadow of the old U.S.S.R., threatens the combined colossus of America and Europe….. Both parties also are angry over Moscow’s apparent interference with the 2016 election. By an almost unanimous vote frenzied legislators voted to tighten sanctions and end the president’s discretion to relax the penalties. Yet Russia’s most rabid critics, such as Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, also are among the most enthusiastic supporters of American intervention overseas, including meddling in other nations’ elections……Most striking about the ongoing controversy is how U.S. policymakers appear oblivious to the fact that America has routinely interfered in other nations’ elections. Washington is understandably outraged that someone else would interfere with Americans’ sacred right to choose their own government. However, the same officials believe that they have a sacred right to interfere with the right of others to choose their own governments. Sadly, Russia’s efforts really were not “unprecedented,” as claimed by Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser.

Fed Minutes—More Evidence The FOMC Is Clueless

What is clear even from the bland, sanitized minutes is that the FOMC is voting for “rate hikes” because they are voting for rate hikes and no other reason. They are moving policy and they really don’t know why. They can’t come up with the proper justification for it, yet they move anyway. “Data-dependent” was always a sort of pejorative sneer, and the committee is living right up to its fullest meaning.

The Reality of Charlottesville—It Was Fringe Lunatics On Both Sides

Last night in Washington, D.C., a Black Lives Matter rally populated overwhelmingly by white people took to the field in front of the White House and then marched to the Trump hotel to chant and rally against the existence of any confederate or slaveowner statues in D.C. This is what they want: to eradicate history and appreciations of American history because they judge all of it to be vile, and they believe – as many members of the media do – that deep down, American conservatives are all the same as those 300 or so would-be Nazis in Charlottesville. (Of course, they are pathetic would-be Nazis – they don’t have the discipline or the personal physiques to fit into Hugo Boss). That’s why they have been so eager to make such comparisons – remember when Seth MacFarlane said Nazis would love McCain-Palin? I do.

The Greatest Crisis in World History—Why It’s Coming Soon

“Totally irresponsible policies by governments and central banks have created the most dangerous crisis that the world has ever experienced. Risk doesn’t arise quickly as the result of a single action or event. No, risk of the magnitude that the world is experiencing today is the result of many years or decades of economic mismanagement. Cycles are normal in nature and in the world economy. And cycles that are the result of the laws of nature normally play out in an orderly fashion without extreme tops or bottoms…

The New American Dream—Rent Your Home From A Hedge Fund!

But all that’s changing now. Last week a huge merger was announced between Invitation Homes (owned by private equity giant Blackstone Group) and Starwood Waypoint Homes (owned by real estate giant Starwood Capital). If the deal goes through, the combined entity would be the largest owner of single-family homes in the United States with a portfolio worth over $20 billion. And this is only the latest merger in an ongoing trend.

Which Way for the Trump Administration?

It’s decision time at the White House. We’re six months into the Trump administration, and several foreign policy issues have to be resolved. What happens in the next few weeks will likely determine the course Trump will take for the next four years – which is why we’re seeing more reports about the intense internal wrangling going on behind the scenes.

‘Deep’ Subprime Car Loans Hit Crisis-Era Milestone

Amid all the reflection on the 10-year anniversary of the start of the subprime loan crisis, here’s a throwback that investors could probably do without. There’s a section of the auto-loan market — known in industry parlance as deep subprime — where delinquency rates have ticked up to levels last seen in 2007, according to data compiled by credit reporting bureau Equifax. “Performance of recent deep subprime vintages is awful,” Equifax said in a slide show on second-quarter credit trends.

Dick’s CEO: “The Retail Industry Is In Panic Mode”

With Dick’s stock crashing after reporting dreadful results this morning, in which both comp sales and EPS missed as the company slashed its full year guidance below even the lowest sellside forecast (it now sees full year EPS of $2.80 to $3.00, below the previous guidance of $3.65 to $3.75 and the Wall Street estimate of $3.62 ), the management team had no reason to hold back on today’s earnings call, and luckily – unlike many other retailers who still hold out hope that the worst is behind them – it did not, for an unvarnished look into the retail space.

Peak Globalization—-Why Trump Won

Fareed Zakaria just put out a special show on why Trump won: He got the rural white vote in unprecedented margins – like 80% plus. Even before Election Day, we put out an infographic explaining why Trump could win despite the polls. Still, even I was a little surprised when he won! I bring this up again now, not to bash Trump, but to highlight the demographic and cyclical explanation behind his victory. And to show that the events that brought Trump into power aren’t done stirring things up. There’s a lot more to come. Trump is only the beginning…