Greater Depression

America’s cultural revolution and the long march back to equality

Within 48 hours of the confirmation of the electoral votes, unelected tech giants displayed once again how they can dictate terms to the democratically elected leader of the free world and his followers.

The First Amendment might as well have been written in invisible ink.

Now other platforms are following suit, laying the groundwork to ensure directly/indirectly there will be little effort to help unite the country by restricting/cancelling access to conservative sites.

Who is inciting who exactly?

Three quotes to reflect on before we begin:

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it

The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again,”

and

History is written by victors.

The left is in raptures over Trump’s expulsion from Twitter. Of course they have no issues with cancelling those who don’t share their ideological views. Yet if you question their rights to free speech, hell hath no fury. After all everything that parses their fingertips is good, clean and wholesome. If you say otherwise you’ll be cancelled. Got it?

Yes, the argument will be made that privately run social media companies have the right to police those who may damage site integrity and promote the collective safety of subscribers. Have they been asleep at the wheel for the last 4 years? Even terrorists have been allowed to tweet without sanction.

The problem is that the unelected and unqualified overseers making those determinations to suspend others have shown time and time again they back the side not the principle. OJ Simpson on justice anyone?

A great example is Twitter’s Head of Site Integrity, Yoel Roth (@yoyoel), an avid anti-Trumper. Several days after the 2016 election he proudly tweeted, “I’m just saying, we fly over those states that voted for a racist tangerine for a reason.” We should sleep soundly at night that he also referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as “a personality-free bag of farts.” Surely there is no risk of conservative bias with the integrity team at Twitter…sleep soundly!

Black conservative Candace Owens proved just how biased Twitter is when she was suspended for replacing the word ‘white’ with ‘black’ and ‘Jewish.’ She proved the point with respect to the incendiary tweets made by the NYT’s then latest recruit, Sarah Jeong. Never let racism get in the way of the decision making process!

Facebook recently threatened to de-platform conservative comedian JP Sears for satire.

Now, Google has decided to remove conservative forum, Parler, from its Android store presumably just because Trump has endorsed it. So will every single thing that he has supported be shutdown or targeted? Watch out Goya!

Will Apple join the cultural revolution? Are all Parler users foaming at the mouth Trump cultists? Or do some simply like to entertain a wider spectrum of opinions?

Is this merely targeted anti-competitive behaviour? A secondary boycott? Has Parler actually committed any crime? Has Google been unethically marshaling the content and traffic of another private company to form the determination that it needs to be publicly sacrificed? Would it help to appoint a Google overseer to sit on the board of Parler, like Chinese corporates are now forced to accommodate? Will Rumble be the next conservative site to be axed from Android?

Can’t the free market determine whether Parler has a right to exist rather than a select few politburo officials from Google?

We can be sure that if Parler wasn’t experiencing the explosive growth it has had to date, Google would not have seen a need to expunge the threat. Alas too many wanted to seek an alternative platform to exchange ideas. It’s day one, year zero. Black is white. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Got it?

One has to question the legal basis for allowing a hateful and venomous platform like Twitter to function on Google Android but an upstart alternative – which couldn’t hold a flame to the incumbent – needs to be taken out?

Is this the type of healing we’ve been promised by the incoming administration? Restore unity by sitting idly by and allowing the media to silence those that disagree with them?

What better way for Biden to stamp his leadership credentials on uniting a fractured nation than stating how important the 1st Amendment is for all Americans.

But why bother? The tech giants are firmly on his side. After the last 4 years, it is high time to make sure that a monster of their own creation never upsets the political apple cart ever again. We await the glowing support of the climate change agenda, Paris, WHO, discrimination-driven racial equity and the benefits of allowing a path to citizenship or 11 million illegal immigrants.

It does not matter that Trump recently tweeted a video to his followers to go home peacefully and respect law and order. That was deemed incendiary and subsequently blocked. Don’t believe your lying eyes because we will be told what we can and can’t consume. Obviously we aren’t capable of thinking for ourselves.

Clearly to Jack Dorsey’s mob, it was imperative to prevent any sensible commentary by Trump from seeing the light of day. We wouldn’t want anything to challenge the narrative. The tech giant had to ensure that he was portrayed in the worst possible light before cancellation. No right of reply. Voltaire would be rolling in his grave.

We don’t deny Trump has said many silly things over his term but compared to some of the bile that has never faced sanction, it is laughable.

We fear that such moves will only fan the flames of division.

It seems these platforms want to proactively create an atmosphere that allows for the incoming administration to clamp down even harder on supposed enemies of the state. What better way than to douse their opponents in high octane fuel while carelessly playing with matches?

We are always amazed that more haven’t seen the TED talk by a black musician, Daryl Davis, who befriended the KKK by simply ‘listening‘ to them. That was all it took to get so many to hand in their robes.

Note the word “listen.”

Sadly, social media platforms have long drowned out reasoned debate well before the commissars found the need to jail dissidents with sanctimonious edicts.

This is a dangerous precedent being set. By muzzling a country that is built on a constitution that enshrines free speech, it is playing with fire. We ain’t seen nothing yet. America will be decisively cut in two.

In closing we’ve long argued that Trump pulled the scab off the festering wound of deep seated division. He was the catalyst. Not the cause. With the incoming administration, failure to address the growing power of big tech will lead to more people taking the law into their own hands.

We don’t condone unlawful behaviour but will be the least bit surprised if those who feel the most marginalized think they’ve nothing to lose.

If we thought 2020 was a horrible year, 2021 could well destroy that myth but thanks to social media you’ll only be able to view the world through the rose tinted glasses of willfully dishonest propagandists.

The social media giants will do well to remember that “before setting out on revenge, first dig two graves.”

Media worth consuming – a recap of December 2020

My good mate Jonathan Rochford of Narrow Road Capital has compiled a brilliant summary of the recent madness in markets, politics and economics. One could be forgiven for thinking it is a lot like satire. Link here.

Too much cash can create a crisis

A very important piece from our learned friend at Narrow Road Capital, Jonathan Rochford.

“The current conditions in credit markets are bizarre. We’re still in the midst of a global pandemic and economic downturn but credit markets are partying like there’s no tomorrow. Almost every day credit spreads go lower as anecdotes emerge of banks refusing to take term deposits from new clients. The banking system is flooded with liquidity and there’s simply not enough demand to borrow to match the freshly printed central bank cash.

The last time I remember such excessive liquidity was in early 2007. Back then I was managing a cash fund and I remember being rebuffed by several major banks when we called and asked for their rate for our short term cash. When we couldn’t find a home with them we turned to the commercial paper market and found some boring vehicles that would take our cash for a handful of basis points over the bank bill rate. We didn’t get involved with the racier structured investment vehicles (SIVs) that offered a little more yield, with several of those blowing up as the financial crisis kicked off in 2007.

In a credit spread sense it’s not as bad today as it was then with 5 year major bank senior bonds paying around 35 basis points over BBSW today compared to 10-12 basis points then. However, on an all-in (credit spread plus risk free yield) basis it is far worse today as the cash rate in 2007 was over 6%, which was miles above the inflation rate. Today, there’s very little global debt with an investment grade credit rating that offers a positive real (after inflation) return. Whilst it is easy to look back and be critical of those chasing additional yield then, it is harder to criticise the same behaviour today when central banks are deliberately punishing conservative investors with negative real returns.

The inevitable outcome of this excessive liquidity is stupid lending is happening on an ever increasing basis. Despite a large swathe of companies on the brink of default, the US high yield market has never had worse covenants and never had lower all-in yields. Several African countries have defaulted or are on the brink of default but others are easily selling new bonds. Italy and Greece have virtually no prospect of ever paying off their debts but their 10 year bond yields are barely 1% more than Germany. Today’s growing pile of dead wood debt risks becoming tomorrow’s bonfire.

All of this is happening because central banks and politicians are too afraid to tell the truth. An economy built on ever increasing levels of debt isn’t sustainable. Trying to prevent investors from taking losses only causes them to take greater risks which leads to larger losses in the long run. We’ve made a long series of bad decisions to get here and there isn’t a painless way out. The glut of cash isn’t a sign of good health, rather it indicates financial markets are delirious with stimulus and won’t stop partying until there’s a crash so big that central banks can’t affect a bail out.

Cuomo Chips Cancelled by NYS Gov Cuomo

Listen up New Yorkers! Governor Cuomo has said that bars must serve more substantial meals than just a bowl of chips to qualify being within NY State health guidelines.

This all started when bars, desperate for business after months of lockdown, to get patrons in by offering cheap nibbles to poke fun at more party pooper legislation.

At the time, what constituted a meal was vague so a bar in Rochester, NY invented ‘Cuomo Chips‘ for $1 to provide an innovative way to not burden cash-strapped customers ordering a full priced meal.

Ah, but Cuomo had to stay in their pocket. Forget if patrons just wanted a refreshing beer after a hard day’s work. They must eat something that he tells them is appropriate. Cuomo Chips don’t qualify with State Liquor Authority rules!

Seriously, are there any adults left in the room? Can bars and restaurants be allowed to operate menus as they see fit without another list of onerous regulations to comply with?

What a joke. Oh, LA is following similar guidelines. You’ll never guess which party is pushing these rules? Would you believe Democrats? Who knew?

Open Letter from doctors on BLM during COVID19

RacDoc

An ‘Open letter advocating for an anti-racist public health response to demonstrations against systemic injustice occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic  has been published with 1,288 cosignatories.

It is nothing more than the standard sanctimonious drivel sacrificed on the altar of political correctness served up by liberals desperate to appear chic in a cancel culture using their supposed intellectual superiority over everyone else.

The open letter lends its support to BLM during the novel coronavirus pandemic, stating that “white supremacy is a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to COVID-19.

Naturally, we wanted to test the depth of the bench of the consignatories telling us that we “Listen, and prioritize the needs of Black people as expressed by Black voices.

Should we view an art therapist who signed as a leading light? The group of Seattle 500 Women Scientists? The transgender entry? The lawyers? The veterinary surgeons? The housing company? The Twitter follower? How about Antonia Beachem, Human? The former probation officer? The postdoctoral researcher at the Barcelona Lab for Environmental Justice and Sustainability? Meditating for Black Lives? The Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility & Radical Public Health? The priest? The pastor?

Apart from the predictable content of the virtue signaling hyperbole, what a shame only 19% of the cosignatories are actual doctors. 37% that co-signed are academics (excluding MDs that lecture), 10% are students and 28% are individuals who don’t list their profession. The rest are a hodgepodge of activist groups.

What these puritans overlook is that most can see this letter is just an expression of their chic political views, wrapped in medical opinion. When so many sign the document from other fields, it dilutes what little credibility there was to begin with.

We’ve seen this sort of thing before.

Remember 11,000 cosignatories to a non-peer reviewed paper on climate change that included Mickey Mouse and Albus Dumbledore?

Or the Feb 2020 Safe Climate Declaration which hosted 100 speakers of which less than 5% were climate scientists. Most were from academia, media and high schools.

Or the 268 cosignatories of an open letter in support of Extinction Rebellion (XR). Perhaps the most hilarious signatory to the letter was Matthew Flinders. Our esteemed explorer seemed to have navigated his way back to life after 200 years.

Or the the sanctimonious video made by the World Mental Health Coalition (WMHC) where all members co-signed the case for Trump’s lack of mental capacity. Sounds impressive using “world”, doesn’t it? Given the World Psychiatric Association represents 200,000 members worldwide, WHMC’s 37 members seems rather pathetic by comparison. Be sure to read how they were prepared to ditch their Hippocratic oath to smear Trump.

Back to this open letter. Let’s not forget the poor ethics displayed by many in the medical community – such as publishing a rushed paper and retracting it in The Lancet on hydroxychloroquine. Or the farcical behaviour of WHO and its kowtowing to China.

Perhaps we might reflect on the alarmist medical experts who lusted power with ridiculously exaggerated forecasts which have likely tanked the global economy and created a far worse outcome for all, especially the minorities they claim to defend.

We can’t wait for them to sound alarms when people attend Trump rallies and accuse them of being grossly negligent.

So in conclusion, certain members of the medical community should stay in their lane. They are entitled to free speech but using fancy letters after their name to lecture the rest of us to check our white privilege discredits them.

A closing thought. Have these MDs considered offering their medical services to the black community gratis to help them overcome centuries of institutionalized racism? Of course not.

Am I a Despot or Not??

We have compiled a spreadsheet titled US State Governor Coronavirus Responsesto see who would appear to have the most despotic tendencies. We have broken down the categories by party affiliation, COVID19 infections, deaths and some choice quotes to express how some treat their minions. However there is one true standout governor that must be channeling former Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha for despotic tendencies.

Before we get accused of being partisan hacks, we note that in some states, governors have seemingly crossed their political ideologies in the opposite direction.

On balance, Republicans governors have been far more eager to open up their economies and remove restrictions. Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota all resisted issuing stay-at-home orders, while Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma and South Carolina have only issued such orders in specific parts of their states. All nine are Republican states. Most of these states encouraged “personal responsibility.

Infection rates in the aforementioned 9 rogue states stand at only 0.2886% and death rates are at 0.0096%. The relatively spread out nature of these states no doubt helped. Instead of the predictions that death rates would spiral out of control, 99.99% of the population in these states continue to function.

On the other hand, Democrat governors have had far harsher restrictions with respect to stay at home laws. Some may argue that the population densities of New York skew the figures.

Analysing the data, 178.7 million Americans live in the 24 (+1) Democrat-run states (districts). 149.5 million in 26 Republican-controlled states. COVID-19 infections in Democrat states is at 1.07 million with deaths at 70,652. Republican-controlled states have 456,000 infections and only 21,700 deaths. That means that Democrat states have a 0.5995% infection rate and 0.0395% death rate vs Republicans at 0.3049% and 0.0145% respectively, or effectively half. Stripping out NY for the Democrats would kick those figures to 0.4452% and 0.0262%. This would mean that infection rates were still 46% and death rates 80% higher relatively speaking.

The mainstream media wasted no time pointing out the negligence of GOP states and the shocking reckoning that would follow.

Partisan paper, The Kansas City Star, lambasted Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons (R) on April 1. They contrasted his failures to the successes of NY Gov Cuomo (D), Kansas Gov Kelly (D) & Illinois Gov Pritzker (D) by saying, “Only three other governors in the country have been as laissez-faire as Parson has in dealing with a crisis the likes of which no one alive today has ever seen — and one that will define the legacy of most every elected official now serving.” 6 weeks after this prophecy, 99.99% of Missourians haven’t succumbed to COVID-19 vs 99.994% in Kansas, 99.96% in Illinois and NY at 99.85%. Hardly a train wreck for Parsons!

Perhaps what is scarier is the “staged approach” methodology to removing restrictions which do not seem to be based on robust scientific evidence but copying thy neighbour’s homework. Take a look at some of the gradual loosening of Australia’s restrictions and it smacks of the same “one size fits all” approach in many states in the US. e.g. 10 people only in restaurants. Social distancing etc. Hardly inspiring to have such a lack of independent thinking. Especially when the coronavirus statistics to date are anything remotely as reported in the hysteric media.

Enough from us. Let’s get down to the approaches of these American states.

The most in your face comment during the coronavirus came from Indiana Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth.

It is policymakers’ decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say it is the lesser of these two evils…It is not zero evil, but it is the lesser of these two evils, and we intend to move forward that direction…We are going to have to look Americans in the eye and say, ‘We are making the best decisions for the most Americans possible,’ and the answer to that is to get Americans back to work, to get Americans back to their businesses

We wonder why data means nothing to Hawaiian Gov David Ige (D)?

Hawaii has a 0.0012% COVID death rate, one of the lowest in the country but Democrat Gov. David Ige pushed the stay at home order to the end of June. Furthermore, in the first month, the Honolulu Police Department handed out 4,600 warnings and 353 citations for breaches of the executive order.

What on earth was Tampa Bay, Florida Mayor Castor (D) thinking?

Tampa Bay, Florida Mayor Jane Castor (Democrat) released 160 prisoners from Hillsborough County Jail over concerns of COVID-19. One prisoner ended up killing a civilian the day after being released.

New Jersey Gov. Murphy (D) & Kentucky Gov. Beshear (D) showed little or no care about the constitution. 

In an interview with Fox NewsTucker Carlson, Democrat Gov. Philip Murphy (D) uttered the words “the Bill of Rights is above my pay grade.” He then went on to confess that he had not considered the effect of his restrictive executive orders on the Bill of Rights.U.S.

District Judge William Bertelsman ruled in May that Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) restrictions on out-of-state travel were unconstitutional.

We were surprised to see Colorado Gov. Polis (D) adopt seemingly Republican style freedoms to his constituents.

Democrat Gov. Jared Polis spoke of Coloradans taking “personal responsibility“. Instead of imposing draconian police state penalties like most of his Democrat colleagues he left it to local authorities to sort out.

Mayor Hicks (D) of Grants, New Mexico decided to take a potshot at his Democratic Governor accusing her of adopting Nazi Germany style tactics. 

Hicks criticised Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Public Health Orders saying, “What the governor is doing is wrong” He allowed small business and golf courses to open before state police intervened and shut him down. He likened the New Mexico State Police behaving like the Gestapo.

It wasn’t just Democrats either. Republican primary candidate Daniel McCarthy took a swipe at Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) saying, “No empathy! Dictator Ducey tacked on another 15 days of shutdowns, leaving Arizonans wondering why our own governor is so comfortable letting lives and businesses be crushed under the weight of our new regime.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) took the technology initiative much like Australia’s COVIDSafe app.

An app, called “Crush COVID RI” will be used by state health experts to conduct contact tracing and better understand the spread of the virus across the state.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is the standout in terms of constituents openly pouring out love to her. 

Gov. Noem was presented with a surprise parade by her constituents thanking her for her considered actions in response to putting the responsibility back on them.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) slammed the judiciary for its pettiness. 

After a Texas hairdresser was jailed for not apologizing to the judge because she reopened her salon during lockdown, Gov Abbott said, “Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen.” She was released.

Gov Cooper (D) of North Carolina copped a slap on the wrist from the judiciary

A federal judge blocked enforcement of a portion of Cooper’s order preventing churches from holding indoor services attended by more than 10 people.

Virginia’s Liberty University used the Bible to criticise Gov Ralph Northam’s (D) criticisms.

We invite Governor Northam (D) to come and see our compliance for himself, rather than making false accusations in press conferences from Richmond. As the Ninth Commandment says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.””

Democrat-controlled Wisconsin Chief Justice Patience Roggensack probably could have chosen her words more carefully. 

Roggensack was blasted for her remarks saying the uptick in coronavirus cases in Brown County was due to meatpacking employees testing positive and not “regular folks.” Take that you lowly educated Trump-voting deplorables.

There were many governors channelling Enver Hoxha for despotic tendencies. The reality is that more mayors were enjoying their newfound powers. 

We had LA Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) proudly champion he would have the water and electricity cut off for any businesses that didn’t comply with the lockdown. He also proudly banned sunbathing on dry sand, citing Australia as his benchmark.

We had Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) justify having a haircut (considered non-essential to everyone else) because of her regular TV appearances despite berating Chicagoans like children with the threat of the heavy hand of the CPD to anyone who violated stay-at-home orders.

NY Mayor Bill De Blasio had his failed, “dob in your neighbour hotline“, his use of the gym (considered non-essential to everyone else) and the threat to fence off the beach at Coney Island were the peons to misbehave.

Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) threatened to get compliance from her minions by “exercising the full force of our MPD, FEMS, DC Health and ABRA and the emergency authority to achieve it.

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the stay at home directive called PAUSE—which stands for “Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone” til June 13th. As most know, NY has had the highest incidences of infections and deaths throughout the country. The high density of NYC compounded the problem.

He ordered that infected patients be sent back to the nursing homes they came from which caused a huge spike in deaths. There are now reports that the data was fiddled to cover up the scandal. He has since stopped sending people back to nursing homes. He said, “Older people, vulnerable people, are going to die from this virus…That is going to happen. Despite whatever you do.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) pandered to racism and many other issues from the identity politics playbook to disguise the fact she is being sued by other state legislators for extending the executive orders without their approval. Protestors that descended on Lansing complained they were sick of being treated like small children. 99.5% of Michigan residents haven’t been infected with coronavirus. 99.95% haven’t died.

Alas, Gov. Katie Brown (D) of Oregon has shown herself to be the most despotic leader. Despite 99.92% of Oregonians not being infected and 99.997% not having succumbed to the virus she had no compunction ramming her rule of law. Oregon has less than 4% of the infection rate and 2% of the death rate of NY State yet Brown has kept an “indefinite” stay at home order in place.

An Oregon judge declared that the coronavirus restrictions enacted by Gov. Brown were “null and void” because her emergency orders were not approved by the state legislature after 28 days. The judge agreed with the lawsuit launched by 10 churches against the State of Oregon which argued that the emergency powers only lasted for a month and that to lengthen them required legislative approval which she did not seek!

Not to be outdone, Gov. Brown went to the State Supreme Court where she has a pending review. The Governor praised the Supreme Court action by saying, “There are no shortcuts for us to return to life as it was before this pandemic. Moving too quickly could return Oregon to the early days of this crisis when we braced ourselves for hospitals to be overfilled.

A bit of an odd statement when the number of people hospitalised in Oregon with COVID19 has fallen 63% in the last month to May 12th to 57 people.

Worst of all was her treatment of hair salon owner Lindsey Graham who was fined $14,000 for opening her store because it was a non-essential business. She was further threatened with the prospect of having her lease terminated as she operated out of a building owned by the State of Oregon. The final straw was the dispatch of child protection services to Graham’s home to interrogate her 6-yo stepson and check if bathroom sanitation (aka the cleanliness under the toilet seat) was up to standard.

No one questions the tragic loss of life from this pandemic. We just question the heavy-handed tactics of governors and mayors who have a twisted version of data which is completely at odds with reality. This is all about politics.

A tale: Today vs 600BC

dollar bomb

As a lover of ancient history, this story in ZeroHedge is an interesting parallel on the dangers of debt forgiveness today using the tale of releasing the commoners from debt slavery by Solon in 600BC. In short, everyone ends up paying the price.

We think the sensible solution is to let individual landlords negotiate their own deals. Let them live and die with the consequences of their actions. Undoubtedly every landlord has a unique position where a one-size-fits-all strategy won’t work.

Harley’s horrible huffing contains plenty of puffing

HDQ1US

When companies won’t give guidance, we must find ways to see where we were relative to history to get a picture of the future. Harley-Davidson (HOG) makes a good case study. Coronavirus may be one factor but the company has already produced results that have undercut the worst levels experienced during the GFC. We have long criticised HOG for fuzzy maths under the disastrous leadership of the recently ousted CEO Matt Levatich.

While there are strictly no direct apples for apples comparisons on the timing of coronavirus and the GFC (the latter requiring no lockdown), we note the weakness in Q1 2020 unit sales in the chart above.

This is what the trend of Q2 looks like.

HDUSQ2

If we assumed a similar slowdown for April and May then theoretically the company would comfortably breach the Q2 2009 unit sales level of 58,179 which is only 18.6% below the Q2 2019 level. Q1 2020 global sales fell by 17.7%, even though the company made a very misleading statement which we’ll get to in a moment.

One thing that struck us was the steadily rising value of quarterly inventory as a percentage of quarterly non-finance revenues since Q1 2014. While the former value is a balance sheet item and the latter P&L, Q1 is generally a period where new models are rolled out ahead of the busiest Q2 & Q3 seasons to ensure the distribution network can move metal.

HDQ1Inv

Shipments reflect this. The inventory metric drops off into Q2 although exhibits a similar type of trend to Q1. Given Q2 2009 was the beginning of the tough times post-GFC, will we see the high watermark breached or will the slowdown in production offset it? How badly are revenues affected such even flat inventories lead to a deterioration of this measure?

In Q4 2019, inventories to motorcycle revenues surged to 69.1%.

We note that Q1 2020 shipments equated to an inventory of 12,534 units (+29.0%YoY).

HDq2Inv

Here is where it gets interesting. By HOG’s own admission in the quarterly investor presentation pack (p.7), it noted that Q1 2020 US retail sales were on target to be one of ‘the strongest quarters in the last 6 years through to mid-March‘, until COVID. 6 years ago US Q1 unit sales hit 35,730 units. US sales in Q1 2020 ended up at 23,732.

By deduction,

In Q1 2014, over 90 days HOG shifted on average 397 bikes per day. (35,730/90 = 397)

In Q1 2020, over the 74 days to mid-March, HOG was moving on average 321 bikes per day. (23,732/74 = 320.7027).

If we assumed that HOG was to hit that magic target over the 16 days stolen by COVID19, it would have had to punch out 750 bikes a day. (11,998/16 = 749.875).

We would love to see the order book for these magical beasts that were waiting for a home…it would seem the sales and marketing department cherry-picked one strong day and multiplied it over the quarter to create such a questionable statement.

Here is a chart of motorcycle related revenue for Q1 since 2008. No wonder the shares have underperformed since 2014, even with a small fortune squandered on share buybacks.

HSQ1rev

The Q2 revenue book doesn’t look too flash either if April is wiped out. At present 50% of dealers are shut since late March. Is the market prepared for a sub Q2 2009 print? The share price has rebounded strongly after the Q1 results even though there is no guidance to speak of.

HDq2Rev

But it gets worse. So poor has the Q3 season become for HOG that its unit sales have missed the Q3 2009 post-GFC low for seven out of the last 10 years. Are we to believe if the world is out of lockdown by Q3 that there will be a miraculous surge in new bike sales when unemployment is likely to remain at troubling levels potentially above that of GFC?

HDq3US

HOG is a great example of a divine franchise. It wasted far too much money on share buybacks (now suspended) and sits with a credit rating just two notches above junk.

The annualised Q1 2020 loss experience for the finance business sit at 10-year highs even before it has been thumped by the coming turndown. People buy HOGs as a hobby, not transport. A purely discretionary purchase. We imagine that restoring household balance sheets will take precedence to stumping up serious coin for a Harley cruiser.

Sadly Levatich and his 2027 vision have not been consigned to the dustbin of history which is the only logical filing cabinet for it. Completely unrealistic, devoid of reality and totally in denial of the shifting sands in the global motorbike market.

The new “Rewire Plan” (p.5) while sketchy on detail (as it would with an interim CEO) is a reheat of Levatich’s plan. Sad.

In our view, the entire motorcycle industry needs a strong HOG. New management is a good start but it won’t help if they intend to convince investors that they were on course to shoot Q1 to its best level in 6 years with questionable math. How quickly can inventory be pared? What models will revive its fortunes?

HOG needs to get in touch with its core customer base the way Willie Davidson did after the dark days of AMF ownership. It needs to build products which hark back to its former glory rather answer questions in segments that no one is asking it to fill.

Indian, its rival of 100 years ago is killing it with the FTR1200. Indian’s parent company, Polaris Industries, posted a small single-digit increase for motorcycles in Q1 2020. Enough excuses HOG. You are running out of time and your retained earnings are 1/5th what they were 5 years ago!

Why is the market giving it the benefit of the doubt when the worst is still ahead?

HOG

Harley needs a crisis manager. Will the incoming CEO possess those skills?

Sheepishly downloading the COVIDSafe app is a warning for all of us

NSA raises significant concern to Government abattoir proposal ...

We have no problem with people individually choosing to sign up to the COVIDSafe application launched yesterday. After all, it is voluntary and we believe in personal freedom. However, we are perplexed why so many people feel compelled to post their newfound compliance on social media feeds. It is this blind obedience that worries us.

It is hard to see such self-promotion on social media as anything more than the same virtue-signalling mindset of those who drape their social media avatars with the flag of the country where innocent people were slain by terrorists. Comments such as “I’m doing my bit” reign supreme. Why do people so sheepishly comply to sign up to this when the data is seriously unconvincing to warrant its introduction? Should we report our friends who haven’t publicly declared their status? Admitting one has signed up to COVIDSafe is borderline accepting to become a slave.

The most important point people need to consider is that there is absolutely zero downside for the government during and after this crisis. Remember that number – ZERO. If the economy goes into a prolonged recession or depression, our politicians can simply play the “we did it to save lives” card and tell us it was all for our own good. They can claim they couldn’t have done anything else. Unfortunately, we bear all the risk no matter what the outcome. That is a bad equation in any language. Why would anyone willingly sign up to it?

Indeed, saving lives should be congratulated, not censured. Still, at what point will we realise that the draconian measures put in place are leaving a disproportionate drag on the economy? As we wrote yesterday, if we take the JobKeeper support package alone, it presently costs $1.5 billion per death. Or $19.5 million per infection. The $130bn JobKeeper program is almost as much as the annual federal expenditure on education, healthcare and defence spend combined, three of the four largest budget items. Is this sustainable? If we stay in lockdown beyond the date of the package, this universal income will undoubtedly be extended.

There is a snowball’s chance in hell that we will have a V-shaped recovery. Our central bank might send us comforting lies to maintain the illusion that they are competent but it simply won’t happen.

Our authorities have suggested that the domestic economy comprises 75% of GDP which will provide a great cushion but on what planet do they believe that a crushed export sector which employs so many can be airbrushed to give us a V? Double-digit unemployment, at levels double or treble the present figures will all but guarantee a slower recovery. With household debt exceeding 180% of GDP, any future spending will be directed at rebuilding the balance sheet, not consumption. We’ll be lucky to get an L!!

There will be no normality after COVID19 abates. So much of our domestic future will be driven by the rest of the world’s approach to their own economies. Our neighbours will undoubtedly pursue more nationalist policies which prioritise domestic production. They will also need to contend with the likely aggressive reset of their own relative risk weighting, currency and fiscal positions. For anyone to believe that the magic pixie dust sprinkled by Canberra will avoid any calamity is dangerously naive.

Australia faces a $1 trillion deficit. Await the raft of new taxes on housing, inheritance and income to pay for it. We will absolutely hate what is coming. The sad thing is that we could have taken the pain over a decade ago yet we put short term expediency ahead of rational principle and now await the consequences. We are reaping what we sowed.

Much of the reasoning given by Aussies to sign up has been this belief that it will accelerate the government’s ability to reopen the economy sooner. If the government requires this sort of overlaying safeguard on top of the 99.98% of Australians that don’t knowingly carry the coronavirus or the 99.9997% who haven’t died from it, we should worry about our lawmakers’ ability to manage risk. Seriously.

Why are governments using future hard dates to consider reopening the economy? If today is the best day to do so, why wait till May 30th? Our own experience is that people are broadly respecting the social distancing guidelines. Sure, some might hang out in a park to break the monotony of staying indoors, but we are falling for the taglines from the government to #StayHome a bit too literally. The government should be rebuilding confidence. It isn’t. This app is unlikely to do much given the law of already minuscule numbers. It is all a feel-good measure.

With more than one million COVIDSafe app downloads in the first hour, many have proven that we are willing to conform to guidelines at a moments notice without considering the underlying facts. We saw this during the bushfire season. People blindly donated millions to the rural fire services when we proved their administrative skills were so severely lacking that these monies would unlikely be spent wisely.

In closing, many citizens have sent a wonderful signal to the government that they can easily strip more freedoms away by using panic as a tool to achieve it. The longer the economy is left to rot, the easier it will be to drown obedient plebs in even more regulations and restrictions because we failed to stand up and question the methodology. We will continue to do so. After all, former US President Ronald Reagan once said,

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”

Unemployment map by US state

Pew Research has put together an interactive map showing the level of unemployment in the US by state. It is eye opening especially as we pointed out that 99.8% or people aren’t infected and 99.99% of people haven’t died from coronavirus in the US.

Michigan currently has a quarter of the workforce unemployed. We can understand why Governor Gretchen Whitmer has 1.2 million angry natives.

Pennsylvania also has 25% unemployment to deal with. Relative infection rates in the state are marginally higher than the national average but death rates are 30% lower.

Nevada has 23% unemployment. Should we be surprised when the Mayor of Las Vegas wants to open the economy up? Nevada has a COVID 19 death rate of 1/3rd the national average.

California has 18% unemployment or an estimated 3.6 million. Once again, quelle surprise that Governor Newsom is copping flak.

New York, the epicenter of infections/deaths has 16% unemployment or 1.5 million.

On the other end of the spectrum, South Dakota is faring best at 8% unemployment. It has infection rates around 25% lower than the national average but death rates 1/10th the national average.

Flipping the data the other way, Montana has a death rate 18x less than the national average but suffers from 17% jobless.

Calculated risk taking is a must to avoid further economic damage. America’s culture is founded on risk taking not bailouts. The natives are restless and demanding their governors wake up. The risk/reward balance has tipped.