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Lemley Yarling Management Co
15624 Lemley Drive
Soldiers Grove, Wi 54655
Bud: 312-925-5248       Kathy: 630-323-8422

Comments on activity in client accounts

Year End 2016

During the week we added Gap, and Ford for trades. Most accounts are 50% or more cash except for our smaller ones. For the year accounts were flat to up 10%. Our smaller accounts were hurt by our misadventure in Sprint. We survived the precipitous drop from January to March and recovered nicely and then chose to be a bit more conservative in our market exposure for the rest of the year. Going forward we will remain quick on the trigger since markets are at all time highs and most gurus and prognosticators see clear sailing ahead. The euphoria reminds of 2000 and the highs made in March of that year which weren't revisited for 15 years. The have to own stocks are at prices that are the result of expansion of multiples rather than any great expansion of profits. Self-driving cars are the new buzzwords and any stock related to that concept has to be owned. We shall see.

*****

Readings for long weekend:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/everything-is-still-awesome-214554

Two good short films about the Israeli settlement issue:

http://www.vox.com/2016/9/19/12929342/israeli-settlements-explained

http://www.vox.com/2016/1/20/10775868/israeli-palestinian-conflict-explained

In case you were wondering:

The 500 richest people in the world got $237 billion richer in 2016

https://thinkprogress.org/the-500-richest-people-in-the-world-got-237-billion-richer-in-2016-c9eec9e5361e#.b6ez48w9n

Look for a Sprint/T Mobile to proposed and approved before the end of 2017:

NYT-President-elect Donald J. Trump took credit on Wednesday for a decision by Sprint to add 5,000 jobs in the United States as he tried to deliver on his promise to force corporate America to focus on job creation at home rather than abroad.

"I was just called by the head people at Sprint, and they are going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States," Mr. Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. "They have taken them from other countries. They are bringing them back to the United States."

*****

Eddie Lambert, the hedge fund guy who controls Sears Holding has been loaning money to the company for the past few years. Look for Sears to file bankruptcy and for Lambert to wind up owning the reorganized company with present shareholders out in the cold. Also the reorganized Sears will not have any lingering pension obligations since bankruptcy will eliminate them. Ah Capitalism!!!

WSJ-Shares of Sears Holdings Corp. rose Thursday as the cash-strapped company secured a $200 million line of credit.

The new credit facility can be expanded to total up to $500 million with consent from lenders. The company, which had just $258 million in cash on hand as of October, said it would use the new liquidity to fund its operations.

Why hedge fund guys shouldn't run companies:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-07-11/at-sears-eddie-lamperts-warring-divisions-model-adds-to-the-troubles

*****

Christmas 2016

Too many tweets on nuclear proliferation and tariffs plus the meandering markets suggest that there may soon be some selling. Folks may be waiting to take profits till next year in the hope of lower tax rates. Also the closer we come to the inauguration more tweets (are we really saying that) are going to affect prices.

On Thursday, reports of a 10% tariff on imported goods from China caused a selloff in retail stocks. So on one hand a lower corporate tax rate will be good for retailers but a 10% tariff will be worse since retailers need profits to benefit from a lower rate.

We have been of the opinion that the tariff talk is just that but with a tweet a day (there we go again) and no track record who can know.

As a result we raised cash by taking a more than we liked loss in Under Armour, and sold Deutsch Bank, Novo, Chipotle, and Sprouts for plus/minus scratches.

We added to Fitbit and are holding Twitter as trading stocks into the New Year. Both are down substantially this year and our guess/hope is that the selling pressure relents after December 31.

We took a loss on a dumb trade in Macy's where we added to our initial position because we are smarter than the markets- NOT! - but maintained a holding in the shares; and have maintained and are looking to add to our XOP and Marathon Oil positons. We view the oil area as the only safe bet over the next year given the propensity for radical tweets and maybe action. One thing for sure, the proposed cabinet makeup is not comprised of any peaceniks.

But that is all in the future- the near future- but the future; so for now Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.

*****

Why more cash:

Nuclear stuff:

http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-nuclear-proliferation-2016-12

And our Precedent to be tweeting his nuclear plans:

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-12-22/trump-says-u-s-nuclear-arsenal-must-be-greatly-expanded

http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/12/22/1613663/-Donald-Trump-The-United-States-must-greatly-strengthen-and-expand-its-nuclear-arsenal

http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-doubles-down-nuclear-weapons-morning-joe-let-it-be-an-arms-race-2016-12

Two articles on the effects of tariffs on U.S. companies and the economy:

http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-corporate-tax-cut-impact-2016-12

http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-trade-policy-lead-to-global-recession-2016-12

Uncertainty, markets usually dislike uncertainty:

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/donald-trump-obama-foreign-policy-231188

http://www.salon.com/2016/12/22/whos-in-charge-here-donald-trumps-regime-in-waiting-has-a-vacuum-at-the-top/

Throwing Money at goofy ideas because…

http://www.businessinsider.com/olaf-carlson-wees-polychain-raises-money-from-union-square-ventures-2016-12

*****

Nuts!! Conspicuous consumption times ten? :

Nike's new $720 shoe is all about the tech — and it marks a big shift for the brand

http://www.businessinsider.com/new-nike-hyperadapt-shoe-is-all-about-tech-2016-12

*****

Our less is more market:

Uber lost $800 million in the 3rd quarter

Uber has notched yet another quarter of staggering losses.

That's according to a new story out from The Information's Amir Efrati, who reports that the ride-hailing company lost more than $800 million in the third quarter of this year. Those losses, which follow a reported $1.27 billion in the first half of the year, put Uber on track to lose $2.8 billion in 2016, according to The Information's calculation.

While the millions in losses look bad on the surface for Uber — which was most recently valued at $68 billion — those losses are growing more slowly than they used to.

The Information reports that in Q3, Uber's losses increased only 25% from a year ago. That's a slowdown from 35% in the second quarter versus a year ago.

The slower-growing losses are most likely the result of the sale of Uber China to Didi Chuxing for $35 billion in August. Uber was waging an expensive and protracted battle in China, losing $1 billion a year trying to beat its local rival.

http://www.businessinsider.com/uber-lost-800-million-in-third-quarter-2016-2016-12

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16 December 2016

During the week we repurchased British Petroleum (lower), Macy's (higher), XOP (higher) and added to Marathon Oil. We also took a loss on Abercrombie (for the year we are ahead).

We currently own Chipotle at $370: Sprouts at $22; Novo at $35; Under Armour at $28; Macy's at $39; Twitter at $19; Fitbit at $8; Deutsch Bank at $19; XOP at $43: Marathon Oil at $19 and British Petroleum at $36.

We have been reacting to market conditions and individual stock price action. We are trying to catch part of this move higher. We really can't predict- nor do we think anyone can– the economic results of the new administration. We do know that lower taxes will be especially positive for retailer earnings; and overseas profit repatriation should fuel buybacks and dividends if not investment in the U.S. Our guess remains that markets will be firm into inauguration and may be a month or two beyond but foreign entanglements with Trump as president give us pause to commit for the longer term.

*****

Macy's:

Consumers may continue to buy clothes online rather than visiting the mall, but that doesn't mean Macy's (M) stock is dead in the water next year.

In fact, the iconic department store retailer may have several catalysts that could propel its shares higher. "Macy's has several initiatives in place to spur growth," says Jefferies analyst Randy Konick, who highlights the opening of new Bluemercury cosmetics shops and off-price retail concepts called Backstage as two specific financial drivers.

"We do see downside protection [to Macy's stock] from its sizable owned real estate portfolio, which is likely to be monetized in the intermediate term," adds Konik.

Macy's is very likely nearing even more value creating real estate deals if a barrage of recent transactions are any indication. Outgoing CEO Terry Lundgren is almost singularly focused on getting Macy's real estate right - after all, he doesn't want his legacy to read he missed the opportunity to create a nimbler Macy's in the age of digital shopping. Moreover, Lundgren appears dead set on leaving Macy's in as good a spot as possible for long-time company executive Jeff Gennette, his hand-picked successor will assume the CEO role in early 2017.

In mid-November, Macy's inked a contract to sell a 248,000-square-foot location in San Francisco for a cool $250 million. The transaction is scheduled to close in January, and Macy's will realize a gain of about $235 million in January 2018. Macy's will lease the site for two to three years while the building is being reconfigured. It has also disclosed a deal to sell a store in downtown Portland, OR, for $54 million, which will net it about $36 million when the transaction closes in the fourth quarter.

Read more: https://www.thestreet.com/story/13922263/1/why-you-should-love-macy-s-in-2017.html?puc=yahoo&cm_ven=YAHOO&yptr=yahoo

Marathon Oil:

Argus' Bill Selesky noted that ever since it became an independent E&P company in 2011, Marathon Oil Corporation has successfully divested its high cost, lower production non-core assets "in favor of higher-margin, higher-producing North American unconventional oil, gas and liquids assets."

Selesky upgraded the rating on the company from Hold to Buy, with a price target of $52.

Favorable Strategy

Viewing the company's strategy as favorable, the analyst believes MRO offers an exceptional opportunity of a diverse, high-return inventory within its three primary resource plays."

Selesky expects the company to surprise on the up side, stating that it has continued to achieve sustainable cost savings via efficiency gains and technology.

Sustainable Cost Savings

The company has been able to reduce its total E&P expense by 40 percent since Q1:2015, while also lowering its North America E&P expenses by 30 percent and International E&P unit production costs by 40 percent, while continuing to deliver "high operational availability."

The analyst expects MRO to be able to achieve profit growth at a CAGR of 10-15 percent over the next few years.

Following the beat EPS reported by the company for Q3:16, the EPS loss estimate for 2016 has been narrowed from $(0.96) to $(0.90).

http://www.benzinga.com/analyst-ratings/analyst-color/16/12/8805000/argus-rates-marathon-oil-a-buy-sees-177-upside

9 December 2016

Rather than fight the crowd or watch it pass us by, we added shares of FITBIT, Twitter, Under Armour, BP, Cisco Deutsch Bank, AT&T Marathon and Chipotle during the week. We also traded Gap and Ford for gains.

We are as fully invested as we feel is prudent but don't plan to stay that way for long (invested we are always prudent). We are trying to catch part of the 'Trump will solve all of the worlds problems' move without exposing ourselves to too much risk. It is tiring to try and understand this market but we have realized gains in the rally and hope to keep them. While we think that markets will have clear sailing until the inauguration - and possibly for a few months after - we aren't going to stay around. All-time highs and many up days with no corrections are worrisome. Mr. Market marches to his own tune and many times fools the greater number. As we said last week the market is seeing the roses and not the thorns.

We currently own Chipotle, Sprouts, Novo, Abbott, AT&T Cisco, Abercrombie, Under Armour, HAIN, Stratasys, Twitter, Fitbit, Deutsch Bank, British Petroleum and Marathon Oil. They are all anchovies.

*****

Chipotle Stock Slammed After CEO Says He's Nervous About Hitting Full-Year Guidance

In an October earnings call, Chipotle co-CEO Steve Ells described 2016 as "one of the most difficult years in our history." Unfortunately for Ells, the difficulties appear likely to continue: in comments made during an investor conference Tuesday, Ells said that he is nervous about achieving the numbers Chipotle put forth in its full-year guidance.

Before an E. Coli and norovirus outbreak rocked its reputation and sales, Chipotle was something of a darling of the fast-casual restaurant industry. It finished 2014 with an impressive 16.8% gain in same-store sales, and its name frequently appeared on lists of brands that Millennials love. In the wake of the food-borne illness outbreaks in mid- and late-2015 that quickly changed the company's trajectory, the burrito chain has posted four straight quarters of comparable store sales declines. Investors have been eager to see Chipotle return to its former glory -- but according to Ells' remarks on Tuesday, they may have to wait a bit longer for a comeback.

"I'm not satisfied with the rate of recovery and the quality of the restaurant experience," Ells said during a Barclays conference on food, gaming and retail Tuesday morning. He went on to say that Chipotle has lost focus on customer service, and that a barrage of new food-safety operations have slowed throughput (the number of customers it can serve in one hour).

As a result of these issues, Ells said, he is nervous about the hitting the full-year guidance Chipotle put out earlier this year.

In the company's third quarter earnings results, Chipotle forecast fourth quarter comparable store sales declines in the "low single digits." For fiscal 2017, the company projected a "high single-digit" increase in full-year same-store sales.

Ells also said Tuesday that he expects to make an announcement "shortly" about new board members. Activist investor Bill Ackman took a 9.9% stake in Chipotle in September and in the months since has not been quiet about his desire for a seat at the table and a revamped board.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2016/12/06/chipotle-stock-slammed-after-ceo-says-hes-nervous-about-hitting-full-year-guidance/?utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=yahootix&partner=yahootix&yptr=yahoo#3c29b7d67bb6

*****

More on Chipotle from Bill Ackman whose hedge fund took a 9% position in the shares. It should be noted that Ackman also has a huge position in Valeant that crashed from $260 a share to $15 a share in the last year so a grain of salt might be in order.

Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG)

On September 6th, we announced a 9.9% stake in Chipotle Mexican Grill which we purchased at an average price of $405 per share. Chipotle has built a superb brand pioneering the "fast casual" restaurant industry with the success of its outstanding product offering, unique culture and powerful economic model. We have followed the business for years, noting how it has disrupted the fast food industry with its high quality, delicious and customizable hot meals that are prepared quickly and sold at affordable prices. The company has been significantly negatively impacted by food safety issues beginning in the fourth quarter of 2015 which caused a peak decline in average unit sales of 36%. In response, the company has implemented best-in-class food safety protocols over the past year, and worked to win back lost customers. While traffic and sales have begun to recover, average unit volumes are still 19% below peak levels.

We have always believed that a good time to buy a great business is when it is in temporary trouble. While Chipotle's reputation has been bruised, we think that with the passage of time and improved marketing, technology and governance initiatives, the business will not only recover but become much stronger. Chipotle's sales recovery will be neither smooth nor predictable over the next few quarters; yet, we believe that all of the key drivers of Chipotle's powerful economic moat and long-term success remain intact. These drivers include:

A strong and relevant brand built by visionary leadership

A differentiated product offering with a highly attractive value proposition

Substantial scale in the fast casual industry and first-mover advantage in real estate

Strong unit economics and extremely high returns on capital, driven by a well-honed model that facilitates best-in-class throughput

Enormous growth opportunities including new units and operating enhancements such as mobile ordering and catering

Strong Brand

The Chipotle brand was developed by founder Steve Ells with the philosophy that food served fast does not have to be a traditional "fast-food" experience. This vision later evolved into an ambition to change the way the world thinks about and eats fast food. Chipotle's authentic brand developed a loyal following, which allowed the company to grow from one restaurant to more than 2,100 relying primarily on customer word of mouth, supplemented by non-traditional marketing techniques including digital and social media, owned content, and local events. Today, we believe that Chipotle is one of the most compelling and authentic large-scale food brands in the U.S.

Differentiated Product Offering

Chipotle's product offering is differentiated by the fact that it successfully competes in all the desirable attributes of out-of-home fast food. As part of our research, we compared Chipotle's customer value proposition to those of fast casual, quick service, and casual dining competitors across six key metrics: food quality, taste, in-store experience, customization ability, speed, and value. We believe Chipotle's food quality is superlative given the focus on cooking from scratch with the best available ingredients. Chipotle's "burrito line" service format engages customers from the moment they walk in the door, allows exact customization of each order to accommodate individual preferences, and facilitates the fastest throughput in the industry. The product price point offers outstanding value given the quality and quantity of food served. While some other concepts can successfully compete on one or more of these attributes, we believe that few are able to replicate the Chipotle offering at comparable price points at scale.

Enormous Growth Opportunity

Prior to the recent food safety issues, Chipotle's average unit volumes were approximately $2.5 million, nearly the highest in the industry, despite only serving two day-parts, and with limited store hours, i.e., 11 versus as much as 24 hours for other fast food competitors. We believe that initiatives such as mobile and digital ordering, loyalty program development, catering, and menu innovation including dessert will drive an accelerated rate of same-store sales growth for the foreseeable future, incremental to the impact of recovering lost customers. Returns on capital for new units remain extremely compelling even at today's lower sales levels. We believe that the U.S. can support about 3,000 additional Chipotle restaurants, a total of 5,000 units representing 2.3 times the current store base.

Food Safety

We have researched the initiatives that Chipotle has taken to address food safety. While food safety risk can never be completely eliminated in any restaurant, we think the company has done an excellent job of significantly reducing the risk of another incident while maintaining the freshness and taste of its food.

Chipotle has a number of other attractive attributes which include limited global macroeconomic sensitivity and foreign currency exposure, a simple business model with limited non-GAAP earnings adjustments, a high effective tax rate of nearly 40% (which means the company will be a big beneficiary of lower U.S. tax rates if implemented by the Trump administration) and an unlevered balance sheet with a strong net cash position.

Valuation

Given Chipotle's depressed near-term earnings due to the recent decline in sales and its detrimental impact on operating margins, we do not believe it is appropriate to value Chipotle using a multiple of next year's earnings based on comparables or estimated growth rates. To estimate the intrinsic value of Chipotle shares, we have valued the discounted cash flows of the business over its life using reasonable assumptions. In our base case, we have assumed a long-term restaurant count of 5,000 units, some recovery of lost customers over the next several years, and moderate same-store sales growth over the long-term driven by the impact of new technology initiatives (like mobile, online ordering and loyalty) and day-part extension initiatives (like catering). We conservatively have assumed that profit margins will be at a discount to peak levels reflecting the cost of new food safety procedures as well as increased investments, offset over time by thoughtful management of overhead costs and increased operating leverage.

Apple Watch sales plunge as Fitbit continues to rule wearables

http://www.businessinsider.com/idc-wearable-sales-fitbit-xiaomi-garmin-all-beat-apple-watch-2016-12

***

2 December 2016

During the week we traded (bought and sold) British Petroleum, Chevron Phillips and XOP (domestic petroleum ETF) for nice profits. We added to Marathon Oil before the OPEC announcement and realized a nice gain selling on Thursday. (After 11 months of trading MRO we finally have a scratch loss/profit in most accounts.) We also repurchased Deutsch Bank lower (Trump) and added Ford which was on its 52 week low with a 5% yield.

Our outlook remains that markets will trend higher into inauguration an then??????.

Right now markets are interpreting every Trump tweet as positive. Markets are pricing in Trump and Congressional Republicans to do all things well with no negative consequences. Ain't gonna happen- never has, never will.

Until then happy December.

*****

So much for the economy in the tank:

Corporate profits continued to rebound in the third quarter alongside solid growth in the broader U.S. economy.

The Commerce Department on Tuesday reported that a key measure of business earnings rose 3.5% from the second quarter, its third straight quarterly increase.

Compared with a year earlier, after-tax profits rose 5.2% in the third quarter, the first annual increase since late 2014 and the strongest growth since the fourth quarter of 2012. The profits data don't include inventory valuation or capital consumption adjustments.

"We had been anticipating a turnaround for profits as nominal growth picked up; but the firming, at least so far, looks more rapid and stronger than we had expected," J.P. Morgan Chase economist Daniel Silver said in a note to clients.

Tuesday's report also showed that gross domestic product, a broad measure of the goods and services produced across the economy, expanded at an inflation- and seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.2% in the third quarter, the strongest growth in two years.

That was up from last month's estimate that output rose at a 2.9% pace in the third quarter and beat economists' expectations for a revision up to 3% growth. The latest reading was boosted by stronger consumer spending, though business investment came in weaker than earlier estimated.

"The U.S. economy is in good shape in the second half of 2016," Gus Faucher, deputy chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, said in a note to clients.

Business profits represented 9.1% of U.S. GDP in the third quarter, up from a recent low of 7.8% in late 2015 though down from the 10.2% average seen in 2012 through 2014.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-gdp-growth-revised-up-corporate-profits-rose-in-third-quarter-1480426301

*****

Brent crude soared above the key $50-per-barrel mark Wednesday after OPEC reportedly finalized a deal to cut production at its official meeting in Vienna. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries was "getting close to a deal," and a delegate cited by Bloomberg said the group has agreed to lower output by 1.2 million barrels a day to 32.5 million barrels per day. If OPEC can agree on a cut, it will be its first since 2008. The production deal will last six months, according to Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi. He hopes the accord will push prices to over $55 per barrel. But such an outcome would spur U.S. shale companies to produce more.

http://www.investors.com/news/oil-jumps-as-opec-reportedly-nears-first-output-cut-since-2008/?yptr=yahoo

*****

 



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