Category Archives: Economy

Wells Fargo Announces 10% Staff Cuts As CEO Struggles To Impress Analysts

As hopes for a steeper yield curve have lifted bank stocks, Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan is apparently trying to bolster Wells’ lagging share price as the numerous scandals that have tarnished the banks credibility and triggered fines, criminal probes and an unprecedented Fed sanction have continued to take their toll.

Per Bloomberg, Sloan is planning to trim its workforce by between 5% and 10% over the next three years with the explicit goal of propping up the company’s shares. While the cuts could provide the bank with necessary cover to purge bad apples from its employee ranks, they have also been broadly expected since the bank reported one of its worst-ever mortgage numbers as the division struggles under the yoke of Fed sanctions and with a housing market that is already beginning to roll over.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018.09.21wells.JPG?itok=zyfrT_cDWells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan

In recognition of Wells’ collapse in mortgage lending, Sloan announced last month that the bank would lay off more than 600 employees from its mortgage division after losing the mantle of America’s top mortgage lender to non-bank fintech phenom Quicken Loans. Also, the fact that the housing market is beginning to roll over isn’t helping bolster the bank’s assets.

Sloan, who made the announcement to employees at a town-hall meeting on Thursday, has reduced headcount as he cleans up the bank and streamlines operations. The San Francisco-based lender is struggling to grow under the weight of a Federal Reserve assets cap. It had 265,000 employees as of June 30, according to a regulatory filing.

“It says something about the revenue environment for them,” Charles Peabody, an analyst at Portales Partners, said in an interview. “If they’re not in the midst of recognizing that revenues are in trouble, they’re anticipating it.”

Sloan has already promised $4 billion in cost cutbacks by the end of next year. The cuts announced Thursday have already been incorporated into the bank’s year-end expense targets for 2018, 2019 and 2020, according to the company.

“We are continuing to transform Wells Fargo to deliver what customers want – including innovative, customer-friendly products and services – and evolving our business model to meet those needs in a more streamlined and efficient manner,” Sloan said in a statement.

Wells shares have climbed 23% since Sloan took the reins in October 2016. However, it continues to lag the KBW Ban Index by 53%.

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Meanwhile, analysts’ continued pessimism has sparked rumors that the bank’s board is seeking to oust Sloan. Earlier this year, reports circulated that they had approached Gary Cohn about taking over.

Analysts cut their estimates for Wells Fargo earnings again and again after the Fed punished the bank with an unprecedented cap on growing assets. The analysts began this year predicting a record $24 billion annual profit, and now the average estimate is for less than $21 billion, the weakest since 2012. Speculation that the bank wants a new CEO spilled into public this week when the New York Post said the board had approached former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive Gary Cohn. Cohn, who earlier this year finished a stint as a White House adviser, denied the report, as did Wells Fargo Chair Betsy Duke, who said Sloan “has the unanimous support of the board, and this support has never wavered.”

But with the bank unable to meaningfully expand its assets thanks to the Fed’s sanctions, Sloan has few alternatives aside from trimming head count and costs if he wants to impress the analysts. Expect more heads to roll in the near future.

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Source: ZeroHedge

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Imagine Mortgage Rates Headed to 6%, 10-Year Yield to 4%, Yield Curve Fails to “Invert,” and Fed Keeps Hiking

Nightmare scenario for the markets? They just shrugged. But home buyers haven’t done the math yet.

There’s an interesting thing that just happened, which shows that the US Treasury 10-year yield is ready for the next leg up, and that the yield curve might not invert just yet: the 10-year yield climbed over the 3% hurdle again, and there was none of the financial-media excitement about it as there was when that happened last time. It just dabbled with 3% on Monday, climbed over 3% yesterday, and closed at 3.08% today, and it was met with shrugs. In other words, this move is now accepted.

Note how the 10-year yield rose in two big surges since the historic low in June 2016, interspersed by some backtracking. This market might be setting up for the next surge:

https://wolfstreet.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/US-treasury-yields-10-year-2018-09-19.png

And it’s impacting mortgage rates – which move roughly in parallel with the 10-year Treasury yield. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported this morning that the average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) and a 20% down-payment rose to 4.88% for the week ending September 14, 2018, the highest since April 2011.

And this doesn’t even include the 9-basis-point uptick of the 10-year Treasury yield since the end of the reporting week on September 14, from 2.99% to 3.08% (chart via Investing.com; red marks added):

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While 5% may sound high for the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage, given the inflated home prices that must be financed at this rate, and while 6% seems impossibly high under current home price conditions, these rates are low when looking back at rates during the Great Recession and before (chart via Investing.com):

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And more rate hikes will continue to drive short-term yields higher, even as long-term yields for now are having trouble keeping up. And these higher rates are getting baked in. Since the end of August, the market has been seeing a 100% chance that the Fed, at its September 25-26 meeting, will raise its target for the federal funds rate by a quarter point to a range between 2.0% and 2.25%, according to CME 30-day fed fund futures prices. It will be the 3rd rate hike in 2018.

And the market now sees an 81% chance that the Fed will announced a 4th rate hike for 2018 after the FOMC meeting in December (chart via Investing.com, red marks added):

https://wolfstreet.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/US-Fed-rate-hike-probability-Dec-meeting-2018-09-19.png

The Fed’s go-super-slow approach – everything is “gradual,” as it never ceases to point out – is giving markets plenty of time to prepare and adjust, and gradually start taking for granted what had been considered impossible just two years ago: That in 2019, short-term yields will be heading for 3% or higher – the 3-month yield is already at 2.16% — that the 10-year yield will be going past 4%, and that the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage will be flirting with a 6% rate.

Potential home buyers next year haven’t quite done the math yet what those higher rates, applied to home prices that have been inflated by 10 years of interest rate repression, will do to their willingness and ability to buy anything at those prices, but they’ll get around to it.

As for holding my breath that an inverted yield curve – a phenomenon when the 2-year yield is higher than the 10-year yield – will ominously appear and make the Fed stop in its tracks? Well, this rate-hike cycle is so slow, even if it is speeding up a tiny bit, that long-term yields may have enough time to go through their surge-and-backtracking cycles without being overtaken by slowly but consistently rising short-term yields.

There has never been a rate-hike cycle this slow and this drawn-out: We’re now almost three years into it, and rates have come up, but it hasn’t produced the results the Fed is trying to achieve: A tightening of financial conditions, an end to yield-chasing in the credit markets and more prudence, and finally an uptick in the unemployment rate above 4%. And the Fed will keep going until it thinks it has this under control.

Source: by Wolf Richter | Wolf Street

Amazon To Open 3,000 Cashierless Convenience Stores By 2021

Retail workers who are pushing for higher wages better take notice: Amazon is preparing to put their bosses out of business.

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Roughly nine months after opening its first Amazon Go store in Seattle, Amazon announced on Wednesday that it is planning a massive expansion of the franchise. The company has been notoriously tight-lipped about Amazon Go since it first started offering tours of its prototype Seattle location to select journalists back in 2017. After opening its third cashierless Amazon Go location in Chicago earlier this year, and is planning to open six more locations by the end of this year, before eventually scaling up to 3,000 locations by the end of 2021. If Amazon succeeds, Go will become the largest convenience store chain in the US, per Bloomberg.

So far, most of the extant Amazon Go locations offer only a small selection comprising mostly salads, sandwiches and snacks.

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment. The company unveiled its first cashierless store near its headquarters in Seattle in 2016 and has since announced two additional sites in Seattle and one in Chicago. Two of the new stores offer only a limited selection of salads, sandwiches and snacks, showing that Amazon is experimenting with the concept simply as a meal-on-the-run option. Two other stores, including the original AmazonGo, also have a small selection of groceries, making it more akin to a convenience store.

But as the company ramps up the logistical back-bone necessary to support the chain, it ultimately hopes to conquer the fast-casual market in dense urban areas where wealthy professionals who might be willing to spend a little more on a salad or a sandwich typically proliferate. Ultimately, the company hopes to compete by eliminate meal-time congestion with its grab-and-go automation. The initial market reaction to the news was muted, though shareholders probably aren’t thrilled about the massive capital investment that will eat away at operating profits.

Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos sees eliminating meal-time logjams in busy cities as the best way for Amazon to reinvent the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, where most spending still occurs. But he’s still experimenting with the best format: a convenience store that sells fresh prepared foods as well as a limited grocery selection similar to 7-Eleven franchises, or a place to simply pick up a quick bite to eat for people in a rush, similar to the U.K.-based chain Pret a Manger, one of the people said.

Shoppers use a smartphone app to enter the store. Once they scan their phones at a turnstile, they can grab what they want from a range of salads, sandwiches, drinks and snacks — and then walk out without stopping at a cash register. Sensors and computer-vision technology detect what shoppers take and bills them automatically, eliminating checkout lines.

One potential obstacle to expanding the chain is the high cost of opening each location due to the sensors and AI technology necessary to support its automatic-checkout system. The company’s other physical stores include about 20 bookstores and Whole Foods, which it bought last year.

The challenge to Amazon’s plan is the high cost of opening each location. The original AmazonGo in downtown Seattle required more than $1 million in hardware alone, according to a person familiar with the matter. Narrowing the focus to prepared food-to-go would reduce the upfront cost of opening each store, because it would require fewer cameras and sensors. Prepared foods also have wider profit margins than groceries, which would help decrease the time it takes for the stores to become profitable.

Amazon no doubt sees an opportunity to profit by grabbing a slice of the $233 billion convenience store market. After eating the initial capital expenditure, Amazon will easily be able to compete on operating costs. But to thrive in such a competitive market, location will be key, according to several analysts.

AmazonGo will be more of a threat to fast-casual restaurants if it is targeting cities, said Jeff, vice president of NACS. Shoppers rate location and a lack of lines as the most important factors when shopping for convenience, he said.

“AmazonGo already has no lines,” Lenard said. “The key to success will be convenient locations. If it’s a quarter mile from where people are walking and biking, the novelty of the technology won’t matter. It’s too far away.”

One unintended consequence of Amazon’s expansion could be a worsening row with President Trump, as Amazon Go could eliminate some of the food-service and retail jobs that have been among the fastest-growing sub-sectors of the US labor market. This could threaten the robust employment gains that President Trump has cited as evidence of his presidency’s success. And Trump has lashed out at Amazon in the past for being a job-killer. And the FTC has been quietly hiring staffers who are looking into how the agency can bring an anti-trust case against tech giants like Amazon. 

Going forward, we imagine investors will be on the lookout for signs that this expansion could be the final antagonism that finally provokes the government to take action against Bezos before Amazon truly does become “the Everything Store”.

Though there is one potential upside for all those displaced low-wage workers: The format will make looting during natural disasters that much easier.

Source: ZeroHedge

The College Collapse

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“..What this tells us is the elite are beginning to set fire to the bridges over the river that separates them from us. The positions in the Cloud will require passing through one of the monasteries to be properly vetted. In the future, the Dirt People will have to sort out their status system within their favelas…”

Back when National Review first allowed comments on their posts, they would post all sorts of things in their group blog. Readers would respond to all of it. For example, when they were looking for a receptionist, they posted the job on the blog. Hilariously, one of the requirements was a four-year degree. Why anyone with a college degree would take a receptionist job was a mystery, but an even bigger mystery was why National Review would require it. The comments on it were the best things posted that week.

Of course, Rich Lowry was not really thinking about the requirements of the job when he posted it. What he wanted was someone from his world, the world where everyone goes off to college and sends their kids off to college. In other words, he was signalling to potential applicants that he did not want Rosie from the neighborhood, who likes to file her nails while on the phone. Instead, he wanted a young white girl fresh out of college, who just needed a job while she sorted out what she was going to do with her life.

That is, in many ways, what a college degree has become since the 60’s. It tells potential employers things about yourself that they could never ask and that would never show up on the CV. For example, if you went to a private college, it means you most likely were raised in an upper middle-class family. If you went to the satellite campus of the state university, it probably means you came from the lower ranks and you were not a great student. These are the sort of subtle clues that are reflected in the education section.

Of course, attending an elite university is the big flashing neon sign on a person’s resume, which is why entrance is super-competitive. It’s also why it is not difficult to graduate from one of these colleges. The graduation rates at these colleges are near 100%, even for athletes. Compare that to Ranger School, where 60% fail the first time. Yet, if you have the former on your CV, it counts for more than if you have the latter. The people hiring for elite positions care much more about what the former says about the applicant.

This is why a few years ago the elites started to panic over the influx of foreign students into elite colleges. The competition for these slots was already tough. Having to compete with the children of foreign ruling classes would make the process even more difficult for the children of Cloud People. Of course, this is why Harvard, and most likely the other elite colleges, discriminate against Asians. The elite is for whites and Jews, with a sprinkling of diversity to spice it up to allow the elite to pretend they like diversity.

This “problem” with the elite colleges has been an excuse for the ConservoCons to shriek “hypocrite” at their Progressive masters, but it is actually a good thing that the people in charge are fine with racial discrimination. At the minimum, it suggests they still have the will to survive. It also reminds us that they are not bound by their own rules when defending their privileges. No ruling class in human history has peacefully agreed to step aside based on the logic of their own rules. They always have to be removed by force.

At the other end of the spectrum, colleges that serve the hoi polloi have been struggling with a different set of problems. A diploma from State U is about practical things like getting a job and bargaining for a salary. In fact, it really only matters for the first decade after graduation. After that, the work history is what counts. The great bust-out that is the American public college system has reached a terminus and enrollments are now starting to drop, as people figure out the return is not always worth the investment.

As a result, the public universities in America are slowly beginning to change. One remedy has been to import foreign students, who will pay full rate. This actually started with small private colleges like Boston University in the 1980’s. They figured out that Japanese kids would come to Boston, pay tuition in cash, as long as they were not required to study too hard. For state colleges, there is the added benefit of being able to charge full rate, rather than the discounted rate for in-state students. That and it counts for diversity points.

Of course, like every business fighting a revenue drop, cost cutting is on the table. In America, much of college is just an extension of high school. Look at the requirements of college fifty years ago and compare them to now. Then there are the frivolous things like gender studies or communication arts. Pretty much everything in the core curriculum of a modern college should be tackled in high school. The rest should be discarded. That’s why we see colleges dropping large chunks of their current offerings.

There is something else going on that speaks to the larger issues looming over the North American Economic Zone. Members of the High Moral Council are starting to drop the college requirement for new hires. What this tells us is the elite are beginning to set fire to the bridges over the river that separates them from us. The positions in the Cloud will require passing through one of the monasteries to be properly vetted. In the future, the Dirt People will have to sort out their status system within their favelas.

It also opens the door to further polluting the standards that reflect biological reality. By dropping the college requirement, the companies are free to hire the black over the white, the female over the male. After all, without anything close to an objective standard, the latest moral fads handed down from on high are the default filter. It also makes the diversity tax explicit. Companies will be expected to hit their vibrancy quotas, because they will not have the excuse that they cannot find qualified non-white candidates.

Source: The ZMan

Trump & Lighthizer Announce Round #2 Tariffs on $200 Billion of Chinese Imports

…When you plant your trees in another man’s orchard, don’t be surprised when you pay for your own apples…

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President Trump has instructed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to execute Round Two of tariffs on Chinese imports. The first round applied to $50 billion in products. The current round applies a 10% tariff to $200 billion (effective Sept. 24, 2018), until January 1st, 2019, when the tariff increases to 25%.

The list of products is particularly focused, and happily we note it includes almost all Chinese processed food imports.

Chinese food processing is sketchy, and China has refused to comply with most international food safety programs. However, President Trump spared smart watches from Apple and Fitbit and other consumer products such as bicycle helmets and baby car seats.

In a statement announcing the Round-Two tariffs, President Trump warned China if they take retaliatory action against U.S. farmers or industries, “we will immediately pursue phase three, which is tariffs on approximately $267 billion of additional imports.”  That would hit Apple and all consumer good imports. Here’s the announcement and the list of products:

Washington, DC – As part of the United States’ continuing response to China’s theft of American intellectual property and forced transfer of American technology, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) today released a list of approximately $200 billion worth of Chinese imports that will be subject to additional tariffs.

In accordance with the direction of President Trump, the additional tariffs will be effective starting September 24, 2018, and initially will be in the amount of 10 percent. Starting January 1, 2019, the level of the additional tariffs will increase to 25 percent.

The list contains 5,745 full or partial lines of the original 6,031 tariff lines that were on a proposed list of Chinese imports announced on July 10, 2018.

[…] In March 2018, USTR released the findings of its exhaustive Section 301 investigation that found China’s acts, policies and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation are unreasonable and discriminatory and burden or restrict U.S. commerce.

Specifically, the Section 301 investigation revealed:

  • China uses joint venture requirements, foreign investment restrictions, and administrative review and licensing processes to require or pressure technology transfer from U.S. companies.
  • China deprives U.S. companies of the ability to set market-based terms in licensing and other technology-related negotiations.
  • China directs and unfairly facilitates the systematic investment in, and acquisition of, U.S. companies and assets to generate large-scale technology transfer.
  • China conducts and supports cyber intrusions into U.S. commercial computer networks to gain unauthorized access to commercially valuable business information.
  • After separate notice and comment proceedings, in June and August USTR released two lists of Chinese imports, with a combined annual trade value of approximately $50 billion, with the goal of obtaining the elimination of China’s harmful acts, policies and practices.

Unfortunately, China has been unwilling to change its policies involving the unfair acquisition of U.S. technology and intellectual property. Instead, China responded to the United States’ tariff action by taking further steps to harm U.S. workers and businesses. In these circumstances, the President has directed the U.S. Trade Representative to increase the level of trade covered by the additional duties in order to obtain elimination of China’s unfair policies. The Administration will continue to encourage China to allow for fair trade with the United States.

A formal notice of the $200 billion tariff action will be published shortly in the Federal Register.  (read more)

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A PDF list of the Round #2 impacted products is Available HERE.

Source: by Sundance | The Conservative Tree House
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China Retaliates: Beijing To Levy $60BN In Tariffs On US Goods Effective Sept 24

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As expected, Beijing did not waste much time responding to Trump’s latest tariffs, and moments ago China issued a statement disclosing what its planned retaliation would look like.

California Tops National Poverty Rate As Prime Tax Donkey Demographic Plans “Exodus” From State

Despite efforts by state legislators at creating a socialist utopia, California still has the highest poverty rate in the nation at 19%, despite a 1.4% decrease from last year according to the Census Bureau. 

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Poverty and income figures released Wednesday reveal that over 7 million Californians are struggling to get by in the second most expensive state to live in, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research‘s 2017 Annual Cost of Living Index. 

And while California has a “vigorous economy and a number of safety net programs to aid needy residents,” according to the Sacramento Bee, one out of every five residents is suffering economic hardship – which is fueled in large part by sky-high housing costs, according to Caroline Danielson, policy director at the Public Policy Institute of California. 

“We do have a housing crisis in many parts of the state and our poverty rate is highest in Los Angeles County,” she said, adding that cost of living and poverty is often highest in the state’s coastal counties. “When you factor that in we struggle.”

Silicon Valley residents in particular are leaving in droves – more so than any other part of the state. Nearby San Mateo County which is home to Facebook came in Second, while Los Angeles County came in third.

They’re looking for affordability and not finding it in Santa Clara County,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com.

It’s not just housing prices driving the exodus, of course. Punitive taxes – more than twice as much as some other states, are eating away at disposable income. Nearby Arizona’s income tax rate is 4.54% vs. California’s 9.3%, while the new tax bill may accelerate the exodus.

As Michael Snyder of the Economic Collapse Blog pointed out in May…

Reasons for the mass exodus include rising crime, the worst traffic in the western world, a growing homelessness epidemic, wildfires, earthquakes and crazy politicians that do some of the stupidest things imaginable.  But for most families, the decision to leave California comes down to one basic factor…

Money.

Mass Exodus

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As you may or may not be aware, we’ve mentioned the flood of various types of Californians fleeing the state for various reasons; be it wealthy families who want to keep more of their income safe from the tax man, or poor residents leaving the Golden State because they are being crushed by the high cost of living. 

To that end, the Orange County Register notes a significant out migration of people in their child-raising years – as the largest group leaving the state, some 28%, are those aged 35 to 44. 

According to IRS data from 2015-2016, the latest available, roughly half of those leaving the state make less than $50,000 per year, while roughly 25% of those leaving make over $100,000. 

What did the OC register conclude?

Thanks to unaffordable housing, California’s moderate wage earners are going to have to leave the state, while only the wealthy and the impoverished residents will remain. 

But the big enchilada in California — by far the largest source of distortion in living costs — is housing. Over 90 percent of the difference in costs between California’s coastal metropolises and the country derives from housing. Coastal California is affordable for roughly 15 percent of residents, down from 30 percent in 2000 and 30 percent in the interior, from nearly 60 percent in 2000. In the country as a whole, affordability hovers at roughly 60 percent.

***

Over time these factors — along with prospects of reduced immigration — will impact severely the state’s future. California is already seeing its population aged 6 to 17 decline. This reflects a continued drop in fertility in comparison to less regulated, and less costly, states such as Utah, Texas and Tennessee. These areas are generally those experiencing the biggest surge in millennial populations. –OC Register

And according to ULI, 74% of California millennials are considering an exodus

Where to? 

As we noted in June, these are the top 10 California counties that people are leaving, and where they’re headed (via the Mercury News): 

1. Santa Clara County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Idaho

In state destinations: Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz and Placer counties

2. San Mateo County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Washington

In state destinations: Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacramento, and San Francisco counties

3. Los Angeles County

Out of state destinations: Nevada, Arizona, and Idaho

In state destinations: San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and Kern counties

4. Napa County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Florida and Oregon

In state destinations: Solano, Sonoma, Sacramento, Lake and El Dorado counties

5. Monterey County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho

In state destinations: San Luis Obispo, Fresno, Santa Cruz, Sacramento and San Diego counties

6. Alameda County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Hawaii.

In state destinations: Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Sacramento, Placer, and El Dorado counties

7. Marin County

Out of state destinations: Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Idaho.

In state destinations: Sonoma, Contra Costa, Solano and San Francisco counties

8. Orange County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada and Idaho

In state destinations: Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Luis Obispo

9. Santa Barbara County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada and Idaho.

In state destinations: San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Los Angeles, Riverside and Kern counties

10. San Diego County

Out of state destinations: Arizona and Nevada

In state destinations: Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, Orange County and Los Angeles

Source: ZeroHedge