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A New Congress . . . Now What?

Conclusion:  The outlook for the 112th Congress looks as contentious as we’ve seen.  The sleeper political move of the year could be an increase in the popularity of President Obama as the public gets increasingly frustrated with the political statements in Congress and the President stays above the fray.


An interesting thing has happened since the midterm elections, President Obama’s popularity has improved despite the devastating loss of seats by his party.  According the Real Clear Politics aggregate, President Obama’s disapproval rating reached its highest on September 26th, 2010 at 51.2.  While on October 17th, his approval rating reached the trough of 44.2.  While there are likely a number of mitigating factors, President Obama’s disapproval rating is well off its peak and his approval rating is well off its trough as they are now at 48 and 46.2, respectively.


Undoubtedly a major reason for this improvement is simply due to the fact the election is in the rear view mirror and Republicans have stopped their constant assault on the Obama administration and an evaluation of its performance.   Meanwhile, the approval rating for Congress remains at abysmal levels.  In fact, the most recent poll for Congressional approval from Gallup showed 17% of respondents approving of Congress and 83% disapproving for a negative spread of -66%.


This poll coincides with polls relating to whether voters think the country is on the right track or wrong track, which are also making all-time lows.   Below we’ve highlighted a chart of the aggregate right direction / wrong track polls and these ratings are at the lowest of the Obama administration with a full 65% of respondents suggesting that the country is on the wrong track.  Interestingly, the results of these polls comes at a time when Obama’s approval is improving, albeit marginally, and Congressional approval is staying close to all-time lows.  The implication of this is that whether Congress is controlled by Republicans or Democrats is somewhat irrelevant, their job performance is weak and is viewed as such.  Therefore the question with the beginning of the 112th Congress is . . . now what?  (Symbolically, and perhaps ironically, the Republicans started the new congress with a reading of the Constitution.)


A New Congress . . . Now What? - RCP Poll


From the Republican perspective, there seem to be a number of key priorities, which include:


1)      Reining in spending -  Speaker Boehner has already made some aggressive statements on the spending side of the U.S. budget ledger and has indicated that no legislation will be passed with any earmarks.


2)      Repealing healthcare – After addressing spending, the key focus of the Republican-led Congress will clearly be to either repeal or defund the healthcare reform bill.


3)      Jobs – While both parties approach this from different perspective, the 9.4% unemployment rate in the United States is the key economic issue facing the nation.  It is also the issue that will likely lead to the most direct evaluation of the success of Congress.


Certainly, the first two priorities are hot button issues.  Reining in spending will be unpopular as it will likely require some dramatic cuts to current government programs and employment and a hard look at mandatory programs, such as Social Security.  It will also require a serious discussion about expanding the federal debt ceiling from $14.3 trillion as spending and federal debt have become a real focus of the electorate.  While an expansion will surely occur, it will only come after serious public debate and discussion.  Already, the White House has thrown down the political gauntlet saying it would be “catastrophic” if Congress did not raise the ceiling.  


The repeal of the healthcare bill will be challenging since the Republicans do not control the Senate or the Presidency, but they have so far indicated that it is their intention to push this issue as far as possible.  Interestingly, the U.S. electorate is not overwhelmingly supportive of a repeal according to the most recent Gallup poll, which showed that 46% of those polled wanted it repealed, 40% wanted it to stand, and 14% had no opinion.  The Democrats and, in particular, the President are not going to let the landmark legislative accomplishment of the last two years go away without a fight, despite its low popularity.  In recent days, House Majority Leader has drawn the line in the sand saying:


“At a time when we need to everything in our power to encourage job creation, the healthcare law hangs around the necks of businesses small and large.”


This was responded to by Stephanie Cutter on the White House website where she wrote:


“Repealing the Affordable Care Act would hurt families, businesses, and our economy.”


Most interesting from the early days of the new Congress is that neither party has offered a comprehensive plan to improve the dismal employment numbers in the U.S., which is likely the most pressing economic issue and the most important political issue as it relates to future approval of Congress. 


In the coming weeks and months as we see heightened political debate over the budget, debt ceiling, and potential repeal of the healthcare bill, we should expect Congressional approval to continue to remain mired at absurdly low levels, if not track lower.  As of now, it is difficult to expect much from the new Congress other than continued ineffective politicking.   This could lead to the sleeper move of the political year, which is a gradual uptick in approval of the man in the oval office, who may just be able to stay above the fray.


Daryl G. Jones
Managing Director

Framing Belgium’s Political Strife

Political and social strife are nothing new to Belgium; however, the failure of talks last week to build a new coalition government following political gridlock since elections in June 2009 has severely weighed on the country’s investment risk.


In the chart below we show the Belgian 10 YR bond yield alongside the country’s 5YR CDS spread. Both reflect the rising risk premium to own Belgian debt, a risk that has developed over the last year alongside political instability. And now due to this political gridlocked the country has not addressed any fiscal consolidation measures (austerity) like its neighbors, which has investors concerned given that Belgium has the third highest public debt as a percentage of GDP in the EU at ~96.2% in 2009, behind Greece and Italy.


Framing Belgium’s Political Strife - belgium


Reflecting this risk, and the uncertainty of a meeting King Albert II has tomorrow with Johan Vande Lanotte, a Socialist from Flanders and author of last week’s failed constitutional compromise (who also resigned after the failed talks), the Belgian 10YR yield is now at a new high of 4.21% (or a 1.4% premium spread over German paper, the highest since January 2009).  


To understand the main political disagreements of the government one must understand the divided make-up of the country as well.  These lines include Language and Culture: Dutch is spoken to the north (Flanders) while French is spoken in the south (Wallonia); Economy: more robust and profitable to the north; and Politics: The New Flemish Alliance is the dominate party of Flanders and calls for independence, while the Socialist are the largest party in Wallonia and call for a stronger central government.


In finer terms the disagreements center around political control of the Brussels suburbs, regional control of government services, and the transfers of tax revenue from Flanders to Brussels and Wallonia.


On the hot issue of tax revenue, and given that Flanders is far richer than Wallonia, there’s real divide on just how tax revenue should be allocated. As an example, The New Flemish Alliance wanted more than 40% of it returned to the regions, while the socialists proposed around 25%.


While Belgium is not at the stage of a Greek or Irish Tragedy, there’s room for concern given the sudden swings in investor confidence around Europe’s sovereign debt issues.  Belgium has forecast a budget deficit of 4.8% in 2010 (above the EU’s mandated ceiling of 3%) and 4.6% in 2011, yet Belgium needs to save an additional €1.8 billion to meet a EU target of cutting the deficit to 4.1% of GDP in 2011.


Slightly better news could come on Wednesday when Yves Leterme, currently Belgium's caretaker Prime Minister, is expected to publish an annual economic report with a 2010 deficit below 4.8%.


Even so, the quarrels developing within the country present investment risk that should be monitored. In the context of Europe, we add Belgium to the list of PIIGS that present downside investment risk, including to the common currency. We covered our EUR-USD position via the etf FXE on 1/6. We remain long Germany (EWG) and short Italy (EWI) in the Hedgeye Virtual Portfolio.


Matthew Hedrick




January 10, 2010





  • With the NFL season drawing to a close in just about a month, focus will ultimately shift to the 2011 season and the potential for a lockout.  While a year of no football would be devastating for the fans, it will also have a meaningful impact on all constituents whose revenue streams are tied to the league.  If the ’11 season were to be missed, it’s estimated that $12 billion in revenues would be lost.  Now that’s not all jerseys and fan gear, but that’s certainly a big part of it.
  • Amidst reports of particularly strong UGG sales over the last few weeks comes a report out of NYC podiatrist claiming that wearers are subject to a heightened risk of contracting foot fungus. In response, another NYC podiatrist weighed in on the claim suggesting that foot fungus generally affects roughly 40% of the population – a stat that hasn’t changed with the advent of the UGG phenomenon.
  • Add Luyou to the list of Chinese-based footwear companies looking to enter the fray by signing Steve Nash to an exclusive deal after 15-years with Nike. The move is the latest in a line of several such deals with foreign companies looking to leverage the notoriety of ‘seasoned’ NBA players. With both Anta and Li-Ning making similar deals over the past 12-months, expect Luyou to add a few more notable players from the NBA if they expect to compete with their domestic rivals.   



Ken Mangone Succeeds Peter McGrath at J.C. Penney - J.C. Penney has promoted Ken Mangone to executive vice president of product development and sourcing, succeeding Peter McGrath, who retired last month. It’s a critical role, particularly since 50 percent of Penney’s annual volume is generated by private and exclusive brands. McGrath will oversee the PD&S team, which handles all the trend analysis, product design and development, sourcing, manufacturing and quality control associated with private brands such as Worthington, Arizona, Liz Claiborne and St. John’s Bay. Mangone, who joined Penney’s 34 years ago as a management trainee, will report to Myron Ullman 3rd, chairman and chief executive officer. Mangone was senior vice president of product development, reporting to McGrath, and was instrumental in building up the in-house design team from under 50 five years ago to a current 250 textile and fashion designers. Mangone is also credited with sharpening and differentiating the lifestyle images of Penney’s key private brands as well as launching the a.n.a private brand.<WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: While this transition seems largely as planned, it’s still an interesting time (ahead of clearly rising costs) for the company’s chief of sourcing to change hands.  Perhaps this would be more troubling if the role had sat vacant rather then been filled  internally.


Tommy Hilfiger Strengthens Ties with Music Industry - Rolling Stones apparel? The Who sportswear? Tommy Hilfiger, whose brand has been closely associated with the music industry, is strengthening his ties with the entertainment industry. WWD has learned that MESH [Music, Entertainment and Sports Holdings], a company forged by Tommy Hilfiger, Andy Hilfiger, Bernt Ullman, Joe Lamastra and Li & Fung last year, is negotiating with Universal Music Group, which owns Bravado, to do worldwide deals for a host of musical stars. The arrangement would involve developing full apparel lines for Bravado’s entertainment clients that run the gamut from the Rolling Stones and The Who to Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Justin Bieber.

According to sources, the first apparel collections for the musicians could start rolling out in fall 2011.<WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: One of the more formal approaches we’ve seen to catching a licensing stream while its hot.  History suggests these celeb lines are short lived, but a portfolio approach and tie-in with Universal may help to keep this “act” around for more than just one hit. 


Ugg Leads Holiday Season - Ugg continues to deliver big for many retailers. A number of key independents said the brand was their best seller during recent weeks. And the snow that blanketed much of the country during the Christmas holiday helped propel Ugg results even more than expected, retailers said. “Ugg took the cake,” said Joseph Wright, president of Vernon Powell Shoes in Salisbury, Md. Overall, stores were more upbeat about this season than last year’s period, although some said they were still facing obstacles. Below, retailers sound off on the season and the brands that drove business.<WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: This is hardly surprising for anyone that may have walked by one of the few UGG boutiques in NYC this holiday and saw the velvet rope containing a perpetual line of customers.  We originally noted that the line began to form in Soho in mid-October, only to last the entire holiday season. 


Timberland Sells IPATH -Timberland has sold the IPATH skate brand to Klone Lab, according to a memo sent to Timberland employees. In he second quarter of 2010, Timberland took a charge because IPATH had not met the revenue and earnings growth forecasted when it was acquired in August 2007.  A report on shop-eat-surf.com said that CEO Jeff Swartz wrote in a memo last week that IPATH's revenues grew 40% in the past year with increases in its account base domestically and internationally. However, Timberland decided IPATH did not fit with Timberland's core mission to become the No. 1 outdoor company. In the second quarter ended July 2, 2010, Timberland recorded an impairment charge of $5.4 million after concluding that the carrying value of goodwill exceeded the estimated fair value for its IPath, North America Retail and Europe Retail reporting units. It also recorded a separate impairment charge of $7.8 million after concluding that the carrying value of the IPath and howies trademarks and other intangible assets exceeded their estimated fair value.<SportsOneSource>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: With competition in the outdoor space remaining at heightened levels, TBL’s fledgling side projects are less of a distraction after this divestiture.  Also a good lesson in “not all footwear is created equal”.


VF Corp. Promotes Rendle and Baxter  VF Corp. promoted two executives, Steve Rendle and Scott Baxter, to the newly-created position of Group President. Rendle, 51, has been promoted to vice president, VF and group president, Outdoor & Action Sports Americas. Since 2009, Rendle has served as president of VF Outdoor Americas. He will now be responsible for leading VF's Outdoor and Action Sports businesses in North and South America, consisting of The North Face, Vans, JanSport, Eagle Creek, Reef and lucy brands. Kevin Bailey, president of Vans and Jeff Moore, president of Reef will now report to Rendle. He will continue to be based in San Leandro, CA. In addition to continuing to lead its Imagewear coalition, Baxter, 46, will be assuming responsibility for its Jeanswear Americas business. Since 2008 Baxter has served as President of VF's Imagewear coalition, with responsibility for the coalition's Image and Licensed Sports Apparel businesses. Baxter's new title is Vice President, VF and Group President, Jeanswear Americas & Imagewear. Angelo LaGrega, who for the past 5 years has done a tremendous job as President of Jeanswear Americas, will now report to Baxter. Baxter and his family will be relocating to Greensboro, North Carolina in 2011. Karl Heinz Salzburger, currently Vice President, VF and President - VF International and a member of VF's Operating Committee, will assume the new title of Vice President, VF and Group President, International. <SportsOneSource>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: With the complexity of its global business becoming increasingly challenging, the added layer of senior management to oversee day-to-day operations makes sense – it also happens to free up Wiseman and other key executives to focus on more significant M&A opportunities, which has been noticeably absent of late despite management’s interest.


Perry Ellis To Buy Rafaella - Perry Ellis International Inc. is expanding its profile with a deal to buy Rafaella Apparel Group Inc. from Cerberus Capital Management. The purchase price includes $70 million and 106,564 warrants to purchase Perry Ellis stock. The deal is expected to close by Jan. 28 and will help the company expand its women’s offering. The transaction helped lift Perry Ellis shares $2.77, or 10.6 percent, to $28.84 Friday after they reached a new 52-week high of $30.24 earlier in the day. “Perry Ellis will immediately become a more significant player in the women’s apparel industry,” said George Feldenkreis, chairman and chief executive officer. Rafaella designs, sources and distributes women’s better sportswear. The business had revenues of $122 million and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $12.4 million for the 12 months ended Sept. 30. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: With low single-digit EBIT margins, the Rafaella acquisition not only adds over 10% to the PERY’s revenue base, but should also help return profitability back near double-digit levels last achieved in ’03.


India Trades Cotton for Onions - The Commerce Ministry on Saturday turned down the Indian demand to immediately allow the onions export through land route via Wagha border, however Islamabad would consider the New Delhi’s demand later, most probably in the coming week. “We have been asked by the Indian government through Foreign Office to allow the onions exports to India, as they badly needed the commodity. However the Ministry of Commerce will not allow it at present without consultations of stakeholders. Meanwhile an important meeting of all stakeholders is likely to be held on Monday to consider the Indian demand,” an official of the Commerce Ministry told The Nation. He further said, “The Commerce Ministry cannot make this decision alone, as consultations of all stakeholders are required in this regard and the Government will consider the Indian demand on Monday.”<Nation>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  In a change of roles, Pakistan now has the upper hand when it comes to commodity strangleholds on supply. With food inflation rampant, the Pakistan government has found one of the few levers to ease India’s restrictive cotton export policy.



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January may hit another record.



The following details Macau table revenues for the first  9 days of January.  Note that the counts are performed 1 day in arrears so the total includes New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  January is off to a stunning start both in terms of volumes and hold percentage.  We certainly expect growth to moderate later in the month as business typically slows down ahead of Chinese New Year which starts on February 3rd this year.  If we assume the current torrid pace continues, then gaming revenues would total HK$21.5 billion, up 58% and a new monthly record.  However, if we use the November pace for the rest of the month, we calculate total gaming revenues will be HK$18.5 billion, up 36% YoY.  Still a record and impressive growth considering last January generated a 63% comp. 


Market shares thus far in January continued recent trends.  Wynn knocked the cover off the ball in the first part of the month (again) while LVS was a laggard, dropping all the way to 14%.  Hold likely played a role in the LVS drop but we remain concerned with their weak Junket volume share.  The fact is that LVS is just not competitive with their junket commissions and credit policy.




News items and price action from Friday’s trading.  Between the Cowan conference and ICR the news flow for the balance of the week should pick up significantly.

  • GMCR rounded out a strong week by outperforming its QSR peers on accelerating volume Friday, gaining 3.7%.
  • SBUX also gained on accelerating volume, ending the session up 2.6%.
  • COSI again gained on accelerating volume, its shares rose 3.4% to finish the week up 29.4%.  I continue to like this stock and believe improvement in the company’s fundamentals remains
  • WEN  - converting an Arby’s to a Wendy’s in  PA - last Friday WEN declined on accelerating volume.
  • MCD gained slightly on Friday to round out a poor week’s trading during which its shares declined 3.1%.
  • RUTH outperformed on Friday, gaining 4.5% on strong volume.  This morning, the company announced preliminary 4Q10 sales results. 
  • RRGB shares increased 4.2% on accelerating volume on the back of news that activist shareholders are pushing for the company to go private
  • EAT continues to perform strongly, gaining 1.2% on Friday on strong volume. 
  • AFCE raised its forecast for the current fiscal year.



Howard Penney

Managing Director


The Macau Metro Monitor, January 10, 2011



Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau SA, the parent company of SJM Holdings, has sold 4 building sites in Macau to China Star Entertainment for HK$550MM.  The deal is pending approval from the Macau government.  The sites are adjacent to Hotel Lan Kwai Fong, Macao Polytechnic Institute, Forum de Macao and Golden Lotus Square.  They will be developed into office units and residential apartments for sale. 


The four sites were granted to STDM by the Portuguese administration, but the company failed to develop them within the agreed deadlines. The government decided to postpone the development period for 36 months commencing from 15 April 2010 (i.e. until 14 April 2013).



Certain Beijing and Shanghai residents may be able to travel to Taiwan under the Individual Visit Scheme starting April 2011.  Authorities on both sides had reached a consensus concerning the pilot scheme and that the preliminary planning is to impose a ceiling on the number of applicants at 500 per day.  An individual tourist visa is valid for three months and allows the holder 15 days on the island each time.


Huis Ten Bosch intends to start a floating casino between Nagasaki and Shanghai this summer.  The 20,000-30,000 tons luxury ocean liner will target patrons from Mainland China.  Huis Ten Bosch had established a Panamanian company so that it can operate a casino on the ship.  The company invested 20 billion yen into the project and the ship will hold 1,500-1,700 passengers.


Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said increased Chinese demand and weather-related troubles will likely push up commodity prices, adding to inflationary pressures in Singapore.  Inflation is expected to rise in the first quarter of this year before moderating, he said.


Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said there would be no need for stimulus measures in Singapore in 2011.  The government expects a "healthy" 4% to 6% GDP growth in 2011 but inflation needs to be watched closely, he added.

Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.48%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.35%