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Czech Mate? Not So Much, Yet...

Market entertainers are always flipping around on TV with whatever narrative it is that suits the direction of the day. I heard someone rattle off something about a "depression" in The Czech Republic this morning. While Czech GDP has certainly fallen from its double digit growth graces... this is hardly a "Great Depression." Ask someone who lives there...

Czech Republic GDP came in at +4.2% y/y this morning (Q3 of 2008). This is another deceleration (see chart), but looks outstanding on a nominal basis versus countries that are swallowing themselves with leverage into the thralls of stagflation (Japan). Stocks in Prague are trading up +2.5% as they head into the European close. This is a positive divergence vs. the other countries in the region.

It will be very interesting to watch stock markets around the world reset their performance in 2009. Eastern Europe does have an interesting organic GDP growth story to tell. Romania just printed the highest growth GDP in almost the entire world last week.

Stay tuned into reality - we've got your back.

Keith R. McCullough
CEO & Chief Investment Officer

YUM – Initial Thoughts from Analyst Meeting

YUM’s senior management has a history of over promising and under delivering in the U.S. See below:

2007: At its December 2006 Investor Day, YUM provided 2007 U.S. operating profit growth guidance of 5%.

On its 1Q07 earnings call, the company revised this guidance and said that it did not expect to meet its 5% long-term growth goal but that operating profit growth should be positive.

2007 U.S. operating profit came in down 3%.

2008: At its December 2007 Investor Day, YUM again provided 2008 U.S. operating profit growth guidance of 5%.

On its 2Q08 earnings call, the company lowered this guidance and said that U.S. operating profit should decline about 3%.

U.S. operating profit year-to-date through 3Q08 came in down 11%.

2009: Today, at its December 2008 Investor Day, YUM provided 2009 U.S. operating profit growth guidance of 15% (9% from expected G&A savings).

2009 will come in ???

The company is obviously lapping an extremely easy comparison from 2008, but the company has been lapping easy comparisons (not as easy as 2008) for the last 5 years.

YUM is expecting to grow EPS by at least 10% in 2009. The company has been successful in achieving this goal in recent years with little to negative operating profit growth in the U.S. so positive growth in 2009 should help to make this an easy feat. However, YUM has also reduced its share count in the last 5 reported years and is on target to repurchase nearly $1.7 billion in stock in 2008. The company’s significant share buybacks have helped to support YUM’s annual EPS growth. Currently, the company does not expect to buy back any shares in 2009, largely because the company levered up significantly in 2008 in order to maintain its share repurchases in 2008.

SP500 Levels: Intraday Look...

It takes a bear to know one, and I think the bears are really struggling with this momentum change in the US market.

In the immediate term, I see a narrowing trading range developing (see chart). On balance, this is bullish. For now, the days of an 80 VIX are gone. From a short term momentum perspective, breaking and closing below 62.26 is negative for the VIX. Deflating volatility with accelerating volume on up days provides for a new range to trade the SP500 with an upward bias. If the SP500 can hold my new line of support at 878, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the VIX test 50-52 on the downside.

There are two very important macro calendar catalysts that I foresee the bullish narrative clinging to. First will be Friday’s bullish PPI report (inflation is dead will be ringing all over Barons this weekend is my guess), then we will have “Heli-Ben” come in and drop FREE moneys from the heavens next week at the FOMC meeting.

At a bare minimum, don’t be short these 2 catalysts.

My immediate term upside “Trade” target for the SP500 is 931.

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Eye On China: Meet The New Boss

Chinese Banks land on the US Shore…

Following in the footsteps of Bank of China and ICBC, state-owned China Construction Bank (CCB) announced today that it will open its first US branch office in New York that will be primarily focused on commercial lending, trade finance, and foreign exchange. ICBC, China’s largest commercial lender, opened its first US branch in New York City in October while Bank of China, the most international of China’s banks, already has three US branches.

CCB, one of China’s “Big Four” state-owned banks, ranks second with 8.25 trillion Yuan (1.2 trillion USD) of total assets, behind Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and ahead of Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China. The bank has approximately 13,629 domestic branches in addition to offices in Africa, Europe and elsewhere in Asia.

Former Bear Stearns exec, Ace Greenberg, commented yesterday that “its over” for Wall Street as we knew it. Nine and twelve months ago, I took plenty of heat for my “Hank The Market Tank” and “Investment Banking Inc.” calls. I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was being realistic. Now that this comic tragedy is playing at a theatre near you, it’s more palatable to talk to your friends about it at this year’s holiday parties.

It is natural next step for the new Chinese Capitalist banks to take advantage of their being liquid long cash and build a presence in the USA. We should be thankful for their arrival. We need new bosses in The New Reality. I am sure they are licking their chops borrowing at 0.00% for 3-month US Treasuries, then lending long higher – that’s what proactively prepared capitalists do.

We remain long China via the FXI and EWH etfs.

Keith McCullough
Chief Investment Officer

Matthew Hedrick


Aggregate Macau revenues in November were probably better than expectations, up 3%. However, growth has slowed considerably and will turn negative over the next few months. The flood of credit that permeated the market earlier this year has receded. Beijing’s tightening of the visa spigot prevents the mass market from filling the gap. It’s all about market share for awhile.

The most important take away from November is the continued market share loss in both Rolling Chip (RC) and Mass Market (MM) by Wynn Macau. Wynn lost almost 3% of MM share in the last 2 months, including 1.2% in November alone. On the RC side, Wynn’s share dropped 4.5% and 1.7%, respectively. At least as it relates to RC, the lost share is not related to luck. Wynn’s share of RC turnover fell 2.4% in November.

After 2 months of the quarter, Wynn Macau appears to be tracking below Street consensus for revenue. Unfortunately, Las Vegas will likely fall short as well. October Strip revenues just came out and they were horrendous, down 26%.

WYNN remains a great company with a terrific balance sheet and liquidity. While they are the best positioned in each of their markets, estimates need to come down, potentially materially. An early January pre-announcement is increasingly likely.

Trend vs. Trade – A look at CAKE, STZ, DF, WEN, SBUX and MCD

The multi-factor approach:

CAKE - CAKE, finally looks like it's a long, for a "Trade"…….

STZ - wine worked again today; STZ continues to flash + divergence on my screens as of late...

DF - DF looks ok still here; holding 15.07 is bullish, closing below that line puts 12.87 in play...

WEN - WEN, we sold well, but looks like a repo as long as it can hold 3.65….

SBUX - SBUX ran into the goal post (Canadian Football) and failed to hold on in the end zone at 9.44 today…

MCD - Big line in the sand here is 58.38… Ackman’s McDonald’s is not Kroc’s… inasmuch as Blankfein’s GS not being Marcus’

The Fundamentals:

CAKE – 60% of CAKE’s store base is located in the states that are exposed to the worst part of the economic down turn. As a result, the fundamentals are very ugly, but at some point that is baked in.

STZ – Working on a fundamental thesis

DF – If we can get past the Organic issues, the balance of the business is rock solid, but with leverage.

WEN – WEN is in a strong position to right size the ship.

SBUX – I just got an email from SBUX – Christmas is 20% merrier this year! December 9-15th As a SBUX Gold member, I now get 30% off my purchase…… Last week at the analyst meeting they were talking about not discounting in the store, but using discounts at other retailers like Costco and/or using a “card.” Did things change so quickly? However, not only can you get 20% off on all merchandise in

SBUX’s stores, you can also buy SBUX’s stock for 60% off from last year.

MCD – I’m concerned about where MCD is headed. I don’t like the premium coffee strategy in 2009. At the same time the $ is will significantly cut in the perception of how strong MCD growth is ….

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