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Keith shorted ASCA in the Hedgeye Virtual Portfolio at $18.81.  According to his model, the TRADE resistance is $18.89 and TREND resistance is at $20.38.



Despite much better weather and a favorable calendar, ASCA may disappoint investors when they report 1Q earnings in early May.  In particular, ASCA Kansas City was impacted by the new Kansas casino opening and some of their other markets failed to capitalize on what should’ve been a very strong quarter.  While we like ASCA’s management team, ROI focus, and competitive positioning, our longer-term outlook on regional gaming is grim as demographics, the housing malaise, and other long term trends should continue to weigh on casino demand.














U.S. retail sales fell 1% for the week ended April 14th, according to the ICSC-Goldman Sachs weekly retail sales report.  This was the first decline in three weeks.


Commentary from CEO Keith McCullough


Trying to be on vaca w/ the family this wk – updates will be short:

  1. JAPAN – the Nikkei was down for the 9th of the last 10 trading sessions last night, taking its correction from the March YTD top to -7.7%; Asian equities were generally weak w/ the exception of India who reverted to the broken playbook, cutting rates.
  2. SPAIN – you learn the most about bear markets on the bounces – this morning’s in Spanish Equities on no-volume tells you all you need to know as people keep focusing on last year’s game (bond auction yields); its now all about the economic gravity of the situation and the IBEX needs to close > 7585 to recapture its 1st line of support. France and Italy don’t look much better.
  3. COPPER – we continue to see Bernanke’s Bubbles in commodities popping. On the commodities bounce this morn, Copper is down again and remains in a bearish formation alongside 10yr UST yields < 2.03% at 1.99% last.

Immediate-term risk range for SP500 = 1





THE HBM: MCD, CMG, DPZ, CBRL, CAKE - subsector





MCD: McDonald’s has appointed Tim Fenton as Chief Operating Officer, effective July 1.  Fenton is a veteran of McDonald’s since 1973 and takes over Don Thompson’s seat as Thompson transitions to his new role as Chief Executive Officer. 


CMG: Chipotle’s purchasing manager for meats and dairy, Doug George, said that beef prices will probably climb by the end of the second quarter as supplies of cattle tighten in the U.S.  


DPZ: Domino’s is featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal detailing the company’s “take me as I am” approach to emerging markets, even those markets where competition is tough and its product is not a consumer favorite.  We do not see this approach as very logical but will be looking for more commentary from management on its strategy in China, Russia, Brazil, and other markets going forward.



COSI: Cosi seems to have a problem – the stock dipped 10% on accelerating volume yesterday.


SBUX: Starbucks also dropped back below $60, declining 3.3% on accelerating volume.





CBRL: Cracker Barrel announced that it has restructured and streamlined its field organization to better align its restaurant and retail operations under central leadership.  As a result, the company has fired 20 people and is taking a charge of roughly $0.05 per share.


CBRL: Cracker Barrel named Laura Daily Senior Vice President of Retail today.  Daily will join thecompany on May 7th.  Most recently, she served as Vice President for Ballard Designs, an internet and catalog home furnishings retailer that is part of HSN, Inc.


CAKE: Today’s ICSC data point, -1% for the week ended April 14th, was a negative for Cheesecake Factory.  The chart below shows CAKE’s comps versus the ICSC Chain Store Sales year-over-year change.  The expected comp for 1Q12 could be slightly aggressive, given the drop in the ICSC Chain Store Sales Index over the same period.


THE HBM: MCD, CMG, DPZ, CBRL, CAKE - cake comps vs icsc





Howard Penney

Managing Director


Rory Green




The Macau Metro Monitor, April 17, 2012




Visitor arrivals in package tours surged by 41.7% YoY to 661,320 in February 2012.  Visitors from Mainland China (438,720) increased by 32.0%, with 155,036 coming from Guangdong Province; besides, those from Taiwan (68,233); Hong Kong (38,944); and the Republic of Korea (34,498) soared by 174.1%, 95.9% and 34.8% respectively.


The number of available guest rooms of the 95 hotels and guest-houses totaled 22,310 at the end of February 2012, an increase of 2,227 rooms (+11.1%) YoY, with those of the 5-star hotels accounting for 63.5% of the total.  Hotels and guest-houses received 721,036 guests in February 2012, an increase of 20.1% YoY; the average length of stay decreased by 0.12 night to 1.4 nights.



Japanese businessman Shinichi Takami was ordered to pay $2MM to Marina Bay Sands on Monday after he failed to meet the deadline to pay the cash into court.  Takami had been ordered by the High Court earlier this month to pay the sum into court, or provide a banker's guarantee if he wanted to avoid summary judgment on his gambling debts claimed by the casino.


MBS lawyers had sought such a judgment - which means the case would not have to go to a full trial - on the grounds that Takami has no real or valid defense against its claim.  MBS's successful ruling is understood to be the first against a foreigner in the many suits it has lined up to recover debts owed by defaulting patrons since the casino commenced operations in April 2010.

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Damned Lies

“I am not well qualified to criticize the theory of rational expectations and the efficient market hypothesis because as a market participant I considered them so unrealistic that I never bothered to study them.”

-George Soros


Just as Keith has his pile of reading, I also have mine.  The quote above from George Soros was in a speech he gave to the Institute for New Economic Thinking Annual Plenary Conference.  The quote itself was buried somewhat deep in Soros’ comments, but it jumped off the page at me.  To me it is somewhat akin, and I hate to use another hockey analogy, to Wayne Gretzky being told he couldn’t score 90+ goals in a NHL season (which is more than one goal per game) after he did it.


Soros, of course, is in a similar situation in the realm of investing.   He has absolutely crushed it in terms of outperforming the market over long periods of time.  His performance has been so staggering, in fact, that his net worth today is estimated north of $22 billion.  Now I haven’t always admired Soros’ political positions, but it is very difficult not to admire his investment track record. 


More importantly, I’ve always admired his desire and interest in attempting to explain his investment process.  Much of what Soros has written about his investment process revolves around reflexivity.  He loosely based this way of interpreting the markets on a theory by philosopher Karl Popper that suggests that the individual’s interpretation of reality never quite correspond with reality itself.  


According to Soros, in financial markets this is taken one step further in that individuals with a flawed sense of reality actually take action based on this flawed interpretation of the future.  In turn, these collective actions often influence future events, or more likely, as Soros said, create a “divergence between the participants’ view of reality and the actual state of affairs and a divergence between the participants’ expectations and the actual outcome.”


From my seat, the pin action in Europe over the past 18-months highlights Soros’ idea that collectively market participants really have no idea what the ultimate outcome in Europe will be to resolve the intrinsic issues associate with the Maastricht Treaty. Specifically, I’m referring to the issue that a European monetary union cannot exist sustainably without a strong political union or fiscal solidarity.


This morning the first of two key Spanish debt auctions occurred for the week.  The reflexive response from the equity markets is that the auction was a success, as European equities are up across the board with beleaguered French banks leading the way.  According to reports we are receiving from some of our contacts on the ground in Europe, the Spaniards sold 3.2 billion euros of 12 – 18 month bills versus a maximum target of 3.0 billion euros at a total bid-to-cover of 3.19.  On the negative side, the bills sold yielded 2.6% on the 12-year versus 1.4% prior and 3.1% on the 18-year versus 1.7% prior.  So, yes the auction was “successful”, albeit at usury type rates.


It’s quite possible that the Spanish debt auction this Thursday is just as “successful”.  Although as always, I would recommend watching not necessarily what the government officials say, but what they actually do.  In that vein, this week European officials are headed to Washington, DC with hat in hand to ask for more money from the International Monetary Fund.  The IMF meetings occur from April 20 – 22nd.  Interestingly, the Europeans may meet at least one surprising fiscal hawk in the way of U.S. Treasury Secretary who has already ruled out additional contributions to the IMF based on the belief that the IMF already has “substantial financial resources.”


Meanwhile as the loose monetary policies in Europe appear likely to be extended in perpetuity, inflation readings came in stickier, even if marginally, across the board this morning.  Eurozone March CPI came in at +1.3% month-over-month and +2.7% on year-over-year basis, both ahead of expectations.  The acceleration in U.K. inflation was even more noteworthy coming in at +3.5% versus estimates of +3.4%.


The scary thing with inflation is that, just like George Soros’ returns, it also compounds.  So, at this rate of inflation, in 10 years someone in the U.K. who makes $50,000 now will have to make $70,000 to have the same purchasing power.  Thus we have the hidden tax of inflation. 


Switching gears briefly, I wanted to touch on U.S. politics.  Yesterday the Senate blocked the so-called Buffett Tax, which would have implemented a mandatory tax of 30% on anyone earning over $1 million in income.  The legislation was blocked basically on party lines.  In terms of true tax reform, the Buffett tax is basically meaningless and is clearly not much more than a political stunt, although perhaps an adroit one by the Obama camp as according to a recent Gallup poll 6 in 10 eligible voters supported passage of the bill. 


The Democrats are only going to continue to focus on this class warfare type issue heading into the Presidential elections this fall.  In fact, yesterday I received a blast email from Stephanie Cutter, the Deputy Campaign Manager for Obama which invited me to compare my tax rate to Romney’s.  Ultimately, this “war on the rich” is and will continue to backfire on Obama in one key way: political donations.  So far, corporate executives across almost every industry have been giving less money to Obama and the Democrats this election cycle.  (We will have a note on this up today.)


For those looking for some interesting and enlightening reading this morning, the IMF releases the world economic outlook and fiscal monitor at 9am and ECB President Draghi is delivering an intro speech at the 6thECB Statistics conference.   Thinking about an annual ECB statistics conference reminds of Mark Twain’s famous quote (who he purportedly borrowed from former U.K. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli):


"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."




The immediate-term support and resistance ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar Index, Japanese Yen (vs USD), Euro/USD, and the SP500 are now $1, $117.67-121.61, $79.27-79.67, $80.03-82.34, $1.30-1.32, and 1, respectively.


Keep your head up and stick on the ice,


Daryl G. Jones

Director of Research


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Dollar Debauchery

This note was originally published at 8am on April 03, 2012. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“The current international currency system is the product of the past.”

-Chinese President Hu Jintao, January 2011


If Ben S. Bernanke thinks that he can continue to debauch the US Dollar and the rest of the world is going to say nothing this time, that will be different.


In James Rickards chapter titled “Prewar” of Currency Wars, he uses the aforementioned Chinese quote. It’s a year old now, but the East versus West policy waters are starting to boil. Since Commodity Inflation Slows Global Growth, many sharp minds are figuring this out.


Whether it’s the Reinhart & Rogoff Op-ed for Bloomberg this morning that tells the Fed to “stop moving the goal posts”, or it’s China’s Central Bank Governor Zhou telling the Fed it has a “responsibility to consider the global effects” of devaluing the world’s reserve currency, the battle lines are being drawn. Bernanke’s War is on.


Back to the Global Macro Grind


It’s really easy for US centric stock market investors to not see what’s going on across the rest of the world right now. It requires a repeatable and globally interconnected Macro process to absorb all of the world’s real-time data. Few on the Old Wall have one. Even fewer Washington “economists” and “strategists” even know what that means.


Got un-awareness? In Currency Wars, Rickards hammers my point home in telling his story about a war games exercise he took part in that was sponsored by the Department of Defense: “I noticed the absence of representatives with any actual capital markets experience… we needed people who, in the immortal words of John Gutfreund, were “ready to bite the ass off of a bear”…” (page 9)


To be clear, I’d much rather dance with a bear than bite one.


Altogether though this is a very serious point that needs to be crystal clear in the minds of any American Patriot who regards the credibility of his or her currency as something worth fighting for. Cheering on a market that moves like it did yesterday (Down Dollar = Up Oil and Energy stocks) is effectively asking for $5 bucks at the pump come Memorial Day weekend.


Taking a step back to Bernanke’s Dollar Debauchery Decision of 2012 (January 25th when, despite running 3% US GDP growth in Q4, he pushed the 0% rate of return on American Savings accounts to 2014), here are the 60-day correlations to the US Dollar Index:

  1. SP500 = -0.47
  2. EuroStoxx600 = -0.70
  3. MSCI EM Index = -0.72
  4. CRB Commodities Index = -0.47
  5. CRB Raw Industrials Index = -0.74
  6. CRB Food Index = -0.41

In other words, no matter what you think about correlation versus causality (I think the relationship between a country’s monetary policy and currency valuation is very causal), these are highly correlated moves.


Now, Bernanke or his banker buddy at the NY Fed, Bill Dudley (who also takes car service to work), might tell you to go eat an iPad or stick some natural gas in your tank – and like it. But the rest of the world doesn’t get paid that way.


The people who get paid are the few of us who have figured out that this Policy To Inflate is something to be long, until that very moment when it becomes obvious to everyone else that commodity inflation is slowing growth, again.




If Inflation from these food and energy price levels doesn’t slow growth – then why:

  1. Didn’t yesterday’s no-volume rally in US Stocks equate to higher bond yields? Treasury yields are down -3bps day/day
  2. Didn’t the rest of the world’s Equity markets open with a boom this morning? Italy chasing Spain lower now
  3. Didn’t Commodities continue to rock to the upside? Most of them are down this morning because the US Dollar isn’t

A: because world markets know (just as well as Bernanke should) that the US Dollar is being held, artificially, like a ball under-water.


How much longer can he hold the ball under water? How close does he have it to his face? What happens when that thing rips out of the water (like it has multiple times since he took over at the Fed), and deflates every asset price he’s trying to inflate?


I fear, my friends, that gravity is going to catch up with us when the least amount of us are positioned for it. Whether I am right on this or Reinhart, Rogoff, and the Chinese are doesn’t matter – it’s the when that will determine Bernanke’s legacy.


My immediate-term support and resistance ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar Index, and the SP500 are now $1666-1689, $121.94-126.12, $78.62-79.21, and 1406-1422, respectively.


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


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