Holding Our Position

This note was originally published at 8am on September 25, 2012 for Hedgeye subscribers.

“We are holding our position.”

-General George S. Patton


That’s what one of America’s greatest said on the eve of July 31, 1944 when Patton “outlined the basic procedure for his men until war’s end.” In specifically addressing his intentions toward the enemy, he also added that “we’re going to go through him like crap through a goose.” (The Soul of Battle, page 289)


In terms of how I think about our proverbial enemy in Global Economics (The Keynesian Army of Academia), that sounds about right. As I watched a good man win $30,000 after hitting a Hole-In-One yesterday at the Homes For The Brave fundraiser in CT, I said to myself ‘divine intervention!’ Somewhere, something out there is telling me Americans are smarter than our failed policy makers.


After their 2-day Viagra rally, Bernanke’s Bailout Beggars are back on their heels. Our Q2 2012 Global Macro Theme of “The Last War: Fed Fighting” isn’t easy. But it ain’t over till it’s over either. We’re Holding Our Position that Policies To Inflate (Qe3) will only perpetuate the global growth slowdown. We believe that Strong Dollar is the only way to long-term American prosperity.


Back to the Global Macro Grind


Don’t look now, but US stocks are down for 5 of the last 6 days and have done nothing but go down versus the YTD highs established on the day after Bernanke became completely politicized (September 13th, 2012).


From that goose poop intraday high on September 14th of 1474 in the SP500:

  1. US stocks are down -1.2% and -1.9% respectively (SP500 and Russell 2000)
  2. CRB Commodities Index is down hard, from 320 to 305 (-4.8%)
  3. US Treasury Bond Yields are down even harder, from 1.89% to 1.69% (-11%)

Ok, maybe calling it goose poop is a bit much. But if you bought stocks/commodities up there and shorted bonds, and put your nose real close to your P&L since, it’s closer to the truth than a rumor.


On a more serious note, this is getting serious. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve continues to make promises to markets that he cannot keep. Reality here is sad and simple, at the same time:

  1. Money Managers are forced to front-run Bernanke, chasing asset prices higher into central planning events
  2. Then they all need to sell, at the same time, before economic gravity takes hold, and prices correct

This is the anti-thesis of part I of Bernanke’s Congressional mandate (“price stability”). It’s also the #1 reason why A) people won’t hire and B) people won’t invest in this market at a 4.5 year top. Real people with real money don’t trust this market as far as they can throw an NFL replacement ref.


Now, to be fair, the equity bulls who got smoked from March-June have absolutely “nailed it” from July-September – maybe for all of the wrong reasons (#GrowthSlowing) – but nailing it is nailing it when it comes to the score.


But where do they go from here? In March perma-bulls said “3-4% growth is back, earnings are great, and stocks are cheap.” Today, we have both Growth and Earnings Slowing, but something like 216,000 global “easings” which are, allegedly, going to trump earnings season.


In addition to what Fedex (FDX), Intel (INTC), Staples (SPLS), Norfolk Southern (NSC), Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), and Oracle (ORCL) have previewed in the last 2 weeks, here’s the Growth and #EarningsSlowing Update from Caterpillar (CAT) last night:

  1. CAT cut 2012 and 2015 guidance without a lot of specifics
  2. Management hinted that 2012 Revenues would “come off” by about $2 Billion Dollars
  3. Management insisted cutting 2015 guidance from $15-20 in EPS to $12-18 in EPS was “not a guidance cut”

So, in our Research Meeting today I’ll ask our new long-cycle master Industrials Managing Director, Jay Van Sciver, if it’s “not a guidance cut”, what specifically does that goosy stuff smell like to you?


To review: when people say “stocks are cheap”, this CAT puke example really speaks to the heart of what that might mean. Cheap is cheap if the company can actually deliver on revenue and earnings expectations. “Cheap” gets cheaper when companies guide down:

  1. If you bought CAT in February 2012 at $116, assuming $20 in 2015 EPS, you paid what you thought was 6x EPS on 2015
  2. If you shorted CAT in February at $116, assuming $12 in 2015 EPS, you shorted it at 10x hopeful 2015 EPS

Ok, so 6-10x is cheap, I guess, if you use 2015! I’d need at least 6 Bud Lights and a 50% chance at Powerball to put my name on a 2015 forecast right now, by the way.


In the meantime, what about 2013? What if the company can’t drive earnings above $9 for the next 3yrs? What does Chinese “construction off 40%” (per CAT management) mean to Q3 and Q4 of 2012 revenues and earnings assumptions?


If you are long CAT, we’re guessing you don’t know the answer to those questions this morning. That’s ok, neither does CAT’s management. Therefore, goose or no goose, we are Holding Our Position: Short CAT as growth and earnings slow.


My immediate-term risk ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, EUR/USD, UST 10yr Yield, and the SP500 are now $1742-1785, $106.73-111.44, $1742-1785, $78.85-80.63, $1.28-1.30, 1.63-1.79%, and 1442-1458, respectively.


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Holding Our Position - Chart of the Day


Holding Our Position - Virtual Portfolio


The Macau Metro Monitor, October 9, 2012




Despite the increasing number of tourists during the golden week holiday, the catering and retail sectors said business was not as good as expected.  However, VIP gaming business was in-line with expectations during the period.  Investors are still optimistic on fourth quarter revenues for the VIP business.



According to the Public Security Police Force (PSP), a total of 1.6 million visitors entered Macau during the Golden Week holiday.  The number of visitors registered between September 29 and October 7 was well below some expectations.  Some reports mention that about 2 million people were expected to enter the city through the Border Gate, while others were arriving thorough the ferry terminals and airport. 



Joey Lim Keong Yew and Ben Lim Keong Hoe, grandsons of Genting founder, the late Lim Goh Tong, and nephews of current CEO and chairman KT Lim, have acquired 95% of Two Way, an Australian wagering group. Donaco Singapore, the company controlled by Joey Lim and Ben Lim, will be renamed Donaco International Ltd.   Two Way will initially focus on the expansion of the Lao Cai International casino and hotel complex in Vietnam, which represents all of Donaco's assets, but is also planning two similar projects and a casino cruise ship.


The expansion of Lao Cai to a 428-room hotel with a casino housing 26 gaming tables and 150 slot machines, due for completion next year, is expected to provide a significant boost to revenue.  Mak Siew Wei, an executive director of Donaco who will join the Two Way board, said two similar casino-hotel projects in two other Asian countries were "far along" the planning stages, but declined to give more details due to the sensitivity of licensing negotiations.

CHART OF THE DAY: Speculative Governments


CHART OF THE DAY: Speculative Governments - Chart of the Day

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Speculative Governments

“The outcome of action is always uncertain. Action is always speculation.”

-Ludvig Von Mises


Conflicted and compromised governments have been rolling the bones on tax payer dollars for centuries. It’s just the 21st century where they’ve really started to speculate with some serious leverage.


It won’t end well. And they probably know that. But do they care? Or, more importantly, will they be around when it matters? The concept of accountability doesn’t dawn on these people as a primal fear.


So, with the following as one of the most read headlines on Bloomberg this morning: “IMF Sees Alarmingly High Risk of Deeper Global Slump”, what does the IMF suggest governments do about it this morning? More of what has not worked; must do more.


Back to the Global Macro Grind


Speculative Governments in the West are promising The People something very different than what a Hayekian or Chaos Theorist would – certainty. What they should be doing is embracing uncertainty. That would be a nice start towards getting back to the truth.


The truth is that Big Government Interventions are doing precisely the opposite of what central planners said they’d do.  The following 2 are the most glaring when it comes to structurally impairing economic growth:

  1. Piling more sovereign debt-upon-debt
  2. Suggesting Policies To Inflate aren’t inflationary

There’s another headline this morning about $5 gas in California – but, if you look at what le gas costs in Paris, there’s absolutely no inflation. Ask Ben Bernanke. He’s got the conspiracy theory about prices at the pump not being what you think they are down cold.


If you live in Italy (unless you are one of the many 30-40 year old men still living with their Mammas) you’re out in the cold this morning. Even if you believe the Italian government’s version of the truth, here’s the deal on that:

  1. Italy’s GDP growth slowing -0.8% sequentially to down -2.6% year-over-year
  2. Italy’s consumer price inflation (un-adjusted for things you actually consumer) is still +3.4% year-over-year!

How’s the Bailout Beggar model treating everyone now? Wasn’t the Keynesian “multiplier effect” on all those Euros supposed to help in the whole living large thing? When your cost of living is out-running your economic growth, you’re stagflating.


Stagflation? Shh! Bad word says Krugman. He and The Ben Bernank don’t believe in that. They can “smooth” that. They believe that if you inflate commodity and stock market prices you will, at some point, reach “escape velocity” from economic gravity.




How’s that been going since the September ECB and Fed printing to Infinity & Beyond?

  1. Italian stocks (MIB Index) have corrected by -6.5% to 15,540 and failed to re-capture the flag of TAIL risk support
  2. Spanish stocks (IBEX Index) have corrected by -5.1% to 7,809 and failed to re-capture the flag of TAIL risk support
  3. But “US stocks are up double-digits year-to-date”

Yep. So the storytelling goes. It feels like yesterday that the SP500 was “up double-digit year-to-date” in October of 2007. That’s when both Growth and #EarningsSlowing were becoming as obvious as they are today (ratio of SP500 companies pre-announcing on the downside/upside = 4.33; highest since Q3 of 2001).


October of 2007 was also when Perma Bulls kept saying Bernanke was going to “cut rates” and we were going to have some “shock and awe.”


Oh bro, did we ever get both!


With the SP500 only down -1.3% since the Bernanke Top (September 14th, 2012), everything in lah-lah land must be fine, no? US stocks aren’t outperforming Venezuelan stocks, but they are definitely beating up on these speculative Europeans.


Or are they?

  1. Apple (AAPL) = down -9.1% since its performance-chasing top of $702 (September 19th, 2012)
  2. Tech (XLK) = down -3.6% since September 19th, 2012
  3. Commodities (CRB Index) = down -4.6% since the same Bernanke Top

It’s a good thing there’s no one in the US who bought AAPL or Oil up there.


Speculative markets are what they are. They are not new. But Speculative Governments driving speculative expectations about growth and asset price inflation that turn out to be completely wrong at least two-thirds of the time? Now that’s special.


My immediate-term risk ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, EUR/USD, UST 10yr Yield, and the SP500 are now $1, $108.83-112.71, $79.21-80.18, $1.28-1.30, 1.59-1.74%, and 1, respectively.


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Speculative Governments - Chart of the Day


Speculative Governments - Virtual Portfolio


Takeaway: US UUP transaction volume remains lower year-over-year

M&A and Other Trends for Q3 2012


  • Q3 2012 US hotel transaction volume was $2.6 billion, up from Q2 2012's $1.5 billion, but lower than Q3 2011's $2.8 billion.
    • The number of US luxury/upper upscale hotel transactions were almost unchanged QoQ and YoY 
    • There was a pickup in multi-asset sales
    • Relative to a 6 quarter trailing average, US average price per key (APPK) in the Upper Upscale segment fell 29% to $190k - One reason that Upper Upscale pricing is down is that many of the hotel transactions had a lot of deferred capex and were in secondary cities
    • There were two transactions that surpassed $1MM in APPK:  New York's Plaza Hotel and the Cavendish Hotel in London
    • Starwood Hotels sold the W Los Angeles and the W Chicago to Pebblebrook Hotel Trust and Chesapeake Lodging Trust, respectively
  • According to Fitch, August hotel delinquency rate was 10.82%, slightly lower than May's 11.15%.  The delinquency rate remains below the 14% seen in Q3 2011.
  • According to STR, YTD cap rate has been 9.3%.  The average interest rate is 4.25%.








Takeaway: Sep continued the trend of sequential accleration in Macau. While Oct will likely end that trend (difficult comparison) Nov should be strong

Mass strength offsets weaker than expected VIP volumes 



As we already knew, September GGR grew 12.3% (in US$), on the softer side, but still in-line with our expectations and above the growth in July and August.  After looking through the data, it appears that VIP was weaker than the headline suggests, as VIP volumes were worse than we expected and hold was higher.  However, higher margin Mass was srong.  We believe that October growth will slow to 4-9% YoY due to a very difficult comparison but then pick up again in November and December and 2013.  


We estimate that total direct play this month accounted for 6.6% of the market, compared with 6.9% in September 2011.  The total VIP market held at 2.97% vs. 2.77% in September 2011.  Adjusting for direct play and theoretical hold of 2.85% in both months, September revenues would have only increased 8% YoY.


The good news is that Mass revenues continue to come in strong, posting 31%YoY growth.  The bad news, albeit less bad than the last few months, is that VIP volume was up just 40bps even with the addition of Sands Cotai Central Phase 2.  Prior to September, VIP volumes generated 3 months of consecutive YoY declines.  LVS was the only concessionaire to produce YoY growth in Junket RC volume for the 2nd month in a row.


Here are some company property observations:

  • As expected, LVS held very poorly on VIP.  However, with help from the opening of Phase 2 of Sands Cotai Central, Sands achieved Rolling Chip volume share of 15.9%, which was the company’s best share since December 2009.  LVS’s Mass revenues grew 54% and Mass share increased 50 bps sequentially.  Overall, a much better month for LVS than implied by the market share number. Interestingly, Junket RC share at SCC grew to 4.6%, surpassing Venetian’s share of 4.0% in September.
  • Wynn’s share increased 60bps sequentially, well above trend.  However, the property held much higher than normal and last year, the property held well below normal.  Wynn’s Rolling Chip and Mass share were below the recent trend.  Rolling Chip volume experienced its 5th straight month of declines.
  • MPEL generated its highest GGR share since December driven by its highest Rolling Chip volume share since November.  MPEL’s Mass revenues were up 40% YoY but VIP revs fell 8%.  Obviously, this trade off is better for the company’s profitability.
  • Galaxy’s share fell to the lowest in 7 months.  Hold was 3.03% for its 2 owned properties but much lower than the very high hold experienced in August (3.51%).  Galaxy Macau’s RC share fell 40bps to 10.8%, marking the 4th consecutive month of share declines.
  • SJM gained the most share in September but the watermark set in August was a low bar to beat – i.e. the companies lowest share since July 2009. 



Total table revenues grew 13% in September, an acceleration over the July and August growth rates.  Mass revenue growth was strong at 31%, just a little below the 6M trailing average of 33%.  VIP revenues posted a month of 7% YoY growth after 2 months of declines and Junket RC also broke the 3 months negative streak, eking out growth of 0.4%.  While we expect October’s growth to moderate to a rate of 4-9%, we do expect that the VIP revenues to keep their head above water for the rest of 2012.



Table revenues grew 50% YoY (Mass +54%; VIP+47%), garnering the best growth in the market despite low hold across their portfolio.  That said, Sands China’s hold in September 2011 was also quite weak, making the comparison easier.  We estimate that the Sands portfolio of properties held at 2.26%, vs 2.37% last September, adjusted for direct play.  For the second month in a row, Sands was the only concessionaire to produce YoY growth in Junket RC volume.

  • In a big reversal of 5 months of declines, Sands table revenue grew 51% YoY.  The good news is that VIP Junket RC and Mass revenues increased YoY.  The bad news is that the strong YoY print was given a huge boost by an easy hold comparison and high hold this year.
    • Mass grew 11%
    • VIP grew 92% YoY.  Hold was high and the comparison was very easy.  We estimate that Sands held at 3.12% in September compared to 1.76% in the same period last year.  We assume 9% direct play in August vs. 15% in September 2011 (in-line with what we saw in 2Q12 and 3Q11).
    • Junket RC was increased 12%, reversing 9 preceding months of consecutive YoY declines in VIP RC at the property
    • We understand that LVS removed some tables from SCC and moved a few back to Sands Macau where they get better utilization
  • Venetian table fell 1% YoY.  Weak September performance was driven by a drop in VIP Junket RC and exacerbated by a difficult hold comparison and lowish hold in September.  On the bright side, strong Mass offset some of the weakness on VIP.
    • Mass increased 39%
    • VIP fell 26%
    • Junket VIP RC fell 17%, marking the 8th consecutive month of declines at Venetian.  In the 12 month period spanning from September 2008-2009, Venetian saw 10 months where junket RC volumes fell.
    • Assuming 28% direct play, hold was 2.75% compared to 3.08% in September 2011, assuming 24% direct play (in-line with 3Q11)
  • Four Seasons continued to perform well, growing 102% YoY
    • Mass revenues dropped 27%
    • VIP soared 219% and Junket VIP RC rose 184% YoY
    • If we assume direct play of 16%, in-line with 1Q12 and 2Q12, hold in September was 1.83% vs. 1.26% in September 2011 when direct play was 38% (in-line with 3Q11)
  • Sands Cotai Central produced $91MM in September, below an average of run rate of $123MM/month over the last 4 months. The drop-off is a result of bad luck in September.
    • Mass revenue expanded to $43MM, $3MM higher MoM.  Interestingly, Mass revenues have been increasing $3MM/month since June
    • VIP revenue of $48MM was the lowest VIP output, post opening
    • Junket RC volume of $2,978MM, increased 11% MoM, setting a record for the property
    • If we assume that direct play was 10%, hold would have been just 1.44% - the lowest since the property opened in April.   As a point of reference, direct play in 2Q12 was 12%.


At +30% YoY, Wynn table revenues had the second best growth in the market in September.  September also broke a 4 month streak of YoY declines and was the best growth month for WYNN in 11 months.  Most of the growth was driven by high hold and an easy comparison.

  • Mass grew 9%
  • VIP revenues grew 37%
  • Junket RC declined 6%, marking the 5th consecutive month of declines
  • Assuming 8% of total VIP play was direct (in-line with 2Q12), we estimate that hold was 3.35% compared to 2.30% last year (assuming 10% direct play – in-line with 3Q11)


MPEL table revenue fell 1%, having the worst concessionaire performance for the 2nd month in a row.  Hold across MPEL’s 2 properties was comparable YoY - 3.15% vs. 3.20% last year.

  • Altira revenues fell 6% due to a 7% decrease in VIP.  Mass grew 5%.  Results would have been much worse if not for good luck and an easy hold comparison.
    • VIP RC decreased 21%, marking the 10th consecutive month of declines which have averaged -19%
    • We estimate that hold was 3.34% compared to 2.86% in the prior year
  • CoD table revenue grew 2%, negatively impacted by a difficult hold comparison
    • Mass revenue grew an impressive 46%, while VIP revenue fell 9%
    • RC grew 3%
    • Assuming a 15% direct play level, hold was 3.05% in September compared to 3.43% last year (assuming 15.7% direct play levels in-line with 3Q11)


Table revenue grew 6%, breaking a 4 month streak of consecutive declines

  • Mass revenue was up 14% and VIP revenue grew 3%
  • Junket RC fell 5%, marking the 8th month of consecutive declines for VIP volume across SJM’s portfolio.
  • Hold was 3.09%, compared with 2.86% last September


Galaxy’s table revenue grew just 4%, taking the spot of 2nd worst growth among the 6 concessionaires.  Mass growth still led the market with growth of 57% which was offset by a 6% decline in VIP growth.  Galaxy's hold at its 2 owned properties was 3.03% vs. 3.25% in September 2011.

  • StarWorld table revenues fell 17%, marking the 3rdconsecutive month of declines
    • Mass grew 43%, offset by a 22% drop in VIP
    • Junket RC fell 18%, marking the 4th month of consecutive declines
    • Hold was normal at 2.91% but the comp was difficult at 3.06% last September
  • Galaxy Macau's table revenues grew 22%
    • Mass grew 66%
    • VIP grew 12%, while RC declined 0.6%
    • Hold was high in September at 3.13%,  but the comp was more difficult at 3.46%


MGM’s table revenue grew 8% in September

  • Mass revenue grew 24%
  • VIP revenue grew 4% while VIP RC declined 1%, marking the 5th consecutive month of declines (although the last 3 months of declines have been mild)
  • If direct play was 9%, then September hold was 3.12% compared to 2.96% last year





Despite producing the best YoY growth, LVS was the second biggest share loser in September, closing the month at 17.7%, -1.2% MoM.  September’s share was worse than its 6 month trailing market share of 18.6% but better than Sands’ 2011 average share of 15.7%.

  • Sands' share was 4.6%, up 1% MoM.  For comparison purposes, 2011 share was 4.6% and 6M trailing average share was 3.7%.
    • Mass share was 5.9%
    • VIP rev share jumped to 4.0%
    • RC share was 3.5%, 60bps better than its 6M average
  • Venetian’s share fell 1.1% to 8.5%.  2011 share was 8.4% and 6 month trailing share was 7.6%.
    • Mass share fell 50bps to 13.7%
    • VIP share decreased 1.5% to 4.8%
    • Junket RC share increased 10bps to 4.0%
  • FS decreased 90bps to 2.2%.  This compares to 2011 share of 2.2% and 6M trailing average share of 3.3%.
    • VIP share decreased 1.2% to 2.6%. 
    • Mass ticked up 20bps to 1.3%
    • Junket RC was flat at 3.7%
  • Sands Cotai Central's table market share fell to 3.2% in September from 3.4% in August.
    • Mass share of 5.2%, marking a property record
    • VIP share of 2.3%
    • Junket RC share grew to 4.6%, surpassing Venetian’s share of 4.0% in September


Wynn gained 50bps of market share in September, rising to 12.9% due to high hold.  While its September share was far below Wynn’s 2011 average of 14.1%, it was better than their 6-month trailing average of 12.1%.  We expect Wynn’s share to struggle in the face of a ramping Sands Cotai Central.

  • Mass market share was flat MoM at 8.7%
  • VIP market share rose 80bps to 14.5%
  • Junket RC share increased 40bps to 12.6%


MPEL’s gained 1.2% in September to 14.3%, above their 6 month trailing share of 13.3% and but below their 2011 share of 14.8%. 

  • Altira’s share grew 160bps to 4.4%, above its 6M trailing share of 3.6% but below their 2011 share of 5.3%.  Much of the MoM recovery was due to high hold in September following low hold in August.
    • Mass share fell 20bps to 1.3%
    • VIP surged 2.4% to 5.7%
    • VIP RC share was flat at 5.2%
  • CoD’s share fell 50bps to 9.6%.  September’s share was above the property’s 2011 and and 6M trailing share of 9.3% and 9.4%, respectively.
    • Mass market share dropped 1.5%to 8.9%
    • VIP share fell 10bps to 9.9%
    • Junket RC grew 30bps to 8.7%


SJM was the biggest share gainer in September.  SJM’s share grew 2.1% to 27.2%.  September’s share compares to their 2011 average of 29.2% and its 6M trailing average of 26.4%.

  • Mass market share improved 1.4% to 32.0%
  • VIP share increased 2.6% to 26.1%
  • Junket RC share fell 70bps to 26.9%


Galaxy was the biggest share donor in September, dropped 210bps to 18.1% in September, below its 6M trailing share average of 19.9%

  • Galaxy Macau share dropped 2.3% to 10.3%.  Last month’s share was inflated due to record hold of 4%.  September’s hold was 3.13%.
    • Mass share fell 50bps to 9.2%
    • VIP share plunged 3% to 10.7%
    • RC share fell 40bps to 10.8%, marking the 4th consecutive month of share declines
  • Starworld share grew 50bps to 7.1%
    • Mass share increased 20bps to 3.2%
    • VIP share grew 70bps to 8.7%
    • RC share inched up 20bps to 9.3%


MGM lost 60bps of share to 9.8% in September, in-line with their 6M average of 9.8% but below 2011 share of 10.5%.

  • Mass share increased 20bps to 7.7%
  • VIP share fell 80bps to 10.3%
  • Junket RC fell 1.2% to 9.6%


Slot Revenue


Slot revenue grew just 4% YoY to $121MM in September; the slowest growth for slots since June 2009 when growth turned negative.  Needless to say there were no records set for slots in September.  September had the absolute lowest print since November 2011.

  • MGM took the top prize for YoY growth with  +29% to $19MM.  Interestingly, this is the 4th consecutive month MGM has had the best slot growth.
  • Galaxy had the second best growth YoY at 19% to $16MM
  • MPEL grew 17% YoY to $23MM
  • LVS’s slot revenue only grew 6% to $33MM
  • SJM fell 15% to $14MM
  • WYNN had the worst YoY performance in slots with a 21% YoY decline to $16MM; the worst slot revenue month on record in 22 months and 50% below their record of $32MM set in May 2011.  







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