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CHART DU JOUR: MACAU ROI

  • WYNN leads the pack with an amazing 71% ROI (based on 2012 EBITDA) on Wynn Macau and Encore
  • LVS’s $4 billion and climbing investment in Sands Cotai Central has depressed its ROI
  • Peninsula investments earned much higher ROIs but Cotai still looks like a great investment

 

CHART DU JOUR: MACAU ROI - roi


BEAR MARKET: GOLD LEVELS, REFRESHED

Takeaway: There is no real support for the price of gold to the prior all-time closing lows. We reiterate our bearish bias.

This morning’s price action in gold should not catch investors off guard. Specifically, the #1 catalyst we have been anchoring on throughout our bearish thesis on gold and gold mining stocks – i.e. sustained USD appreciation – has been in play since late 2011. Not coincidentally, the spot price of gold is down -26.8% from its all-time peak in AUG ’11 and is officially in a bear market. Moreover, we’ll walk through why this inverse relationship should continue to perpetuate further downside in gold and other commodity markets tomorrow on our 2Q13 Macro Themes call (email for the details).

 

To be crystal clear we do not see a buying opportunity in gold here. It’s very tough for us to agree with any valuation argument for non-economic assets like gold. And even if one did exist outside of the marketing materials of gold-only funds, valuation has never been and never will be catalyst for any market price in our opinion.

 

What is often a catalyst, however, is price itself. Gold spot prices remain in a Bearish Formation on our quantitative factoring. Functionally speaking, all three of our core durations of investor classes (immediate-term TRADEers, intermediate-term TREND followers and long-term TAIL investors) are reacting to the same price, volume and volatility signals in gold. More specifically, it would appear many of them are heading for the exits all at once – just as we have been warning throughout our intermittent updates on the shiny rock that is physical gold.

 

BEAR MARKET: GOLD LEVELS, REFRESHED - 1

 

Given that gold is, in fact, just a shiny rock, we tend not to publish an overwhelming amount of research on it. To the extent you’re new to our views here, however, we’ve included hyperlinks to our recent updates below; email us if you’d like to discuss our bearish bias further.

 

Darius Dale

Senior Analyst

 


Morning Reads From Our Sector Heads

Keith McCullough (CEO):

 

Gold Extends Bear-Market Plunge Below $1,400 on U.S. Recovery (via Bloomberg)

 

India Inflation Dips to 40-Month Low, Boosting Rate-Cut Case (via Bloomberg)

 

Jay Van Sciver (Industrials):

 

U.S. April Empire State Manufacturing Index (via Bloomberg)

 

Todd Jordan (GLL):

 

New rules for Macao gambling trips (via China Daily)

 

Chinese bird flu cases rise to 60 as the virus starts to spread around the nation (via Quartz)

 

Matthew Hedrick (Europe):

 

Europe to Face Washington Disbelief With Economic Claims (via Bloomberg)

 

Howard Penney (Restaurants):

 

Shanghai Chicken Served With Blood Shunned as Bird Flu Spreads (via Bloomberg)



 



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MACAU: STRENGTH RESUMES

Ave daily table revenues (ADTR) increased sequentially from HK$847 million the prior week to HK$924 million this past week, up 18% YoY.  Our full month GGR forecast is HK$27.0-28.0 billion which would represent YoY growth of 11-15%.

 

Our contacts in Macau indicate that the Mass floors are still busy and no impact from the Bird Flu scare despite the media hype and more strict controls at the borders.  While Q1 GDP in China was softer than expected, housing has been better.  We are researching the following story regarding new controls on junkets limiting them to 10 or few patrons.  We are skeptical that the article has teeth but we will back with you asap if we learn anything new.

 

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-04/12/content_16397866.htm

 

Looking at market share, MPEL (our favorite name in the group) and LVS are tracking well above recent trend.  We already think MPEL will beat Q1 expectations, and even more so on a hold-adjusted basis, and now Q2 is off to a great start.  We fully expect LVS to be on a northwardly trajectory all year long in terms of market share and while the April jump may be due in part to hold (particularly in week 1), the trend is encouraging.  The other operators are all tracking below recent trend.

 

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Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold

Takeaway: We update our bearish bias on gold with a contrarian analysis of the fundamental drivers of this asset class.

This note was originally posted on December 14, 2012. As the price of gold crashes today, we’d like to point out that Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough has shorted gold via the Gold Miners ETF (GDX) eight times since September 2012 and is batting 8 for 8 in our Real-Time Alerts.

 

SUMMARY BULLETS:

 

•             Gold remains a crowded long for a variety of very obvious reasons – one of which could become less supportive, at the margins, on a sustainable basis.

•             In the note below, we thought we’d take a stab at how a core component of the bull case (i.e. central bank diversification) can come unwound over the long-term TAIL. It’s very important to note that we’re not positing this as the only factor driving the market price of gold; nor are we necessarily suggesting that this is a thesis to run out and short gold today with. Rather, we are offering intellectual ammunition to understand what’s likely going on behind the scenes in the event gold continues to make lower-highs over the intermediate-to-long term.

•             Sustained weakness in the JPY and EUR along with a diminished EM central bank purchases of gold (relative to investor expectations) could provide the necessary lubrication for a sustained USD rally and lower-highs in the price of gold over the long term.

•             All told, we think investors should consider reducing their allocation to this asset class. At a bare minimum, it would be prudent for gold bulls to confirm whether or not our TAIL support ($1,669) holds before increasing exposure to gold here. If $1,669 breaks, there’s no true support to the prior closing lows.

 

Gold is widely loved and probably over-owned – at both the institutional and sovereign level. Having appreciated in value for 12 consecutive years with a CAGR of 16.4%, the bull case on gold is well understood by just about every market participant.

 

This is true from traditional L/S equity hedge fund managers all the way down to retail investors, as ETF volumes have been the only thing mitigating the precipitous decline in physical gold demand. The latest data from the World Gold Council (3Q12) showed overall demand had declined -11% YoY from the all-time peak in 3Q11, with every category posting a contraction except “ETF & similar”:

 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc1 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc2

 

 

It’s not surprising to see demand for physical gold peaked when the price of hit an all-time peak of ~$1,900 early in the quarter.

 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc3

 

 

We’ll hold off on the discussion on gold supply, as we firmly believe PRICE eventually leads supply in most, if not all commodity markets. For example, if the price of gold rips to the upside, gold miners will likely follow the move by instituting aggressive E&P plans. If the gold price were to plummet, many producers will struggle to operate their mines above the cost of capital and will eventually curb production. Anything in between probably equates to a status quo level of supply growth.

 

Going back to the point we made earlier about the bull case being deeply penetrated, we thought we’d take a stab at how a core component of the bull case (i.e. central bank diversification) can come unwound over the long-term TAIL. It’s very important to note that we’re not positing this as the only factor driving the market price of gold; nor are we necessarily suggesting that this is a thesis to run out and short gold today with. Rather, we are offering intellectual ammunition to understand what’s likely going on behind the scenes in the event gold continues to make lower-highs over the intermediate-to-long term.

 

THE KNOWN-KNOWNS

Gold has ripped for over a decade as central banks increasingly diversified out of the primary world reserve currency and into other, more credible currencies, as well as other assets like SDRs and Gold.

 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc4

 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc5

 

We hold the view that credibility within the FX market is 100% relative and ever-changing. The management of foreign exchange is a 24-hour-per-day phenomenon that is consistently anchors on incremental data. Below, we focus specifically on the US because gold and other internationally traded commodities are priced in and settled in USD.

 

For 10+ years, the stream of incremental data has been a general headwind for the credibility of America’s currency, largely in the form of loose fiscal POLICY and dovish monetary POLICY. That confluence of weak POLICY has created an egregious amount of international money supply that has inflated international reserve assets across both the developed world and non-developed world. Initially, the price of gold appreciated w/o much of a shift in global central bank demand. That changed in 2004 when the confluence of the world’s reserve mangers started to accumulate gold at a rate commensurate with the rate of incremental foreign exchange accumulation. Since 2008 (not ironically when QE1 was introduced), however, they’ve been accumulating gold at a faster rate than incremental FX.

 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc6

 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc7

 

THE LESS-KNOWN KNOWNS

The first major run-up in gold (2004-2008) was occurred as DM central banks began favoring gold over incremental foreign exchange, at the margins. The second major leg up in gold prices came as EM central banks began to do the same (2008-present). This is where the real “juice” likely came from, as EM central banks have increasingly held the lion share of international reserve assets.

 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc8

 

The latter point is super intuitive, given that EM economies, on balance, have tended to be more manufacturing and export-oriented in nature (think: China). Additionally, EM central banks have likely aggressively accumulated large amounts of foreign exchange (in lieu of gold, at the margins) over the last 10+ years to resist appreciation pressure on their currencies (think: Chinese yuan and Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega’s “Currency War”).

 

For reference, Switzerland has been doing exactly this (i.e. accumulating foreign exchange at a rate faster than gold) for the better part of 30 years, as the SNB has semi-perpetually combated the specter of a secular loss of competitiveness – which is a real threat given the country’s +42.9% real exchange rate appreciation over that duration. The CHF’s de-facto ceiling vs. the EUR is yet another example of the Swizz central bank being forced to accumulate incremental FX, lest the country suffer the perceived consequences of having a strong currency amid the international “race to zero” in today’s “Beggar Thy Neighbor” global economy.

 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc9

 

That brings us to our final point, which is really a question:

 

Can EM central banks ever really accumulate that much gold – especially relative to consensus expectations that they are poised to be big players in that market in perpetuity?

 

There seems to be little political will across the developing world to allow for any dramatic currency appreciation – especially with global GROWTH likely tracking in the +2-3% range for the foreseeable future. This means EM central bankers will continue to be forced to daub up large amounts of fiat currency over the long-term, absent a phase change in the global monetary POLICY landscape.

 

In light of this, it’s important to note that the People’s Bank of China (a key player in the FX reserve accumulation sphere) now views the yuan at/near an “equilibrium level” and they have been using their USD/CNY reference rate as a tool to temper appreciation pressure emanating from the market for several months now. Incremental Polices To Inflate out of DM central banks will force them to accelerate their pace of foreign exchange accumulation if they are going to resist upward pressure on CNY exchange rates from current levels.

 

What’s new across developed markets is the political will for the Europeans and the Japanese to pursue incrementally aggressive currency devaluation strategies over the intermediate-to-long term. Keep in mind that we haven’t even seen the ECB really go to town w/ unsterilized bond purchases and that the BOJ’s balance sheet is poised to expand to new heights in a variety of experimental manners under the pending LDP regime.

 

In short, we think Japan faces the risk of a currency crash (peak-to-trough decline > 20%) over the next 12-18 months. Moreover, unless Europe has been magically fixed (are the Greek and Spanish unemployment situations even “fixable”??), the EUR is likely to continue making lower-highs over the long term. In the eyes of the world’s central bankers, the perceived credibility of the JPY and EUR are likely to be materially eroded over the long term, which, on the margin, is positive for other countries’ currencies to the extent they are credible candidates for international reserve management.

 

In the aforementioned Global Macro scenario, could we see the USD grind higher against a broad basket of currencies over the intermediate-to-long term? Absolutely – especially if US fiscal POLICY starts to get hawkish on the margin (think: Fiscal Cliff). Perhaps that’s why the US Dollar Index is down less than 100bps YoY, despite the Federal Reserve kicking the ZIRP can down the road 3x in the YTD and instituting perpetual QE – twice in the last three months!

 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc10

 

If one is bearish on the US Dollar from here, we can’t even begin to fathom what their next catalyst is, given the USD’s resilience in the face of all that…

 

In the past, strong USD has been really bad for gold (early-to-mid 1980’s and late 1990’s). The most recent period of sustained USD appreciation came on the strength of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, so it’s critically important to avoid underweighting fiscal POLICY as a factor for the market price of America’s currency. If Congress and the White House can figure out a way to resolve the Fiscal Cliff in a sustainable and effective manner (a really big “if”), we could see the US Dollar Index approach the high 80s/low 90s level over the intermediate term. That would not be good for gold.

 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc11

 

Our quantitative risk management levels for Gold are included in the chart below. If $1,669 breaks, there’s no true support to the prior closing lows. That’s something to think about as you ponder, “Who’s the incremental buyer of gold from here?” For some, that question sounds more like, “Who can I offload my gold to if and when I want to head for the exits before the crowd does?”.

 

 

Thinking Way Outside The Box On Gold - goldc12

 

Gold remains a crowded long for a variety of very obvious reasons – one of which could become less supportive, at the margins, on a sustainable basis.


Popping The Bubble

Client Talking Points

Goodbye, Gold

Practically overnight, gold fell nearly $100 to $1400/oz. What's the catalyst? A stronger US dollar that has kept appreciating in value over the last three months has helped pop the great commodity bubble brought on by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. We had a 40-year low in the US dollar and 40-year high in gold (read: top) in 2011 that was simply unsustainable. Gold prices are crashing and the metal is going down in flames. Further downside pressure will be exacerbated as fund managers and the retail crowd all flee the crowded theater in an effort to escape, which will drive the ask price lower and lower. 

Consumption = Growth

As commodity prices head lower across the board, consumption in the US has increased which in turn has driven growth. It's really not that complicated when you think about how the downturn in commodities has helped drive growth. When people encounter lower gas prices at the pump and cheaper food at the grocery store, they tend to consume more. 

If you look at the complexion of the S&P 500’s Sector returns for April to-date, it’s the same story (Consumption vs Commodities):

 

  1. US Healthcare Stocks (XLV) = +4.18% for APR to date
  2. US Consumer Discretionary (XLY) = +2.66% for APR to date
  3. Basic Materials (XLB) and Energy (XLE) = -1.65% and -1.12% for APR to date, respectively

 

 

 

The pundits who have been marketing gold under the guise that the end of the world is coming can no longer play that card when the S&P 500 is up +11.5% year-to-date.

Asset Allocation

CASH 31% US EQUITIES 20%
INTL EQUITIES 15% COMMODITIES 0%
FIXED INCOME 6% INTL CURRENCIES 28%

Top Long Ideas

Company Ticker Sector Duration
IGT

Decent earnings visibility, stabilized market share, and aggressive share repurchases should keep a floor on the stock.  Near-term earnings, potentially big orders from Oregon and South Dakota, and news of proliferating gaming domestically could provide near term catalysts for a stock that trades at only 11x EPS.  We believe that multiple is unsustainably low – and management likely agrees given the buyback – for a company with the balance sheet and strong cash flow as IGT.  Given private equity’s interest in WMS (they lost out to SGMS) – a company similar to IGT that unlike IGT generates little free cash – we wouldn’t rule out a privatizing transaction to realize the inherent value in this company.

FDX

With FedEx Express margins at a 30+ year low and 4-7 percentage points behind competitors, the opportunity for effective cost reductions appears significant. FedEx Ground is using its structural advantages to take market share from UPS. FDX competes in a highly consolidated industry with rational pricing. Both the Ground and Express divisions could be separately worth more than FDX’s current market value, in our view.

HOLX

HOLX remains one of our favorite longer-term fundamental growth companies given growing penetration of its 3D Tomo platform and high leverage to the 2014 Insurance Expansion from the Affordable Care Act.

Three for the Road

TWEET OF THE DAY

"Commodity margin clerks will be ordering lunch in today, big opportunity for Seamless Web." -@ReformedBroker

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"The trouble with normal is it always gets worse." -Bruce Cockburn

STAT OF THE DAY

China's economy grew 7.7% in the first quarter of 2013, missing estimates.


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