McGough's CIT take

As a follow up to our First Look callout on the CIT situation we'd like to point out some additional facts.

- CIT is one of the largest (and oldest) "factors" to the apparel trade, but it's not the only one. Wells Fargo, GE Capital, and Bank of America are also some of the larger players in the space. A quick Google search also lists numerous smaller and regional players which routinely service manufacturers. If CIT were to cease purchasing receivables then you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that there'd be a temporary setback to the small and middle market manufacturers that require receivables based financing. After all, CIT's $6bn in its trade finance asset portfolio represents about 6-8% of total industry receivables. However, it is likely that alternate sources of funding would be found as market share would accrue to the other large players in the space.

- Looking below the surface, it's important to note that CIT is predominately a lender to the middle market and small businesses. The issue of potential failure here is really confined to the trade originated by smaller businesses that, in aggregate, could have a broader impact on the overall environment. Clearly any failure or disruption in the availability of credit is relevant, but the impact on the larger publicly traded manufacturers and retailers (indirect impact from potential product shipment disruption) is not likely to be noteworthy.

- The real risk in this situation lies in the cost of capital. As Keith and our Macro team have repeatedly pointed out, the risk in the current market lies with companies that are saddled with financial obligations in a rising cost of capital environment. This holds true for the mom and pop, local, or regional player that is most dependent on factoring to boost the cash flow cycle. Even if vendors are to find new sources of financing it is likely to be at an increased cost, resulting in further pressure on sales and margins. The flip side of this equation is that the larger players with clean balance sheets are likely to gain share at the expense of their smaller competitors. With our day to day focus centered on the public markets, we tend to forget that there is still a substantial amount of small business activity centered in the retail and apparel trade. Of the approximately $200 billion in US apparel retail sales, the top 20 national brands account for only 30% of the total volume. We also estimate that about 60% of apparel in the US is sold through a publicly traded entity.

- With the decks already stacked against the smaller player whose financing options may already be limited, the CIT situation may force the hand of owners to seek partners or outright sales of their businesses in an effort to stay afloat. We've been talking about consolidation moving up the spectrum to larger scale deals, but a sustained dislocation in financing could lead to a change in activity as it relates to size. At the end of the day, this is yet another driver of consolidation albeit in a less efficient manner than the likes of a Linens or Circuit City.

 McGough's CIT take - a1

Brian McGough
President and Director of Research



The two Cotai powers colluding to control runaway commission expenses sounds good on the surface.  Cotai versus the peninsula is a battle that started with the opening of City of Dreams on June 1st.  It does make sense for Venetian and CoD to continue to work together and commissions are an obvious place to start.  After looking at the June data and July so far, Cotai is clearly winning the battle.

One issue with self-regulating commission rates is that the other players probably won't follow the cut.  Is Jack Lam going to reduce his commission at the Mandarin from a very lucrative 1.40-1.45%?  I doubt it.  Given the competitiveness in the VIP segment, pricing is a key variable.  Junkets can easily bring their customers to the higher commission casinos.  The second problem is the lack of transparency in junket commission rates.  It's good PR to announce a commission reduction, but will CoD know that Venetian is cheating and vice versa?  Will Venetian know if CoD is making other concessions to the junkets that don't show up in the official junket rate?

Even a government enacted commission cap would be difficult to enforce.  The operators have been expecting government action since late last year and still nothing has been enacted.  We are skeptical of any government action until at least late 2009 when the new Chief Executive takes over.

We continue to believe there is upside in both MPEL and LVS for different reasons, none of which involve commission caps.  For MPEL, the incremental news flow should be positive as CoD continues to ramp.  For LVS, Macau margins could look much better than expected as drastic headcount reductions and numerous one-time expenses will improve "ongoing" margins.

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Research Edge Portfolio Position: Long CAF

The staggering 28.4 % year over year increase in June M2 data released by the PBOC today took a back seat  in the media to the news that foreign currency reserves have topped $2 trillion (see charts below).  For the US, this data means that China will continue to buy treasuries. For China this data may mean that more speculative money is flowing into already extended markets.

HOT MONEY - barb1

HOT MONEY - barb2

By all measures the liquidity sloshing through the system is having a pronounced effect, and concerns over the negative impact of these easy money policies are beginning to loom ever larger. With no clear indication that regulators are moving rapidly enough to fully reign in speculative asset bubbles or that any capital injections are being planned for AMCs in order to handle fresh "special mention" loans there is real concern among observers on the ground that there is not enough being done by authorities to prepare for the pain in the pipeline.

From our perspective, the issue is fundamental: China's stimulus program was and is an attempt to buy growth -and growth is always very expensive to purchase. If data shows that internal demand is broadening -in other words that that consumers are buying more than just replacement trucks and vans with government tax rebates and factories are turning out more than just girders and beams for state infrastructure projects, then these measures will likely prove worthwhile despite the negative impact of the inevitable defaults and popping bubbles.

Bullish for the economy in the longer term, but underscoring the risk of correction in the equity and real estate markets in the near term, today's data leaves us with many unanswered questions. In the coming days we will receive Q2 GDP and Industrial Output data that will provide us with more solid answers.

Andrew Barber



When looking at Europe we've cautioned against reading too much into aggregate EU/Eurozone data as we believe markets there are often uncorrelated and influenced by varied underlying fundamentals.  Today's report from EuroStat estimated that June inflation in the Eurozone fell 0.1% from a year earlier will give investors a general metric of guidance for Europe, yet the averaged number misses the mark for further understanding the divergence between economies.

One important take-away from today's report is that, as with the US, energy was a major driver -down by 11.8% Y/Y in this latest reading. The deflationary pull from energy should come as no great surprise based on last year's spiking oil price. Core inflation, which excludes energy and food prices, slipped to 1.4% on an annual basis, from 1.5% in May. Conversely, total CPI rose on a monthly basis 0.2%.

This year we've held the position that countries with economic leverage will outperform those with financial leverage. Sticking to inflation, we're seeing countries with financial leverage (think loan leverage combined with a real estate bust in Ireland and Spain) see measured deflationary pressure on an annual basis (Ireland -2.2% and Spain -1.0), whereas Germany, a country we've been bullish on due in part to its fiscal conservatism, posted annual inflation at 0.0%, a level we believe is healthy on a relative basis as the country works through the constraints of reduced export demand.  In contrast we see disinflationary pressure in the UK (outside the Eurozone) on an annual basis, with CPI at 1.8%, from 2.2% in May.

In an environment in which output and wages have decline greatly, with soaring unemployment rates and credit tightening, we're likely to see deflationary pressure continue in the immediate term through much of the Eurozone. June's retail sales number declined for the 13th consecutive month; it's clear that retailers are lowering price to move inventory while consumers have tightened spending and are anticipating lower prices going forward. 

We'll continue to monitor the patient on an individual country basis, while recognizing the importance of the collective health of the EU for individual countries.

Matthew Hedrick



June CPI was released today, with the index registering at an increase of 0.7% for the month versus 0.1% in May with a 17% increase in gasoline costs as the primary driver of the broad sequential increase.  Make no mistake; this is having an impact on the consumer: gas prices and interest rates are up, confidence is down and that is the reality of our current situation.

Regardless of reality, year-over-year numbers are where we need to remain focused because that is where it becomes a "political" football and will ultimately impact the market.  The CPI was reported down 1.4% Y/Y today -a modest sequential rise from last month when we saw the worst number since 1955. Reality vs. politics:  what would be an increasing inflationary measure on an absolute or monthly basis becomes a deflationary figure when measured year-over-year basis and that means that rates will stay at zero for the foreseeable future as Bernanke & Co. keep the free money train rolling. 

We have been making the call that the CPI numbers will go positive in Q4, and that that will represent a return of true inflation which it looks increasingly likely that the Fed will not be prepared for. Right now we are experiencing REFLATION which is just taking us from one point to the next.  As I look at my screen right now the REFLATION trade is alive and well; the Dollar is down and the best performing sectors are Financials (XLF), Energy (XLE) and Materials (XLB). 

We are still looking at a "politicized" short end of the yield curve.  The FED right now has no choice but to be the "deflation fighter."  Next week, when Chairman Bernanke is in front of the politicians, he can't very well tell them that he sees inflation coming in Q4.  

What does all of this mean?

  • (1) We will have an inspirational yield curve - the FED will keep rates at ZERO longer!
  • (2) Rates are not going to stay there forever!

Howard Penney

Managing Director


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