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SEPTEMBER 15, 2009





Am I the only one who is surprised that retail has not melted down in the wake of the Goldman conference? I guess that after so many years of covering the space, I’m simply used to it.  In fact, over the past 6 years alone, there has not been a single year where retail (as measured by the MVR) has outperformed the S&P in the back half of September. I’m going to sing the same tune…the good ‘ol “sales and GMs are stabilizing over SG&A and Capex cuts” call will only take us so far.  This is especially the case given that we just saw a 39 point acceleration in the NTM consensus growth forecast – and that is now flattening out.  Bottom line = I’m less valuation sensitive here (if at all). Without meaningful upwards revisions and/or likelihood of M&A, my bias is on the short side.







Some Notable Call Outs


  • In a break from tradition and sign of the times, Doubleday is releasing Dan Brown’s, The Lost Symbol, simultaneously in hardcover and in eBook form. The first printing of the book is expected to put 6.5 million copies in circulation. For comparison, it took 53 printings and 14 weeks atop the NY Times best-seller list for The Davinci Code to get 6.8 million copies in print. To say that expectations are high for booksellers, retailers, and e-commerce would be an understatement given the sheer size of this launch.


  • Despite weak mall traffic, mall-focused ad networks are seeing strong growth in revenues. The digital and print signage directed to mall-shoppers is proving to be a viable and cost-effective alternative to newspaper circulars. Ad providers cite the contextual relevance of the signage as a driver of consumer purchasing behavior. Demographics are also attractive to this form of media, which is a direct way to target teens, young adults, and women.


  • The August NPD monthly footwear trends have been released and there are some notable brand callouts. Converse increased by 45%, Under Armour by 32%, Skechers by 12.5%, and Brand Jordan by 9.5% during the month.  Casual athletic and running were positive categories while basketball and skate were weak. 





-CIT Group survey says a majority of vendors expect revenue growth to resume next year - A majority of vendors expect revenue growth to resume next year, even though a significant number of retailers don’t expect consumer spending to return to pre-recessionary levels until 2011 at the earliest. Among the vendors queried, 29.8% of whom work in apparel and accessories, 17.3% expect significant growth in their revenues next year and 42.3% expect some growth. However, expectations differed widely based on company volume and size with  22.6% of large firms expecting significant growth versus 11.8% of small firms. More than half the vendors will pursue aggressive pricing to support growth. Despite upbeat expectations for their own businesses, 57.7% don’t believe economic growth will return until after 2010. As for the upcoming holiday season, 67% said they will stock less inventory than last year, while 66% will offer greater discounts.  <wwd.com/business-news>


-The U.S. and China have stoked the fires of a potential trade war over the past three days and the stakes for the fashion industry are high - While these actions haven’t involved apparel and textile products, many feel they could soon join the fray. Evidence of such can be seen as retail stocks followed the broader markets lower on Monday amid concerns about the prospect of a trade war between the U.S. and China, where retailers from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to J.C. Penney Co. make some of their goods. The S&P Retail Index (RLX) fell 0.7% to 369.71. After President Obama revealed a decision late Friday night to impose punitive tariffs on imports of Chinese tires, China fired back with a complaint against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization on Monday. The Obama administration said it will apply higher duty rates to tires imported from China for a period of three years under a China-specific safeguard mechanism — a provision China agreed to when it joined the WTO in 2001. In addition to the existing 4% duty, passenger vehicle and light truck tires imported from China will be subject to an additional duty of 35% the first year, 30% the second year and 25% the third year. The increased tariffs take effect Sept. 26. In invoking the safeguard, Obama upheld a petition filed by the United Steelworkers Union on behalf of U.S. workers in the tire industry. <wwd.com/business-news>


-The American Apparel & Footwear Association issued a statement encouraging Obama to avoid protectionism - The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) issued a statement claiming protectionism would cause more trade disputes and hurt the U.S. economy's recovery efforts. The statement followed President Barack Obama' s Friday decision to impose punitive tariffs on tires imported from China. <sportsonesource.com>


-UK retailers hit by EU sanctions on Sri Lankan factories - Retailers including Next, Marks & Spencer and Tesco could soon lose access to affordable clothing manufacturing in Sri Lanka as the EU looks set to withdraw funding from the country. Clothes have been imported tax-free to the UK from Sri Lanka over the past four years in a scheme set up to aid the country’s recovery after the tsunami in December 2004. However, the benefits could soon be withdrawn as punishment for the Sri Lankan Government’s alleged human rights abuses during the recent civil war. The move could add up to 10% to the cost of the clothing, forcing retailers to source elsewhere. Next has a factory in Sri Lanka that produces jersey pieces, Tesco reportedly produces parts of its Cherokee range in the country and Marks & Spencer manufactures parts of its lingerie and school uniform ranges there. Conditions for workers at the factories are reported to be very good and the move could threaten the livelihoods of 250,000 workers employed in hundreds of factories across the country. The EU has reportedly given the Sri Lankan Government until tomorrow to respond to a human rights report alleging war crimes. <drapersonline.com>


-Turkey’s fashion industry launches Istanbul Fashion Days - Turkey’s nascent fashion industry has found something to celebrate during the economic downturn: the launch of Istanbul Fashion Days, the country’s first fashion week. The organizers’ goal for the $1.5 million event is for it to eventually hold a place among the world’s major fashion happenings. With high-quality cotton and low labor costs, Turkey has long been a production hub for some of the best known brands, from Marks & Spencer to Gap. Technological advances in fabrics and competition from Southeast Asia have pushed manufacturers to begin developing their own brands, starting with casualwear. Turkey’s manufacturing background is a boon for designers because companies are already well positioned to produce and deliver with fast turnaround. <wwd.com/business-news>


-Indonesia's demand for textiles and clothing in the domestic market has seen growth of 15-20%- Demand in domestic markets for textiles and articles of textiles has reached US$5.4 billion but there has been a decline in demand for imported textiles is apparent in markets of Tanah Abang. The local manufactured textiles and clothing demand for imported products have dropped from 20% to 10-12z5, benefited the local sector, said Ismy. To further enhance the competitiveness of the domestic textiles, the government will offer more incentive support such as tax holidays and reduction in electricity tariff. <fashionnetasia.com>


-Chinese car sales has seen a surge of 90% year-on-year in August to reach record vehicle sales - China is likely to surpass the US to become the world's biggest auto market in 2009 due to months of stronger than expected growth in auto sales. In terms of light vehicles such as mini-commercial vehicles, China looks set to pull ahead of the US for the first time despite passenger car sales in the US will remain higher than China's. August's 90% growth was contrasted with the very weak August 2008, when the Beijing Olympics and the onset of the global financial crisis, with sales down by 6.2 per cent, the first decline in three years. <fashionnetasia.com>


-Report says outdoor retailers score higher with customers - For the second year in a row outdoor retailers were viewed highest in the eyes of the U.S. consumer when shopping for sporting goods.  Based on survey feedback compiled in the most recent Where America Shops report, full-line sporting goods and discount/mass merchant retailers had higher awareness levels and scored more in-store visits than the outdoor segment as a whole, but when it came to rating the shopping experience, it was the outdoor specialists that scored higher across almost all categories versus other trade channels. The survey, which was conducted via the Internet in late June as part of the broader Where America Shops report, sampled a cross-section of the American population ages 13 and older.  When respondents were asked to rate the retailers they have visited specifically for sporting goods, it was the outdoor retailers that dominated the ratings of many of the attributes measured throughout the survey.  Other than having low prices and convenient store locations an outdoor retailer was as the top of the list. Cabela's received the highest average ratings from their consumers than any of the other retailers measured. Cabela's received the highest ratings for having a variety of product offerings and having products in stock.  When thinking about the customer service respondents who have visited Cabela's in the past year ranked only L.L. Bean higher. Cabela's fell slightly below REI and L.L. Bean when respondents were asked to rate quality of products that each of the retailers carry. In the battle for Full-Line Sporting Goods retailer supremacy The Sports Authority outranked Dicks Sporting Goods in every category with the exception of carrying quality products.  The greatest difference in the average ratings was in the perceived price of the products sold. Sports Authority received an average rating nearly a full point higher than that of Dicks Sporting Goods. <sportsonesource.com>


-Report says retailers have opportunity to convert web shoppers in-store - Dick's Sporting Goods' recent move to take more control of its Internet sales and The Finish Line's recent decision to structure its Web business as a separate unit are just two recent examples of how retailers see the Internet selling opportunity as a more mature business proposition.  Based on the survey retailers should pay very clear attention to how consumers are using their Web sites for research and purchasing. In a reflection of a weaker economy, 38% of the respondents that had purchased sporting goods (including footwear and apparel) online in the last year, said they had purchased less than the previous year.  The report found that 54% purchased 'about the same' and 9% purchased more online.  Of the respondents that mentioned purchasing less online this year compared to last year, 42% indicated the Have Less Money/Economy reason as the driving factor limiting their purchasing, 17% said the decline was due to the inability to Try On or Demo Products and 12% said the decreased online activity was due to Shipping Costs. Of the respondents that said their online purchasing has increased this year compared to last year, 36% said that Cost/Better Price was the reason for the increased purchasing, while 20% indicated Convenience as the primary factor and 17% said the Internet shopping experience provided Greater Selection and Variety of Products. <sportsonesource.com>


-New York Times Fashion & Style: A View of the Sporting Life - The Y-3 sportswear collection has never seemed so focused than in this elegant vision of the Beautiful Game. The Adidas footwear, especially the high-shine sneakers in vivid colors, were as inventive as ever. But Mr. Yamamoto’s spirit came through especially in the use of mesh in both the men’s and women’s clothes. As airy effects on T-shirts or as sinuous mermaid dresses, the Y-3 collection caught that particular Yohji Yamamoto blend of energy and romance. Thom Browne has a disconcerting way of veiling his imaginative designs with tricksy effects. But in his collection, there were fine pieces, especially a new loose, round-shouldered jacket, in contrast to his signature shrunken tailoring. New, too, was a focus on revelation, either as an ankle-length raincoat in translucent nylon or, more dramatically, as peek-a-boo holes punched into a tailored coat. <nytimes.com>


-High-profile departures at PVH's furnishings division - Both Lee Terrill, president of PVH neckwear, and Mervyn Mandelbaum, founder of Superba, which PVH acquired in 2007, plan to retire, according to an internal memo acquired by WWD. Terrill joined PVH in 1972 and spent most of his career in the company’s dress shirt division and was named president of the branded dress shirt group in 1998. In 2007, he moved to the newly formed neckwear group, where he served as its president. Terrill will retire from the company at the end PVH’s fiscal year, or Feb, 7. Marc Schneider, president of the dress furnishings division, will assume Terrill’s responsibilities on an interim basis. Reached on Monday, Schneider confirmed the changes but declined to comment further. Mervyn Mandelbaum, who founded Superba/Insignia neckwear in 1978 and grew it into the largest tie manufacturer in the country, will step down as chief executive of the PVH neckwear group, which was formed after PVH acquired Superba, at the end of fiscal year 2010. The memo also detailed the promotion of Mitch Lechner to president of the dress shirt group, effective Oct. 1. He previously served as the president of the division’s designer shirt business, which includes the Calvin Klein and DKNY brands. In his new position, Lechner will now oversee the division’s larger volume businesses — including the Van Heusen and Arrow brands — which had previously been headed by Steve Correia. Correia, who will stay with the company, is relocating to Los Angeles, where he will serve as the executive vice president of sales and marketing with responsibility for company’s midtier dress shirt business. Correia has been with the company since 1990. <wwd.com/business-news>


-Quiksilver Inc. has named Anton Nistl as president of its DC skate and snowboard brand for the Americas region - Nistl was previously senior vice president of sales at Vida Shoes International, a licensee of fashion footwear brands, including Baby Phat, Phat Farm, Pastry, Run Athletics, Esprit and OshKosh. In his new job, Nistl reports to Craig Stevenson, president of Quiksilver Americas. Nistl replaces Nick Adcock, who left the company in August and moved to Ibiza, Spain, a company spokeswoman said. Quiksilver, which was carrying debt of $1.04 billion as of July 31, considered selling the DC business this year, but after a refinancing in June, decided to retain the brand and move forward as a unified company. <wwd.com/business-news>


-Coldwater Creek CEO resigns - The company did not provide a reason for Griesemer’s departure and did not return calls seeking comment. Pence cofounded the Sandpoint, Idaho-based missy retailer in 1984 and served two prior stints as ceo: from 1984 to 2000 and again from 2002 to 2007. Griesemer, a veteran of Federated Department Stores Inc., now Macy’s Inc., and Gap Inc., joined Coldwater Creek in October 2001. He was promoted to president and chief operating officer in March 2007 and took the reins as ceo after Pence retired from the position in October 2007. “It is my firm belief that this brand, now 25 years of age, has significant opportunities for substantial growth,” Pence said in a statement. “The board of directors has asked me to return as our leader in order to accelerate the timelines for this growth, and for a return to long-term profitability, which our shareholders so rightfully expect.” The company has struggled recently as the missy market proved particularly vulnerable to the recession and accompanying slowdown in consumer spending. <wwd.com/business-news>


-To get in front of the young, city-dwelling customer—the target for its Timberland Mountain Athletics line and pinnacle-green Earthkeepers styles—Timberland is incorporating mobile media, TV, online and out-of-doors applications for fall. On the mobile front, the brand partnered with PR firm Mullen's Mediahub and Ansible Mobile to create an application called "Expedition Timberland" that features both the TMA and Earthkeepers lines while giving guides to hiking trails, walks and other outdoor activities in New York, L.A., Chicago, Boston, Denver and Minneapolis. The iPhone version of Expedition Timberland is available now, and a Blackberry version will launch on Sept. 21. On the television front, a new spot called "Bait," promoting TMA, will begin airing in the U.K., Italy and stateside (focusing on the Denver, Boston and Minneapolis markets) this month. The campaign will be supported online, with sponsorships on Hulu and customizable Pandora radio stations, and externally, using guerrilla marketing techniques in select locales. Jim Davey, VP of Global Marketing for Timberland, said in a release, "This combination of social and digital media, combined with innovative advertising and public relations, creates a meaningful conversation with our young consumers and demonstrates Timberland's commitment to integrated marketing around the world." <wwd.com/footwear-news>


-Delta Apparel, Inc. announced they have entered into a new licensing agreement with Jordan Outdoor Enterprises, Ltd. to be the exclusive marketer and producer of Realtree Girl® and Realtree Outfitters® casual apparel and headwear. The Realtree Girl and Realtree Outfitters collections will feature a broad range of fashion apparel providing outdoor enthusiasts with trendy casual clothing. Realtree Girl was launched in 2006, offering endless options that reflect her love of the outdoors. A full line of Realtree Outfitters casual apparel and headwear is being introduced this fall for adventurers and outdoor sportsman. These collections will be sold through a wide range of distribution channels including outdoor retailers, sporting goods stores and department stores. The agreement also gives Delta Apparel, Inc. non-exclusive use of the Realtree and Team Realtree® brands for casual apparel and headwear. In addition, the Company is assuming fulfillment responsibilities for Realtree’s e-commerce store, RealStore. <phx.corporate-ir.net>


-Glassware and gifts brand Designs by Lolita is unveiling a home accessories collection by Avanti Linens this fall at Macy's stores. The line includes beach towels ($24.99) and other accessories for bath, kitchen, bed, bar and beach. The beach towels, which feature a fiber-reactive print on the front and has a drink recipe on the back, will first hit in November at Macy's stores in South Florida. A nationwide rollout will follow in the spring. More product release dates and retail partners will be announced in October. Designs by Lolita's other licensing partners include Candles in the Wind for candles and C.R. Gibson for wine bags, as well as paper party goods and bunco, a dice game. The brand is currently seeking deals for categories such as wine and spirits, apparel, jewelry, fragrance and stationery. Jack Morrow of Calabasas, Calif.-based Out of the Box helped broker the deal between Lolita and Avanti Linens. <licensemag.com>


-The Derek Jeter Yankees hit record was thought to not be a big deal until a couple weeks ago - Now his passing of Lou Gehrig as the Yankees All-Time Hit Leader is being celebrated everywhere. First at Modell's, where Jeter commemorative hit T's have been flying off the shelves. Now, it's the folks at Steiner Sports, who are having Jeter sign baseballs ($599), Yankees home jerseys ($999) with his new record and model bats ($999). To some people, it's just a team hit record. To others, it's Jeter and the Yankees. “Presales on SteinerSports.com have been amazing and website traffic has more than doubled," said Steiner Sports chairman Brandon Steiner, whose company has had a deal with Jeter since 1996. "We’ve seen interest from not only diehard Yankee fans but from athletes and sports fans across the country." Jeter broke Gehrig's 70-year-old record of 2,271 hits on Sept. 11. <cnbc.com>


-Measured training programs have become a nice cottage industry for the youth sports business -  We’ve been impressed with SPARQ, which Nike aligned with, and the skill tests that they’ve done across the country in a variety of sports. Under Armour has done similar combines, well aware of the great branding opportunity that comes with grassroots training complete with athlete scoring. There is another company called 94Fifty. The company has tested the basketball handling skills of thousands of players by using a special ball that has accelerometers and angular rate gyros sensors. The sensors pick up the most important parts of ball handling, such as the amount of time the player has the ball in their control and the speed the ball is traveling. That information is put through an algorithm that spits out a meaningful score. The idea is the brain child of Mike Crowley, a former Division II basketball player who was discouraged by the lack of ball handling skills from that he observed from the high school level all the way up to the Olympic teams. Those who want to be tested, can’t buy the ball for themselves. It’s not for sale. Crowley’s team charges a $10 registration fee per player to bring his system to groups such as leagues, camps, towns and AAU programs, with a minimum of 50 players. <cnbc.com>



Dollar Down, Stocks Down?

“Man has made some machines that can answer questions provided the facts are profusely stored in them, but we will never be able to make a machine that will ask questions. The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.”
-Thomas J Watson
The Research Edge client base is constantly peppering us with questions on numerous topics every day.  The challenge of addressing them helps to build the quality of the Research Edge team and the product we produce.  
Yesterday, we were asked the following; “At what point does a burning buck get to the point that it's just BAD for everything, especially the equity markets?  What are you watching to gauge this risk, and what could be the potential tipping points that kick the correlation the other way...Down Buck, Down Equity Markets?”
The question is very topical but also a very scary one.  While we are very happy to have coined the phrase “burning the buck,” the real world implications of a BURNING BUCK are not good! The bottom line - a “burning buck” can only end badly for every one!
We have been saying for months that the most dominant driver of the market is a simple two factor model - the US dollar down and Chinese demand up - REFLATION.  Much to my dismay, these factors have trumped any fears of a weak consumer here in the USA.   
Yesterday was a classic two-factor day.  We saw the US Dollar once again lose its early morning bid!  As the dollar lost ground, the S&P 500 recouped most of the day’s losses and finished around the best levels of the day.   
This relationship can’t go on forever so what are we watching to gauge this risk that the correlation might end?
(1)    A breakdown to the $72-74 range for the US Dollar index only has one precedent (a US stock market crash in Q3 of 2008), so watch for that

(2)    Volatility (VIX) breaking out above the $27.13 level combined with an expanding TED spread (haven’t seen either yet)

(3)    A breakdown in the SP500 below the TRADE line at 1014 combined with the Nasdaq cracking 2,008

“What could be the potential tipping points that kick the correlation the other way?”  That is a much harder question to answer because we could easily see the dollar up and stocks down as we head to Q4 and our REFLATION ROTATION theme continues to play out.
We need to look to the Chinese as a critical factor to understand if we will see “dollar down and stocks down.” Right now Washington is doing everything possible to make the Chinese officials hate us more than they already do.  Despite the administration’s moves over the weekend, President Obama said yesterday “we are not going to see a trade war.”  He is right there will not be a trade war because we can’t afford it.  
While there may be “rules on the books” that sparked the recent trade issues, the Chinese have us over a barrel when it comes to more important issues like funding our deficits.  
I understand that the president is a politician first, and that he needed to throw the UAW a bone to help pass his healthcare reform plan, but this is not a good situation.  Clearly, this is a dangerous road the Obama administration is going down and I’m very surprised that it has not set off a correction in the equity markets.  
On the contrary to the market selling off yesterday, the Research Edge quant models moved back to a perfect nine of nine sectors positive on both TRADE and TREND.      
What do you think will happen to the dollar and the markets if the Chinese send another message next week at the G20 meeting that they are “worried” about the safety of its investment in U.S. debt, as the BURNING BUCK erodes the value of their holdings?  That’s right there is no trade war!
Keep the questions coming!
Function in Disaster; Finish in style
Howard Penney


GLD – SPDR Gold We bought back our long standing bullish position on gold on a down day on 9/14 with the threat of US centric stagflation heightening.   

FXC – CurrencyShares Canadian Dollar
With the USD continuing to Burn we added to our International FX exposure (we’re also long the Chinese Yuan) on 9/14 via the Canadian Dollar.


XLV – SPDR Healthcare We’re finally getting the correction we’ve been calling for in Healthcare. It’s a good one to buy into. Our Healthcare sector head Tom Tobin remains bullish on fading the “public plan” at a price.

EWH – iShares Hong Kong
The current lower volatility in the Hang Seng (versus the Shanghai composite) creates a more tolerable trading range in the intermediate term and a greater degree of tactical confidence.  

CYB – WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan The Yuan is a managed floating currency that trades inside a 0.5% band around the official PBOC mark versus a FX basket. Not quite pegged, not truly floating; the speculative interest in the Yuan/USD forward market has increased dramatically in recent years. We trade the ETN CYB to take exposure to this managed currency in a managed economy hoping to manage our risk as the stimulus led recovery in China dominates global trade.

TIP – iShares TIPS The iShares etf, TIP, which is 90% invested in the inflation protected sector of the US Treasury Market currently offers a compelling yield. We believe that future inflation expectations are currently mispriced and that TIPS are a efficient way to own yield on an inflation protected basis, especially in the context of our re-flation thesis.

LQD – iShares Corporate Bonds
Corporate bonds have had a huge move off their 2008 lows and we expect with the eventual rising of interest rates that bonds will give some of that move back. Shorting ahead of Q4 cost of capital heightening as access to capital tightens.

EWU – iShares UK We’re bearish on the UK’s leadership and monetary policy to weather its economic downturn. Although we’re seeing improved fundamentals within the country and across Europe we continue to see the country’s financial leverage as a headwind and increasingly the data suggests that inflation is getting ahead of growth. With the FTSE reaching a YTD high on 9/9, we shorted EWU.

DIA  – Diamonds Trust We shorted the Dow on 9/3.  In the US, we want to be long the Nasdaq (liquidity) and short the Dow (financial leverage).

EWJ – iShares Japan While a sweeping victory for the Democratic Party of Japan has ended over 50 years of rule by the LDP bringing some hope to voters; the new leadership  appears, if anything, to have a less developed recovery plan than their predecessors. We view Japan as something of a Ponzi Economy -with a population maintaining very high savings rate whose nest eggs allow the government to borrow at ultra low interest levels in order to execute stimulus programs designed to encourage people to save less. This cycle of internal public debt accumulation (now hovering at close to 200% of GDP) is anchored to a vicious demographic curve that leaves the Japanese economy in the long-term position of a man treading water with a bowling ball in his hands.

SHY – iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bonds  If you pull up a three year chart of 2-Year Treasuries you'll see the massive macro Trend of interest rates starting to move in the opposite direction. We call this chart the "Queen Mary" and its new-found positive slope means that America's cost of capital will start to go up, implying that access to capital will tighten. Yields are going to continue to make higher-highs and higher lows until consensus gets realistic.



Three senior officials at the Administration of Macau are in danger of being dismissed for abuse of power during their tenures at the Financial Service Bureau, according to Lusa.  Carlos Avila, former director of the Finance Service Bureau, Orieta Lau, the bureau’s current director, and Joao Janela, advisor to the Secretary for Economy and Finance face allegations of abuse of power leading to the Macau government unnecessarily spending more than MOP 3.4 million corresponding to an excess of compensation paid to the men for gratuitous meetings.





A detailed plan for Hengqin Island was revealed by Zhuhai authorities yesterday.  The island will be jointly developed by Zhuhai and Macau and, according to the plan, the gross domestic product of the island should be 56 billion yuan (HK$63.5 billion) by 2020.  The island currently has a sparse population and recorded a GDP of 128 million yuan last year.


The new campus of the University of Macau will span one square kilometer and will be operated according to Macau laws, separated from the rest of the island, and a tunnel will allow free movement of people between the campus and Macau proper. 


Other projects on the island include a huge China National Offshore Oil Corp gas terminal; gas-engine generator projects costing 12 billion yuan; and a massive ocean-themed entertainment centre, said to be the largest in Asia.





Despite major political activity in Taiwan, the plan to develop casinos on the outlying islands of Penghu is still on track.  Taiwanese Premier Liu Chao-shiuan and a slew of Cabinet officials quit en masse on September 10, following the government’s slow response to Typhoon Morakot, which lashed the island from August 7 to 9.


The political events should have no impact on gaming plans”, said Michael Tsai, president of ASTech Corp., a Taiwan-based gaming industry consultancy. “The key person who supports gaming industry development is President Ma himself — as long as he’s in office, everything should remain on track.”  Furthermore, replacing Liu is Wu Den-yih, a staunch political ally of Ma.


Penghu itself was largely unaffected by the typhoon and the timetable for issuing casino-related tender notices is unchanged.  

Daily Trading Ranges

20 Proprietary Risk Ranges

Daily Trading Ranges is designed to help you understand where you’re buying and selling within the risk range and help you make better sales at the top end of the range and purchases at the low end.

Chinese Tire Biters

“It’s obviously a measure that does not help recovery and does not help increase world trade.”

-          Alejandro Jara, Deputy Director-General of the WTO referring to the U.S. Government’s tire tariffs


President Obama took an aggressive stance on Chinese tire imports this weekend, announcing duties of 35% on $1.8 billion of automobile tires from China that are imported into the United States every year.  In the scheme of total Chinese exports to the United States, tires are only a small component at just over 0.5% of the entire $252 billion.  As a result, this only has a marginal impact on the overall flow of trade, but it certainly does, in the short term, create some bad blood with The Client (or China as we like to call her).


The immediate response from the Chinese was an official announcement to investigate whether the United States government was unfairly subsidizing both the chicken and automotive industries.  The estimated export value of those industries is approximately $957 million and $2.9 billion respectively, which could make this a much more than zero sum game if the Chinese were to take specific actions against these U.S. industries.


The ultimate question, though, is whether this is merely a tactical move by President Obama, or whether this is potentially the first move in a broader trader war with China.  If the answer is that it is a tactical move, this would dove tail with initial moves by other Presidents harkening back to Ronald Reagan.   President Reagan imposed duties and quotas on steel imports and President George H.W. Bush extended them in 1989.  President Clinton limited auto part imports from Japan and President George W. Bush attempted to protect the U.S. steel industry.  While all of these moves were protectionist in nature, all of the prior four Presidents also went on to cut trade barriers and tariffs. 


The unique aspect of President Obama’s tenure, as it relates to trade, is that China is now the primary creditor of the United States.  As a result, there are important considerations beyond safeguarding the domestic tire industry.  The New York Times reported today on the reaction by Chinese nationals to the Obama administrations, which were quite emphatic.  According to the article:


“The Chinese government’s strong countermove followed a weekend of nationalistic vitriol against the United States on Chinese Web sites in response to the tire tariff. “The U.S. is shameless!” said one posting, while another called on the Chinese government to sell all of its huge holdings of Treasury bonds.”


While obviously these comments are anecdotal and not indicative of broader Chinese government policy, there are, nonetheless, important to monitor as a measure of sentiment of the Chinese populace.


There is likely some merit to the U.S.’s actions, and as we are seeing via the stock prices of Goodyear Tire and Cooper Tire being up roughly 4% and 12% today, that there is immediate economic benefit to the domestic tire industry.  Given the importance of the broader economic ties with China, President Obama will have to be very cautious in ensuring moves such as the tire tariff are tactical in nature and not indicative of a broader shift in U.S. trade policy.  If it is the latter, all bets are likely off as it relates to the reciprocal actions from China . . .


Daryl G. Jones
Managing Director


BYI bags the Trop


Late last week, Bally’s announced another systems win.  At end of this month, Bally’s will be installing Bally’s CMS/400 player-tracking and marketing system along with Bally’s Business Intelligence Solutions at Tropicana Las Vegas. Bally’s system will be replacing a “home grown” system rather than a competitor’s product.  Tropicana Las Vegas has about 1,400 slots and we estimate that the system will yield roughly $4MM of revenues and $0.03 of EPS for BYI.  Recurring revenues should be in the ballpark of $750k of revenues per year with EPS of a little less than 1 cent.



    NPD released August Video Gaming results on Friday and the data looks less bad.  To this I ask, "Is the consumer spending more or are easy compares providing a mirage of health that doesn't really exist?"  Unfortunately, it is the later not the former and as we head into 4Q09/2010 consumer-based headwinds only get worse.


    Last year, August was the slowest month of the year in terms of absolute sales data captured by NPD - $1.08Bn.  This year, August data improved sequentially but it still trailed last year by a solid margin at just $0.91Bn.  August marks the 3rd month this year that consumers spent less than $1Bn on the sector.  The bears are claiming victory while bulls hide in their offices or point to "it's always this bad right before the cycle turns".






    Where do we go from here?  Frankly, I am torn.  On the one hand, console price cuts are already driving some elasticity in the market and that should continue to help between now and year end.  On the other, I can't help but worry about a toxic set-up that increasingly looks likely to pressure consumer spending over coming months and years. 


    My colleagues are among the best I've had the opportunity to work with and below are relevant excerpts from their work over the last few days.  Their points are valid and surely technology-based consumer spending is not immune to these factors.  Taken in this vein, it is hard to imagine that console price cuts are going to be enough to counter the mounting pressures that exist.



    First, from Andrew Barber - a great post on Consumer Spending headwinds:


    Keith likes to remind us that everything that matters in macro happens on the margin – and that being good at what we do means being vigilant for signs of change and that, while we invest in the present we must keep an eye on the horizon at all times. The horizon for US consumer spending looks bleak based on multiple overlapping demographic factors.


    In the charts below I have illustrated two potentially peaking long-term drivers for consumer spending. In the first chart, we see the age breakout of the work force estimated by the Department of Labor. The imprint of the baby boom is clearly seen, cresting in successive peaks roughly a decade apart.  






    The second chart shows the long term view of US consumer leverage. The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that consumer credit declined in July by a larger-than-anticipated $21.6 billion from June, the most on records dating to 1943. In the midst of the great recession it’s clear that consumers are accessing fewer loans (whether by design or because of reluctant lenders) and spending less.






    Taken in unison, the two illustrations indicate an easy to understand trend for the coming years: the number of people in the US labor force who are at optimal earning age has peaked and will be steadily decreasing while, simultaneously, consumer credit is declining. If you combine this long tails data with the points we hammered on in our unemployment post on Wednesday (“Stagflation: Where the Pain is”) in which we discussed how current unemployment trends were being felt most heavily by the oldest and youngest components of the work force, the picture becomes increasingly grim. Not only are there fewer young people entering the work force, they are having difficulty finding employment and when laid off are taking much longer to find new positions.


    As Todd Jordan pointed out in a recent post on gaming industry trends, prior to the consumer downturn beginning in the fall 2008 personal consumption expenditures were on a steep twenty-year incline.  With consumer spending accounting for roughly 70% of GDP the implication is clear: the higher one goes, the more pertinent gravity becomes and keeping rates at zero or buying clunkers can only delay the inevitable. Gravity always wins. 



    Second, a related and especially well-written piece by Todd Jordan:


    “The better part of valor is discretion”

    – William Shakespeare


    Thanks Bill, and the better or necessary part of consumer spending is the staples.  Necessity is why staples are also called non-discretionary.  With their discretion, will consumers be so valorous as to empty their wallets for things they want, rather than need?  The almost vertical trajectory of discretionary consumer stocks suggests yes.  On the contrary, sound analysis indicates that consumers face an almost impenetrable ceiling, triple fortified by the Three S’s:  Savings rate, Stagflation, and Share of wallet.  I’d add consumer credit (bad) to the mix but it doesn’t begin with an S, we like 3s, and our macro team will be addressing this topic shortly.


    So while Geithner may say that “things are better than 3 months ago, 6 months ago, before this recession began”, I would ask two questions:  By what metric and for whom?  Geithner’s preferred metric lately, it appears, is the rate of change or the “less bad” thesis that Research Edge was espousing when everyone else thought the world was falling apart (March 9th ring a bell?).  The stock market has already discounted “less bad”, then “stability”, and now is viewing the consumer as in “recovery” mode.  This is what scares me.


    “Recovery mode” implies, well…recovery.  I’m certainly not seeing it in the consumer discretionary sectors of gaming, lodging, and leisure that comprise my analytical vertical.  Is business less bad?  Maybe, but I think the comparisons are just getting easier.  The consumer is not necessarily getting stronger.


    “Recovery mode” also implies some lasting duration.  We are very worried about Q4 from a macro and consumer perspective.  The threat of stagflation is real, maybe coming as soon as Q4.  Stagflation is a consumer killer.  In a stagflation environment, fewer consumers have jobs and the ones that do can’t buy as much as before.  Will you take credit for that too, Mr. Geithner, when it happens?  Your policies and your predecessor’s policies (as well as the Bernanke constant) have created a fertile environment for potentially massive inflation, yet unemployment continues to grow.  Sure unemployment is growing at a slower rate (10% but it could’ve been 10.5%!). Congratulations - pop the champagne – at least the French consumer discretionary industry will benefit.


    So if I’m out of work (thankfully I’m not) and my purchasing power begins to decline at an accelerating rate (rate of change cuts both ways Tim), am I really going to buy that 2nd boat, 8th Coach bag, or book that 3rd cruise this year, or will I feed my family.  Want versus need.


    This also gets us to the share of the wallet question. In an inflationary economy, a larger part of consumer spending will go to non-discretionary items.  With stagflation, the size of the wallet shrinks.  One of my industries has a third problem:  even within the consumer discretionary segment, casino spending is shrinking as a % of Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) for the first time in 25 years.  Now that’s a triple whammy!


    So what do we do?  Be careful and manage risk.  We can’t ignore the warning signs just because the stock market and consumer stocks are going up.  Timing, as always, is critical.  This is where I defer to our timing tutor, Keith McCullough.


    Conclusion:  Both of these pieces are thoughtful and proactive given recent stock market performance.  As bullish as I am on Technology, consumer-based headwinds are not something to ignore.  And as it relates to video-gaming spend in particular, I like the secular shifts transforming the group, but even I must admit that spending on games is pure want versus need.


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