The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 19th of October through the 23rd is full of critical releases and events. Attached below is a snapshot of some (though far from all) of the headline numbers that we will be focused on.
Did you see what transpired yesterday? If it’s any indication of what’s to come, we will have a highly competitive online market this holiday season. Yesterday alone held a back-and-forth price battle that provided entertaining sport (and a break from earnings). First, Wal-Mart announced it was cutting its online price for bestsellers to $10. Just a few hours later, Amazon cut its own prices to match. By the end of the day, both companies boasted books for a mere $9.00 and whopping discounts of up 70%.
Obviously, this isn’t good for the overall profitability within the publishing industry (unless you believe in massive amounts of elasticity, which I don’t). In fact, moves like this just seem poised to hasten the demise of publishing profits with the digital transition about to shift into high-gear.
And in terms of Amazon and Wal-Mart, I won’t rush to any conclusions – other than to flag these moves as ones that I will keep on my radar screen. I can’t imagine that these price cuts will benefit anyone other than the consumers’ wallet, but the breadth and depth of such moves is what will really matter over time.
At the very least, to those that are writing off Wal-mart as a threat to Amazon – I say “not so fast”. This strikes at Amazon’s core and with increases in competition across Amazon’s portfolio (as I’ve highlighted in the past), moves like this are (on the margin) a negative.
Google Trends tracks the rate at which people are searching for given terms (not necessarily visitors to a site). AMZN and WMT both show strong holiday seasonality in search.
WHAT BEIJING GIVETH… destination-macau.com
CASINO STOCKS FALL AFTER VISA RULES TIGHETENED scmp.com
The Macao Daily broke the news on Wednesday that visa restrictions have been tightened once again by the authorities in Guangdong. Shares in Macau casino companies fell yesterday as the news broke. The frequency with which visitors can apply for visas to travel to Macau has gone from once every three months, to once per month, to the current limit of once every two months. The reasoning behind this fluctuation is unclear and has caused some confusion.
DM believes that analysts have paid too much attention to the Individual Visit Scheme, both in boom and gloom days, stating that “there has been only two months out of the past 18 when mainland arrivals really plunged, and that was around this time last year, when both IVS arrivals and tour group arrivals fell sharply”. The recent boom, according to the author, is more influenced by the financial well-being of Macau’s VIP customers than the IVS scheme.
TABLE FOR SIX? destination-macau.com
The recent discussions led by Macau’s government regarding limits on table capacity expansion and raising the minimum age of casino visitors to 21. DM sees this as positive news for the Big Six. There is ample supply in the market; The Venetian had more than enough space no its floor during Golden Week. Considering that Lots 5&6 will be started as soon as possible, Galaxy is getting its Cotai resort going again, the government is clearly looking to calm the pace of expansion. If anything, DM believes investors should be concerned with diminishing industry ROI numbers as more projects are brought to completion. There are many questions that remain to be answered, for instance, if there are unilateral caps or quotas imposed, how will the government decide who gets what?
MGM, HO PLAN MACAU CASINO EXPANSION, MULL ASIAN IPO Bloomberg.com
MGM Mirage and Macau partner Pansy Ho plan on expanding their casino and exploring sites for potential resorts as they consider an initial public offering, according to a report on Bloomberg.com today. Jim Murren, MGM CEO and Chairman, is quoted saying that MGM is “working on plans” to finish the 70,000 square feet of its casino’s second floor. As for a possible IPO, Murren says that no decision has been taken but that “both partners have discussed it, and we believe it’s a very viable and attractive option… there’s been a very positive disposition towards it from both partners.”
Some commentators believe the indications from MGM that an IPO could be on the cards should be viewed cautiously given the “unclear picture” in light of the recent travel restrictions and the possible implementation of new laws concerning slot machines being banned from residential areas and raising the age for customers and staff at casinos to 21 from18 .
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The visa situation is the first negative catalyst to emerge in Macau and the stocks are sliding. The remaining near-term (positive) catalysts could spark a rebound but investors shouldn’t lose sight of some 2010 warning signs.
The implementation of a new visa scheme was confirmed by the South China Morning Post today with the public security office in Guangdong. It’s actually not a new scheme since they are reverting to the once every two month visit restriction in place pre-August. We shouldn’t be surprised. Beijing wants growth, but controlled growth - we think in the 5-10% range in terms of Mass revenues. The restrictions shouldn’t be seen as a big negative since it’s indicative of excess demand – the only gaming market with excess demand – and will result in long-term predictable and strong Mass visitation. Get used to it.
To us, the new restrictions are not all that important fundamentally but could continue to pressure the Macau stocks over the near term. But we definitely care as more attractive buying opportunities may emerge. Why aren’t we concerned about the reinstated restrictions?
Rather than focus on the visa restrictions, the Macau bears should focus their attention on two bigger issues facing Macau:
LVS looks to be most at risk from the new visa restrictions since they generate more of their business from Mass and are the slot revenue leaders. It is also interesting to contemplate whether the restrictions were a big “Screw You” to Sheldon since visas were relaxed ahead of Wynn’s IPO but strengthened ahead of the LVS’ IPO. LVS is also most susceptible to the Mass supply growth next year, particularly Oceanus which will be conveniently situated between Sands Macao and the Macau Ferry Terminal. Longer-term, Mass is where you want to be so LVS is well positioned. MPEL and WYNN seem better situated over the next few months, however, given their reliance on VIP and could experience a sharp rebound off the upcoming visa related lows.
WHAT GIVES WITH FOOTWEAR?
October 16, 2009
TODAY’S CALL OUT
Retail sales numbers are trending better, as is the ICSC Weekly retail sales number, and both SportscanINFO and NPD apparel numbers. Then why are NPD footwear trends looking lousy? This is puzzling – especially given the incremental strength we’ve seen in the family footwear channel as well as with retailers like DSW.
We weight these factors by mix of business for the major footwear/apparel retailers to ‘lead indicate’ comps – which has proven to be directionally accurate. As one might expect, recent trends bode better for those with greater apparel exposure – such as Dick’s, Sports Authority, and Hibbett. Foot Locker and Finish Line, on the other hand, are not quite as safe given overwhelming dependence on footwear. Inventory levels in that channels are vitally important t o track right now, and that’s now on our front burner.
LEVINE’S LOW DOWN
Some Notable Call Outs
-Amazon launches same-day delivery in seven cities - In what some analysts see as an attempt to compete head on with bricks-and-mortar retailers, Amazon.com Inc. today announced a new shipping option that offers same-day delivery on items ranging from gourmet foods to electronics to hardware in seven major cities. The service is now available in New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, Baltimore and Las Vegas, and Amazon plans to extend it to Chicago, Indianapolis and Phoenix in the coming months. Consumers enrolled in Amazon Prime, Amazon’s shipping membership program, pay $5.99 for same day delivery. For other customers, shipping rates vary by product and range in price from $14.49 to $18.99. In the same announcement, Amazon also said it will expand its Saturday Delivery options to allow items ordered before the cut-off time on Thursday using two-day shipping to be delivered on Saturday instead of Monday. <internetretailer.com>
-Carrefour to Pull Out of Russia - Carrefour, the world’s second-largest retailer behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc., reported a third consecutive drop in quarterly sales and said it’s pulling out of the Russian market after less than a year. In the third quarter to Sept. 30, sales declined 2.9 percent to 24 billion euros, or $34.32 billion at average exchange rates for the period, as a strong business in Latin America helped offset difficult markets in Western Europe. The company also revealed plans to sell its operations in Russia, where it has opened two hypermarkets in Moscow and Krasnodar since 2008, citing a lack of growth prospects and acquisition targets in that market. Recent press reports also had speculated the company was facing pressures from its largest investor, Blue Capital Group, to pull out of China and Brazil, but these were denied by Carrefour last week. <wwd.com>
-Wal-Mart Launches New Women`s Plus-Size Clothing Collection; Aids Disaster Relief in India - JMS Just My Size launched a new clothing collection at a fashion show in New York today and announced an agreement that makes JMS the dedicated plus-size apparel brand at Wal-mart. JMS will have a dramatically expanded presence in more than 3,500 Wal-mart stores across the U.S. focusing on trend-right styles at a value, with all items priced below $22. Instead of just a few key pieces, plus-size shoppers will consistently be able to find a full collection of clothing in sizes 16-28. New collections will arrive every month. In other news, The Wal-Mart Foundation announced today a donation of $125,000 in disaster relief for people impacted by recent flooding in southern India. This donation to CARE will assist in implementing immediate relief activities for approximately 25,000 flood survivors in the areas of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. <reuters.com> , <indiaretailing.com>
-NRF Reports E-tailing Still Growing - While retail reels, e-tail is doing even better than expected, according to a report due out today from the National Retail Federation. Of 164 merchants surveyed, most grew in both revenues and profits during 2008. “If you go back to 2008, we did experience double-digit growth in 2008 and we were profitable,” said Denise Incandela, president of Saks Direct, whose experience paralleled the findings in the report. Web divisions grew in revenue by an average of 18 percent. The majority of respondents, 87 percent, were profitable. Of those who were, 57 percent said they were more profitable in 2008 than the year before.“There’s a lot of organic growth in the online business still,” said Incandela. “Prior to the recession, we were growing 30 to 50 percent a year, so it doesn’t surprise me that we would fare better and recover more quickly.” <wwd.com>
-Payless Expands Shoe Giveaway to Latin America - Payless ShoeSource, announced the launch again this year of its Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids program aimed at delivering more than $1.2 million worth of free children's shoes to families in need this holiday season. In addition, the retailer said it is expanding this year's program internationally across the Western Hemisphere in countries where the majority of its more than 4,500 stores are located. Payless will give more than 77,000 gift coupons redeemable through Feb. 28, 2010, toward a new pair of kids' shoes at any of its stores located in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and in 10 Latin American countries including the Dominican Republic, Trinidad & Tobago, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia. <sportsonesource.com>
-Gap Eyes Growth Online, Overseas - Consumer apathy and product misfires aside, Gap Inc. says it is past the down and dirty turnaround work, has built the foundation to recapture lost shoppers and sees online and overseas expansions as top growth priorities. And in a sign of confidence in its revamped product, Gap brand will return to TV advertising for the November-December holiday period after a two-year absence. These and other initiatives, including store prototypes and entering China next year with company-owned units, were outlined during a three-hour meeting with analysts Thursday. <wwd.com>
-eBay to lay off up to five dozen employees - EBay plans to lay off about 60 employees as part of an internal restructuring plan first announced in a Sept. 21 post on its eBay Ink blog. The blog posting described the overhaul, but did not mention the layoffs. The majority of the job cuts will come from the company’s product and technology areas, a company spokesman says. <internetretailer.com>
-Crocs Amends Credit Facillity - Crocs Inc. said that on October 14, it amended its bank line with PNC Bank. The amendment decreases Crocs' minimum tangible net worth requirement from $266 million to $205 million, measured at the end of each fiscal quarter, commencing with the fiscal quarter ending December 31, 2009. <sportsonesource.com>
-Superfeet Bolsters Sales Force - Superfeet Worldwide Inc. has hired four experienced sales reps in October to keep pace with their continued growth across the U.S. It also named Doug Geddes as national sales manager of Superfeet Canada. In the U.S., Trevor Patterson joins Superfeet as a Sales Representative in the Northwest with 9 years of experience with Burton Snowboards. Patterson has relocated to Seattle to cover the NW urban market and lend his sales and marketing knowledge to continue building the current Superfeet sales team in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana. Meanwhile, Superfeet Canada Inc., a subsidiary of Superfeet Worldwide Inc., announced that the appointment of Doug Geddes as Canadian National Sales Manager. Geddes has over 18 years of experience managing a company sales and marketing team as well as owning his own independent sales agency. <sportsonesource.com>
-Quelle Sale Decision Nears - A decision is nearing regarding both the sale of the insolvent Arcandor Group’s catalogue and mail-order division Primondo, and the fate of its challenged Quelle catalogue business, Arcandor said Thursday. Klaus Hubert Görg, insolvency administrator for Quelle, said the fate of the bankrupt catalogue house would be decided by the end of the month. <wwd.com>
-Barneys Unveils Scottsdale Flagship - Barneys New York unveiled its ninth flagship Thursday with the opening of a store here that mixes ultracool and whimsical design and display with touches of the Southwest desert. Barneys joins competitors Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom at the high-end mall, in downtown Scottsdale, while Saks Fifth Avenue is under 10 miles away in Phoenix. The state’s booming population and tourism industry would seem to make Barneys a natural fit despite Scottsdale’s laid-back, outdoor lifestyle. <wwd.com>
INSIDER TRANSACTION ACTIVITY:
GIII: Deborah Gaertner, President-Women’s Sales, sold 5,000 shares ($90,000).
HOTT: Elizabeth McLaughlin, CEO, sold 205,000 shares ($1.025mm) after exercising the right to buy 205,000 options.
TJX: Erne Herrman, SEVP-Group President, sold 10,000 shares ($160k) after exercising the right to buy 10,000 options.
URBN: Harry Cherken Jr., Director, sold 10,000 shares ($300k) after exercising the right to buy 10,000 options.
On Thursday, the S&P 500 closed at 1,096, up 0.4% on the day. The S&P 500 has now risen eight of the last nine days; the major index closed yesterday at its best level on the day.
The data points on the MACRO front continue to be positive. Initial jobless claims fell 10,000 to 514,000 in the week-ended October10th; the lowest level since the beginning of the year. The New York Empire Manufacturing Index surged to 34.6 in October from 18.9 in September, marking the fourth straight monthly increase and the highest reading since May of 2004. While the Philadelphia Fed Index fell to 11.5 in October from 14.1 in September. Consensus expectations were for a decline to 12.
Energy commodities were among the best performers in the CRB yesterday. November crude settled up $2.40 at $ 77.58 a barrel; a one-year high. Gains were fueled by an unexpected 5.2M barrel draw in gasoline inventories last week, the biggest decline over the past 12-months.
Consumer Staples (XLP) was the third best performing sector (after the Utilities) as the beta trade seemed to take a bit of a breather. The XLP also benefited from better-than-expected results out of SWY, which led to a rally in the grocery names.
The momentum behind the “currency creditability crisis” continued to weigh on the dollar index, which fell for a fourth straight session, finishing down 0.1%. The risk aversion trade is in full force as the VIX declined for the ninth straight day (5.0%) and is now down 46% year-to-date. See the Early Look today “Ignorance and Leverage” for more on the creditability crisis.
Yesterday, only three sectors outperformed the S&P 500 and three sectors declined on the day. The three best performing sectors were Energy (XLE), Consumer Staples (XLP) and Utilities (XLU), while Industrials, Technology (XLK) and Financials (XLF) were the bottom three.
Today, the set up for the S&P 500 is: TRADE (1,069) and TREND is positive (999). Day 5 of perfection - the Research Edge quantitative models have 9 of 9 sectors in the S&P 500 positive on TREND and 9 of 9 sectors are positive from the TRADE duration.
The Research Edge Quant models have 1% upside and 2.5% downside in the S&P 500. At the time of writing the major market futures in the U.S. were in a tight range following the earrings results of GOOG and IBM.
The Research Edge MACRO team.