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Next Gen Mathematics

“Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater”

-Albert Einstein

 

The good news about the difficulties associated with applying chaos theory to financial markets is that it’s getting less difficult as access to information expands. That said, everything is relative. These are still very early days in terms of how governments, institutions, and individuals apply Next Gen Mathematics to managing risk in a globally interconnected marketplace.

 

One of the main roadblocks to successfully applying chaos theory to asset allocation models and cross-country analysis is that many fixed income and derivatives markets do not trade transparently. That is, unlike most natural systems where chaos theory is applied (like the weather), only a select group of buyers and sellers of derivative securities know whether it is sunny out or raining.

 

I have heard many people argue over the course of the last 72 hours that allowing derivatives to trade over-the-counter is going to “hurt liquidity.” In the short run, for the narrow marketplace of players interacting, that may very well be the case. In the long run, arguing against an expansion of markets and the subsequent reduction in costs to transact in those markets is basically arguing against transparency. In principle, and in science, I don’t buy it.

 

Having lost the odd toe attempting to trade everything from currencies in swap to making short sales in illiquid Chinese shell companies, I can at least tell you that one of the main reasons why a buy-sider might argue for not regulating markets is that you can make yourself a ton of money by picking off the monkeys out there who not only don’t know what they don’t know, but they can’t see someone who is supported by a multi-billion dollar cost structure.

 

I have worked with some hedge fund portfolio managers who are not mathematically oriented,  but by trading markets have a form of chaos theory embedded in their practitioner’s experience. They learned by doing. This is good, for them. But not for our economic system. If an asset manager finds an edge, the last thing she is going to do with that is share it with a world of wannabes looking to evolve.

 

Let’s consider this as a practical matter and look at how different people I have worked with consider “earnings season”:

  1. You start with a market narrative that “earnings season is going to be great”
  2. Stocks start to discount this positive expectation (SP500 up 78.6% since last year’s low)
  3. Earnings season hits, and there is price action that follows the “news”

So, a really good risk manager will consider the driving part of the Street’s story line (“earnings are going to be great”) and score that, quantitatively, relative to the price action born out of the “news.” I have seen some managers build a base of “hot” inventory that measures price moves on a 1-3 day basis into/out of news. I have seen others overlay that with volume and volatility studies. I have seen some people ignore all of the aggregated data and only focus on the stock they own.

 

The upshot of how all of these different personalities measure different kinds of data is the definition of chaos theory – “studying the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions” (Wikipedia). As opposed to waking up thinking you know exactly what is going to happen, you should wake up accepting that everything is grounded in uncertainty.

 

Back to the real-time example…

  1. The SP500 has rallied +15% since the initial February Freakout about Greece.
  2. The Street’s narrative is “earnings season is going to be great”
  3. Coke and IBM report earnings before yesterday’s open, and both stocks close down almost -2% on the day

So now what? What if you only follow AAPL and you are right convinced that the company is going to be the largest on the planet and that yours is a differentiated thesis that you should be paid 5 and 50 for? What if you didn’t see GS have a huge intraday reversal to the downside on big volume after a monster earnings report? What if you did see all of this and you are waking up to the following price reactions to earnings reports from last night?

 

A)    Trading up on earnings: TPX +10%, AAPL +5%, ALTR +5%, TUP +4%, STX +3%, TCK +3%, TSS +3%

B)    Trading down on earnings: VITC -31%, TSFG -29%, CSIQ -9%, SNV -8.%, JNPR -8%, CREE -6%, NUVA -6%, YHOO -4%, GILD -3%, PLXS -3%.

 

Now everything, of course, should be scored relative to the last trading price. No, that’s not the calculus the US Government uses when inflating your property taxes relative to marked-to-market trading prices of homes. It’s certainly not the ideology that Tricky Dick Fuld upheld as the written gospel of marked-to-model at Lehman Brothers. It’s just real-time math, and you need the Next Gen of Mathematics to solve for what to do.

 

How you interpret these real-time prices in your mathematical models relative to the one-factor we have briefly addressed (earnings season) is up to you. To me, chasing a market that has responded this poorly to earnings news because AAPL was “great” is plain reckless.

 

When we overlay the degradation in the earnings narrative with global risk factors like sovereign debt (Greece 10-year bond yields blasting to all time highs this morning) or the rise of short term US Treasury yields to 1.02%, this really starts to get interesting.

 

Don’t worry about the difficulties associated with evolving. There is much work to be done out there on the proverbial ice of market transparency, and I can assure you that my team’s issues are still greater. We know what we don’t know.

 

My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are now 1199 and 1214, respectively.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Next Gen Mathematics - AAPL

 


US STRATEGY – EARNINGS CONTINUE TO BUOY MARKET

The market’s retracement following the GS selloff is centered on the upbeat sentiment surrounding Q1 earnings season, which continues to beat analysts' expectations. 

 

According to Bloomberg, 82% of the S&P 500 companies that have reported first-quarter results beat the average analyst earnings estimate, up from 79.5% in the fourth quarter of 2009.  So far in 1Q, operating profit for the S&P 500 is up 35% year-over-year.  Volume declined 10% day-over-day and the VIX declined 9.2%, bringing its two day slide to 14.8%.  The Hedgeye Risk Management models have levels for the VIX at: buy TRADE (14.62) and sell TRADE (16.95). 

 

On the MACRO front Greek sovereign issues, China’s measures to curb real estate speculation and hawkish comments from India and the Bank of Canada are having little lasting impact on the risk/recovery trade.  Earlier today, Bundesbank President Weber's comments that Greece may need up to €80B of bail-out money is putting pressure on Greek sovereign spreads again today, rising to all time highs.

 

Yesterday, Energy (XLE) was the best performing sector.  The oil services group fared particularly well, with the OSX posting its biggest one-day gain since August 3rd, +4%.  The drillers and the E&P group outperformed the broader market with the EPX rising 2.1%.  In early trading, Crude is trading higher on speculation that supplies are shrinking.  The Hedgeye Risk Management model’s levels for the OIL are: buy TRADE (83.54) and sell TRADE (84.99). 

 

On the back of a busy day for bank earnings, the banking group provided some upside leadership for the Financials (XLF), with the BKX up 2.7% and up 11% over the past month.  The upside was largely driven by better-than-expected credit quality.  There was some disappointment surrounding results in investment banking and asset management, though the pullback was attributed to the fact that a beat was widely expected, while regulatory concerns also remained on the front-burner.

 

While Technology (XLK) was higher yesterday, the sector lagged the S&P 500. The big headwind came from IBM (1.9%), even though the company beat on both the top- and bottom-line and raised full-year guidance above the consensus.  On the positive side, the Semis snapped a two-day losing streak today with the SOX +1.6%.

 

Parts of the SAFETY trade continue to lag the market.  Healthcare and Consumer Staples were the two worst performing sectors yesterday.  The packaged food and soft-drink names were among the worst performers in the staples sector yesterday following the top-line miss from KO.  In addition, SVU was another big decliner  after becoming the latest grocer to offer disappointing guidance.

 

Additionally, a stronger dollar is putting some pressure on the REFLATION trade and the commodity related sectors.  The Hedgeye Risk Management models have levels for the Dollar Index (DXY) at:  buy TRADE (80.86) and sell TRADE (81.52). 

 

In early trading, gold is trading higher for the second day in a row on the back of its safe haven status.  The Hedgeye Risk Management models have the following levels for GOLD – Buy TRADE (1,126) and Sell TRADE (1,168).

 

In early trading, copper is trading slightly lower despite bullish news from China.  Copper imports by China for the month of March rose 53% over February and 14% year-over-year.  The Hedgeye Risk Management Quant models have the following levels for COPPER – Buy TRADE (3.50) and Sell TRADE (3.64).

 

In early trading, equity futures are trading above fair value and look continue the earnings season upside momentum.  On the MACRO front it’s a light day, but a heavy day for earnings with 35 S&P 500 companies reporting, including Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo before the bell.  As we look at today’s set up, the range for the S&P 500 is 15 points or 0.7% (1,199) downside and 0.6% (1,214) upside. 

 

On the MACRO calendar today, Mortgage applications in the U.S. rose by the most in seven weeks.  The Mortgage Bankers Association’s index increased 13.6% in the week ended April 16th. Last night after the close, the ABC consumer confidence index declined to -50 from -47 the week before. 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

US STRATEGY – EARNINGS CONTINUE TO BUOY MARKET - S P

 

US STRATEGY – EARNINGS CONTINUE TO BUOY MARKET - DOLLAR

 

US STRATEGY – EARNINGS CONTINUE TO BUOY MARKET - VIX

 

US STRATEGY – EARNINGS CONTINUE TO BUOY MARKET - OIL

 

US STRATEGY – EARNINGS CONTINUE TO BUOY MARKET - GOLD

 

US STRATEGY – EARNINGS CONTINUE TO BUOY MARKET - COPPER


MGM GOES GLOBAL

If it quacks like a duck...

 

In the breaking news department MGM MIRAGE announced they've changed their name again, this time to MGM Resorts International.  I'm not sure if this is going to help the multiple but hey it's worth a shot.  We remember other MGM incarnations:  

 

  • THE Las Vegas company - nobody wants to be this now
  • A Brand company - yes they have some management opportunities but fee revenue will never be close to owned EBITDA
  • A P/E stock (until the accounting for acquired intangibles leveled the playing field.  Negative earnings aren't great for P/E either)
  • Back to EV/EBITDA now that WYNN and LVS trade at a premium and the huge tax advantages of deriving most of your profits in Macau isn't captured in EBITDA
  • And most recently, a Convention company - with only 11% of room nights from conventions last year, this doesn't pass muster, but hey, Goldman signed on and the stock has moved higher

 

Their perception goal is pretty transparent here.  However, it doesn't really change the reality that MGM is highly leveraged to the domestic hotel casino market but with a small convention business and an even smaller international presence.

 

I'm guessing that 'MGM Resorts International' won out over 'MGM Conventions And Brands Worldwide' and 'Anything But Domestic Gaming Incorporated'.


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PENN “YOUTUBE” FROM FQ1

Please see our 4/16 earnings preview for commentary on PENN’s upcoming quarter.  Below we highlight the important forward looking commentary from PENN’s FQ1 earnings release and conference call.

 

 

OUTLOOK & TRENDS

  • “Looking forward, as you can see from our guidance, we don’t see a whole lot of reason for enthusiasm in 2010.” 
  • “What we’ve done is done a lot of internal trend analysis for lack of a better description of it, which is indicating to us that the rate of decline is slowing. But rate of decline is slowing is not good news.  What that just means is it’s getting bad, it’s just getting bad slower, and we’re not on the breakneck pace to zero that we were before.” 
  • “If you take out both Penn National and Joliet, which we’re doing for internal purposes…January’s numbers – revenue numbers were down 5.3%. Now the good – if there is good… we were behind our own internal forecast up until the last weekend of the month, and then we came roaring back”
  • “Joliet, as you know, we’re operating with just the casino right now, and we don’t have much to sell there. And the competitive environment has increased in the fourth quarter. Now, labor is being managed well. We still have opportunities to be more efficient with our marketing spend there. We did open in the beginning of this week our new parking garage there. So I fully expect we’re going to see margin improvement in Joliet from what you saw in the fourth quarter”
  • “We continue to see more softness than anywhere in Southern Mississippi and Southern Louisiana.  And specifically, in Bay St. Louis, the promotional spending in that market, driven by our chief competitor in Gulfport, is deteriorating all of our margins and we’re trying to continue to find ways to protect our share, but not overspend to protect that share.”
  • “Tunica, it was a little bit different. We’ve been improving margins there. We had some unusual adjustments that negatively affected the fourth quarter in excess of $1 million of adjustments for inventory, bonus and severance, some repairs we made to the building and some increased healthcare costs. I do think those were one-time occurrences in Tunica and I don’t expect that to be a recurring theme. The promotional environment in Tunica is not like it is in Southern Mississippi.”  
  • “Charles Town, that’s one where we’re seeing some softness. We did have some weather effect in December, but even through the entire quarter, we still saw softness there in the market. And it’s an opportunity we continue to look at to improve our efficiency of our marketing spend. Again, labor is being managed well. We did see in line performance in the month of January in Charles Town, but again, we’re trying to get the right mix given the introduction of tax free promotional credits in that market to make sure that it’s as efficient use of those marketing dollars as it possibly can be and that’s the theme for Charles Town as we get into 2010 as well”
  • Answer to the impact of table games on property margins in Charles Town:  “That table tax rate is going to be 35%. So I don’t think it’s going to be enhancing our margins in Charles Town given the labor component there. I think, net-net we’re probably in the 27, 28%  area”
  • “Typically what we see across our properties are roughly 15%, table games are roughly 15% a slot, in mature markets where they both been existing sort of similar period of time. Obviously at Charles Town, what we’re expecting is that it will take some time to ramp to that level.”
  • “With the good weather and not much on TV to occupy people’s time on weekends, we continue to see reasonably good growth from our capital investment at Lawrenceburg, 8 to 9% in the fourth quarter and we had record attendance levels on Saturday.”
  • “I think the reality is this, you’ve extracted the easy stuff. The low hanging fruit has been pulled out of our cost structure. And I think as we go forward, we’re going to struggle to keep or to  basically reduce cost commensurate with revenue declines that we’re starting to get to the point where this is not as effective as we’ve been – of being able to match the revenue declines with operating cost declines.”
  • “They’re just gambling at lower threshold and you see it too and how they are playing the slot products. You see a continued trend to play the low denomination slots.”
  •  “What we’ve got for a corporate overhead number next year is around 69 million. Obviously, we continue to expect it doesn’t really have any significant amounts for lobbying. I mean there are certain amounts that we recognize we’d be spending. But it’s certainly much reduced than the current levels. The other items I mean obviously – we don’t have table games in here, because quite candidly, we don’t really have a good date for when we think it will be up and running. And the state regulatory process in Pennsylvania historically has proven to be incredibly lengthy.”
    • “So and those 69 million could be ratably throughout, let’s say, 70 million split fairly evenly throughout the year? That’s our expectation”
    • From 4/15/2010 Telsey  Conference: “I would point out that in the corporate overhead number, there’s probably – there’s almost $24 million worth of Ohio referendum costs associated with our efforts last year in Ohio.”

ROST: KM Shorting, Thesis Unchanged

Keith remains opportunistic with a Ross Stores’ position on the short-side, with shares nearing an immediate term overbought level at 56.87 and a bullish line of support down at 54.63. Our thesis remains unchanged and is outlined below as highlighted in our April 5th post below:

 

“…We remain convinced that the opportunities to meaningfully exceed both guidance and elevated Street expectations are gradually becoming harder and harder to achieve.  When you add in eight quarters in a row of inventory declines (while sales have accelerated) it remains hard to envision anything but a deceleration in momentum is on the horizon.  There is no question that this has been a great run, as it has been for other retailers benefitting from value pricing and the consumer trade-down effect.

 

Check out this historical perspective below, which takes a detailed but long look at the relationship between the industry’s inventory management (represented by the Sales/Inventory spread) vs. ROST historical same-store sales.  The Sales/Inventory spread for clothing and accessories retailers is currently at its widest margin since before 1996.  Tough to argue with that one…  We then line this up against Ross’ topline results and you will see that ROST’s same-store sales exceed the Sales/Inventory spread far more frequently than not, 139 months out of 169 or 82% of the time.  In fact, of the 30 times the sales/inventory spread outpaced comps over 13 years, 5 have been since September of last year alone.

 

The cleanliness of the inventory pipeline for retailers and manufacturers alike is about as good as we’ve ever seen and as a result, there are simply less “quality”  goods for ROST to procure.  Additionally, with fewer units floating around in the pipeline, we should begin to see ROST (and others) no longer being able to buy as close to need as we have seen over the past year.  This should have an adverse impact on inventory turns as well as the industry’s ability to flow fresh, unique good as frequently.  All this points to diminishing upside on margins and earnings. This is one of those names where we don’t need to see earnings collapse to be right, but rather simply stop going up.”

 

ROST: KM Shorting, Thesis Unchanged - ROST SalesInv Spread 4 10 1

 

ROST: KM Shorting, Thesis Unchanged - ROST SalesInv Spread 4 10 2

 

 


IGT “YOUTUBE” FROM FQ1

Please see our 4/16 earnings preview for commentary on IGT’s upcoming quarter.  Below we highlight the important forward looking commentary from IGT’s FQ1 earnings release and conference call.

 

 

GUIDANCE

  •  “While we continue to have limited visibility around replacement demand, we believe future demand will exceed trough levels experienced in the early part of 2009.”
    • Not exactly encouraging as Pat’s referring to the measly 1,800 replacement units that IGT shipped in the March 09 quarter and the 2,300 replacement units shipped in the June 2009 quarter. 
  • “Going forward, we expect product sales gross margins to remain in the low 50% range, also [benefitting] by our cost savings initiatives and impact of product sales mix.”
  • “We continue to move towards our goal of the previously announced $200 million of cost cuts when compared to the fourth quarter of 2008. We feel that we are on track to achieve our cost reduction goals as we move throughout fiscal 2010."
  • “We expect the quarterly SG&A run rate in the range of $95 million to $100 million.”
  • “We expect a quarterly R&D run rate in the low $50 million area”
  • “As it relates to R&D, Q1 is naturally lower just due to the fact that the team is largely preoccupied with G2E. And we do have some initiatives underway that we know will require us to uptick that a little bit going forward...R&D probably over time is going to run somewhere around the couple of hundred million. I don't think we can get it much lower than that, given that the sheer number of things we do”
  • “The decline in total depreciation and amortization was primarily due to lower depreciation in our domestic MegaJackpots and Mexico lease operations. Please note that some of this will come back as we refresh our installed base of assets over time.”
  • “Going forward, we expect our quarterly tax rate to trend at approximately 37% to 39% before discrete items.”
  • “CapEx is expected to trend in the range of $50 million to $75 million, although we do continue to come in nearer the lower end of the range as we more proactively manage our CapEx as part of our efficiency and cost reduction efforts.”
  • “Our guidance for 2010 remains a range of $0.77 to $0.87 per diluted share. As always, our guidance excludes the one-time items like the first quarter tax benefit of $0.01, which resulted primarily from our recent stock option exchange program. Our guidance also assumes no dilution impact from our convertible notes.”
  • “We see an improvement in Europe. Last year was a horrible year in Europe. Latin America will be a big contributor as it was in Q1 for the year. And then I think we see stability in places like South Africa and Australia where they've been consistent providers. And I think the same for the U.K., the consistent contribution. But again, we're not forecasting huge year-on-year improvement internationally, just given that many of the international markets are suffering the same economic and credit woes that the U.S. has felt.”
    • I guess ex- Japan there would be a decrease – since Japan contributed over 3,700 units to FY 2009 shipments 

TRENDS

  • “Lower year-over-year blended yield saw the combined result of the decline in play levels and the continued shift in the installed base mix to include more lower yield machines in leased.”
  • “In product sales, the first quarter has historically been our lowest due to the holidays and the tendencies for customers to carefully consider their options after G2E and ahead of the release of their annual budget.”
  •  “We know that new or expansion units will be off year-on-year pretty heavily just because there isn't as many new properties opening or expanding during the fiscal year. And so everything else constant would say you have to make that up in replacement. And so you can already assume that we do assume in our guidance a decent uplift in replacements, but visibility to that is pretty limited I'd have to say at this point.”
  • “SG&A, we did have a couple of items during the quarter that's favorably impacted that won't be recurring… a couple of our accruals in the compensation area.. to the tune of about $3 million that obviously was kind of a one-time thing as we adjusted to our new comp plan.”
  • “We're just listening to what our customers are telling us about how they intend to spend capital and how much of it. And neither of those two comments would suggest that you should have a real hockey stick kind of uptick in replacement activity. And then just to stay flat with prior year, we've got to have a pretty significant uptick in replacement units just to offset the loss that would definitely be there from newer expansion.”

 

OUR FAVORITE COMMENTS

  • Question:  “I guess what I'm struggling with is this, revenues are seasonally at a low -- revenues are probably out of trough for the cycle; replacement sales seem to be going up; your expense have been reduced dramatically; you've committed to continue to reduce expenses on a go-forward basis; and if you print a $0.25 quarter in the first quarter, how can you not get to over almost $1 easily in the next year? I mean, I understand you guys want to be conservative and beat the number, but gosh, there must be something that we're missing because it sounds like things are going much better and this quarter was a good example of you controlling the things you can control and keeping things tight in front of what looks to be like a pretty good year on the revenue side as we move forward.” – Steve Kent, Goldman Sachs Analyst
    • IGT Response: I think we look at this more as a $0.22/$0.23 quarter with an adjustment for some of the one-time events…We feel very good that the replacement cycle will make its way back from the trough loads. It is timing that is less obvious to us… We have a bit of risk adjustment for the worst case scenario in Alabama. If you look at Game Ops, the Game Ops business, we're still experiencing a fair amount of mixed shift.”
  • “Our internal estimates should base on tracking of one order to the next, would suggest we're somewhere around 40% on the replacement side, which is consistent with where we were for Q4”
    • Actually it was closer to 30% in the December quarter and 35% in the September quarter
  • Market share for new/ expansions in NA:  “Some north of 50% and kind of varies widely”
    • Well that’s not really possible because between IGT, BYI and WMS there were over 4,600 units shipped this quarter… we think the number is closer to 1/3

Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.30%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.51%
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