US-China Relations: The Rift Is Growing at its Fastest Pace In Decades

"It's not you, it's me. Nobody ever says it's them, not me. If it's anybody, it's me!"

George Costanza


Conclusion: The political rift between the U.S. and China is growing, expediting on the margin the U.S.’s secular decline as the world’s superpower. This does not bode well for U.S. Treasuries. In addition, as a result of its economic outlook, capital is pouring into China like never before.


Position: Long the Chinese yuan via the etf CYB. Short the U.S. dollar via the etf UUP.


In the last 24 hours, China has been having the “the talk” with its largest debtor. Yesterday, via its state-run newspaper, the People’s Daily, China issued some alarming commentary regarding Sino-U.S. relations. Notable excerpts from the article read:


Lip service is far from enough to boost the development of Sino-U.S. relations. If Washington cannot find a way to recognize and accept China's peaceful rise onto the world stage, bilateral ties will be like a roller coaster full of ups and downs… Issues such as arms sales to Taiwan, Google censorship, RMB exchange rates as well as finger-pointing about economic responsibility show [that] Washington still seems confused and inpatient about relations with China.”


Furthermore, the articles cites Ian Bremmer, an American political scientist specializing in U.S. foreign policy, saying: , "America and China will have more than ever to gain from closer political and commercial ties, and must take steps to avoid a Cold War, or worse."


China continues to move counter to U.S. foreign policy wishes. In conjunction with yesterday’s People’s Daily article, China signed an economic and technical cooperation agreement with North Korea – one week after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced further trade sanctions targeting government officials and foreign banks that help sustain North Korea’s weapons policy. This is the latest step in a growing list of actions taken by the Chinese government this year to exert its dominance over the Asian region. Those actions have included cutting off high level military exchanges with the U.S. in January and refusing to back the U.S. in blaming North Korea for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March. Just last week, China’s Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, described Clinton’s comments on making sovereignty in the South Sea a “leading diplomatic priority” as “virtually an attack on China”.


Today, Sino-U.S. relations took a decisive turn to the worse, as China declared  its “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China sea and held naval drills in the waters, pushing back against growing U.S. influence in the region. In conjunction with the drills, China’s Ministry of Defense released the following statement:


“China has indisputable sovereignty of the South Sea and China has sufficient historical and legal backing to underpin its claims. It opposes efforts to internationalize the issue and will resolve differences through “friendly negotiation… China opposes any planes or warships that engage in activities that will compromise China’s security either in the Yellow Sea or other seas near China.”


Today’s drills and statement follows joint U.S.-South Korea naval drills from earlier this week in the Sea of Japan, which were designed to deter North Korea. Further drills are planned in the Yellow Sea – off China’s eastern coast. Judging by the statement above, China is not likely to let that happen without consequence. China considers its neighboring seas “its own”, dismissing claims from other Asian countries to islands such as the Spratlys. Recently, China told Exxon Mobil Corp and BP Plc. to halt exploration in areas that Vietnam considers part of its territory. China, aware that actions like this may push its neighbors into U.S. arms, is in the process of building its ocean fleet to extend its military influence far beyond its borders – should the U.S. try to intervene. All told, the South China Sea sees about half the world’s merchant fleet by tonnage each year and it is home to potential untapped oil and gas reserves, so “winning” the Battle of the South Sea is very important for the Chinese economy and its future growth outlook. Some $867 billion in U.S. Treasury holdings suggest that China may have the upper hand.


Three Charts Geithner and Bernanke Don’t Want You To See


Chart One – China Growing; U.S. Slowing:


US-China Relations: The Rift Is Growing at its Fastest Pace In Decades - 1


As the charts points out, China continues to take share from the U.S. as a destination market for European exports, which will continue to lead to greater investment and capital inflows from Europe to its growing economy. This is exactly what we are seeing as it relates to the recent earnings and guidance commentary from companies across the globe: 

  • Publicis Groupe SA is targeting China and working with Chinese companies to help make China “one of its most important” advertising markets.
  • Sony Corp, the world’s third-largest television maker raised its full-year earnings forecast, citing continued evidence of strong demand in China.
  • Volkwagen AG, Europe’s largest carmaker, reported its largest quarterly profit in two years on higher demand in China (profit in China up 168% Y/Y); The CEO recently announced plans to build two new plants in China to double production capacity, which would help it offset “stagnating sales in Europe”.
  • Volvo Cars’ success will “hinge on building a manufacturing plant in China”, according to its CEO; Volvo’s 1H10 sales grew 88% in China vs. 20% globally.
  • Rival PSA Peugeot Citroen, Europe’s second-largest carmaker, recently signed a joint venture China to boost production in sales in the country.
  • Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s third-largest automaker posted a first quarter profit, aided by “growing sales in Asia” (sales in the region, excluding Japan, grew 62% Y/Y in 1Q10 vs. only +23% Y/Y in North America); The company plans to raise annual production capacity in China by 70% in two years. 

All of these plans for increased investment are occurring in spite of China’s passenger car sales slowing to its slowest growth in 15 months in June, in addition to a looming negative backdrop for U.S. GDP growth. Should the U.S. slow, it would no doubt have a negative effect on the Chinese economy (the U.S. is China’s largest export market). Luckily for China bulls, China Finance magazine published a report on July 3rd suggesting that spending under the government’s 4 trillion yuan stimulus packages aren’t yet fully allocated and adjustments can be made based on future economic conditions. Conclusion: China is likely prepared to weather a slowdown in the U.S. economy.


Chart Two – China Dumping U.S. Treasuries:


US-China Relations: The Rift Is Growing at its Fastest Pace In Decades - 2


As this chart points out, China has been a net seller of U.S. treasuries in the period from July ’09 – May ‘10. Since August 2009, foreign holdings of U.S. Treasuries have increased from $3.5 trillion to $3.9 trillion, which is growth of 11.4%.  In the same period, Chinese holdings of U.S. Treasuries have declined from $936.5 billion to $867.7 billion, or 7.7%.


While the math doesn’t lie, the Chinese certainly have been. China has been using market concern over E.U. sovereign debt and the world’s “flight to safety” as a great selling opportunity to unload treasuries an talk them up at the same time. In a recent publication by China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange the Chinese talked down any implications of mass selling, suggesting that market concern that China may consider “nuclear option” of dumping its Treasury holdings is “completely unnecessary”.


Chart 3(a) and 3(b) – Dollar Down; China Up:


US-China Relations: The Rift Is Growing at its Fastest Pace In Decades - 3


US-China Relations: The Rift Is Growing at its Fastest Pace In Decades - 4


The two charts above highlight both the secular decline in the U.S. Dollar as the world’s reserve currency and the cyclical decline of investor confidence in the U.S. Dollar. The Bubble in U.S. Politics combined with burgeoning U.S. debt and deficits has given China its best opportunity to advance its goal of making the yuan a global currency and reducing its reliance on the dollar. Since December of 2008, China’s central bank has signed at least $650 billion yuan of swap agreements with countries around the world, ranging from Argentina to South Korea. Its most recent swap agreement was a three year deal with Singapore (which we are long of) worth 150 bilion yuan ($22 bil). The agreement, which may be extended, aims to facilitate trade and investment between the two nations, according to the People’s Bank of China. Market demand for the yuan continues to grow as well. On Wednesday, China sold 28 billion yuan of 30-year debt which drew bids for 1.91 times the amount on offer (up 35% from the last offer on 6/18).


At the end of the day, China is a big country with a lot of people (1.3 bil. to be exact) that is increasingly on its own track towards further economic development. And based on recent and long-term market dynamics, any attempts for the U.S. to stand in her way will likely  be futile. As Warren Buffet once said, “Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years.” Keeping that in mind, Hedgeye is long the Chinese yuan and short the U.S. dollar.


Darius Dale




As we look at today’s set up for the S&P 500, the range is 43 points or 2.3% (1,076) downside and 1.6% (1,119) upside.  Equity futures are trading below fair value in reaction to some weakness across Asian and European markets following slightly disappointing economic data out of Japan and Germany. Today's highlight will be Q2 Advanced GDP where a pronounced declaration in growth will reawaken deflationary concerns.

  • ADVANCE/DECLINE LINE: +152 (+1238) - Breadth positive in a down tape
  • VOLUME: NYSE - 1165 (+16.03%) - Volume up nicely on a down day.
  • SECTOR PERFORMANCE: Two sectors up XLF and XLE - Safety is not so safe XLU and XLP bottom two sectors.
  • MARKET LEADING STOCKS: Citrix Sys +19.73%, Ameriprise Fin +12.28% and LSI Corp -13.92%, Akami -12.90%


  • VIX 24.13 (-0.49%) - The VIX is broken on TRADE.
  • SPX PUT/CALL RATIO - 1.74 down from 1.99 (low on 07/15/10 of 0.87)


  • TED SPREAD - 31.5519 to 31.5521
  •  3-MONTH T-BILL YIELD .15% to .14%
  • YIELD CURVE - 2.3996 to 2.3922


  • CRB: 270.20 1.50%
  • Oil: 77.77 1.8% (down for 3 days)
  • COPPER: 325.80 (1.4%) – looking to be up 8 of the last 9 days - trading above its TRADE line - BULLISH for growth expectations
  • GOLD: 1,164 (0.32%) - Gold has decisively broken the Hedgeye intermediate term TREND line of support (1197)


  • EURO: 1.3080 (0.64%)  - Up 5 of the last 6 days - trading above the TRADE line
  • DOLLAR: 81.636 (-0.66%) - BEARISH formation 


  • ASIA - Most markets followed Wall Street down.  Profit-taking finally set in; China declined 0.4% (-19.5% YTD) and Japan down-1.6% (-9.6% YTD). 
  • EUROPE - Major indices are lower in quiet trade as investors wait for US GDP numbers later in the session for clues as to near term direction.  Greece and Spain leading the way down. 
  • In Europe, earnings this morning have by-and-large beaten estimates. 
  • EASTERN EUROPE declining - Russia down 1.3% and Turkey down 1.6%.
  • LATIN AMERICA - Argentina posting a positive divergence up 1.3%.
  • MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA - Mixed with Egypt up 1.45%. 

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Growth and Progress

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

-Benjamin Franklin


Given the amount of time I spend ripping on American professional politicians, I’m happily surprised to say that the most enjoyable read I’ve had this summer was Walter Isaacson’s “Benjamin Franklin – An American Life.”


I actually picked the book up off of my wife Laura’s side of the bookshelf on a Saturday morning (my side is long Canadian hockey year in reviews - hers, American history), and she’d already flagged a page with the following passage:


“But the image he created was rooted in reality. Born and bred a member of the leather-aproned class, Franklin was, at least for most of his life, more comfortable with artisans and thinkers than with the established elite, and he was allergic to the pomp and perks of a hereditary aristocracy. From these attitudes sprang what may be Franklin’s most important vision: an American national identity based on the values and virtues of its middle class.”


Franklin’s story is All-American. It’s accessible. And it’s believable. Every one of us wants to live a successful life that has meaning. “Improvement, achievement, and success” are certainly goals that both my family and Hedgeye teams have. “Without continual growth and progress” however, we will pass up the precious opportunity of life by telling ourselves stories that we are making a difference.


That’s my problem with American government right now. That’s why I go off on it so often. Our economic growth is based on a false premise that ‘government is good’ and it has the ability to bail us out of all our problems. As a result, there is no progress in financial markets right now. Instead we get what our Compliance Czar, Moshe Silver, calls Dodd-Frankenstein “financial reform.”


Barney Frank and Chris Dodd are not men of Ben Franklin’s definition of virtue. They lie. You Tube is one of America’s greatest modern day innovations partly because it has offered us this plain and ugly truth.


Whatever this “government stimulated” growth is that gets reported in this morning’s Q2 GDP number, I can proactively forecast this about it – the GDP number will reveal nothing in terms of the standard of progress that this country should hold itself accountable to.


Never mind the stock market being Wall Street and the manic media’s bogey for progress anymore – for we hard working Americans (I have my green card!) who have actually been creating American jobs for the last 3 years as opposed to bitching about them, here’s what we are looking for as a multi-factor scorecard for American Growth and Progress:

  1. Strong Employment
  2. Strong Currency
  3. Strong Rates of Return

This isn’t political commentary. This is a pragmatic plan. If you’re a professional politician who has been forwarded this email and you don’t like being called names or being called out – too bad. Quit whining, pointing fingers, and fear mongering and fix these 3 things. You actually have a job with wage growth, so start earning your keep.


America has no Growth and Progress right now because we have none, never mind one, of the above:

  1. Employment – Given yesterday’s weekly jobless claims number of 457,000 we can be assured that the unemployment rate for July will remain above 9%. On a net basis, there have been ZERO net jobs added in this Fiat Republic in the last decade.
  2. Currency – the US Dollar has been down for 8 consecutive weeks, losing -9% of its value since early June, solidifying the long term TAIL of wealth oriented risk that remains in this country of debauching the currency of our citizenry.
  3. Rates of Return – sorry middle class Americans with a hard earned savings account. Short term Treasury rates just hit another all-time low this morning and if you want to get yourself levered long another 301k, the SP500 has a negative return for 2010 of -1.3% YTD too.

We get that professional modern day politicians are more focused on their job security than they are showing “continual growth and progress” on these 3 critical scores. As the Benjamin Franklin reminds us, “anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security” and when it comes to jobs or rates of return in this country today, ain’t that the sad truth.


My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are now 1076 and 1119, respectively.


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Growth and Progress - frank

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Wynn Macau may have indeed missed whisper expectations but those expectations were probably too high due to bad modeling. We don’t see any signs of accelerating commissions or promotional activity.



We thought Wynn Macau’s $216MM EBITDA was a solid number above our estimate of $211MM. Unfortunately for WYNN, whisper expectations were probably too high.  At least one analyst had recently gone to $235MM and some on the buy side were talking $250MM. 


So what went wrong?  Nothing actually.  The problem was in the expectations where bad modeling likely drove unreasonable estimates.  Our guess is that these bullish analysts/investors simply projected the Q1 margin of 30.7% and assumed it would go higher based on the addition of Encore and its concentration of higher margin direct play.  Holding everything else constant, a higher mix of direct play should drive margins higher.  However, the mix change was only slight sequentially and mix change doesn’t occur in a vacuum.  The key here is that commissions, rebate rates, and promotional activity – all metrics that analysts will blame for the whisper miss – did not accelerate in Q2.  Wynn Macau actually beat our margin estimate driven by lower casino expenses. 


Here are some details to back up our contention that you can’t just stick in EBITDA margin on net revenues:

  • Based on our calculations, direct play only increased 100bps as a % of total RC over last quarter as junket growth was also strong.  For those analysts that actually take the time to model direct play they may have assumed it would be higher.  According to our database, direct RC did increase 15% sequentially compared to a 6.5% sequential increase in Junket RC at the property. 
  • We calculate the VIP rebate rate on was only 0.93%, thus Wynn does not appear to be buying this business.  As a result, the net VIP win was $1MM above our estimate.
  • While we won’t know the exact commission rate until Wynn Macau files, we estimate that the commission rate was about 40%.  Many analysts/investors will blame whisper miss on higher commissions but this does not appear to be the case.  Higher hold rates typically come with higher rebates and commissions – so despite having a slightly higher mix of direct play this quarter- those modeling high hold should have modeled a higher commission rate.  Last quarter’s commission rate was 39.1% - lower than normal for Wynn given the low hold in the quarter.  Wynn’s commission rate for 2009 was 42% as a point of reference.
  • Slot handle growth of 43% YoY was a nice reversal of sluggish growth over the last year for Wynn but hold % was low – 4.5% (which is not unusual given the high limit additions which typically have higher payouts) – this also negatively affected the sequential margin


Other Details:

  • Wynn Macau’s $714.4MM of revenues was actually $5MM below our number but lower casino expenses more than made up the difference
  • Most of the revenue difference was due to lower room occupancy, which was offset by lower promotional spending
  • VIP gross win of $709MM was $10MM below our estimate, RC was $800MM below our estimate, while hold percentage was 7 bps above our 3.15% estimate
  • High hold on VIP play, which we knew about and analysts should’ve known about, boosted revenues by $80MM and EBITDA by $15MM
  • High hold on Mass boosted revenues by $5MM and EBITDA by $3MM.  Mass drop only grew by 14% which was a little disappointing
  • Implied fixed costs increased from $79.0MM to $84.5MM


The Macau Metro Monitor, July 30th, 2010



Sands China acting CEO Leven says in the coming months, Sands will "study the economics" of using junkets versus direct marketing to VIP players.  This echoed Adelson's comments in the conference call on pulling back on the direct VIP business.  According to CLSA, there are currently 75 active junkets in Macau, the top five of which control about 80% of Macau's VIP market.


According to a person familiar with the situation, Wynn Macau also pursues its own high-end customers, but not in large volumes.


According to Irwin Abe Siegel, a board member of Sands China, the salaries of all members who have completed at least one full year of service as of July 1, 2010 and are still in employment as of August 31, 2010 will rise by 3.5%, effective as of July 1.

According to sources contacted by Macau Business, around two thirds of Sands China’s 18,000 workers will benefit from this wage increase.


Here are our notes from the WYNN conference call.  We will have analysis in an upcoming post.




  • Business is slightly better in Las Vegas given the shift in business mix
  • The beach club which just opened is doing great, as is the rest of their night club business which can do north of $150MM of revenues for them at 40+% margins
  • Encore Macau's opening was accretive to their quarter
  • Have 10% of the position in Macau and 17% of the revenue there. Their fair share ratio is 1.62x.
  • Cotai project design is complete, will start foundation drawings in a few weeks, so they are a little ahead of schedule with their development process.
  • Impact of the financial reform bill that President just signed - has the potential to have a catastrophic impact on business


  • Vegas: They are starting to improve their rates as they become less dependent on the leisure business and trading it for the convention and group business which is trending at 17-18% of their rooms
    • They are taking 15-16% of the inventory out of commission as well though - so that really helps them increase the rate since they have less rooms to fill
    • Remove 400 rooms per quarter through January and then they will start their suite remodels
  • Asian business in Vegas has decreased but sustained better market share through their cross marketing efforts
  • Wynn Las Vegas will be all spruced up by Spring 2011
  • Hoping that they will have a lot more to show the investor community about their Cotai project either next quarter or 1Q2011
  • Any improvement in spend per occupied room rate in Las Vegas?
    • No - they aren't seeing any improvement
    • Only the nightclub business is doing great
  • When they finished design development in Cotai they noticed that they still had 12 acres left over, so they may do 2 phases. They are right across the street from MGM's site
  • Cash base business is up year over year and continue to see improving trends in July in Vegas
  • Wynn Cotai will be positioned consistent with their existing property- and do what they do best. It will have 1,500-1,600 rooms which will be bigger and more beautiful than anything they have ever built. They will have 500 tables and 1300 slot machines.
    • The extra 12 acres they haven't made any decision on what to do with it.  Their design only use 40 acres not 52.
  • In the convention segment, they are seeing some strengthening going into next year
  • Seeing some lift in food and beverage as a result of the club business, which is why they are adding 2 outlets - L'Cab (Nov 2010) and Lakeside Grill
  • Any impact from recent strength in the Euro?
    • Nothing. They got a small lift when the Euro was around $1.50
  • Ramp up of Encore Macau through out the quarter?
    • Accounted for all the expenses going into the opening.  They had everyone on payroll in 1Q2010
  • Wynn Macau generates 25% of the EBITDA in the market and 40% of the net income
  • Cost of the Wynn Las Vegas room remodel: $99MM + baccarat remodel cost
  • Doesn't think that anyone will open before them on Cotai aside from Sites 5 & 6 and Galaxy
  • Hold % of slots going up in Vegas?
    • They are changing the composition of their floor.  They've been removing some of the 99% payout poker games.
  • The reason the table drop per table is soft in Vegas is because there are so many tables. Customer acquisition costs are up because when their customers can't maintain their buildings and get desperate for customers they become very promotional. Promotional environment in Vegas is continuing into the 3Q.

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