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Bull/Bear Macro-Tug

There’s a real good Bull/Bear macro-tug of war going on out there all of a sudden. There is a core constituency of bulls who want to believe that the current pattern of US economic growth is going to sustain itself and then there are the bears who remain negative on both the US Dollar and the SP500 for the intermediate term TREND.

 

There was plenty of economic data this morning for both bulls and bears to tug on:

 

Bullish:

  1. In the chart below we show a modest sequential acceleration in the ISM Non-Manufacturing Index (54.3 in July vs. 53.8 in June)
  2. MBA mortgage applications were up +1.5% week-over-week (barely budging demand levels not seen since 1997)
  3. ADP’s employment report came in at 42k (better than expected) 

Bearish:

  1. ABC/Washington Post weekly consumer confidence dropped for the 5th consecutive week to -50 versus -48 last week.
  2. II’s Bullish/Bearish Survey widened to +6 points in the Bulls favor (Bears dropped to 33% and this is a contrarian indicator).
  3. The SP500 remains below the Bear Market Macro line of resistance (1144). 

Coming up next are US Retail same store sales reports (tonight and tomorrow), weekly jobless claims (tomorrow), and Friday’s unemployment report for the month of July. My immediate term TRADE lines of support and resistance for the SP500 are now 1116 and 1131, respectively.

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Bull/Bear Macro-Tug - 1


ASCA 2Q2010 CONF CALL NOTES

ASCA's revenues were in-line but higher promotional expenses across numerous properties led to an EBITDA miss. However, it's all about expectations and clearly, they were low going into this print.

 


"As we look into the third quarter, we are optimistic regarding the performance of the properties in our more stable markets, including Kansas City, Council Bluffs and Vicksburg. We anticipate Black Hawk will continue to produce year-over-year growth ...We also expect some opportunities for growth in Missouri, as both of our properties have been permitted to operate 24 hours daily (except for one hour each Wednesday morning) since July 1, 2010. Prior to the change in operating hours, our Missouri properties were required to be closed for three hours per day on non-holiday weekdays."

- Gordon Kanofsky, Ameristar's Chief Executive Officer.

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE RELEASE

  • "East Chicago property's financial results were adversely affected by a nearby bridge closure to a degree much greater than originally anticipated"
    • "The Company has significantly reduced forecasted financial results for the property based on the actual operating results since the bridge closure. As a result, in the second quarter of 2010 the Company recorded a non-cash impairment charge of $56.0 million ($33.2 million on an after-tax basis) that completely eliminates the remaining net book value of goodwill associated with the acquisition of the East Chicago property and reduces the carrying value of the property's gaming license to $12.6 million."
  • "Ameristar Black Hawk once again posted substantial year-over-year improvement in all financial metrics thanks to the September 2009 opening of its luxury hotel and the July 2009 regulatory reform in Colorado"
  • "Our St. Charles property was negatively impacted by new competition that entered the St. Louis gaming market in early March 2010, although to a lesser degree than we had anticipated prior to its opening"
  • "Assuming no significant changes in LIBOR, we expect to save approximately $6.5 million in interest expense per quarter from the July 19, 2010 expiration of our interest rate swap agreements."
  • 3Q2010 Guidance:
    • Depreciation: $27 to $28 million
    • Interest expense, net of capitalized interest:$27.5 to $28.5 million, (non-cash interest expense: $2.8 million)
    • Tax rate: 42.5% to 43.5%.
    • Capital spending: $15 to $20 million
    • Capitalized interest: $0.1 to $0.2 million
    • Debt reduction: $25 million
    • Non-cash stock-based compensation: $3.4 to $3.9 million

CONF CALL NOTES

  • A little more than half the declines they are seeing are attributed to the economic environment and new competition in St. Louis
  • Things in St. Louis are stabilizing from a market share standpoint
  • At East Chicago, the marketing efforts have been unsuccessful. Think that the impact will be $25MM unless the bridge opens. Working on some improvements to the hotel. The reduced forecast to this property led them to take a $56MM impairment charge.
  • 80% of the market growth in Blackhawk was attributed to their property
  • CIP is immaterial - mostly just payment negotiations on prior projects
  • Anticipate $45-50MM available under the R/C by December
  • Anticipate that the additional hours of operations in Missouri should give them a bump up in performance

Q&A

  • East Chicago - only improvement will be from more efficient operations now that they know what to expect from it
  • Until they see general economic improvement in the economy, they think holding on to cash is the best idea for them
  • Think that the old President license will go to Cape Girardo
  • Kansas City - why the bigger than usual gap between reported state numbers and reported numbers?
    • Promotional spending - which turned out to be a bad decision- they pulled back going forward
  • Are they going to put some new swaps on?
    • No
  • Any changes to consumer behavior - traffic stable but spend per visitor down?
    • Not really
  • Impact of 24 hour rule in Missouri over the last month
    • Too early to say....or shall I say that it's not that material otherwise they would mention it
  • Peak margins at Blackhawk? Looks like expenses came down a bit
    • Think that they have some more revenue opportunity there as they continue to penetrate Denver
    • Will try to get incremental margin improvements
    • Seasonality is impacted by weather - (July - September) is their best quarter
  • Doesn't think that they will see material increases in market share in Blackhawk
  • They aren't giving up all marketing efforts in East Chicago 
  • Hotel in Kansas City - 100 rooms - in design now. 15 months of outflows of cash related to it
  • Need about $70MM of cash to operate their properties
  • How have competitors reacted to their promotional spending?
    • At Blackhawk, it is really about giving away hotel rooms

THE DAILY OUTLOOK - JUST CHARTS

As we look at today’s set up for the S&P 500, the range is 11 points or 0.3% (1,117) downside and 0.7% (1,128) upside.

 

THE DAILY OUTLOOK - JUST CHARTS - S P

 

THE DAILY OUTLOOK - JUST CHARTS - VIX

 

THE DAILY OUTLOOK - JUST CHARTS - DOLLAR

 

THE DAILY OUTLOOK - JUST CHARTS - OIL

 

THE DAILY OUTLOOK - JUST CHARTS - GOLD

 

THE DAILY OUTLOOK - JUST CHARTS - COPPER


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THE M3: MGM EYEING MULTIPLE PROPERTIES IN MACAU; SJM COMMENTS

The Macau Metro Monitor, August 4th, 2010


MGM RESORTS PLANS NEW MACAU CASINOS AFTER 'TURNING POINT' IN JUNE REVENUE Bloomberg

CEO Murren said on Bloomberg that MGM plans to build multiple properties in Macau and more properties in Asia over time. "We are starting to assert ourselves in Macau," added Murren.  Aggressive new terms have been negotiated with junket consolidators and the company has just raised US$950m for refinancing of existing debt and added liquidity.

 

SJM IS STILL INTERESTED IN THE COTAI DEVELOPMENT PROJECT Macau Daily News

SJM CEO Shu Fai So said they had already expressed their interest in the Cotai development project to the local government.  SJM has not received any official notification from the government with regards to the land grant application but So believes a announcement will come shortly.  So also said that if China does not tighten its macroeconomics policy any further this year, GGR will grow at least 30% YoY.


WMS INVESTING FOR THE FUTURE

As expected, WMS made the quarter and provided revenue guidance slightly below the Street but in-line with us. The only surprise to us was higher R&D guidance which may not be a bad thing.

 

 

The quarter was largely in line with our expectations, not the highest quality we’ve seen, but not bad given the environment.  Top line guidance for FY2011 was also healthy with our $834 million estimate toward the lower end of the guidance range of $830-850 million.  The only material surprise is management’s R&D push in FY2011 which will cost them an additional $0.10 to $0.12 in diluted EPS.  Implied guidance for FY2011 appears to be around $2 in EPS.

 

The news of the R&D acceleration initially brought about a high level of consternation on our part.  Is this catch up/maintenance R&D spend?  However, taking management at its word, we don’t believe that to be the case but we will do some serious digging.  CEO Brian Gamache indicated that they had showed customers some forward looking products that were in test and the response was positive enough that management decided to pull the development forward.  This is the definition of investing in the business and is the right long-term move if it is incremental and not maintenance.

 

While we don’t think investors get as excited about share repurchases – a bear market and credit crisis will do that –, in this case, they should.  Free cash flow is accelerating and the company announced a $300m share repurchase.  WMS is in a positive net cash position so share repurchases will be more accretive than if they had to borrow. 

 

WMS generated $51 million in operating cash flow, a number that will grow substantially next year due to net income growth and a stable customer financing environment.  After ratcheting up the use of its balance sheet to finance customer slot purchases in FY2010, WMS indicated that the company does not expect to be any more aggressive in this area.  A relatively constant accounts receivable balance will boost working capital and cash flow generation in FY2011 relative to FY2010.  Higher investment spend will eat into the operating cash increase somewhat but this is due primarily to Italy.  For now, the only comment we will make is that $40m seems like a high number for the 2.0-2.5k machines we were projecting.  Could management be expecting a larger market for them in Italy?  We will find out.

 

 

Quarter details

Product sales of $135MM were $4MM above our estimate with weaker new unit sales revenue offset by stronger used gaming machine sales.  Gross profit margins were 20 bps above our estimate.

  • New unit sales of 7,076 were in-line with our estimate (with NA shipments weaker than expected offset by stronger international shipments) and pricing was 3% lower
  • For the first time ever, WMS had the highest ship share in a quarter, overtaking IGT
  • Replacement sales were materially weaker than we expected; however, strength in new and expansion unit sales somewhat offset this.
    • WMS shipped units to Sugarhouse this quarter, receiving mid-high 20’s ship share
    • Our best guess is WMS’s share of the North American market was 27% this quarter
  • We believe that the increase in used gaming machines sold is reflective of the cost sensitive environment as more and more casinos are purchasing used games for some portion of their “new floors”
  • WMS should recognize shipments to PENN's Cecil County facility and Cosmo next quarter.  WMS got around the 90 day acceptance clause in Maryland by selling through a distributor.

Gaming operations revenues of $78MM were $2MM below our estimate and gross margins of $63.5MM were $3MM below our estimate.

  • WMS’s install base was 150 units less than we expected due to a higher than estimated removal of standalone games, partly offset by higher WAP & LAP placements.  We assumed that the standalone base was approaching a more stable level.
  • Average revenue per day was below our estimate as were margins – partly because we didn’t take into account last year’s favorable jackpot expense
  • Other gaming operations revenues were $2.4MM higher than our estimate

Other stuff:

  • R&D, SG&A and D&A were $2.7MM below our estimate

Don't Do Dogma

“And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”

-Confucius

 

I’ve learned, un-learned, a re-learned this lesson in trading markets many times in the last decade  - Don’t Do Dogma. The larger your risk management and research team becomes, the harder it gets to adhere to that discipline. The more research edge you have, the more confident you tend to become. This breeds confirmation bias and risk.

 

A disciplined risk management approach to allocating capital is a process best learned by doing. I don’t learn much when my team is right on the research - I work with winners who wakeup expecting to be right. I learn the most when our positioning to express that research is wrong.

 

This gets to the heart of a structural problem with our industry. There is a huge difference between being right on the research and right on your timing, sizing, and positioning. Our industry pays a “star” premium for conviction in best research “ideas”, but pays much less for the risk managed expression of those ideas. This is good. It provides a tremendous opportunity for us to evolve our profession.

 

“No matter where you go” this morning, “there you are.” I have my coffee and my notebook, and markets are trading for and against my positioning. Without a repeatable risk management plan, I’m not sure what you do when you login every morning. Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but when it comes to grinding through the morning’s macro data, my research process has a very low standard deviation.

 

Conversely, as you may have noticed, my decision making process has a very high standard deviation. Sometimes I make too many Hedgeye Virtual Portfolio and Asset Allocation moves, sometimes I make too few. I learned this playing hockey more than anything else, but there is a time to be moving your feet, and there is a time to wait in the weeds – goals get scored when your timing is right.

 

Yesterday the US stock market was down, so I took that as an opportunity to cover some shorts and buy some longs. Because our macro research is bearish on both the US Dollar and the SP500 doesn’t mean I have to be bearish at every time and price on everything USA (we’re long XLU, Utilities).

 

In modern day risk management, it’s critical to contextualize both time and price within the framework of different investment durations. That’s why we have developed the TRADE, TREND, and TAIL process. It helps us communicate our research findings in a way that isn’t Duration Dogmatic.

 

The SP500 has only had 1 up day in the last 6 trading days. That 1 up day was of consequence however, because it took out the immediate term TRADE line of resistance of 1117. Whenever resistance becomes support on any of our 3 core investment durations (TRADE, TREND, and TAIL), I start moving my feet.

 

The setup for this morning is the same as it was as I was changing my positioning into yesterday’s close. Inactive investors dogmatically call this “trading” – I call it proactively managing risk. You trade today in order to set yourself up for tomorrow.

 

We went through this on our Macro Monthly Strategy conference call yesterday (if you’d like the slides and replay, please email ), but it’s worth repeating – the Bear Market Macro lines for the US Dollar Index and SP500 are $84.32 and 1144, respectively. These are my intermediate term TREND lines of resistance. These back-test with the highest success rate of any duration in my model.

 

Bearish TREND doesn’t always mean bearish TRADE. To the contrary, bearish TREND often insulates bullish trading inasmuch as bullish TREND formations can perpetuate bearish immediate term trading. Bull and bear markets get both overbought and oversold.

 

If the US stock market gets banged up today, there are no rules saying that this bullish immediate term TRADE support line of 1117 in the SP500 can’t become resistance again - and quickly, with no downside support to 1089. Don’t get frustrated with how short term that sounds. Embrace it. Managing risk doesn’t occur in a baby blue Tiffany box.

 

The conclusion of all this is always on the tape. Yesterday I invested 6% of the Cash position in our Asset Allocation model, taking Cash down from 79% to 73% by adding a long position in International Equities - Indonesia (IDX) – and adding another 3% to our long position in the Chinese Yuan (CYB).

 

The risk in all of this is that 1117 doesn’t hold, because that means anything I covered or bought yesterday will have likely been executed on too early. In real life investing, being too early means being wrong. Don’t Do Dogma – that’s for marketing presentations about investing.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Don't Do Dogma - tiff


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