Eye On Asia: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Conclusion: The bevy of economic data out of Asia over the last 48 hours makes us question the legs behind the bullish rally in many Asian equity markets. In addition, the data grows increasingly supportive of the relative underperformance of Japanese equities.


Positions: Long Chinese Yuan (CYB); Short Japanese Equities (EWJ); Short Japanese yen (FXY); Short Indian Equities (INP); Short Emerging Market Equities (FFD)


There has been a slew of economic data coming out of Asia over the last 48 hours – some good, some bad, and some ugly. Rather than belabor the point(s) with excessive prose, we’ll just highlight the meaningful deltas and inflection points in the call-outs and charts below.


The Good 

  • Japan’s Machine Orders grew in August to +10.1% MoM from +8.8% in July. This is the largest monthly increase since December and, while stale, this data point is serving to pare back concern regarding the frailty of Japan’s economic recovery.
  • Malaysia’s Industrial Production accelerated in August to +4% YoY from +3.2% in July.
  • Australia’s Consumer Confidence inflected in October, accelerating +3.3% to 117 from a (-5%) drop in September.
  • Australia’s Business Confidence Conditions Gauge (hiring, sales, and profits) rose in August to 7 from 5 in July.
  • Hong Kong’s introduced a rent-to-buy program for foreigners looking to buy property. This is an incremental measure to combat surging housing prices that have increased nearly 50% since 2009. 

Eye On Asia: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - 1


Eye On Asia: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - 2


The Bad


  • China’s Export and Import growth slowed in September, which, on the margin, highlights a deceleration in Chinese and global demand. Exports slowed to +25.1% YoY from +34.4% in August; Imports slowed to +24.1% YoY from 35.2% in August. This lends further support to the claim that inflating commodity prices globally are more the result of dollar debasement than any other factor.
  • China’s central bank temporarily raised reserve requirements 50bps for six large commercial banks to rein in excess liquidity and fight inflation. The current levels are 17% for the largest lenders and 15% for smaller institutions. This latest move is in response to China’s accelerating inflation, which hit a 22-month high in August. Central Bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan also recently said it may take two years for the inflation rate to fall below 3%, which is a firm stance against a potential interest rate hike and global calls for expedited yuan appreciation.
  • Malaysia’s Export growth decelerated in August to +10.6% YoY from +13.5% in July.
  • Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co., Japan’s second largest-insurer, plans to boost its holdings of JGBs in lieu of Japanese equities. The Nikkei, which is down (-11%) YTD, may come under substantial incremental pressure should more Japanese insurance companies and pension funds follow suit.
  • Australia’s headline Business Confidence declined in August to 10 from 11 in July. 

Eye On Asia: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - 3


Eye On Asia: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - 4


The Ugly 

  • Japan’s public pension fund plans to expand its investments to include emerging market equities next summer. This marks the beginning of the end in terms of Japan’s reliance on domestic demand for JGB financing (~95%). As of 2008, 61% percent of JGBs were financed directly or indirectly from the funds of Japanese households. With this tailwind becoming a headwind over the long term, how will JGBs attract foreign buyers with such low yields going forward? Refer to the long term call outlined in the Japan’s Jugular section in Hedgeye’s 4Q Macro Themes presentation for more details.
  • Japan’s Consumer Confidence dropped in August to 41.2 from 42.4 in July. One of the key tenets to our Japan’s Jugular intermediate term call is that yen strength bodes poorly for Japan’s domestic economy, which is levered to exports as the main driver of growth. With exports slowing, we expect the side-effects (rising joblessness, declining consumer and business confidence, etc.) to be a major drag on that economy over the next 3-6 months.
  • Korea’s PPI accelerated in September to +4% YoY from +3.1% in August.
  • India’s Industrial Production decelerated in August to a 15-month low: +5.6% from a revised +15.2% increase in July.  The slowdown in industrial output may weigh on the central bank’s decision to continue rate hikes to fight India’s rampant inflation going forward. 

Eye On Asia: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - 5


Eye On Asia: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - 6


The Murky 

  • China’s FX Reserves grew to a record $2.65 trillion in September from the prior $2.45 trillion, adding concern that the U.S. will accelerate protectionist litigation through Congress. This morning, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus went on record saying a bill that would “punish” China for its undervalued yuan is likely to get past the Senate and onto President Barak Obama’s desk.
  • The MSCI Emerging Market’s Index historical volatility closed at 12.1 last week – the lowest levels since July 2007. In our models, depressed volatility could potentially be a contra indicator and a signal to sell. Looking back historically, we see the measure increased off its lows to 27 just prior to the EM Index peak in October 2007.
  • Thailand will remove a 15% tax exception on foreign income from domestic bonds in an attempt to stem gains in the baht. This is just another action amid a growing list of steps taken by foreign central banks to combat excessive currency gains amid Fed-sponsored dollar debasement. QE may be good for a near-term equity rally, but the dollar’s decline is restricting export competitiveness and stoking inflation globally. Exports account for roughly 70% of Thailand’s GDP. 

While we continue to be favorably disposed to Asian countries with strong growth profiles like China, Singapore, and Indonesia, we would be remiss to join in on the rally and decoupling talk now. We are likely buyers on pullbacks provided these markets hold important quant lines of support in the event of a dollar breakout. That, however, remains the biggest “if” in all of global macro investing right now.


For now, we are content to wait and watch.


Darius Dale



The implied September baccarat volume looks pretty weak based on MGM’s pre-announced results.



We think September Strip Baccarat volume may fall 50-60% after posting 40% and 87% YoY increase in July and August, respectively.  That would bring total baccarat volume growth for the quarter to 26-29%.  Good, but not as good as everyone thought on Friday when the blockbuster August numbers were released by the Nevada Gaming Commission.




With its pre-announcement yesterday, MGM showed a baccarat volume decline at its wholly owned properties (so excluding Aria) of 6%.  That is a very poor showing.  It is our understanding that MGM’s baccarat market share was 35-40% and over 50% including Aria.  Applying some simple math to MGM’s reported baccarat volume and the Nevada state figures leads us to the conclusion that September baccarat volume may be down 50-60%, even if MGM’s market share fell 10 percentage points.  Of course, if they maintained share, then September Strip baccarat volume would have fallen even more.


We don’t want to marginalize the baccarat business.  After all, this segment carried the Las Vegas Strip through the downturn and volumes continued to grow this year.  However, relative to expectations, investors have to be disappointed with the full quarter volumes after Friday.  We will need to reevaluate our model projections for WYNN and LVS again after raising our Las Vegas estimates following Friday’s Nevada release.

R3: JCP, COH, SHLD, PERY, and Fila


October 13, 2010


The JCP/Ackman chess match remains front and center today while Fila becomes the first brand to market with toning apparel just in time for the holidays.




- In the “really?” category, we note that teen pop star Justin Beiber inked a deal to release a collection of 6 nail polishes.  Perhaps this is the product that Wal-Mart needs to get traffic moving in a positive direction.  The line is set to launch at WMT in December, followed by a rollout into Target and Sears early next year.


- Coach tops the list of the second annual Digital IQ Index of luxury brands, skyrocketing from the middle of the pack last year to the top.  The index measures the “digital competence” of luxury brands.  Rounding out the top five in order are: Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Hugo Boss. 


- According to the Gallup Well-Being Index, 6 in 10 Americans are either overweight or obese.  Approximately 36% fall into the overweight category while 26.6% are obese.  The good news here is that the obesity rate has been essentially unchanged for two quarters. 





JCP Hires Goldman Sachs To Play Defense Against Bill Ackman - J.C. Penney Co. Inc. has taken a page from the Target Corp. playbook and hired Goldman Sachs to help play defense against activist investor William Ackman, sources said. Ackman plans to “engage in discussions” with Penney’s management and other stakeholders concerning the firm’s “business, assets, capitalization, financial condition, operations, governance, management, strategy and future plans.” Little is known of Ackman’s plans. <>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Given that Target ended up holding its own against Ackman, the move to hire the same defensive player probably makes a ton of sense.  In the meantime, this will unfortunately become a costly battle that shareholders are likely going to pay for.


Levi Strauss Sales, Expenses Grow - Net income at Levi Strauss & Co. dropped by 30.8% in the third quarter while sales improved as the company increased spending on new stores and advertising its Levi’s and Dockers brands. Total net revenue was up 6.6%, driven by the strong performance of the Levi’s brand in the Americas, the company’s acquisition of 73 outlet stores operated by a third party in 2009, and the expansion of the company’s retail store base, offset by wholesale declines in Europe and Japan. Although Europe did grow 6% cc, the 9% FX impact erased all growth. SG&A increased 15.5% primarily due to the spending on new stores and marketing. <>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  While the topline was supported by such investments, we note that expenses and not increasing costs were the key factor weighing on the bottom line.  This is likely to change as cotton remains at elevated levels.  Recall that Levi’s and Dockers are in the midst of rebranding efforts.


Sears Opens More In-Store Toy Shops - Sears is opening 79 additional Toy Shops within its stores, including in new markets Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Diego and Washington, D.C. The expansion is based on a successful pilot launch last year. The year-round in-store Sears' Toy Shops will carry offerings from Fisher-Price, LeapFrog, Hasbro, Bakugan and VTech, as well as specialty items. The latest openings will bring the Toy Shop count to 99. The shops measure approximately 1,500 to 1,800 square feet. <>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Sears continues on its trend of creating a mall within a mall environment.  However, toys appear to be heading for a competitive holiday following Toys R Us’ intention to open 600 pop up stores as well as Target and Wal-Mart’s intentions to be very sharp on pricing.


PERY Extends Nike License - Perry Ellis International has extended its license agreement with Nike, Inc. in which Perry Ellis will continue to design, produce, manufacture and distribute select apparel and swim equipment within North America under the Nike Swim brand through 2014.  <>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:   Status quo here with the swim license which means much more to PERY than it does to NKE.


Fila USA to Sell Women's Body Toning Workout Apparel - Fila USA announced the release of the Fila Body Toning System (BTS), a collection of body toning workout apparel for the women's fitness industry. The Body Toning System will first deliver to Dick's Sporting Goods stores and athletic specialty stores in early October. <>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: While late to the toning shoe game, Fila becomes the first on shelves with a complimentary apparel product. With women now frequenting the athletic channel with increased frequency, retailers are likely to quickly adopt (or at least try) early toning apparel offerings in an effort to up-sell and retain new incremental female customers. Next in line is Reebok Easy Tone apparel in stores come November just in time for the holidays.


Fast-Fashion Flocks to India - Fast-fashion and contemporary brand retailers are flocking to India to tap into the nation’s rapidly growing economy and a market comprised of millions of young people. The latest is Forever 21, which opened its first store in India at the Ambience Mall here late last month, with a long line of customers waiting outside, impatient for the doors to be thrown open. Forever 21 joins the likes of Diesel, Zara, Ecko Unltd. and Italy’s OVS Industry. Other brands that made their entry into India earlier this year include Vero Moda and Seven For All Mankind. Over the last few years, Promod, Calvin Klein and S. Oliver have been establishing their stake in the metro cities. Meanwhile, well-entrenched brands like Van Heusen still see room for substantial expansion. What comes next? The entry of Gap is awaited, particularly in light of its plans to launch in China later this year. The frequency of purchase is highest among younger consumers. More than 81% of India’s population is under 45, and these consumers are the most fashion conscious. <>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Clearly an attractive market for retailers, but the key force tempering foreign direct investment continues to be Indian reform. Expect more aggressive entry by retailers as the government opens its gates further.


Russian Footwear Demand Recovers, 83% of Imported Shoes From China - Although footwear consumption in Russia is relatively smaller than those in European Union and the US, demand has been recovering, with China supplying 83% of imported shoes to the country. According to a recent survey conducted by Discovery Research Group, the average annual shoes consumption is 1.4 pairs for Russian, whereas 4.5 pairs for other European and 6.5 pairs for American. The imports in 2009 grew 22.3% to 222.1 million pairs from a year earlier. The average price for imported a pair of shoes was US$10. In terms of value, shoes consumption in the first quarter of 2010 increased 15% to 20%. Industry experts said that shoe demand in Russia is recovering, with prices also being on the rise. <>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: A population half the size of the U.S., but footwear consumption only ~20% of the American consumer suggests a capacity for increased demand. With the country’s GDP running +5% and an ASP of only $10 expect footwear demand trends to closely follow that of oil prices in the near-to-intermediate term.

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TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP - October 13, 2010

As we look at today’s set up for the S&P 500, the range is 22 points or -1.26% downside to 1155 and 0.62% upside to 1177. Equity futures are trading above fair value in a continuation of yesterday's bounce which saw the S&P 500 close higher after recovering from an intraday low. Risk appetite was helped by the release of Fed minutes which reiterated the FOMC's resolve to take action if the economic recovery remained sluggish.

  • Adtran (ADTN) reported 3Q EPS 50c vs est. 43c
  • Chevron (CVX) sees 3Q earnings lower than 2Q on weaker dollar, drilling ban, lower crude prices
  • CSX (CSX) reported 3Q EPS $1.08 vs est. $1.04
  • Intel (INTC) forecast 4Q rev. $11.0b-$11.8b, vs est. $11.3b
  • Linear Technology (LLTC) sees 2Q rev. unch. to down 4% Q/Q vs est. 1% drop to $384.8m
  • MGM Resorts International (MGM) plans 40.9m stock offering; biggest shareholder will reduce stake


  • One day: Dow +0.09%, S&P +0.38%, Nasdaq +0.65%, Russell 2000 +0.37%
  • Month/Quarter-to-date: Dow +2.15%, S&P +2.50%, Nasdaq +2.08%, Russell +2.94%.
  • Year-to-date: Dow +5.68%, S&P +4.90%, Nasdaq +6.56%, Russell +11.30%
  • SECTOR PERFORMANCE: Financials +1.12%, Tech +0.60%, Materials +0.26%, Consumer Spls +0.25%, Healthcare +0.23%, Consumer Disc +0.23%, Industrials (0.06%), Energy (0.15%), Utilities (0.41%)


  • ADVANCE/DECLINE LINE: +357 (+39)
  • VOLUME: NYSE - 923.14 (+11.5%)  
  • MARKET LEADING/LAGGING STOCKS YESTERDAY: King Pharma +39.41%, Salesforce +5.57% and Starbucks +4.42%/Electronic Arts -5.83%, Fastenal -4.84% and Gamestop -2.80%.
  • VIX: 18.96 -8.45% - YTD PERFORMANCE: (-12.54%)
  • SPX PUT/CALL RATIO: 1.49 from 1.69 -11.74%


  • TED SPREAD: 17.75 0.304 (1.743%)
  • 3-MONTH T-BILL YIELD: 0.13% +0.01%
  • YIELD CURVE: 2.07 from 2.06


  • CRB: 297.83 +0.49%
  • Oil: 81.67 +1.22% - BULLISH
  • COPPER: 378.95 unch - OVERBOUGHT
  • GOLD: 1,347.10 -0.47 - BULLISH


  • EURO: 1.3867 -0.15% - BULLISH
  • DOLLAR: 77.363 -0.10%  - BEARISH




  • FTSE 100: +1.13%; DAX +1.43%; CAC 40 +1.41%
  • Major indices are broadly higher led by strong gains across the Basic Resource, Oil & Gas and Technology sectors as investors digest the latest FOMC minutes which appeared to go further than most analysts had expected.
  • Financials reacted positively although Barclay's shares are weak on talk it may be considering a rights issue
  • Standard Chartered has announced plans to raise £3.3B in a rights issue ahead of the introduction of Basel III's capital rules
  • Eurozone Aug Industrial Production 7.9% y/y vs cons 7.5%
  • France Sep Final CPI +1.8% vs prelim +1.8%
  • UK Aug ILO unemployment rate 7.7% vs cons 7.8%  



  • Nikkei +0.16%; Hang Seng +1.45%; Shanghai Composite +0.70%
  • Markets closed mixed in the wake of yesterday's FOMC's minutes and INTC's earnings.
  • The Nikkei closed up as the dollar firmed slightly vs the yen bouying exporters, and Japan August factory orders were announced to be +10.1% m/m vs expectations of +4.5%.
  • Hang Seng reversed losses to close up +1.45% after property stocks fell following the government's announcement it will temporarily cease to grant residency to foreigners who invest in the city
  • China reported a Sep trade surplus of $16.9B, down from $20.0B in Aug 
Howard Penney
Managing Director

THE DAILY OUTLOOK - levels and trends













Lecturing Myself On Shorting

“Not realizing that giving someone no map is much, much better than giving him a wrong map.”

-Nassim Taleb



Lecturing Myself On Shorting - LEcturing on Flying Birds



I’m almost a third of the way through reviewing Pablo Triana’s “Lecturing Birds On Flying.” Published in 2009, this is a thinkers book. It made it to the top of my reading pile as I’m keen on reading anything that offers an alternative solution to the academic dogma that’s plaguing the American Economic System.


The aforementioned quote came from Nassim Taleb’s 7-page foreword. If you think what I write is aggressive, you need to read this book. Taleb’s foreword was easily the most aggressive I’ve ever read. His advice: “You need to shame members, humiliate them. Make fun of these charlatans.”


I don’t like charlatans. I don’t like cowards. And I certainly don’t like taking people’s word for things unless I have a basis to trust their work. I’d be a hypocrite not to criticize myself inasmuch as I will Ben Bernanke or Pablo Triana. My goal in life isn’t to defend my answers. It’s to find the right ones.


Given that I’m still waiting on my entry point to re-short this SP500, this morning I am going to lecture myself on shorting. In Chapter 2, “The Financial Economics Fiefdom”, Triana sufficiently proves that some of the said economic savants who are lecturing our B-school students need a wake-up call of real-life experience. So, I’ll offer my own. If you want to hit competing strategies in the mouth, you have to be accountable to what’s coming out of your own.


To be clear, no one said being transparent and accountable in this business is easy. That said, unlike Taleb and Triana, I actually show the score associated with my implementation of risk management solutions each and every day. We need more practitioners to get in the game on this front. God knows we aren’t going to boil the ocean of academic dogma on our own.


So, back to lecturing myself on shorting, let’s start with some very basic modern day risk management questions. If you want to lecture people on managing “Black Swan” or “tail risk”, shouldn’t you know how to profitably short a country, currency, or commodity? How about shorting stocks, governments, or the professional politicians that back them?


I’ll humbly submit that if you could, you would. So let’s strap the accountability pants on and take a walk down that path. Other than an internet connection and an online brokerage account (or a hedge fund), what else do you need to get started?

  1. Money
  2. Macro
  3. Mucker

Ok. Ok. Now you’re either laughing or calling me names like the guys on the Princeton hockey team used to do. Either way, my teammates and I don’t really care what you call me. The Hedgeye Portfolio has an 83.6% winning percentage on the short side since inception (2008). Who Dat Hedgeye?


In all seriousness, in these globally interconnected times of government sponsored volatility, I don’t think you should be buying, selling, shorting, or covering anything unless you have a top-down global macro process combined with bottom-up research and risk management tools.


Ok. Now that I’ve laced up my skates with some Money, Macro, and Mucker, I’m ready to play God (Chapter 1 of Lecturing Birds On Flying is called “Playing God”). In terms of some pre-game prep, here are some highlights from Triana’s first chapter that any student of this game can appreciate:


1.  Citing Emanuel Derman (former Goldman exec and currently professor at Columbia who has his PhD in physics), Triana makes an invaluable point about discipline and hard work: “It’s not that physics is better, but rather that finance is harder. In physics you are playing against God and He doesn’t change His laws very often. In finance, you are playing against God’s creatures, agents who value assets based on their ephemeral opinions.”


2.  Again, borrowing another great quote from Derman, Triana hammers home a critical point about the behavioral side of this game that you need to internalize before you get out there on the proverbial ice: “When you take on other people, you are pretending you can comprehend other pretenders, a much more difficult task.”


3.  Finally, on page 22, Pablo brings some Harvard heat by using a solid quote about economic forecasting from John Kenneth Galbraith: “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology respectable.”


Now playing against the said gods of Perceived Wisdom is tough. My mother-in-law was the first to remind me and my newly found feathered-gray hockey hairs about that. But God Himself is tough. And if you want to play this game for real, you better be tough too - especially when both critics and consensus tell you that you can’t do something that they can’t do.



Lecturing Myself On Shorting - yale



After all, I believe it was Galbraith who also said that, “we have two classes of forecasters: those who don’t know – and those who don’t know what they don’t know.” Keep being your own harshest critic out there and you’ll be just fine. Read, write, and spend as much time with the people you love as you can. Short selling and managing risk is all about doing. As the game changes you need to change alongside it.  


I’ve been waiting and watching for my re-entry point on the short side of the SP500 since early September. My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are now 1155 and 1177, respectively. I answer to no man on when to pull the trigger. I’m accountable to the score. I have my own map.


Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer



A 50% move in the stock and this is all we get?  Macau is finally delivering and the Borgata multiple was nice but where is the evidence of a big Las Vegas recovery? Certainly not in CityCenter.



Our big picture thoughts haven’t changed much since our post last night, “MGM: SO IT WAS A DEAL ROADSHOW”.  However, we wanted to add some additional observations and details.  Given the run in the stock, the looming cash flow issues in 2011, and the negotiations to restructure their City Center debt, management was smart to strike while the iron was hot with an equity deal.


Vegas was only in line with expectations.  Where was the blowout anticipated after the August Strip revenues were released?  EBITDA was a little better but so was hold percentage.  Reported Strip baccarat volumes were up 39.6% and 87.2% in July and August, respectively, yet MGM’s wholly owned Bacc volume declined 6% in Q3.  We were hoping for more from a company that boasts to own 35-40% of the baccarat volume on the Strip.  With Aria they say it’s over 50%.  Who’s hiding the bacon or was September a complete disaster on the Strip?


The most interesting aspect of Q3 was the diverging fortunes of MGM’s newest assets:  MGM Macau and City Center i.e. The pretty sister and the big ugly duckling.

  • So let’s start with the pretty girl (we’ll call her Anna)
    • $83MM in EBITDA is pretty good, despite a low hold; 4Q should be even better.
    • 3Q detail: Slot win was $33MM; RC volume of $13BN with low hold of 2.6% (we assume 15% direct play); Mass table win of $113MM
    • MGM is already tracking ahead in market share for October at 9.8% for the first 10 days. So we think that if the market holds up and MGM’s hold is normal, a $100MM quarter is within reach.
    • We now believe that MGM should be able to sell the deal on about $350MM of EBITDA, which means that at 11x they can net $450MM on a 30% IPO
  • Thoughts on the ugly duckling (let’s call him Todd)
    • Is there really anything good to say about the 3rd quarter, where a $9BN property makes no money?  If there is, I’m sure Jim will say it on the next call.
    • When we stifle out the noise, CityCenter reported a marvelous result of $0 EBITDA for the quarter… here’s how we get there
      • Reported Adjusted EBITDA was $52.4MM
      • Subtract $28MM of forfeiture profits = $24MM
      • Add back $2MM of losses on condo sales ($26MM of residential EBITDA pre development & admin less the forfeitures) = $26MM
      • Less the $26MM of positive hold impact = $0MM
    • Another way to think about City Center (ex residential) is that Aria is on a run rate of $15MM/quarter… let’s say things improve a lot.. .and they get to $30MM.  Everything else is a small bleeder or small contributor but basically inconsequential unless things just really get a lot better to the tune of $50-$100 of incremental RevPAR.  Forfeitures should wind down over the next quarter or 2 so then we are left with the residential sales – which basically make no money and at best proceeds can repay the extra money that MGM is on the hook for.
    • MGM’s net obligation in City Center was $137MM last quarter – and has now increased by $232MM to $369MM per the release
    • City Center lenders can’t be too happy right now.  There must be real doubt whether this project can produce $150MM of EBITDA much less meet the 5.5x leverage covenant that comes into play in June 2010. We believe that MGM will have to make a decent pay down of the CityCenter facility as part of its debt restructuring. 

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