Gambling Stocks Bet on Macau, Auto Sales Thaw in March, and U.S. Manufacturing Gets Some Spring Pep

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The sun's shining and the Mets are already losing baseball games -- it must be the beginning of the second quarter. Stocks started April with spring in their step, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) popped 75 points Tuesday on solid car and manufacturing data.

1. Gambling stocks jump on Macau report
Las Vegas is for losers, because anyone with boatloads of cash, a desire for risk, and a rare albino lion as a pet is enjoying blackjack in Macau. According to a report released by the Chinese government, the country's gambling mecca has maintained double-digit revenue growth, with $12.6 billion in gambling revenue so far this year, up nearly 20% from the same period in 2013. Plus, its $44 billion in gambling revenue last year was a record.
So who's winning? The house. Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS  ) and Steve Wynn's Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN  ) both have major properties in Macau, and both stocks partied their way up over 2.4% Tuesday on China's report.
The takeaway is that Macau's gambling industry is growing so quickly, it's only a matter of time before Britney Spears and Cirque de Soleil partner up for a multi-decade, hip-hop trapeze show on the Chinese peninsula. In a statement Tuesday, Las Vegas Sands' Adelson made clear that his Macau resorts were earning more than his Las Vegas ones. For Wynn, net revenue was nearly three times greater in Macau than Vegas in the last quarter of 2013.
For all you political gurus out there, keep in mind that Macau is actually one of two "Special Administrative Regions" of China (the other is Hong Kong). The former Portuguese colony was transferred to China's control in 1999, under the condition that it remain fairly independent until at least 2049 (Macau's got its own legal system, police, and cool green flag). And China's been able to sit back and let the peninsula flourish with gambling and tourism activity.

2. U.S. auto sales rise in March
We hope you can drive a stick, because American car stocks kicked it into high gear on Tuesday after a report showed strong auto sales for March. Ford (NYSE: F  ) stock jumped 4.6% as its car and truck sales climbed 3.3% over the month compared with last year.  
Unlike most other industries, investors can track auto companies on a monthly basis, since U.S. auto sales are reported by the carmakers the first week of the month. That's as real-time as it gets on Wall Street (like a 24 Episode), considering you need to wait for the quarterly reports to learn whether Netflix added your dog as a subscriber (yet).
General Motors delayed their results since they're busy with something right now (recalling millions of vehicles for safety hazards). The CEO Mary Barra defended the company's 10-year negligence before the House Tuesday, and investors finally pushed the General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) stock down 0.3% Tuesday despite the delayed report that sales climbed 4%.
Frozen car-buyers coming out of hibernation in March might have caused a positive blip for car sales in March, but we'll have to wait and see if it was pent-up demand or positive growth in the industry. The biggest grower continues to be Chrysler, whose 13% sales growth in March was market-leading -- European-based Fiat S.p.A. climbed 4.4% on the news that its smoking hot American baby continues to make market share gains.

3. U.S. manufacturing rebounds from the cold
Everyone likes some good ol'-fashioned manufacturing news, especially from the Institute of Supply Management, or ISM. The research firm surveys 300 manufacturing companies each month and on Tuesday reported that manufacturing activity nationwide rose from 53.2 to 53.7 on its fancy index. That may not seem like enough of a jump to whip open some mid-week champagne to, but any reading over 50 is considered a sign of expansion.
The takeaway is that March was cold (we could have played pond hockey in downtown Manhattan street puddles), but it wasn't as brutally Arctic-like as February. The ISM report specifically showed that production and deliveries improved the most over the past month after February's manufacturing activity was weighed down by the freezing/blizzarding weather.

  • The ADP March Jobs Report
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