Shares of casino operators with properties in Macau were mixed Friday after the Chinese enclave reported that December arrivals fell from a year ago -- the first monthly year-over-year decline since June 2003.
The casino industry has struggled as consumers have curbed discretionary spending due to the prolonged housing downturn, eroding credit, rising food costs and unemployment concerns. Both the Las Vegas and Macau markets have been hindered by the global economic downturn, with Macau's visitation also pinched by tighter visa restrictions.
The Macau Special Administrative Region Statistics and Census Service said that December visitation to Macau slipped 2.7 percent from 2007. Macau is the only area in China where casinos are legal.
While 2008 visitation climbed nearly 12 percent from the previous year, the growth rate was considerably slower than those of the past. In 2007, arrivals to Macau jumped almost 23 percent from 2006.
Other casino operators in Macau include Las Vegas Sands Corp. (nyse: LVS - news - people ), MGM Mirage (nyse: MGM - news - people ) and Wynn Resorts Ltd. (nasdaq: WYNN - news - people ) Hong Kong-based Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. also develops and owns casino resorts in Macau.
MGM Mirage's stock shed 17 cents, to $9.20 in morning trading, while shares of Las Vegas Sands added 15 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $5.96. Wynn's stock gained 30 cents to $34.66 and shares of Melco Crown dipped 3 cents to $2.98. The broader market slid for a second straight day on Friday as weak corporate earnings reports stirred fears that the recession will be deeper and longer lasting than some investors had predicted.
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