A Thousand Illusions

This note was originally published at 8am on March 28, 2011. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“It is the nature of inflation to give birth to a thousand illusions.”

-Henry Hazlitt


Last week, despite the US Dollar posting a rare gain, The Inflation didn’t come down. It’s sticky – and  that’s unfortunate because Deflating The Inflation is what America needs to get her confidence back. Not another low-volume stock market rally to lower-highs.


Here’s how the week-over-week Macro scorecard looked for Americans:

  1. US Dollar Index = UP +0.65% to $76.21
  2. CRB Commodities Index = UP +2.3% to 359
  3. WTI Crude Oil = UP +4.3% to $105.40
  4. Gold = UP +0.81% to $1427
  5. Copper = UP +1.8% to $4.41
  6. SP500 = UP +2.6% to 1313
  7. Volatility (VIX) = DOWN -26.7% to 17.91
  8. 2-year US Treasury Yield = UP +15bps to +0.73%
  9. 10-year US Treasury Yield = UP +17bps to +3.44%
  10. 30-year US Treasury Yield = UP +8bps to 4.50%

Not to put a wet Kleenex on your morning, but the reality is that well over half of America wakes up to not really caring so much about the US stock market. We, as a profession, have ourselves to blame for that. Many Americans think this game is rigged.


“So inflation turns out to be merely one more example of our central lesson. It may indeed bring benefits for a short time to favored groups, but only at the expense of others. And in the long run brings ruinous consequences to the whole community.” (Henry Hazlitt, “Economics In One Lesson”, page 170, 1946).


Sure, stocks going down again last week (like they had in 3 of the 4 weeks prior) would have been bad. But the US Dollar going down for the 10th out of the last 13 weeks would have been worse. Despite the massive week-over-week drawdown in market volatility (VIX) and a relative easing of headline news coming out of both Japan and the Middle East, the price at the pump hit a new weekly closing high for 2011 and this part of the economic cycle.


What part of the economic cycle is this anyway? The Big Government Interventionists would have you believe that this is the “growth” phase of the American dream. Last week’s revisions had US GDP growth running at +3.1% for the 4th quarter of 2010. But that’s using a joke of a deflator of 0.4% for inflation (you need to subtract inflation from nominal growth to get the reported number)  – so what part of this joke are Americans missing?


Americans get the joke.


Whether you want to look at the weekly or monthly readings on American Consumer Confidence, they tell you the same story:

  1. Bloomberg Weekly Consumer Comfort Index = -48.9 last week versus -48.5 for the week prior (yes, those are minuses)
  2. University of Michigan Consumer Confidence = 67.5 for March versus 77.5 in February (one of the largest monthly drops on record)

At least stocks were rising alongside The Inflation in February. For the month of March, US stocks look like they’ll close flat to down. So my question is, As Growth Slows And Inflation Accelerates, what’s next?


Answering that question from a Macro Catalyst Calendar perspective, here what’s on tap in the immediate-term (this week):

  1. Monday – US Personal Income and Consumption (FEB)
  2. Tuesday – Conference Board Consumer Confidence (MAR) and Case-Shiller Home Prices (JAN)
  3. Wednesday – MBA Mortgage Applications (weekly) and II Bullish/Bearish Sentiment (weekly)
  4. Thursday – Month and Quarter End (MAR) and Producer Manufacturing Index (FEB)
  5. Friday – ISM Survey (FEB) and the Monthly US Employment Report (MAR)

Consumption will continue to be borrowed; Housing will continue to deteriorate; and High-Frequency Data (PMI, ISM, Confidence, etc.) will continue to remind us that markets are looking forward, not behind.


While I’ll be the first to acknowledge that a 7-day record drawdown in US stock market volatility was bullish for stocks last week, I was also the first US stock market bear to write “Short Covering Opportunity” at the SP500’s YTD low. I don’t Short-And-Hold.


Today, with the VIX -41.6% lower and the SP500 +4.5% higher, I’m a seller again. After moving the Hedgeye Portfolio to 16 LONGS and 4 SHORTS on Wednesday, March 16th, I closed last week with 15 LONGS and 13 SHORTS.


I also sold all of our exposure to US Equities in the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model last week (sold Energy and Healthcare – XLE and XLV). Zero percent is now something The Bernank and I share in common. There’s always common ground to find somewhere.


On last week’s overall inflation of stock and commodity prices, I took our Cash position back up to 52%.


Here’s the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model:

  1. Cash = 52%
  2. International Currencies = 27% (Chinese Yuan, Canadian Dollar, British Pound – CYB, FXC, and FXB)
  3. Commodities = 9% (Gold and Corn – GLD and CORN)
  4. Fixed Income = 9% (US Treasury Flattener and Long Term Bonds – FLAT and TLT)
  5. International Equities = 3% (China – CAF)
  6. US Equities = 0%

If you want to modernize a “Thousand Illusions” about The Inflation, check out MIT’s “Billion Prices Project” and hit the USA tab. It should provide you with some hope that reality will eventually be measured in real-time. In the meantime, as Hazlitt predicted, “The political pressure groups that have benefited from the inflation will insist upon its continuance.”


My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are now 1307 and 1323, respectively.


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


A Thousand Illusions - Chart of the Day


A Thousand Illusions - Virtual Portfolio


TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP - March 31, 2011

Now that the IMF is cutting their US GDP growth estimate for 2011 (to 2.8%), our call for Growth Slowing As Inflation Accelerates is being absorbed into the craws of consensus.  Dr. Copper remains bearish and broken with intermediate term TREND resistance (was longstanding support) = 4.38/lb.   As we look at today’s set up for the S&P 500, the range is 28 points or -1.75% downside to 1305 and 0.36% upside to 1333.



As of the close yesterday we have 8 of 9 sectors positive on TRADE and 9 of 9 sectors positive on TREND.  The XLF is the only sector to be broken on TRADE. 










  • ADVANCE/DECLINE LINE: 1338 (+248)  
  • VOLUME: NYSE 899.14 (+11.78%)
  • VIX:  17.71 -2.48% YTD PERFORMANCE: -0.23%
  • SPX PUT/CALL RATIO: 1.49 from 1.73 (-13.94%)


  • TED SPREAD: 21.32
  • 3-MONTH T-BILL YIELD: 0.10%
  • 10-Year: 3.47 from 3.50
  • YIELD CURVE: 2.67 from 2.69


  • 8:30 a.m.: Jobless claims, est. 380k, prior 382k
  • 8:30 a.m.: USDA planting data
  • 8:30 a.m.: Net export sales (cotton, corn, soybeans, soy meal, soy oil, wheat)
  • 9:45 a.m.: Chicago Purchasing Manager, est. 69.7, prior 71.2
  • 9:45 a.m.: Bloomberg consumer comfort, prior (-48.9)
  • 10 a.m.: Freddie Mac 30-yr mortgage
  • 10 a.m.: Annual revisions, wholesale inventories
  • 10 a.m.: NAPM Milwaukee, prior 63.0
  • 10 a.m.: Factory orders, est. 0.5%, prior 3.1%
  • 10:30 a.m.: Fed’s Lacker to speak at 2011 credit symposium in Charlotte
  • 10:30 a.m.: EIA Natural gas storage change, est. (-1), prior (-6)
  • 12:30 p.m.: Fed’s Tarullo to speak at 2011 credit symposium in Charlotte
  • 2:05 p.m.: Fed’s Pianalto to speak on economic outlook, oil prices


  • Bullish sentiment among individual investors rose to 41.8% this week, reaching a 4-wk. high in American Assoc. of Individual Investors survey.
  • Standard & Poor's announced that following its recent downgrade of Greece's sovereign credit, its lowering our long-term counterparty credit ratings of four Greek banks
  • David Sokol, considered a candidate to replace Warren Buffett as head of Berkshire, resigned as it was disclosed he purchased stock in a company he later helped negotiate a takeover
  • WTO to rule on claims that Boeing received government subsidies
  • Irish Central Bank stress test results being released
  • Outside advisers to FDA will vote on safety of food dyes
  • Troops loyal to Muammar Qaddafi force Libyan rebels to retreat as the U.S., U.K. say they will consider arming opposition forces; Libya’s foreign minister resigned and flew to London
  • Google being investigated for tax evasion in China
  • Baseball’s Opening Day  




THE HEDGEYE DAILY OUTLOOK - daily commodity view



  • Commodities Heading for Third Quarterly Advance on Recovery, Surging Crude
  • Wheat Demand Sustained by Japan as Grain Sought for East Coast After Quake
  • Crude Above $100 Approaches Economic Danger Zone on Libya: Energy Markets
  • Soybeans Gain on Speculation Lower U.S. Sowing, Brazil Rain May Cut Supply
  • Cocoa Falls to 11-Week Low on Speculation Ivory Coast Exports to Increase
  • Gold Heads for Longest Quarterly Winning Streak Since 1979 on Haven Demand
  • Food-Price Surge to Swamp Consumers With Inflation, According to Superfund
  • Copper May Advance Before Report on Manufacturing in China, Biggest User
  • Hedge Funds Cutting Bullish Bets May Show Commodity Drop: Chart of the Day
  • Aluminum Smelters in China Ramp Up Production as Country Ends Power Curbs
  • U.S. Detects Trace Amounts of Radiation in Milk, Poses No Threat to Health
  • World’s Biggest Shipping Lines Are Still Taking Cargoes to Tokyo Bay Ports



THE HEDGEYE DAILY OUTLOOK - daily currency view




European markets trade mixed to lower with the periphery again in focus and particularly Ireland and Portugal; Austria, Greece and Italy are leading the way down.    



  • UK Mar Nationwide house prices +0.5% vs con (0.1%)
  • Germany Feb retail sales +1.1% y/y vs con +1.8%
  • France Feb PPI +0.8% m/m vs con +0.7%
  • Germany Mar unemployment rate +7.1% vs con +7.2% (lowest since 1992)
  • Eurozone Mar preliminary CPI +2.6% y/y vs consensus +2.3% and prior +2.4% (fastest since October 2008)







The Asian markets turned in a stronger relative performance with the exception of China.  In Japan February housing starts +10.1% y/y vs consensus +7.2%. February construction orders +19.5% y/y.













Howard Penney

Managing Director


Macau Q4 EBITDA share update



Our calculations show Macau 2010 gaming EBITDA was close to US$4BN, almost doubling that of 2009.  For some perspective, Las Vegas Strip EBITDA in FY 2010 (ended in June) was US$1.6BN.  Macau’s Q4 EBITDA was 20% higher than Q3.  As the charts below show, EBITDA market share had major shifts in Q4 2010. 






The standout loser was LVS, giving up more than 5% in EBITDA share, mostly to WYNN and MGM.  This is somewhat surprising since this is Sheldon Adelson’s favorite Macau metric.  LVS’s Q4 EBITDA share loss was primarily attributed to relatively poor top-line performance, with lower table rev share (particularly VIP) and lower VIP Rolling Chip share.  


If the Macau gaming market continues its stellar run in 2011, these EBITDA market dynamics may not mean much.  But for now, it’s interesting to see who’s getting a bigger or smaller chunk of the burgeoning cash pie in Macau.

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What’s Next for Brazil?

Conclusion: We don’t anticipate the Brazilian government’s latest attempt to curb the real’s appreciation to be successful, and thus, we remain in wait-and-watch mode on Brazilian equities and Brazilian fixed-income securities. If, however, the real starts to weaken materially, we want to be short both Brazilian equities and bonds.


Position: For clarity, let’s revisit our recent calls on Brazilian assets: 

  • May 2010: Bearish on Brazilian Equities
  • June 2010: Bullish on the Brazilian Real
  • July/August 2010: Bullish on Brazilian Equities
  • November 2010: Bearish on Brazilian Bonds and Bearish on Brazilian Equities
  • March 2011: Less Bearish on Brazilian Equities (wait-&-watch mode) 

Late yesterday, the Brazilian government decided to implement further measures in the latest installment in a series of attempts to stem the real’s appreciation. Up nearly 55% since it bottomed in December ’08 and +1.6% YTD, the real’s persistent strength continues to be a thorn in the side of Brazilian exporters and policy-makers alike.


Perhaps more so than previous efforts, the latest measures are more directly targeted towards cooling speculation than actually stemming inflows of capital. This is positive on the margin, especially considering Brazil’s long-term capital needs to build out its woeful infrastructure in the coming years.


Whether or not the newly imposed +6% tax on international corporate debt sales and loans with an average minimum maturity of up to 360 days actually weakens the currency over the intermediate term remains to be seen, as the real’s gains YTD have been driven by longer-term fundamentals and USD weakness, rather than the performance of Brazilian financial markets.


In fact, central bank data suggest net foreign currency inflows in 2011 are actually much more linked to long-term investment and not just speculation. Indeed, the yield-chasing flows to Brazil’s equity and bond market have slowed measurably, as foreign investment in Brazilian stocks and bonds fell (-91.4%) YoY in Jan to $206M, while foreign direct investment grew +393% YoY to $3B. Altogether, net foreign currency inflows for 2011 YTD ($24.4B) already exceed the full year 2010 total.


The 6% tax is in addition to the already-established 5.38% tax on loans up to 90 days and the newly announced +400bps hike in the foreign consumer credit card transactions tax to 6.38%. Today’s measures are a continuation of recent attempts to curb real appreciation, which include:  tripling a tax on foreign purchases of Brazilian fixed-income securities to 6% in October, buying $18.8B US dollars in the spot market in the first three months of 2011 alone (45% of full-year 2010 total), buying US dollar in the futures market for the first time in 21 months, and raising reserve requirements on short dollar-positions held by local banks in January.


All told, we don’t expect these latest measures to materially weaken the real over the intermediate term. If, however, the Brazilian government is successful in weakening the real, we want to be outright short Brazilian local currency bonds, a position supported by (hypothetical) currency weakness and incremental inflationary pressure driven by rising import costs.


It’s important to keep in mind that the real’s ~10% appreciation over the last 12 months has acted as a governor on Brazilian CPI. Should that reverse, we could continue to see the central bank struggle to rein in accelerating inflation. Not ironically, the central bank raised it 2011 CPI outlook to +60bps to 5.6% alongside the release of yesterday’s FX intervention measures.


Further, with the central bank raising its inflation forecast and credit growth accelerating far beyond the Tombini’s +15 YoY target, we could foresee a scenario whereby the central bank continues to raise interest rates beyond the upcoming monetary policy meeting on April 19-20. That would be counter to current consensus expectations of a pause after that meeting and would be incrementally bearish for Brazilian equities over the intermediate term.


What’s Next for Brazil? - 1


If the status quo remains from an inflation expectations perspective and a foreign exchange rate perspective, we’d still continue to urge caution on Brazilian equities, as they are broken from an intermediate-term TREND perspective. We’d need to see a sustained breakout above the TREND line on the Bovespa before we’re comfortable getting long Brazilian equities, as that would signal to us Brazilian Stagflation is fully priced into the market.


What’s Next for Brazil? - 2


On the flip side, a breakout in global financial market volatility stemming from the buy-side reacting to a reported deceleration in US and global growth that we’ve been calling for will surely put a damp on non-energy related risk assets over the medium term.


For more on the intermediate term outlook on Brazil, please refer to the more comprehensive report we published last week titled “Brazilian Tug-of-War”. Please email us if you need a copy.


Darius Dale


Flailing Bull: SP500 Levels, Refreshed



I should have paid more attention to how many people disagreed with my “Short Covering Opportunity” call on March 16th. Evidently a lot of people who weren’t hedged slapped on short exposure at the YTD lows. Evidently “should have” still only works in a liberally organized game of Canadian horseshoes (with beverages).


From an intermediate-term TREND and long-term TAIL perspective, nothing has changed. The SP500 continues to make a series of lower-highs on low volume. From an immediate-term TRADE perspective, the immediate-term range has tightened up to 1. On the margin, that’s less bearish than what we outlined last Wednesday. Higher prices do that.


Back to the intermediate-to-long-term, if the SP500 were to breakout above 1343 … and volume started accelerating on the upside… and the VIX breaks down through long-term support (15.44)… then one of those 2 duration statements will render itself void – the intermediate-term TREND will turn bullish. Long-term, like Japan, we think the outlook for a country attempting to manipulate asset prices through Fiat Fool monetary policy will fall on its own sword of expectations…


Being Duration Agnostic has helped us Wait & Watch for 1. That’s where I’ll put my second bullet in this Flailing Bull.



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Flailing Bull: SP500 Levels, Refreshed - 3

R3: SHOO, EBAY, KSS, and EU anti-dumping tax removal



March 30, 2011






  • In another example of retailers beginning to shift towards Central American countries for production, Steve Madden’s management reiterated that they expect roughly 25% of their women’s shoe line to come from Mexico this year. From a competitive standpoint, modestly higher costs are offset by both the absence of a duty and faster turnaround.
  • According to a recent filing, Blockbuster indicated it would be closing another 186 stores by the end of the month, bringing the current tally to 1,145 since filing for bankruptcy protection back in September. The current tally accounts for nearly 1/3 of the retailer’s original store base -- significantly exceeding the original estimate of 500-800. In addition to shuttered Movie Gallery locations, Blockbuster stores represent one of the primary sources for additional door expansion at HIBB.
  • With top-line growth in both Tommy Bahama and Lilly Pulitzer driven by strength in direct-to-consumer, it’s worth noting that e-commerce represents 6% and over 10% of each brand’s total volume respectively. For smaller brands like these, higher than average exposure to the DTC sales channel should drive above average growth. 
  • Let’s not look past this EBay Deal for GSI Commerce.  While it may not be a retail landscape-changer, it is certainly relevant. Here’s a few thoughts… 
      • GSIC owns Rue La La – one of the most successful ‘exclusive flash-fashion’ sites out there.
      • But while the headline sounds like Rue La La is the crown jewel, the reality is that EBAY is divesting 70% of it along with GSIC’s sports merchandise operation, and Shoprunner (GSIC’s e-commerce retail aggregator). 
      • Why? This deal is all about strengthening the company’s fulfillment and customer service operations and hopefully narrowing the gap with Amazon.
      • While Amazon has partnered with retailers and brands to fulfill their e-commerce businesses (check out Amazon Prime…there are thousands of examples), with the biggest being Target, EBay is nowhere on the map. With this deal, it automatically includes a customer list including Polo, Donna Karan, Levi, Aeropostale, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.



Vietnamese Industry supports EC removal of footwear tariffs - Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson welcomes the decision of the European Commission (EC) to lift anti-dumping tariffs on Vietnamese leather-capped shoes, according to Vietnam Business News. Nguyen Phuong Nga has recently made the comment at a regular meeting of the Foreign Ministry in Hanoi, saying “The EC decision to remove the anti-dumping tariffs levied on Vietnamese leather-capped shoes from March 31, 2011 is suitable to real production and exports in Vietnam”. <FashionNetAsia>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: This is commonsensical, but the end of a 5-year anti-dumping duty couldn’t have come at a better time for branded footwear manufacturers and retailers alike. For domestic companies with exposure to Europe like TBL, these duties have accounted for as much as a 100bps operating margin drag in the past. We suspect any margin contribution realized from the move will be used to offset current cost inflation and pricing pressures.


Kohl's to Open Distribution Center - Kohl's Corp. plans to open a distribution center in July in Maryland that will create about 1,200 jobs over the next three years. The department store operator said Tuesday that the Edgewood, Md., facility will fulfill online orders. It anticipates hiring more than 200 full- and part-time employees when the center opens in July. Kohl's reports that its online revenue climbed more than 50 percent last year. The Menomonee Falls, Wis., company anticipates $1 billion in online sales in 2011. Kohl's will have a total of 12 distribution centers across the U.S. with the addition of the Maryland facility. This will be its third distribution center focused on serving online customers, with other locations in San Bernardino, Calif., and Monroe, Ohio. <BusinessWeek>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: With e-commerce accounting for roughly 25% of KSS’ top-line growth last year, this move should be no surprise. According to the release, the company expects to continue a substantial ramp in online sales with plans to expand capacity at the facility by nearly 2x in 2012.


Levi's will Pay $1 Million in Back Wages - Levi Strauss & Co. has agreed to pay more than $1 million in overtime back wages to 596 employees after the U.S. Department of Labor turned up wage and hour violations. The Labor Department Wage & Hour division’s San Francisco district office said it conducted a two-year investigation and found that Levi’s misclassified several groups of workers in the company’s U.S. stores, including assistant store managers at newly acquired stores, exempting them from overtime. The agency said Levi’s failed to record all hours employees worked in its payroll system. “Instead, the misclassified assistant store managers were required to work off-the-clock during late-night closings, early morning openings and staffing shortages,” the agency said. In addition to the assistant store managers, several administrative employees working at the company’s headquarters were also misclassified as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act and owed overtime, according to the Labor Department. As part of the agreement with the DOL, Levi’s has agreed to pay the back wages and made a commitment to upgrade its time and attendance system.  <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: This amounts to about $1,675 per person.  The reality is that we’ve seen lawsuits related to overtime ‘oversights’ like this across all types industries over the last several years – perhaps the most high profile was Wal-Mart’s $86mm settlement last year.


Japan's Amaterrace to Develop Custom eVent Fabrications - GE’s award-winning eVent membrane technology will be paired with Amaterrace’s proprietary knowledge of lamination to create several new air-permeable fabrics never before seen in the outdoor industry. “Together with Amaterrace, we’re using GE membranes to create air-permeable windproof softshells and fleeces, woven-backed hardshells and windproof air permeable shells and liners,” said Glenn Crowther, product line leader for performance fabrics at GE. “Amaterrace has been instrumental in developing these ranges and we’re proud that GE’s membrane technology is a part of that. These are new-to-world, high performance laminates.” Amaterrace, based in Osaka, Japan, supplies Japanese smart fabrics and laminations to outdoor clients both in Japan and around the world. The company, founded in 2003, uses cutting-edge techniques and materials to create custom made or demand oriented waterproof/breathable and high performance fabrics with one of the best task force PT (production teams) in Japanese textile industries. <SportsOneSource>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Innovation continues in the space. While it sounds similar to Columbia’s OutDry technology that was acquired last year, COLM already has product in stores and on shelves. All we need is for a small, cool edgy brand to pick up the technology, come up with a hard-hitting marketing campaign, and clean-up.  Yes, this is what UnderArmour did.


L.A. Stores Affected as Economy Bites - The retail map here has been completely redrawn as multiline boutiques and stores from small labels have disappeared. With retail nationwide exhibiting signs of health as the recession eases, the comparable weakness of Southern California specialty stores has been remarkable for its persistence and its ability to hobble even stalwarts of the shopping scene. Blue Bee, the former Santa Barbara touchstone that once had six stores lining State Street before unceremoniously closing earlier this month, and iconic Los Angeles retailer Lisa Kline, which has gone from four stores to soon consolidating into a single men’s location on Robertson Boulevard, are the latest postscripts on this prolonged period of local retail decay that has sparked questions about the future of stores vital to cultivating the SoCal style that’s been exported around the world. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Interesting to see these callouts. This is not  the bottom, however. No change here unfortunately with continued weakness in southern California echoed by Oxford Industry on last night’s call highlighting persistent challenges for the company’s Tommy Bahama business.


TPP Pact Negotiations at Critical Stage  - The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations are hitting a critical stage and the fashion industry is gearing up for a contentious battle in a high-stakes game of trade that will impact billions of dollars in commerce. The Obama administration is holding the sixth round of negotiations with eight other countries this week in Singapore in an ambitious effort to create a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region with Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Peru, Brunei, New Zealand, Chile and Malaysia. With the goal of completing a framework agreement by the next APEC meeting in Honolulu in November, negotiators are closing in on important areas that will have a direct impact on the fashion industry. Among the key issues to be determined are a textile rule of origin, a possible separate textile chapter, a tariff phaseout schedule on textile imports, and “cumulation,” which would allow apparel to be produced and textile inputs to be supplied and manufactured within any of the TPP partner countries and still receive duty free treatment. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: The government’s position in establishing a framework with domestic companies to look to countries in Central and South America as alternative production sources is gaining strength.



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