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Commodity Deflation

This note was originally published at 8am on April 09, 2013 for Hedgeye subscribers.

“We can’t afford to risk a downturn, no matter how much inflation.”

-Richard Nixon


Nixon’s legacy is Watergate. Trivial Pursuit presidential history doesn’t yet appreciate how horrendous he was for the US economy. On matters of economic policy, this guy was easily the most conflicted, conniving, and compromised president in the post WWII period.


If you’d like to re-educate yourself on the what, when and why (Nixon’s economic policies), chapter 4 “Gamble” of Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence is a beauty. The aforementioned quote came from Nixon during his 1972 re-election campaign.


Prior to that (1971), Nixon had already abandoned the Gold Standard and explicitly devalued the US Dollar. On the fiscal policy side, he hired a Democrat from Texas who polled well (John Connolly) to be Treasury Secretary. Connolly wrote later, “I was not an economist; I had really never studied monetary affairs. My experience with fiscal issues was limited largely to a familiarity with Congress…” (Volcker, pg 74)


Back to the Global Macro Grind


Why do we care about the context of politicized currency devaluations (and the local inflations they drive) this morning? Well, because the only opportunity the US economy has to grow (on a real inflation adjusted basis) is through pervasive Commodity Deflation. It’s a Tax Cut.


To be balanced, cracker jack economists who have never traded a market in their life (i.e. don’t understand price expectations) want you to believe that currency devaluation will give you the elixir of an exported life. Now that the Japanese Yen is crashing (-24% from where we made the short call in 2012), they’ll have to let us know how that is going for the Japanese consumer who isn’t levered long Nikkeis.


The biggest Global Macro calls for 2013 YTD have been centered squarely on understanding the causal impact central planners have on their domestic currency:

  1. Get the central plan right, you get the currency right
  2. Get the currency right, you get the correlation right
  3. Get the correlation right, you get the money

“Show me the money!” –Tom Cruise


To review, the US Dollar has been strengthening ever since Bernanke tried to promise to print to infinity and beyond (SEP2012):

  1. MONETARY POLICY: Since, on the margin, market expectations for an iQe5 upgrade have been crushed (see Gold chart)
  2. FISCAL POLICY: after plenty of political spending wants, the US actually implemented marginally hawkish spending cuts

Again, if you get policy (monetary and fiscal) right, you’re going to likely get the local currency move right. On the margin is what matters most in macro, and when you combine marginally hawkish domestic policy with relatively dovish competing policy (Japan), ta-dah!


Japan’s currency devaluation is very easy to understand (primarily because Japan’s #PoliticalClass is doing precisely what America’s did):

  1. MONETARY POLICY: hit CTRL+P (print) and step that Japanese debt monetization up to 50 TRILLION more Yens (a year)
  2. FISCAL POLICY: get the LDP to take the Upper House in this summer’s election and implement “spend your brains out 2.0”

In other words, even if we are dead wrong on the USA’s marginal policy shifts in 2013, we could be right on our #StrongDollar via the rate of change in Japanese policy. Layer on some European Marxism onto the Euro, and I have myself quite a Keynesian treat.


Hedgeye Playbook: how do you make money on this?

  1. Long US Dollars vs Short Yens
  2. Short Commodities (they have hyper high inverse correlations to #StrongDollar)
  3. Long Asian and US Consumption Equities

Some of our competitors can pop this in their next report. “Last night the Chinese reported more of the same on this front. #StrongDollar = Down Food Prices (globally) = Down Inflation (for countries that have a US Dollar peg).” Chinese CPI fell from 3.2% in FEB to 2.1% in MAR – and yes, that is better than a bad thing for people who don’t take government car service to work and have to eat.


I shorted Wheat (WEAT) on the bounce yesterday (unlike trying to call tops in the SP500, it’s always easier to short things that have already started going down – Wheat prices are down -8.4% YTD). Corn and soybean prices are down -9.3% and -2.9% YTD, respectively.


Brent Oil is down -5.7% YTD – but seriously? Who cares about these YTD Commodity Deflations when you can look at how epic they’ve been since Wall Street front-running Bernanke on Commodity prices ended (in food prices especially) at their all-time highs of September 2012? On a 6 month basis, Corn and Wheat are down -14.6% and -17.2%, respectively.


Nixon had it wrong – so did Charles de Gaulle, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. President Obama, like Clinton, has a choice on monetary and fiscal policy in his second term. Will he risk the Big Auto lobby for a weak currency? Folks, we need a #StrongDollar and Commodity Deflation. Oh yessir – Yes We Can.


Our immediate-term Risk Ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, USD/YEN, UST 10yr Yield, VIX, and SP500 are now $1544-1585, $103.19-108.02, $82.42-83.39, 95.23-99.31, 1.71-1.83%, 12.21-14.43, and 1551-1573, respectively.


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Commodity Deflation - Chart of the Day


Commodity Deflation - Virtual Portfolio

Context Matters

“Content is often best judged in context.”

-Eric Chaisson


That’s one of my favorite thoughts from a book I have been citing as of late, Cosmic Evolution, by Eric Chaisson. In terms of how I apply it to my market model, research and risk factors are my content - time is my context.


Time and space - so valuable to contextualize, yet so susceptible to error. In this regard, risk managing markets isn’t unlike playing professional sports. As Vince Lombardi said, inches make champions. Timing matters, indeed.


This, of course, is not a unique thought process. It’s effectively the difference between Newton and Darwin. “Unlike events in classical Newtonian physics, which are time-independent, reversible, and ahistorical, in Darwinism the past history of a system contributes to its subsequent properties” (Chaison, pg31). In other words, context matters too.


Back to the Global Macro Grind


When I say that our Global Macro Risk Management process is multi-factor and multi-duration, this is what I mean. We are a content company that contextualizes risk.


That doesn’t mean we are always right – it just means we tend to be less wrong on big stuff than most others. That’s probably because we start with the timing signal, and reverse commute on the research from there.


One of our core focuses in risk management is what Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger used to champion as Rule #1 – “Don’t Lose Money” – and maybe that’s why they love the insurance business so much. Essentially, we sell insurance too.


Insurance questions: what assets are bullish or bearish on our (TRADE/TREND/TAIL) model?


1.   Bullish Formations (bullish on all 3 of our core durations - TRADE, TREND, and TAIL)

A)     US Dollar (UUP)

B)      SP500 (SPY)

C)      US Consumer Discretionary (XLY)

D)     US Consumer Staples (XLP)

E)      US Healthcare (XLV)

F)      Starbucks (SBUX) and Nike (NKE)


2.   Bearish Formations (bearish on all 3 core risk management durations)

A)     Commodities (CRB Index)

B)      Gold and Gold Miners (GLD and GDX)

C)      Silver and Copper (SLV and JJC)

D)     Japanese Yen (FXY)

E)      Basic Materials and Energy (XLB and XLE)

F)      Russia (RSX) and Brazil (EWZ)


As a result, I think our version of Global Macro Storytelling has been succinct for the last 5-6 months. On both the long and short side, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone here. That helps make it less confusing.


The big thing about big things in macro is that they can last. That’s why the questions I wrestle with throughout my day largely surround what could change what I think is currently both causal and correlated:


1.       What stops the US Dollar from going up?

2.       What stops the Euro and Yen (vs USD) from going down?

3.       What stops Bernanke’s Bubbles (Commodities) from popping?


Again, since I start with the signal and not the research noise, what I really need to do here is be patient. Just wait and watch for any and/or all of these three things from stopping on both my TRADE and TREND durations.


This morning’s signals marry up quite nicely to more of the same on the research content front:

  1. Chinese and German PMI growth data for April slowed sequentially versus March
  2. European #GrowthSlowing (Spain GDP -2% y/y and Swedish unemployment up to 8.4%)
  3. Oil, Copper, and Corn prices fall further on said “demand” slowing, as the USD rises

So, if you can’t put money in Emerging Markets like China (we’ll be hosting our #EmergingOutflows Macro Theme Conference Call at 11AM EST, ping for access), and you aren’t buying European Equities and/or Commodities because they are bearish on both our TRADE and TREND durations, what do you buy?


Markets chase price. Gravity (fund flows), like content and context, matters. The global macro flows continue into US Dollars, US Treasuries, and yes, US Consumption Equities. I’ve tried to fight gravity in markets – it rarely works.


Our immediate-term Risk Ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), Copper, US Dollar, EUR/USD, UST 10yr Yield, VIX, and SP500 are now $1, $96.04-101.08, $3.06-3.26, $82.42-83.19, $1.29-1.31, 1.65-1.76%, 14.07-18.76, and 1, respectively.


Best of luck out there today,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Context Matters - Chart of the Day


Context Matters - Virtual Portfolio

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The Macau Metro Monitor, April 23, 2013




Visitor arrivals increased slightly by 1.6% YoY to 2,387,281.  Mainland visitors totaled 1,431,810, with 40.7% travelling to Macao under the Individual Visit Scheme.  The average length of stay of visitors stood at 1.0 day.





The cross-party casino group aims to submit a promotional bill to parliament in the autumn, which could be followed by concrete laws within two years, said Takeshi Iwaya, the deputy head of the lobby of more than 100 lawmakers.  The group will introduce Hiroyuki Hosoda, a veteran LDP lawmaker and former chief cabinet secretary, as its new chairman at a meeting on Wednesday.  Hosoda will have the ear of the administration, an important piece of the puzzle that has been lacking in recent years, Iwaya said.  Popular Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated he is open to the idea of casino resorts.



"You need both sides of the equation before things really get moving. We want to make that happen this year," said Iwaya, whose group is proposing an integrated resorts model that incorporates tourism, conventions and entertainment, as well as casino gambling - an approach based in part on the strategy adopted by Singapore when it opened its first casino in 2010.



Yet many analysts remain sceptical there is enough political support.  An attempt to introduce a casino bill last year to help fund rebuilding of the earthquake-hit northeast fizzled in the face of the December poll.  One potential complicating factor is the Japan Restoration Party, formed last year by popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, which has said it may introduce a bill on its own even though its lawmakers are members of the cross-party group.  


Casino legislation could be submitted around September after an upper house election expected in July.  At the very least, a bill would face resistance from the Communist and Social Democratic parties, both of which worry about crime and other harmful side effects on society.



Number of Changi passengers rose 7.7% YoY in March.




TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP – April 23, 2013

As we look at today's setup for the S&P 500, the range is 72 points or 2.02% downside to 1531 and 2.59% upside to 1603.         










  • YIELD CURVE: 1.44 from 1.47
  • VIX closed at 14.39 1 day percent change of -3.87%

MACRO DATA POINTS (Bloomberg Estimates):

  • 7:45am: ICSC weekly sales
  • 8:55am: Johnson/Redbook weekly sales
  • 8:58am: Markit US PMI Preliminary, April, est. 53.5
  • 9am: House Price Index, Feb., est. 0.7% (prior 0.6%)
  • 10am: Richmond Fed Manuf Index, April, est. 2 (prior 3)
  • 10am: New Home Sales, March, est. 416k (prior 411k)
  • 10am: New Home Sales, March, est. 1.2% (prior -4.6%)
  • 11am: Fed to purchase $750m-$1b notes in 2023-2031 sector
  • 11:30am: U.S. to sell 4W bills
  • 1pm: U.S. to sell $35b 2Y notes
  • 4:30pm: API energy inventories


    • President Obama hosts Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani at White House
    • NRC holds meeting on lessons learned from Fukishima nuclear reactor accident, 9am
    • Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and David Vitter, R-La., speak at NPC discussion on efforts to prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail.” 14th and F St., NW. 8:30am
    • Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio., Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg, Airbus American Chairman Allan McArtor, participate in Washington Post forum on trends in manufacturing sector, 8:30am
    • American Bar Assn.’s Section of Intl Law holds session on restrictions on investing across borders, 9:30am
    • Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Cmte hears from CFPB Dir. Richard Cordray on agency’s semi-annual report, 10am
    • ASCE President Gregory DiLoreto holds news conf. to discuss findings of quadrennial report on U.S. infrastructure, 10am
    • NTSB holds hearing on design, certification of lithium-ion batteries used in Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner; Agency Chairman Deborah Hersman joins, 9am
    • Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano testifies before Senate Judiciary Cmte on proposed immigration laws, 9:30am
    • TSA delays plan to allow pocket knives onto U.S. flights
    • Fisker misses first loan payment to U.S. Energy Department


  • Apple averts iPhone import ban in patent win vs Google
  • Apple, UTX among 35 S&P 500 cos. to report earnings
  • AIG wins dismissal of whistle-blower’s false claims lawsuit
  • Blackstone to buy Credit Suisse’s strategic partners unit
  • AB InBev, U.S. settlement process wins U.S. judge’s approval
  • China manufacturing grows at slower pace as recovery falters
  • U.S. banks cut max. bonus on regulators’ concerns: WSJ
  • Texas Instruments forecasts profit that may exceed ests.
  • EU decision on Google search probe to take months: L’Echo
  • Fisker said to miss first payment on Dept. of Energy loan
  • Samsung, Philips sent EU complaints over chips for smart cards
  • Japan won’t allow restart of 787 flights before U.S. hearing
  • Netflix subscriber gains top ests. on “House of Cards”
  • Chesapeake trial with BNY Mellon will look at 2019 note issue
  • Templeton’s Mobius buys Macau stocks in bet on family growth
  • Drug industry deals forecast to pick up in 2013, Moody’s says


  • CIT Group (CIT) 6am, $0.88
  • DuPont (DD) 6am, $1.53
  • Centene (CNC) 6am, $0.38
  • Encana (ECA CN) 6am, $0.07
  • Air Products & Chemicals (APD) 6am, $1.36
  • Polaris Industries (PII) 6am, $1.01
  • Lockheed Martin (LMT) 6:26am, $2.04 - Preview
  • United Technologies (UTX) 6:28am, $1.29 - Preview
  • Potlatch (PCH) 6:45am, $0.27
  • II-VI (IIVI) 6:55am, $0.26
  • Lexmark International (LXK) 6:59am, $0.87
  • Waddell & Reed Financial (WDR) 6:59am, $0.61
  • Celestica (CLS CN) 7am, $0.15
  • Reynolds American (RAI) 7am, $0.69 - Preview
  • Entegris (ENTG) 7am, $0.10
  • Travelers (TRV) 7am, $2.02
  • Xerox (XRX) 7am, $0.24
  • IDEXX Laboratories (IDXX) 7am, $0.82
  • Waters (WAT) 7am, $1.09
  • Regions Financial (RF) 7am, $0.20
  • Coach (COH) 7am, $0.80 - Preview
  • Synovus Financial (SNV) 7am, $0.02
  • AO Smith (AOS) 7am, $0.77
  • Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (IRWD) 7am, $(0.64)
  • Forest Laboratories (FRX) 7am, $0.15
  • Johnson Controls (JCI) 7am, $0.42
  • AT&T (T) 7:25am, $0.64 - Preview
  • Molex (MOLX) 7:30am, $0.36
  • FirstMerit (FMER) 7:30am, $0.31
  • Delta Air Lines (DAL) 7:30am, $0.06
  • Anixter International (AXE) 7:30am, $1.33
  • Sonic Automotive (SAH) 7:30am, $0.41
  • Arch Coal (ACI) 7:45am, $(0.33)
  • Brinker International (EAT) 7:45am, $0.69
  • Lincoln Electric Holdings (LECO) 7:47am, $0.78
  • Ryder System (R) 7:55am, $0.77
  • Illinois Tool Works (ITW) 8am, $0.96
  • PACCAR (PCAR) 8am, $0.68
  • Janus Capital Group (JNS) 8am, $0.15
  • Liberty Property Trust (LRY) 8am, $0.63
  • US Airways Group (LCC) 8am, $0.28
  • Gentex Corp/MI (GNTX) 8am, $0.30
  • Gannett (GCI) 8:30am, $0.35
  • Discover Financial Services (DFS) 8:30am, $1.13
  • PennyMac Mortgage Investment Trust (PMT) 8:30am, $0.79
  • UMB Financial (UMBF) Bef-mkt, $0.64
  • TransAlta (TA CN) Bef-mkt, $0.21
  • Manhattan Associates (MANH) 4pm, $0.68
  • Amsurg (AMSG) 4pm, $0.52
  • Robert Half International (RHI) 4pm, $0.41
  • Total System Services (TSS) 4pm, $0.34
  • Edwards Lifesciences (EW) 4pm, $0.76
  • FMC Technologies (FTI) 4pm, $0.46
  • Torchmark (TMK) 4pm, $1.37
  • HomeAway (AWAY) 4pm, $0.12
  • RF Micro Devices (RFMD) 4pm, $0.05
  • Panera Bread (PNRA) 4pm, $1.65
  • Cree (CREE) 4pm, $0.34
  • WR Berkley (WRB) 4:01pm, $0.74
  • Nabors Industries (NBR) 4:01pm, $0.28
  • VMware (VMW) 4:01pm, $0.70
  • DeVry (DV) 4:01pm, $0.82
  • American Campus Communities (ACC) 4:01pm, $0.64
  • Hanesbrands (HBI) 4:01pm, $0.50
  • Amgen (AMGN) 4:02pm, $1.84
  • Thoratec (THOR) 4:02pm, $0.46
  • Owens-Illinois (OI) 4:04pm, $0.57
  • Broadcom (BRCM) 4:05pm, $0.56
  • StanCorp Financial Group (SFG) 4:05pm, $0.80
  • Juniper Networks (JNPR) 4:05pm, $0.22
  • CR Bard (BCR) 4:05pm, $1.42
  • Norfolk Southern (NSC) 4:05pm, $1.17
  • Everest Re Group (RE) 4:05pm, $4.37
  • Polycom (PLCM) 4:05pm, $0.11
  • Yum! Brands (YUM) 4:10pm, $0.60 - Preview
  • Trustmark (TRMK) 4:30pm, $0.41
  • Kaiser Aluminum (KALU) 4:30pm, $0.86
  • Apple (AAPL) 4:30pm, $9.97 - Preview
  • Oceaneering International (OII) 5pm, $0.60
  • Owens & Minor (OMI) 5pm, $0.43
  • Community Bank System (CBU) Aft-mkt, $0.50
  • FNB (FNB) Aft-mkt, $0.21
  • Acadia Realty Trust (AKR) Aft-mkt, $0.30
  • SL Green Realty (SLG) Aft-mkt, $1.21
  • ITC Holdings (ITC) Aft-mkt, $1.16
  • Rock Tenn (RKT) Aft-mkt, $1.02


  • Silver Leads Commodity Retreat as Chinese Manufacturing Slows
  • Record Freeze in U.S. Extending Wheat Crop Damage: Commodities
  • Copper Slumps a Third Day on Weaker-Than-Estimated Manufacturing
  • Gold Drops on China Data, Ending Year’s Best Run; Silver Slumps
  • Brent Crude Drops for First Time in Four Days on European Woes
  • Soybeans Advance on Signs China Import Demand Will Be Sustained
  • Coffee Workers Unemployed as Fungus Hits Central America: Jobs
  • Rebar Falls for Second Day on Supply Concern, China Flash PMI
  • Barrick Gold at 20-Year Low Turns to Thornton: Corporate Canada
  • North America Seen Sending Record Wood to Europe for Use as Fuel
  • Shanghai Gold Exchange Benchmark Volume Tops 100 Tons in 3 Days
  • Tanker Rates Pain Prolonged as China Imports Pass U.S.: Freight
  • Crude Supplies Climb to 22-Year High in Survey: Energy Markets
  • Cocoa Rebounds in London as Producer Sales May Ease; Sugar Falls






















The Hedgeye Macro Team












CAT: Feeling Managed?

Takeaway: Commentary that does not match the numbers is not a good sign. We expect pressure on 2014 estimates and the 2015 target to be dropped.

CAT: Feeling Managed?


Investors frequently like names that respond well to disappointments.  However, CAT’s report is just the latest in a series of guidance cuts driven by a multi-year decline in resources-related capital investment, in our view.  Resources-related capital equipment dominates CAT’s operating profit picture and it is not likely to rebound in 2013, 2014 or 2015, in our view.  Buying cyclicals that are just past peak results is unlikely to work out well.  We still think investors should avoid the long side and look to opportunistically enter short positions.


  • Sandbagged Quarter?  CAT’s earnings release read very weak today - almost too weak.  CAT could presumably have drained backlogs to improve sales, as it has done in other recent quarters, but instead allowed backlogs to build slightly.  It seems almost intended to reset expectations lower and make people feel like this quarter was the ‘bottom’.  CAT also apparently took an unquantified charge for an unspecified Power Systems project that has yet to be delivered.  That seems odd to us, since our recollection of multiple deliverables accounting would have had the negative impact recognized over the remainder of the project through delivery.  Not that we are challenging the GAAP-ness of it being in a single quarter, but it suggests to us, at the margin, that management wanted to bring expectations down.  They have been letting us down easy, as we previously noted here, but today was a bigger chop.
  • What It Means For 2013:  Ballpark annualized 1Q performance comes out to roughly $52-$56 billion in sales, by our estimates.  CAT can probably hit its new $57-$61 billion guidance range by resuming the draw on its backlog. 
  • Not Sure About $7:  It is not clear to us that CAT can earn $7 with the expected declines in high margin Resource Industries revenue, and the margin compression across Construction Industries and Power Systems.  Higher order rates in Construction Industries are negative for mix.  We get a likely range solidly below $6/share, with some wiggle room on the tax rate and other assumptions.  An $87 million tax benefit this quarter (related to a prior period) helped cushion the decline in operating income and should really be backed out.
  • Focus Now 2014:  Can CAT earn the current consensus of $9 in 2014?  We think not.  Consensus seems to be expecting a bounce back in mining and resources-related capital spending.  We expect end-market demand to actually worsen in these markets in 2014, as discussed in our recent black book on Mining & Construction Equipment.  Ping us if you expect a different outcome – we love the debate.
  • 2015 Guidance Off the Table?  This may end up being a record for a major company to ditch a long-term profit goal – it was put out only about 7 months ago.  It is no doubt embarrassing for management and we do not want to pick on them, aside from noting that the large and expensive mining-related acquisitions will now benefit the “next generation” of management, according to today’s call.  Also on the earnings call, management said “I mean, certainly, we don't have an outlook for 2014.”  If you do not have an outlook for 2014, how can you have one for 2015?

CAT: Feeling Managed? - www1

Source: CAT Mine Expo Analyst Presentation


  • Recent Decline in Commodities:  Resource Industries and Power Systems sell to resource-related industries, like energy and mining.  They also account for about three-quarters of CAT’s operating income.  The recent broad decline in commodity prices is likely to impact orders negatively in coming quarters.  So far, US coal has been a key driver of weakness, but recent broader declines should catch-up with implied orders in coming quarters. Our March Mining & Construction Equipment black book focused heavily on the commodity capex outlook.

CAT: Feeling Managed? - www2


  • Inventories Still A Problem:  The headwind to production and margins from the inventory correction is likely to last a while, as we have discussed before.  CAT may have lowered the level of inventory, but sales declined more.  We’ll learn more about the dealer situation as they report in coming weeks.

CAT: Feeling Managed? - www3



  • Commentary Didn’t Match Numbers:  Construction Industries was the worst performing segment in many ways, with sales down 17% and operating income down 61%.  Sales were down in every geographic region.  That is ugly – yet management implied that Construction Industries was doing well with backlogs up a bit.  Power Systems also showed margin declines, apparently partly related to a project problem and its own significant sales decline.  Every segment showed sales declines in every geographic region – oddly except mining-heavy Resource Industries in Latin America (+10%!).  The weakness was surprisingly broad-based but the commentary fixated on mining equipment.  Commentary that does not match the numbers is not a good sign for investors, in our view, as it suggests management is weaving narratives instead of reporting results, essentially managing investors instead of just the business. Today’s proxy, however, suggests that managing investors remains quite lucrative.  We are looking forward CAT dealer reports and the CAT 10-Q.  




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