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Thursday, January 10, 2008



The mainstream opinion now is: "we won't have a recession, but the risk has incresed substantially".

If you look at the details of the latest WSJ economy survey you'll find a recession probability of 49(!) percent, which could lead to the conclusion that 42% of the economists predict a recession.

But only 6 of the 50 economists surveyed have Q4/07 with negative growth, 5 Q1/08 and only 3 Q2/08. Only three of them have two consecutive quarters in the red.

So we have a 42/58 probability of a recession which only 3 of 50 actually predict. Hmmm, split personalities? Some kind of psychological barrier to predict a recession?

Jas Jain

You are a lazy little bubble-meister aren't you? And you call your self an economist? A neo-con-omist, by which I mean a propagandist?

“Meanwhile, the Economist today published its's latest R-word index. While it is certainly spiking upwards, we are not in 2001-territory just yet.”

1. Haven’t you noticed a long-term downtrend in the graph? It is most likely due to switch to Internet publishing, but it cannot be ignored.

2. The big spike in 2001 you see is when the economy was already in recession.

3. The most important indication, for this and many sentiment indicators, is the change from the recent lows and a sustained spike just as the recession begins. The peak occurs towards the end of the recession due to lags.

“To be sure, the downside risks are considerable and a Minsky-type financial crisis remains a possibility. What prevents me from forecasting more gloom is that central banks have demonstrated their preparedness to do whatever it takes to maintain stable financial market stability. For that we can probably thank Ben Bernanke, who understands very well the lessons of the Great Depression.”

This is idiotic. Fed created the household credit problem by helping build Debt Concentration Camps by crooks like Mozilo and now it will be the one to help solve it? You mean people can misbehave like morons and borrow-and-spend and Fed will rescue the economy from these morons. You sure live in a fantasy world.

Bernanke was appointed to create much bigger problems, in an attempt to postpone, than what caused the Great Depression. Ever heard of generals fighting the last war? The guy has guaranteed the Greater Depression to begin during 2008-10. Let us check back in 6 months and a year to see if you got any brains to escape the doping by the Propaganda Machine.

Nothing personal, it is just business.


Jas Jain

The following is my commentary early this morning before I read your blog.

Merrill Lynch Top Ten (David Rosenberg):

1) Recession a reality, no longer a forecast

5) For the consumer, it’s all about home prices
6) Home prices are in a freefall
7) Consumers hanging on by using their credit cards
8) Credit squeeze is spreading out

My comments:

“Credit squeeze” will squeeze the beejesus out of the America’s Consumed, easily doped by propaganda to become debt slaves, that directly account for some 70% and indirectly 80% of the GDP.

The debt-binge, or borrow-and-spend, party is over and the long-awaited hangover lies straight ahead. Fed abused its powers to the hilt to get us here and now it is impotent to do anything good. But, that wouldn’t stop it from doing whole lot of bad in trying to help bankrupters, the real culprit.

Recession has begun and depression lies in the waiting. Three years of credit crisis that began last year will leave the US economy in a pickle. 2010 will find the US in deep depression. By that time the wholesale slaughter of America Pigs, China Bulls and India Pigs would be over.


Arthur Eckart

I've stated before U.S. monetary policy has generally been restrictive throughout the 2000s, given U.S. actual output has generally been below U.S. potential output, in part, because export-led economies absorbed dollars. Also, U.S. fiscal policy was contractionary recently, because large increases in tax revenues shrunk the U.S. budget deficit to $160 billion last year (or roughly 1% of GDP).

The Fed began an easing cycle with an initial 50 basis point cut in the Discount Rate in August and a 50 basis point cut in the Fed Funds Rate in September. The Fed has lowered the Fed Funds Rate from 5.25% to 4.25% within three months in late 2007. It's likely, the Fed will continue to ease and there may be a one-time tax cut in the first half of 2008.

It turns out, the Fed began easing the money supply too late. However, the Fed began easing when U.S. real GDP was above 4% and inflation was elevated (i.e. slightly above 2%). It seemed, the Fed expected fewer dollars to be absorbed by export-led economies, which would stimulate the U.S. economy, while commodity prices, e.g. oil, food, copper, etc. continued to soar in late 2007, which worked against the Fed.

In 2008, commodity prices, which rose 18% in 2007, may be flat or fall, while both U.S. monetary and fiscal policies, along with foreigners absorbing fewer dollars, should be stimulative, to give U.S. GDP a boost. However, domestic prices may continue to rise faster than overall prices, while the weaker dollar raises import prices. Nonetheless, U.S. productivity may offset much inflationary pressure, while real wages, or compensation, rises faster than profits, debt is paid-down, and saving is built-up over the next few years.


The alarming figures being released by many financial institutions would suggest that the economy is close to recession (if not already headed straight for the two successive quarters). The credit squeeze would suggest that this is the biggest problem facing the economy at present. Consumers not having Dollars in their pockets will lead to more foreclosures despite plummeting prices. Also the trend of conspicuous consumerism which has built up throughout the 1990's and seems to have recovered from the dot-com boom, will most likely decline. This is not good for U.S. GDP as a whole as with less money transferring the economy will begin to seize. The very weak dollar does not bode well for the future either as more and more manufactured goods come from abroad. It would seem that at present almost everyone is losing, Citigroup announcing and Merrill expecting massive write downs, with John Doe finding it harder and harder to pay the bills. Whatever the Fed announces at the end of January, it may not be enough. Is this the beginning of the end for U.S. prosperity? China is certainly waiting in the wings.

Arthur Eckart

Andrew, China buying at rising prices (e.g. commodities and foreign goods) and selling at declining prices (i.e. its domestic goods) is unsustainable. Also, the U.S. underproducing and overconsuming is unsustainable. The U.S. has already won. The question is will global imbalances correct slowly or suddenly. It's really up to export-led economies.


Going back to the recent increase in the Intrade recession futures - I don't necessarily think that these futures are suddenly predicting recession so much as they're recognizing that the U.S. has entered a period in which the stock market is showing an increased level of distress, which often coincides with recessions in the U.S. economy. As such, I think shorting the contracts might be worthwhile, as the actual odds are still about at the 50% level.

Arthur Eckart

The Fed was behind the curve, easing the money supply, because commodity prices rose 18% in 2007, mostly in the second half of 2007, which contributed to accelerating inflation. The global stock market sell-off gave the Fed an excuse to catch-up. It took full advantage by cutting 75 basis points. Also, the performance of financial markets facilitated a U.S. tax cut.

The U.S. has been in a structural bear stock market, since 2000, and may have started a cyclical bear market, in part, because wages will rise faster than profits and less deflation will be imported (although, the market may rally over the next few months). However, U.S. corporations have strong balance sheets, while the U.S. government was able to borrow at low rates. Most of the debt acquired in recent years were by U.S. households (since lower prices and interest rates induced demand). Consequently, U.S. monetary and fiscal policies should sustain growth, to at least maintain autonomous consumption, while U.S. households pay-down debt and build-up saving.

Basically, the U.S. underproduced and overconsumed, while export-led economies overproduced and underconsumed. Global imbalances, in the goods market-money market-foreign exchange market, are beginning to correct. However, export-led economies should have bought U.S. goods instead of U.S. dollars (i.e. exchanged goods rather than invested dollars in the U.S.).


I live in Florida where there is a huge disparity between the median income & the median price
of a house. Property taxes have tripled in the last 3 years & so has insurance. Two of my
neighbors have lost jobs in the past 3 months, along with my husband that was recently layed off
3 weeks ago. For me we are in a recession here already in Florida. The legislature can not
get any real reform, ie spending cutbacks because they have gotten used to living large & they
don't want to cut back. The property tax reform ammendment 1 was so watered down that by the time
it passed it will only cut taxes by a couple hundred dollars and the wording is such that they
can make it up in other ways. (What a joke). This is all happening while our taxes have been
frozen at 2005/2006 levels for 2007. The housing market is all dried up, and many houses have been
taken off the market because people still want to get what the peak prices were. So they are sitting
empty, or being rented out for a fraction of what they are costing to own. What's wrong with this
picture? Why dosn't government understand that if you don't have the peoples best interest at heart
that even though you might not be affected when they are,that eventually we will all suffer.
You cannot ask people to stop spending on oil when they need to travel for work. Transportation
costs are rising due to high oil, and so is manufacturing costs. I can't beieve that this
administration is going to allow illegal truckdrivers to enter the U.S.. The Department of
Transportation must be crazy. Why? They don't have the strick rules that we have here, and if you
don't think corruption will be worse, lost pallets of products falling off the trucks & drugs,
then they are dilusional. I visted Vancouver this summer & heard from xpatriots that America
was going down, that our dollar was devaluating & going to be worthless, I didn't like what she
was saying but then she said just watch & read world news reports, don't listen primarily to US
new shows because they are watering down the news. That's what I did & she is right, I fear a
long drawn out recession leading to a depression. All the precursers are already set in place. I
don't think that any political party can change what is going to happen in the next 2 years.
I think we will be a major player in the world economy but not the leader any more.Thats
all my opinion &I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

Arthur Eckart

Marie, if you want to learn about economics, you should take economics classes, rather than listen to journalists and other non-economists. One reason U.S. housing prices have fallen much less than predicted (given the oversupply of houses) is U.S. homeowners know the real value of their houses (given monthly payments compared to monthly income). Also, the table in the link below shows property taxes in Florida are about average.


The U.S. unemployment rate is roughly 5% and may rise. However, Americans aren't losing jobs left and right. Anyway, I wouldn't want to live in your neighborhood.

Adding to my comments on the original topic above, the Federal Reserve lowered the Fed Funds Rate another 125 basis points within 10 days and Bush Jr will sign the tax cut from Congress next week. Recent Fed statements suggest the Fed wants to keep market interest rates low, spur money demand, and keep inflation expectations low. If markets expect the 3% Fed Funds Rate is sufficient to reaccelerate growth, then the "ripple effect" will be accelerated. However, the danger is the Fed will keep the money supply too high for too long, which will be inflationary.

Arthur Eckart

"Jawboning" has been an effective Fed tool. On Friday, Bernanke's negative comments on U.S. economic growth caused real interest rates to fall and the dollar to weaken, which are stimulative. U.S. real consumption was flat last month. It's rarely negative, because Americans are adept at maintaining autonomous consumption. The weaker dollar will help facilitate the U.S. export and tourism booms, while the $160 billion tax cut will add to real GDP growth. Moreover, low market rates help spur investment. Y = C + I + G + NX. Furthermore, the U.S. unemployment rate was 5% last month. At this point, it doesn't seem the U.S. economy is in recession.

Jas Jain

I did lot of research on Guru Lakshman Achuthan (I have been following him since 2003 in a forum dedicated to ECRI) and what I have concluded is that he is a rogue economist making all kinds of contradictory statements juts to be able to claim at all times that recession is not here and would be averted by policy makers. What this rogue wouldn't tell is that how can policy makers avert a recession that his own favorite indictaor, WLI, has clealy forecasted?

America is full of rogue economists and many of them are on the Federal Reserve.


Arthur Eckart

March data suggest there may be a U.S. recession in the first half of 2008. The U.S. has never had a 10 year period without a recession (the longest expansion was from 1991-2001). The most recent expansion began in 2001. The recession may be short and shallow, because of monetary and fiscal policies. The Fed took creative action recently to smooth-out the business cycle (see links below).

A particularly adept move by the New York Fed, along with JP Morgan-Chase Manhattan Bank, was creating a price floor of $2 a share on Bear Stearns stock quickly (within a few days) to avoid bankruptcy, maintain its "too big to fail" policy, prevent "moral hazard," and restore confidence to the entire financial system.



Arthur Eckart

The depreciated dollar makes U.S. goods relatively cheaper domestically and abroad. So, for example, U.S. consumers are more likely to buy American autos than European autos (given European automakers receive fewer Euros per dollar), while E.U. consumers are also more likely to buy American autos (given U.S. automakers receive more dollars per Euro). So, the weaker dollar causes an increase in U.S. production or at least a relatively higher consumption of U.S. goods.

Sustainable economic growth (of goods & services) is optimal growth. High debt and low saving will cause Americans to work longer, which will add to future growth. It's likely, Americans will consume less, pay-down debt, and build-up saving. Consequently, U.S. real consumption may be flat or low, while the U.S. export and tourism booms will add to growth. U.S. wage growth may accelerate at the expense of slower profit growth, given the inverse relationship between wages and profits, and the U.S. profit boom in recent years.

So, the correction of global imbalances is the inevitable process that continues to benefit the U.S. Initially, export-led economies accepted smaller gains of trade (which implies the U.S. received larger gains of trade) to spur their output and raise their employment levels. Export-led economies maintained high output and employment by receiving increasingly smaller gains of trade to the point where they were working almost for free (and U.S. consumers had diminishing marginal utility to the point where they refused to buy, unless foreign goods were sold at cost). Export-led economies are becoming worth less, because they're holding dollars, while the U.S. commands market power for its goods. So, those dollars flow back into the U.S. more cheaply, i.e. improving U.S. terms-of-trade.

Arthur Eckart

Also, I may add, to current comment above:

There's little comparison between the U.S. economy and stock market of 2000 and 2008. In 2000, U.S. corporations were using too many inputs to produce output, after an 18 year structural bull market, where massive resources flowed into U.S. firms. So, a massive Creative-Destruction process took place, mostly between 2000-02, which resulted in U.S. firms producing more output with fewer inputs. Also, too many American workers cannot retire early. So, the stock market crash was a correcting mechanism to kept future labor supply and demand in equilibrium.

Currently, U.S. corporations have strong balance sheets and are most productive (in both quantity and quality of output), while the U.S. government was able to refinance at lower rates. U.S. household debt increased, because cheap assets and goods induced demand (e.g. through lower prices, lower interest rates, rising incomes, etc.). Americans have proven adept at maintaining autonomous consumption. So, almost all of them will attempt to at least maintain their higher living standards, while some will lose and others will gain. Consequently, U.S. labor will work longer to pay-down debt and build-up saving, which will add to future economic growth. U.S. income will be more than $160 trillion over the next 10 years, while the U.S. captured real gains in assets and goods.

It's important to understand the U.S. housing boom. Throughout the 2000s, U.S. actual output was generally below potential output. Without the U.S. housing boom, actual output would have been even lower. The NeoKeynesians believe building pyramids benefits society when output is too low. Obviously, houses are more useful.

Economies are made up of people. The U.S. is a most educated and skilled society, i.e. has enormous human capital, based on education, training, and experience. Anyone who studied "Game Theory" in economics would know the U.S. is in a win-win situation in the global economy, i.e. the U.S. will continue to gain more or lose less than the rest of the world.

Arthur Eckart

2008, No U.S. Recession reply to Josh:

I wouldn't say the free market system is about "GREED." It's about increasing the capital stock through efficiencies rather than decreasing it through waste. So, the economy can continue to expand. Not everyone can afford expensive small electric cars. The goal is to raise living standards at the fastest sustainable rate. Also, you need a sense of proportion. Skilled workers are paid more and higher quality capital goods cost more, U.S. military expenditures are a low percentage of GDP historically, the U.S. national debt, which represents the accumulated debt of the entire history of the U.S., is roughly 70% of one year GDP (U.S. assets are over $100 trillion and U.S. income over the next 10 years will be more than $160 trillion), U.S. homeowners gained at the expense of U.S. banks (which was necessary to help raise U.S. living standards at a steeper rate), the U.S. invests 50% more per student in education than Canada and 100% more per student than Britain, etc. Are rational or optimal economic choices really GREED? I think it's arrogant to replace the free market system without understanding it first. Also, by the way, below is information on the Q1 2008 components of U.S. GDP.

Gross Domestic Product Data Shows U.S. Economy (Barely) Growing
4/30/2008 9:47 AM

The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 0.6% during the first quarter, the latest real gross domestic product (GDP) data claims. Economists expected an increase of 0.2%. In current dollars, GDP increased 3.2% to an annualized rate of $14.19 trillion.

More specifically, inventory building added 0.8% to growth, final sales of domestic product fell 0.2%, and final domestic sales dropped 0.4% - marking the first decline since 1991. Consumer spending increased at an annual pace of 1%, marking the weakest growth since 2001.

Meanwhile, business investment dropped 2.5% - a new 4-year low – while residential investment crumbled at an annualized rate of 26.7%, the worst decline in housing since 1981. As a whole, housing investments subtracted 1.2% from growth.

The GDP price index rose at an annualized pace of 2.6%, marking the highest inflation in a year. Consumer prices also jumped higher, growing 2.5%, while core prices (excluding food and energy) rose 2.2%.

Exports increased 5.5% in the fourth quarter, while imports rose 2.5%. Government spending increased by 2%, with Federal government spending increasing 4.6%, and state and local spending growing 0.5%.


Arthur Eckart

The Fed may have blundered lowering the Fed Funds Rate from 2.25% to 2%. If the rate was left unchanged, oil prices may have topped and monetary policy would have been accommodative enough to spur growth. However, now many believe the Fed will ease the money supply further. The Fed may fall behind the curve again, this time with its accommodative stance, until after the presidential election.

Arthur Eckart

Also, I may add, it's often the case, the Fed has competing mandates, e.g. targeting price stability or economic growth. Fed intervention to save Bear Stearns restored confidence to the financial system at the expense of moral hazard. Nonetheless, moral hazard was minimal, because shareholders lost up to 95% of their investment, although creditors and bondholders didn't lose. The Fed's "Too Big To Fail" policy will not allow a large bank to go bankrupt, which may contribute to riskier loans or investments, or moral hazard.

However, the Bear Stearns "bailout" reduced moral hazard. Before the bailout, there were premiums in bank stocks whenever they had too much risk, because the market assumed the Fed would prop-up a bank stock. So, a fall in the stock price was limited, e.g. from 50 to 30. However, the Fed showed it's willing to merge a weak major bank with a strong major bank for almost nothing, e.g. 2. That may be a contributing factor why many major bank stocks fell greater than expected after the Bear Stearns bailout.

Arthur Eckart

W or V Economic Bottom?

The U.S. economic expansion that began in 2001 continues. There hasn't been two consecutive quarters of contraction, at least so far in 2008. The U.S. economy is either in the rising middle part of a W, with the worst yet to come, or began a V-shaped recovery, with the worst over.

I believe, it depends on export-led economies, i.e. whether they'll continue to expand strongly, expand at slower rates, or contract suddenly. Expanding at slower rates is the best outcome, because that will give time for supply and demand of raw materials and energy to equilize without prices rising further, along with correcting other global imbalances slowly. However, if export-led economies continue to overproduce by large margins, commodity prices will rise, fueling inflation. If export-led economies contract suddenly, U.S. export-growth will slow, perhaps enough to cause U.S. real GDP to contract.

The U.S. has never had a 10 year expansion without a recession. The Fed achieved a soft-landing in 1994-95 (after the 1993 tax hike and government health scare). Consequently, the 1991-2001 expansion was the longest in U.S. history. The second longest expansion was from 1982-90. So, the Fed has been more successful smoothing-out business cycles. However, based on historical data, a recession is likely before 2012.


A very interesting article. I do believe that the U.S. is headed into a recession (along with the Eurozone and Japan), and I also believe that recent forecasts by the IMF may concur with that assessment. China is particularly vulnerable to a slowdown of western consumer markets, owing to its dependence on hard currency earnings derived from export manufacturing, and will undoubtedly suffer the effects of a U.S./EU recession, as described in an excellent research report available online:


Arthur Eckart

The U.S. economy will continue to outperform the E.U., Japanese, and Chinese economies. It's important to add both the production and consumption sides of an economy. Throughout the 2000s, the gains on the U.S. consumption side were enormous, while on the production side actual output was slightly below potential output. Unlike other economies, the U.S. has the tourism and export booms. The weaker dollar attracts many foreigners to the U.S. and discourages Americans from visiting abroad. The number of European tourists visiting the U.S. increased over 16% from last year. The multiplier effect from more tourists vacationing in the U.S. and fewer Americans vacationing abroad is a significant source of economic growth. Also, the U.S. export boom is increasing over 10% a year in real dollars.




Arthur Eckart

The housing boom was needed to raise U.S. actual output towards potential output, i.e. close the output gap, and capture enormous real assets and goods in the global economy. The stock market crash in 2000-02 was a correcting mechanism to keep future U.S. labor supply and demand in equilibrium, because the U.S. economy cannot support too many people retiring early. Deflated housing prices is a similar correcting mechanism. U.S. net wealth increased so fast in the 2000s, along with equity extraction from relatively lower income homeowners, that the correction took place quickly, i.e. between the massive U.S. Creative-Destruction process from 2000-02 and deflated housing prices that began in 2007.

The link below shows U.S. household net wealth (i.e. assets minus liabilities) increased to about $60 trillion in 2007 (see chart). The second link is a chart of U.S. home equity extraction, which was a transfer of wealth from savers and rich foreigners to U.S. borrowers, including Americans who couldn't really afford to buy houses or more expensive houses.

"Wealth in the United States is commonly measured in terms of net worth which is the sum of all assets, including home equity minus all liabilities.[1] For example, a household in possession of an $800,000 home, $5,000 in mutual funds, a $45,000 IRA would have assests totaling $850,000. Assuming that this household would have a $250,000 mortage, $40,000 in car loans, and $10,000 in credit card debt their debts would total $300,000. Subracting the debts from the worth of this household's assets, (850,000 - $300,000 = $550,000) this household would have a net worth of $550,000.[1] The wealth, more specifically net worth, of households in the United States is varied with relation to race, education, geographic location and gender. As one would expect households with greater income featured the highest net worths, though high income cannot be taken as an always accurate indicator of net worth. Overall the number of wealthier households is on the rise with baby boomers hitting the highs of their careers.[1]"



Arthur Eckart

The U.S. will continue to gain the most or lose the least in the global economy. It's important to add both the consumption and production sides of an economy to determine rises in living standards. Throughout most of the 2000s, the U.S. consumption side boomed, while the U.S. production side was slightly below potential output. In the 2010s, U.S. production will expand at a faster rate, while U.S. consumption growth slows. However, in both the 2000s and 2010s, the U.S. will capture the greatest absolute gains in the global economy, initially through the creation of imbalances and then through the correction of those imbalances, which are beginning to take place.

September 2, 2008

PARIS (AP) -- The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Tuesday lowered its forecast for economic growth in the major European economies and Japan and raised its expectations for the United States, which it predicted will grow at the fastest pace of all G-7 economies.

The Paris-based international agency said tax cuts in the U.S., combined with strong exports, caused it to revise its expectation for economic growth to 1.8% this year, faster than the 1.2% forecast in June.

Japan will grow by just 1.2%, down from June's 1.7% forecast, the OECD said, predicting the country will avoid recession with a partial bounceback in the second half.

The 15-nation euro zone is set to grow at a 1.3% clip, compared with 1.7% forecast in June. Major economies Germany, France and Italy, which like Japan all shrank in the second quarter, should also avoid recession defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth, according to the centerpoint of the projections.

However the OECD's chief economist Jorgen Elmeskov said the "relatively wide" range of the forecasts indicates a risk that all four economies could shrink again in the current quarter.

The British economy, which is expected to chart 1.2% growth this year, could be entering a recession with growth expected to shrink in the third and fourth quarters, the OECD's central projections show.

"The picture for the major economies is for a pretty weak second half," Elmeskov told reporters at a Paris news conference.

The Fed's 2% rate is justified so long as economic slack contains inflation, he said. Meanwhile, the ECB should keep its benchmark rate at 4.25% to counter price pressures, and the Bank of Japan is advised to buffer against the risk of deflation, keeping its key rate at 0.5%.

Elmeskov said the financial crisis caused by the fallout from the U.S. subprime mortgage market has passed to a second phase as banks "appear to have recognized most of the losses and write-downs related to subprime-based securities."


Arthur Eckart

The U.S. benefited in the 2000s from creating and capturing (in the global economy) enormous real assets and goods, a substantially more efficient economy, and tremendous upward mobility. Americans can thank God (the free market), Bush (e.g. timely tax cuts), and the Fed (maintaining sustainable growth). We can even thank the Democrats in Congress (e.g. forcing Bush to fight cheap wars). Furthermore, we can thank the media for painting such a negative picture of the U.S. economy that the masses are afraid to ask for raises. Thus helping keep inflation contained.


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Doh! Can't win 'em all.


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The stock market crash in 2000-02 was a correcting mechanism to keep future U.S. labor supply and demand in equilibrium, because the U.S. economy cannot support too many people retiring early. Deflated housing prices is a similar correcting mechanism. U.S. net wealth increased so fast in the 2000s.

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