It was an exciting, high-volume session for equity traders, treated first to a gap up open, a break to new multimonth highs, and an afternoon correction. The Nasdaq led the charge to the upside, and while breadth was positive for both exchanges throughout the session, the Nasdaq was stronger than the NYSE throughout.
At 8:30AM, the Labor Department reported a huge upside surprise in Q3 Preliminary Productivity, which came in at 4.1%, 1.5% higher than the 2.6% annual rate that analysts were anticipating. Q2's 1.8% number was revised up to 2.1%. Unit labor costs declined 0.5%, well below the 2% increase analyst were expecting. The news was seen as bullish across the board, as the decrease in unit labor costs was expected to keep a lid on inflationary pressures. Of course, that analysis focuses on "demand-pull" inflation by consumers while ignoring "cost-push" inflation caused by higher prices, but in the premarket as equities and bonds surged, all was coming up roses.
Also reported at 8:30 was the Labor Department's weekly initial claims, which declined by 8000 applications to 323,000, the lowest post-Katrina level. Expectations were for 329,000 new claims. Continuing jobless claims fell by 44,000 to 2.82 million, while the 4-week moving average of initial claims dropped 17,000 to 350,500.
On that 8:30 news, equities blew past yesterday's highs and surged into the opening bell. Bonds had initially rallied, and then pulled back to their pre-data levels ahead of the equity open.
The indices held firm and advanced to new highs after the open, edging back above their opening gaps. At 10AM, Chairman Greenspan's testimony to Congress was released, along with ISM Services and Factory Orders. Greenspan's prepared testimony emphasized that US economic fundamentals remain solid, but that budget deficit spending could cause "serious disruptions." The hurricanes were a drag on productivity and employment, but the rebuilding effort is expected to boost GDP. He said that the inflation outlook remains uncertain. While globalism has helped keep a lid on US inflationary pressures, Greenspan stated that that force won't persist forever as positive growth abroad reduces the effect of the deflation we are currently importing from those countries.
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Holding to a theme he has repeated many times, Greenspan said, "So long as health-care costs continue to grow faster than the economy as a whole, as seems likely, federal spending on health and retirement programs would rise at a rate that risks placing the budget on an unsustainable trajectory. Specifically, large deficits will result in rising interest rates and an ever-growing ratio of debt service to GDP. Unless the situation is reversed, at some point these budget trends will cause serious economic disruptions.
We owe it to those who will retire over the next couple of decades to promise only what the government can deliver. The present policy path makes current promises, at least in real terms, highly conjectural. If fewer resources will be available per retiree than promised under current law, those in their later working years need sufficient time to adjust their work and retirement decisions."
The text of Greenspan's prepared testimony was released along with Factory Orders and the ISM. The Commerce Department reported a 1.7% decline in Factory Orders in September, with a 7.8% decline in orders for capital goods. Computer and transportation orders declined 3.9% and 5.5%. The headline number missed expectations for a .6% decrease.
The Institute for Supply Management's ISM Index rose to 60% from 53.3% in September, showing an acceleration in US services activity. New Orders rose while price paid declined from 81.4% to 78%. Analysts were looking for a 56.9% increase in the headline number.
The indices initially pulled back at 10AM in a dip that last half an hour, following which they surged to new highs just past noon.
Daily Dow Chart
It was a session that struck fear into the hearts of bears. The gap up open stuck, and the rises weren't panicky or uncertain, just a solid advance with minimal pullbacks. It was all the more bullish for the highs it broke and resistance it violated. Looking at the daily chart of the Dow, that upper doji shadow to 10561 took hours to reverse- the mid afternoon, there was a clean break above declining resistance as well as a break back above the broken support line off the June lows.
Today's print did not reverse sufficiently to close red, and so the daily doji was not a true gravestone doji reversal. Although the volume was high, it also lacked the "feel" of a doji reversal day- as a friend mentioned years ago, a doji is best seen and heard live at the exchange, as the crowd lurches from one stance to another. Think of the scene in Trading Places when Valentine and Winthorpe reversed course with their OJ futures and the crowd went wild. That didn't occur today. It was a slow roll off the highs, picking up speed later but never erupting into a selling panic and bouncing back into the close.
For the day, the Dow gained 49.86, closing at 10522.59. The opening low was 10470.49, and the bounce in the last half hour kicked off from 10490. Those levels are first support, below which is the broken descending trendline at 10450. Resistance is at the session high, 10561.
Daily S&P 500 Chart
The SPX added 5.18 to close at 1219.94, its 1214.76 low printed at the open and the final half-hour's bounce from 1216 support. The upside break from bearish expanding wedge resistance ran into trouble at 1225, 78.6% off the April low, but the pullback held above the broken rising wedge trendline. To complicate the picture further, the 1225 level is just below the old broken rising trendline off the April low. With the daily cycle indicators nearing oversold territory, the October rally is running out of racetrack. However, until it reverses, confirmed with a break back below 1208 support, the bulls will continue to get the benefit of the doubt in that timeframe.
Daily Nasdaq Chart
The Nasdaq printed a doji star after tagging a high at 2169.98, right at old confluence at 2170-75. The steep upper wedge resistance line was never broken, and while the price action was more bullish than that of its peers, the unfilled gap looms below. The daily cycle upphase has reached overbought territory, and with the daily print completely above 20-day Bollinger resistance at 2150, bulls will want to keep their stops snugged up. For the day, the Nasdaq gained 15.91 to close at 2160.22.
Daily TNX Chart
There were no treasury auctions today, but the recent treasury announcements have shown an increase in the pace of bond issuances / borrowing, and project further increases in the months ahead. Today, the Treasury announced that it will raise $4.974 billion in new cash via an auction of $36 billion in 13- and 26-week bills at next week's auction. These new sales would normally represent a drain on liquidity available to the market, and with the Fed saying that it will seek not to monetize treasury issuances, my expectation would have been for the liquidity picture and bearish for bonds and stocks. The Fed's 25 bp rate hike on Tuesday fits that view as well- except for the fact that stocks have been rallying strongly on this supposedly dwindling liquidity picture.
The Fed's open market desk gave its dealers a $2 billion gift today via its open market desk, refunding $10.5 billion in maturing repos with $12.5 billion in new repos, $7 billion of which in a 14-day repo and the remainder via overnight money. Despite the net add for the day, ten year notes finished their cash session at the lows, with ten year note yields going out +3.4 bps at 4.644%, just off their session highs. On the daily chart, the advance above 4.6% set a new high for the upside trending move and marked the first test of 4.65% resistance.
Crude oil traded within its descending channel off the September high, well below its Katrina highs. It closed +2.025 or 3.39% at 61.775, gunning its way to a high of 61.85 in the final minutes of the session. Production continues to come back online, and gasoline prices are back to levels that no longer provoke dinnertime conversation. The Fed, in Tuesday's rate decision, repeated its mantra of inflation being well-contained, and those of us whose spending is not limited to "core" items continued to sigh with relief at the pullback in energy prices, still at multiyear highs.
On the daily chart, today's move exceeded the past 3 days' highs, resulting in a bullish kiss for the 10-day stochastic. Trendline resistance is at 62,above which 64 is confluence resistance. A break of yesterday's low would target the bottom of the channel at 57.
The Fed's position, reiterated today by Chairman Greenspan, is that the economy is strong, inflation is uncertain but so-far contained, and rates can continue to rise slowly and predictably to remove the stimulus that's been in place in recent years. Bulls see this as a confirmation of strength in the economy, while bears may see it as a defensive move to defend the dollar against a dangerous rally in "non-core" and eventually core assets. A quick look at the price of natural gas since 2002 shows that while "core" inflation may be "contained," this essential asset on which so many rely for heat and electrical power generation has risen 4-fold in as many years.
Weekly chart of Natural gas
Dollars spent on natural gas (as well as gasoline, oil and other commodities) are not available to be spent on other items, and so the threat to the economy from the energy rally is real. There was a ticker headline today quoting Greenspan as saying that this winter's high energy prices would "surprise" consumers. The Fed's rate increases are arguably beginning to take a bite out of this impressive rally, and so far, those hikes have been benign as regards the equity markets. However, as Linda noted yesterday, mortgage activity dropped year-on-year in the latest Mortgage Bankers Association figures, and the outcome of the current rate-hike cycle has yet to be written. Given that home equity extraction has been one of the vehicles buoying consumer spending in recent years, a continuation of this slowing trend and its deleterious impact on housing prices cannot help but be felt in the broader economy.
WMT announced a 4.3% increase in same-store sales, with total sales rising 10.5% from October 2004 to $23.26 billion. Costco (COST) reported a 12% rise in net sales for the month, and US comparable sales +10%. COST attributed part of the rise to "gasoline price inflation," and said that comparable sales would have risen 8% net of gasoline. Sharper Image (SHRP) reported an 18% drop in same-store sales from October 2004. Jewelry retailer Finlay (FNLY) reported a 1.3% rise in same store sales from this month last year. While one month and 4 retailers does not a trend make, we see consumers shifting their focus away from discretionary luxury items toward essentials.
On the bright side, Standard & Poors reported that the S&P500's operating earnings rose 12.3% during Q3 2005 from the year-ago quarter. Marketwatch reported that prior to the hurricanes, a 17% gain had been expected. Notwithstanding that slowdown, S&P expects double-digit gains for Q4 as well as for Q1 2006.
In other news, the European Central Bank left its overnight rate unchanged at 2%, unchanged since June 2003. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet reiterated that while he retains a "strong" vigilant stance against inflation, he sees little to suggest inflation pressures in Europe.
The US entered a zero-tariff agreement with the Eurpoean Union, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, on multichip integrated circuits. Marketwatch reported that US-headquartered companies account for more than half of all production of these semiconductors, a $4 billion+ market in 2004. The US will remove its 2.6% duty, Korea its 8% duty and the EU its 4% duty.
In corporate news, the market moved this morning as Merck (MRK) received a favorable verdict holding it not liable on all counts in its 2nd Vioxx-related product liability trial. Among other things, MRK was found not guilty of consumer fraud. A spokesman for Merck reported that MRK faces "about 6,400" liability suits arising from the Vioxx affair, and has already been help liable in a $253 million judgment in favor of the widow of a Vioxx user. Merck spiked as high as 30.90, but the quote feeds failed with some reporting trades as high as 35. The stock settled to close +3.77% at 29.48 for the day.
MBNA (KRB)'s shareholders voted to approve KRB's acquisition by Bank of America (BAC) today, in a $36 billion deal that awaits regulatory approval. If cleared, the transaction would be expected to close in January. KRB closed -.31% at 25.70, while BAC lost .16% to close at 44.01.
After the bells, UTStarcom reported a loss of $3.40 per share or $402.7 million, down from a net profit of 4 cents or $4.9 million in the year ago quarter, blowing out estimates for a 70 cent loss. UTSI gained a cent afterhours to 5.42 after losing 3 cents during the regular session.
CSC also reported, with earnings down to 53 cents or $99.5 million from 56 cents in the year-ago quarter, but with an 18 cent charge for a written-down contract with Nortel Networks. CSC closed -4.89% at 53.50.
Tomorrow brings the October employment report, with Nonfarm Payrolls, the Unemployment Rate, Hourly Earnings and Average Workweek, scheduled for 8:30AM. With the indices up against resistance in the latter stage of their daily cycle upphases, there's the potential for surprises in both directions. An upside surge would need to be watched for a reversal, as the terminal phases of daily cycles are often explosive before reversing. While disbelief in the sustainability of the rally is high, traders can cut through the fog by basing themselves on the previous day's range. Above today's low, the daily uptrend is intact, while below it, we evaluate the move for a possible reversal. We'll be following the action tick by tick in the Market Monitor and Futures Monitor. See you there!
Legg Mason - LM - cls: 111.69 change: +0.71 stop: 104.95
Why We Like It:
We are going to double up on LM as a play candidate. The stock is already on the play list as a strangle play but we're not suggesting new strangle positions. We are going to suggest new call positions on today's breakout. The stock has been stuck in a trading range between $100 and $110 for more than three months. Today's push past the $110 level was fueled by stronger than average volume and could be the beginning of its next leg higher. The Point & Figure chart is already bullish and points to a target in the $130s. The stock has been very volatile over the last two weeks and the biggest risk here is that today's breakout is a bull trap. More conservative traders may want to wait for more confirmation of the breakout with a move over $112 or use a tighter stop loss. If you're the patient type then consider waiting for a dip back to the $110 mark and enter positions there. Our target is the $119-120 range. Our time frame is seven weeks.
BUY CALL DEC 105.00 LM-LA open interest= 135 current ask $9.50
Picked on November 02 at $111.69
Rockwell Autom. - ROK - cls: 55.90 chg: +1.78 stop: 53.49
Why We Like It:
BUY CALL JAN 55.00 ROK-AK open interest=838 current ask $3.40
Picked on November 03 at $ 55.90
Building Mat. - BMHC - cls: 88.32 chg: +0.10 stop: 83.49
On Wednesday BMHC produced a strong breakout over its simple 50-dma and the $87.50 mark hitting our trigger at $87.55 opening the play. Our six-week target is the $98-99 range. If you think the market looks a bit overbought and due for a dip then watch BMHC for a pull back toward the $87 region and buy a bounce there.
Picked on November 02 at $ 87.55
Bard C.R.- BCR - close: 63.01 change: -0.07 stop: 63.55*new*
The action in the markets is growing more and more bullish. That's bad news for our put play in BCR. Thus far the stock remains under its trend of lower highs but the MACD indicator is nearing a new buy signal. More conservative traders may want to seriously consider exiting now to avoid further losses. We are adjusting our stop loss to $63.55.
Picked on October 26 at $ 61.70
(What is a strangle? It's when a trader buys an out-of-the-money (OTM) call and an OTM put on the same stock. The strategy is neutral. You do not care what direction the stock moves as long as the move is big enough to make your investment profitable.)
AmerisourceBergen - ABC - cls: 76.93 chg: +0.71 stop: n/a
ABC reported earnings before the opening bell today. The company beat estimates by 2 cents a share. The reaction to the news produced a gap up at the open but shares faded from their highs of the session. We are not suggesting new strangles at this time. The options in our suggested November strangle are the November $80 call (ABC-KP) and the November $70 put (ABC-WN). We plan to see if either side rises to $3.50. The options in our suggested December strangle are the December $80 calls (ABC-LP) and the December $70 puts (ABC-XN). We would sell if either side rises to $5.00 or more.
Picked on October 16 at $ 74.81
Genentech - DNA - close: 92.84 chg: +1.09 stop: n/a
Another day, another gain for DNA. Yesterday the FDA announced an approval for Tarceva as a treatment for pancreatic cancer. Tarceva is produced by OSIP and DNA. At this time we see no changes from our previous updates on DNA. We are not suggesting new strangles at this time. The options in our strangle are the December $95 call (DWN-LS) and the December $75 put (DWN-XO). We plan to exit if either option rises to $4.50-5.00 or more.
Picked on October 20 at $ 84.83
eBay Inc. - EBAY - close: 41.55 chg: +0.47 stop: n/a
EBAY has rallied back to resistance at the top of its previous trading range near $42.00. A breakout here and the stock will start to look like a call candidate. We are not suggesting new strangle positions. The options in our suggested strangle are the November $45 call (XBA-KI) and the November $35 put (XBA-WG). We are adjusting our price target for either side of the strangle from $2.00 to $1.65.
Picked on October 18 at $ 40.42
General Dynamics - GD - cls: 116.15 chg: -0.15 stop: n/a
GD has been under performing the market lately by not participating in the rally. Shares have been churning sideways near the $116 level under resistance at the 50-dma but above support at the 100-dma. We're not suggesting new strangles. Our strangle strategy involves the November $125 call (GD-KE) and the November $115 put (GD-WC). We plan to sell if either option rises to $4.00 or more.
Picked on October 09 at $119.59
Harman Intl - HAR - cls: 98.64 chg: -1.36 stop: n/a
HAR displayed some relative weakness today with a 1.3% decline. The next test is a breakdown below short-term support at the $98 level. The options in our previously suggested strangle are the November $110 call (HAR-KB) and the November $90 put (HAR-WR). Over the previous weekend we adjusted our target to $4.00 to try and breakeven (which is $3.80).
Picked on October 18 at $100.80
Hutchinson Tech. - HTCH - cls: 25.79 chg: -0.35 stop: n/a
The action in HTCH was interesting. There was a little follow through this morning on yesterday's rally but today's strength quickly faded. Shares closed back under the simple 50-dma before the closing bell. Yesterday the stock got an upgrade to a "buy" rating and another analyst reiterated their "buy" rating on the stock. We are not suggesting new strangles at this time. The options in our previously suggested strangle were the January $30 calls (UTQ-AF) and the January $20 puts (UTQ-MD). We'll target a rise to $3.00.
Picked on October 26 at $ 24.89
Inamed Corp. - IMDC - close: 75.41 change: -0.03 stop: n/a
After four days of gains it looks like IMDC is taking a breather. The reaction to the earnings report has been positive but a pull back may be in order. We are not suggesting new plays at this time. The options in our strangle are the December $75 call (UZI-LO) and the December $65 put (UZI-XM). We plan to sell if either side rises to $5.00 or more.
Picked on October 30 at $ 70.63
Kos Pharma - KOSP - close: 61.00 chg: -1.92 stop: n/a
On Wednesday the stock surged on news of a new hire. The company announced that it has named Kevin Clarke as executive vice president and chief financial officer. According to a Reuters article Clarke used to be senior managing director "responsible for healthcare mergers and acquisitions at Bear Stearns Cos." Before the opening bell this morning KOSP reported earnings and beat estimates by four cents. The earnings news prompted KOSP to gap open higher at $64.15 but the rally couldn't breakout over the simple 50-dma. This negative reaction doesn't bode well for the bulls. Of course we don't care what direct the stock goes. We are not suggesting new plays. The options for our previously suggested strangle are the November $65 call (KQW-KM) and the November $55 put (KQW-WK). We'll plan to exit if either option rises to $5.00 or more.
Picked on October 20 at $ 59.80
Legg Mason - LM - cls: 111.69 chg: +0.71 stop: n/a
Do our eyes deceive us? Has the impossible happened? LM finally broke out through resistance at the top of its trading range near $110.00. This is technically very bullish and volume came in above average on the move. Now the question is what do we do? Our hypothetical cost was around $2.40 for our initial strangle using November options. Our original target was for a rise toward $7.00. That seems pretty optimistic, especially now with only two weeks left before the November options expire. The high today for the November $110 call (LM-KB) was $3.40 and it is currently trading at $3.50bid/$3.70ask. If we sold right now we'd cover the cost of the play and still come out with a profit. That might be a wise thing to do. Yet on the other hand the breakout move is very bullish and the broker-dealer sector has displayed a lot of relative strength. If you bought multiple positions you might think about selling half to reduce your risk and leave the other half or a small position still open to see how far LM can go. We're going to leave the play open and adjust our price target for the options to $5.00, which could easily happen if LM rises another couple of points in the next few days. The options in our previously suggested strangle were the November $110 call (LM-KB) and the November $90 put (LM-WR).
Picked on October 12 at $102.59
Loews - LTR - close: 95.07 change: +0.03 close: n/a
Another day, another rise for LTR although the rally looks like it is losing some steam. We wouldn't be surprised to see a dip back toward $92.50. We're not suggesting new strangle positions in LTR. The options in our strategy are the December $95 calls (LTR-LS) and the December $85 puts (LTR-XQ). We'll plan to exit if either option rises to $5.00 or more.
Picked on October 23 at $ 89.94
Microsoft - MSFT - close: 26.46 change: +0.00 stop: n/a
The stock closed unchanged today but yesterday investors responded very positively to a new plan of attack by MSFT to begin marketing some of its software programs online. The stock is looking pretty short-term overbought but the velocity of the new bullish trend is good news for our strangle. We are not suggesting new strangle positions. Our strangle is based on the December $27.50 call (MSQ-LY) and the December $22.50 put (MSQ-XX). We are aiming for a rise to $0.80-0.90 for either side of the strangle.
Picked on October 25 at $ 25.03
O'Reilly Auto. - ORLY - close: 29.97 chg: +0.19 stop: n/a
We cannot find the catalyst behind ORLY's show of strength this week but the move has been impressive. The stock is now testing resistance at the $30.00 mark. The target for our strangle is $1.20 but more conservative traders may want to exit early around breakeven at $0.75. The options in our suggested strangle were the November $30 calls (OQR-KF) and the November $25 puts (OQR-WE).
Picked on October 09 at $ 28.23
Oshkosh Truck - OSK - close: 42.98 chg: +1.20 stop: n/a
This is not a good sign. OSK rallied from the bottom of its trading range putting the stock almost right back where we started. If OSK doesn't breakout from the $41.50-44.00 range in the next several days then more conservative traders may want to abandon this play early. We are not suggesting new strangles. The options in our suggested strangle are the December $45 call (OSK-LI) and the December $40 put (OSK-XH). We're targeting a rise to $3.00 or more.
Picked on October 30 at $ 42.82
Verifone Holdings - PAY - cls: 24.09 chg: +0.24 stop: n/a
PAY continues to creep higher and it's making the call side of our strangles look pretty strong. When we launched this play we suggested the January strikes but we also listed a more aggressive November strangle. The target for our November strangle was a rise to $2.00. Currently the November $22.50 calls (PAY-KX) are trading at $1.80bid/$2.00ask. That's pretty close to our target and readers may want to consider exiting early. The calls in our January strangle are the January $22.50s (PAY-AX) and we're looking for a rise to $4.50.
Picked on October 12 at $ 19.98
Protein Design Labs - PDLI - cls: 26.55 chg: +0.32 stop: n/a
PDLI got a bit of a bounce today following yesterday's post-earnings sell-off. We are no longer suggesting new strangle positions. The options in our hypothetical strangle are the December $30 calls (PQI-LF) and the December $25 puts (PQI-XE). We'll plan to sell if either side rises to $3.25.
Picked on October 30 at $ 27.70
Broadcom - BRCM - close: 43.10 chg: +1.10 stop: 44.11
*This closing update and data for BRCM is dated 11/02/05.
Wednesday's rally was given a big boost by some leadership in the semiconductors. The SOX added 2.95% and pushed back above its simple 200-dma. It is this bullish action in the sector that suggests we should abandon our play in BRCM. Looking at BRCM we still see partial resistance at $44 and more near $45 with its 50-dma currently at 44.33. However, we'd rather bail out early and minimize our loss than hold the stock and see it test $45 again.
Picked on October 24 at $ 41.95
Infosys Tech. - INFY - close: 70.21 chg: +0.94 stop: 70.51
The GSO software sector index continues to under perform and failed to rally with the rest of the market today. Yet that did not stop shares of INFY from breaking out over resistance at the $70.00 mark and its simple 200-dma. We have been stopped out at $70.51.
Picked on October 26 at $ 67.95
Abercrombie&Fitch - ANF - cls: 56.27 chg: +2.42 stop: n/a
Target achieved. ANF's same-store sales figures for October blew away the estimates. The company announced that same-store sales soared to +31%. The reaction to the news had ANF gap higher to open at $58.70 and traded to $60.00 before pulling back. The calls in our suggested strangle were the December $55 calls (ANF-LK). The calls hit a high of $5.70 versus our target of $5.00. Our hypothetical cost was about $2.70 making a rise to our target of $5.00 an 85% jump in value.
Picked on October 28 at $ 49.50
Administaff - ASF - close: 46.99 change: +2.02 stop: n/a
*This closing update and data for ASF is dated 11/02/05.
Target achieved! ASF added another 4.49% today on strong volume. Today's move put the stock at new all-time highs. Our suggested strangle was with the November $45 calls (ASF-KI) and the November $35 puts (ASF-WG). Today the calls hit our target of $2.75. That is a 65% rise from our hypothetical cost for the strangle of $1.60. At this point we would just let the put options expire worthless instead of trying to sell them and pay another commission.
Picked on October 23 at $ 39.40
Black Box - BBOX - close: 45.10 chg: +4.90 stop: n/a
*This closing update and data for BBOX is dated 11/02/05.
Target achieved! BBOX reported earnings after the bell last night and beat estimates by six cents a share. This morning at least one analyst firm upgraded the stock. Shares gapped open at $42.38 and raced to an intraday high of $46.44 before setting for a 12.18% gain. Our suggested strangle was with the December $45 calls (QBX-LI) and the December $35 puts (QBX-XG). Our target was for a rise to $2.85. The $45 calls hit an intraday high of $3.00 surpassing our target. Our hypothetical cost basis was $1.65 so a rise to $2.85 is about 72%. We would let the puts expire worthless instead of trying to sell them and pay another commission, unless of course BBOX dips significantly and we can sell them for more than your brokers commission.
Picked on October 30 at $ 39.40
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