The Dow declined -924 points in 7 days only to rebound +740 points in 3 days. That was a major bounce for the Jekyll & Hyde market. After trading at 1,972 at Tuesday's close the S&P rallied +106 points to trade in new high territory near 2,078 before fading slightly at the close. Nobody was thinking about new highs at the close on Tuesday.

Market Statistics

The pace of the decline was heartbreaking as many traders had good positions stopped out. Market sentiment was so negative at Tuesday's close that nobody wanted to own stocks. The market was heavily shorted and that is the key point. The Fed threaded the needle on the statement and Yellen's press conference by suggesting that even though the first rate hike may be in mid-2015 they were not going to be "unreasonable" in their pace of hikes and they would be "patient" in determining when those hikes were needed. Yellen essentially convinced investors that the pace of hikes would be slow and the Fed wanted to err on the side of caution and not start them too soon. Yellen lived up to her "Empress of the Doves" label and the market cheered.

Shorts were squeezed hard as a result of the Fed comments and news from China and Europe. There was no place for shorts to hide with energy stocks rebounding 10-20% despite oil prices hovering in the $55 level. There appears to be a bottom forming at that level and energy stocks are surging. The $60 level also appeared as support for Brent crude.

The news out of China helped to spike the market on Thursday. China does an economic census every 4 years. The result of the current census showed that China's economy was $308.8 billion larger than previously thought. The 2004 census provided a +16.8% boost to GDP and the 2008 census added +4.4%. The current census is expected to raise the 2013 GDP by 3-4%. This implies that the 2014 GDP will also rise by 3-5%. These are huge numbers and suggests China's economy may not be as weak as previously thought. Because the revision also showed a greater portion of the economic growth was coming from services instead of manufacturing it suggests the government might feel more comfortable about adding further stimulus. China is trying to move away from a manufacturing economy dependent on world consumption.

The economic news on Friday was uneventful. The Kansas Fed Manufacturing Survey rose one point from 7 to 8 for December. That is the highest reading since July and the 12th consecutive month of expansion for the Kansas district. Any number over zero denotes expansion. The best news was a surge in the new orders component from 1 to 12, also the highest level since July. Backorders rose from 4 to 7 after four months in contraction from July through October. Employment at 9 was the highest level since May.

This was a decent report but it was ignored by the market. The activity in the Kansas district is muddling along in the single digits compared to the teens and 20s in the period after the recession. There is no real economic surge, just slow growth and business as usual.

State personal income in Q3 rose +1.0% and slightly slower than the +1.2% growth in both Q1 and Q2. Weaker rents and slower growth in wages accounted for the decline. The plains region had the slowest growth at +0.6% with the Southwest the highest growth at +1.3%. This report was ignored.

The economic calendar for next week will be highlighted by home sales, GDP and the Richmond surveys. There will be very few traders around to pay attention but probably enough to move the market if some report appears with abnormal numbers.

The Q3 GDP revision is expected to decline slightly from the previously reported 3.9% down to 3.3%. However there are estimates out there as high as 4.9%. This number could be a real surprise if it comes in too hot. That would upset the slow growth assumptions of the Fed and potentially accelerate rate hikes.

The existing home sales and new home sales are expected to be relatively in line with the prior readings. Nobody is likely to get excited over these "winter" sales numbers, which are normally lackluster.

The Richmond Manufacturing survey has the potential to be a disappointment after posting a sharp decline from 20 to 4 in November. New orders fell from 22 to 1 and backorders from 9 to -2. If that kind of decline continued it is going to be a rough report. However, quite often we see snapbacks in the numbers indicating there were timing problems in the collection of data rather than an actual slump in manufacturing.

Split Calendar - No new splits.

We are moving into the Q4 earnings warning cycle and the strong dollar is going to be a challenge for international companies. S&P companies derive about 50% of their earnings from overseas and the dollar is going to be a serious headwind. The Dollar Index soared to an eight year high last week.

The strong dollar is even more troubling given the crash in the ruble and the falling yen. Shinzo Abe's reelection probably means even more stimulus for Japan and a further devaluation of the Yen. With Europe getting closer to real QE and Switzerland moving to negative interest on deposits we are going to see a race to the bottom on foreign currencies. The euro is expected to fall another 6% in the coming months. Those with the cheapest currencies will export more goods but they will import less. This means any dollar based goods are going to be a tough sell.

Switzerland imposed a -0.25% negative interest rate on deposits to halt a surge in inflows as a result of Russia's financial crisis. The negative rates will begin on January 22nd, which is coincidentally the same date as the ECB meeting where they are likely to announce a major increase in the QE program. The central bank also lowered its target range for the three-month Libor in an attempt to push it below zero as well. They were successful with the rate falling to -0.046%.

In stock news Google shares (GOOGL) recovered from their $489 low on Tuesday to close back above $516. Analysts believe this is temporary short covering. Google is expected to miss on Q4 earnings and shares are likely to move lower in the weeks ahead. Google is suffering from too many projects and loss of market share in search. Apparently the right brain does not know what the left brain is doing. In recent days Google has even started flagging its own email as spam and routing it into the spam folder. Email from the Google Play Store was first noticed as starting the spam trend. That should make Google managers take a long hard look at their business and decide if they really want to be investing in classified projects on clandestine barges, sponsoring moon shots and driverless cars. Maybe they should stick to the simple stuff and just do it better than anyone else.

CarMax (KMX) reported Q3 earnings that rose +27.7% to 60 cents compared to analyst estimates for 54 cents. Revenue rose +16% to $3.4 billion also above estimates for $3.2 billion. Used vehicle sales rose +14% to 139,158 units with same store sales up +7.4%. Visitors to the CarMax website rose +17% to 14 million. This was a very good report and Q1 should even be better because of low gasoline prices stimulating the purchase of more trucks and SUVs. Shares rallied +11% to a new high.

Isis Pharmaceuticals (ISIS) spiked after a report on a mid-stage drug trial on FXIRx, an anti-coagulant. Patients in the trial with a 300mg treatment had a 700% less chance of a venous thromboembolic events or VTE. The positive results means ISIS could more easily secure a partnership for the drug. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Bayer (BAYRY) already partner on the established drug for treatment of VTE. Several analysts jumped on the stock and shares spiked +9%. ISIS ranked number one at Fidelity on Friday with 84% buy orders. Several of the high profile biotechs jumped as well. Puma (PBYI) rose +6%, Biogen (BIIB) rose +3%, Intercept Pharma (ICPT) gained +4%, Receptos (RCPT) +4%, Five Prime (FPRX) +7% and Gilead (GILD) +3%.

Corporate uniform provider Cintas (CTAS) reported adjusted earnings of 86 cents compared to estimates of 78 cents and year ago earnings of 69 cents. Revenue of $1.12 billion also beat estimates slightly. The company said faster sales growth let them upgrade 2015 guidance to a range of $3.49-$3.54 per share. Analysts were expecting $3.15 per share. CTAs shares spiked +6% on the news.

FireEye (FEYE) spiked +7% after a similar +8% gain on Thursday because Sony (SNE) hired the firm to clean up after the $200 million cyberhack. Unless you live in a cave you have heard about North Korea hacking into Sony and stealing multiple terabytes of information and posting it on the web in an effort to stop the distribution of the "Interview" comedy about an assassination attempt of a Korean dictator. The event caused a national uproar on Wednesday when Sony cancelled the movie debut and plans for it to open on Christmas Day.

Sony gave in to the cyber terrorists in what is going to be a very bad precedent. Even President Obama criticized Sony for caving into terrorists in what he called foreign censorship. The cyberhack has already caused about $100 million in damages to Sony computers and there are multiple class action suits for allowing private and personal information to be stolen and posted on the Internet. The cost of the movie was another $75 million including marketing costs they have already spent. Some say the total costs for the attack could reach as much as $200 million.

With the pace of cyber attacks growing the stocks like FireEye (FEYE), Palo Alto Networks (PANW), Checkpoint (CHKP) and even consumer stocks like Symantec (SYMC) should see continued buying in the months ahead. Having Sony pick FEYE to clean up the leftovers from the recent attack is a big vote of confidence for the firm. Sony still has thousands of computers they cannot reconnect to the network because of lingering hacker code that has not been removed. Thousands of computers and servers were simply erased and rendered useless.

After the close on Friday Staples (SPLS) disclosed another cyber attack where credit card information was stolen from 1.2 million customers. Staples is going to offer some compensation in the form of credit protection services to customers who were exposed. Malware was installed on card terminals at 115 of its 1,400 stores. The stolen info contained the customer name, card number, expiration date and card verification code. Staples said it has also received reports of fraudulent charges connected with the breach.

Picking stocks to buy next week is going to be tough. I looked at hundreds of charts this weekend and most of them look like the one below or even worse. The October rebound is clearly visible, the rebound into the December highs and then the fade into Tuesday's lows. All of that is normal. The hard part is the three days of rallies of 10% or more in quite a few stocks. I would not buy the chart below on Monday. That short squeeze spike to a new high needs a consolidation period before I would invest my money. In theory new highs are buy signals but not when they come on a 10% gain in 3 days. The market has gone from oversold to overbought in a very short period of time.

I am afraid we are setting up for a decent correction in January. If the market continues higher over the next 7 trading days we could see some serious profit taking sometime in January.

However, with the strong gains it calls into question the potential for a Santa Rally. That is the last five trading days of the year plus the first two of the New Year. Since 1950 those seven days have averaged a gain of +1.5% on the S&P. It is also seen as an omen for the next trading year. "If Santa Claus should fail to call, bears may come to Broad and Wall."

Stock historians claim the Santa Rally is actually a prelude to the January Effect. The January Effect was first observed by Sidney Wachtel in 1942. He noted that since 1925 small cap stocks outperformed the broader market in January with the biggest divergence coming in the first half of the month. The common explanation for the trend is that income tax sensitive investors, who disproportionally hold small stocks, sell stocks for tax reasons at year end and reinvest after the first of the year. Also powering the trend is the yearend bonus cycle. Employees getting large bonuses at the end of December tend to invest those funds in early January.

In recent years funds tended to front run these historical trends by loading up on small cap stocks in mid December and then dumping them in late January.

The two recent dips and rebounds may have complicated their strategy this year. Individual investors may have been forced to sell earlier than normal and put that money back to work already. Of course the rebound last week was led by the small cap Russell 2000 index so this could have been helped by the funds setting up their positions for the trends mentioned above. I am sure there was a lot of window dressing in progress as well. Funds want to show they were smart and own all the winners at the end of December.

Oil prices may have bottomed at $54 but we can't count out some short term tests to see if there is real support. Gasoline has declined from $3.80 on average in June to $2.45 on Friday. I paid $2.21 in Denver on Saturday. Prices have fallen for 85 consecutive days and the second longest streak on record.

The low prices in October fueled the fastest rise in miles driven since 2006 and November is probably even higher. In October drivers logged 264.2 million miles and the most ever for October and a 2.6% increase over October 2013. AAA said 4.2% more Americans would drive over the holidays compared to a 1% increase in air travel.

Gasoline demand was 9.373 million barrels per day last week compared to 9.016 bpd for the same week in 2013. That is 393.67 million gallons of gasoline per day. At the current national average that is $964.5 million a day in fuel spending, down from $1.496 billion a day in early June. That is a whopping $531 million per day in savings. That is a heck of a stimulus boost for the economy.

I believe this is going to continue to increase demand for gasoline and oil and put a floor under prices. These price changes in fuel are not confined to the U.S. but exist the world over. Demand for fuel is going to surge and that will relieve some of the surplus in the oil market.

Add in the sharp drop in active rigs over the last two weeks and we can see what is coming. The prior week active oil rigs fell -29 to 1,546. Last week the active onshore rig count declined -18 with an additional 2 rig decline in offshore and a huge -40 rig drop in Canada. These are the first of what could be a long decline in rig counts and it should be enough to paint a clear picture of what to expect. A drop of 89 total rigs in only two weeks is unprecedented since the crash back in 1998. Since most rigs are contracted for months to years in advance this trend has a long way to go before it is over. Production growth is going to slow in the months ahead.

The market for energy stocks has firmed as well with 10% to 20% gains in various individual stocks. While I appreciate the rebound there will be some potholes in the road ahead. When these stocks begin reporting earnings and guidance in January there are going to be some significant declines. Some analysts are predicting earnings declined of 9% to 23% for Q4 and even more for Q1 if oil prices stay this low. We may be able to buy some of these stocks cheaper after Q4 earnings unless oil prices spike back to the $70s.

Analysts have calculated the potential impact of low oil prices. Over the last six years with the Fed funds rate near zero these oil companies have accumulated more than $3 trillion in debt in order to fund their land acquisitions and drilling programs. That is up from $300 billion in 2006. Some of that debt will end in default. It is simply a matter of adding up the numbers. Profits at $105 oil were strong and profits at $60 oil will be minimal with many small exploration companies burning cash as the price declines.

We are starting to find out that many companies that hedged their oil prices did it with a "three way collar" rather than a straight hedge. Normally a company buys a put at say $85 and sells a call at $105 to offset the cost of the put. They can do this a variety of ways but I am going to keep it simple here. In that example their profits are capped at $105 and they are protected with $85 as their low price. Many banks require oil hedges in order to loan companies money. However, analysts have found that a lot of companies were adding an extra step of selling a lower put, say a $70 put to generate some extra premium. They never expected oil prices to go below $70 so that extra premium received offset the cost of their overall hedging program. Unfortunately that meant they were no longer hedged below $70. As long as oil prices stayed over $70 everything worked as planned. Under $70 and they are at risk. Their hedge only protected them for the $15 spread between $70 and $85. Everything under $70 is a loss of revenue.

This means the companies that used a straight hedging strategy are going to come out of this okay. Those that tried to game the system are going to lose a lot of money. This will force them to further cut back on drilling programs simply because they are hemorrhaging cash.

I see no scenario where oil is not significantly higher a year from now. Boone Pickens said he expects $75-$85 oil 18 months from now. I don't think it will take that long with demand rising sharply and production growth set to slow dramatically over the next 12 months.


Did you see the Volatility Index spike over 25 on Tuesday morning? Better yet did you see it fluctuating 10% to 20% minute by minute? The VIX is calculated by comparing the bid/ask spreads on the S&P-500 options. The market was dropping so fast on Tuesday morning that spreads went from 50 cents to $2.50 from one minute to the next as the volume of trades increased significantly. This caused the VIX to spike in unison with the volatility on the bid/ask spreads. The CBOE noticed the extreme volatility in the VIX and implemented a software patch to fix the problem. However, they did not cancel any trades in the VIX on Tuesday. If you got a bad fill you are out of luck.

The S&P traded in new high territory late afternoon. If the S&P had closed over 2,075 it would have been the 50th record close for the year. At this point it seems to be a foregone conclusion that we will set a new high before the year is over. Nobody would have expected it on October 15th or at last Tuesday's close. It really shows you the power of a short squeeze and the impact of news headlines.

Sometimes these squeezes take on a life of their own and can run for days as investors in denial wait to close short positions while hoping for a failure. Other investors are chasing prices higher because they did not have the confidence to buy the dip. This time of year there is the normal window dressing and bonus chasing by fund managers.

I do expect higher highs before the end of December but we could have some stutter steps in the process as traders take profits from the rebound. Resistance is now the prior closing high at 2,075 and initial support at 2,040.

Despite a huge rebound the Dow chart is not as bullish as the S&P. The closed about 200 points below its historic high of 17,991. The index would have been higher had it not been for a -2.24 drop in Nike after they disclosed weak future orders when they reported earnings on Thursday. Visa was also a drag on dollar strength and continued worries over Russia.

I am surprised we did not see a bigger gain on the Dow with the +3.90 gain by Chevron and +2.48 gain by Exxon.

Resistance is 17,850 and then 18,000 with support at 17,600.

The Nasdaq closed within 26 points of a new high but this is an area of strong resistance. After a +218 point rebound in only 3 days you would expect the index to weaken at resistance. This is exactly what happened when it reached the 4,750 level. The next 40 points are going to be a challenge. The 4,780 level is now resistance followed by 4,800.

The biotechs were instrumental in Friday's gain but Google helped for a change as did Netflix and Priceline. Nasdaq market breadth over the prior two days was very wide but Friday it was almost dead even at 1,328 advancers to 1,297 decliners.

We are back at the level where 4,725 has returned as support.

Don't look now but the Russell 2000 closed at a five-month high. The Russell is within 12 points of a new high at 1,208. I did not think we would see this level again when we were bouncing off 1,050 in October. The Russell gained +3.8% for the week to break above strong resistance at 1,190. If the Santa Claus Rally and the January Effect are going to appear this year the Russell should make new highs in the days ahead. This will be bullish for the market but the keyword there was "IF." It is hard for me to comprehend the sudden reversal of fortune but I am not going to ignore it.

Volume was off the charts on Friday. This was a quadruple witching plus some indexes were rebalanced. Volume of 11 billion shares was weighted to 6.7 billion advancing and 4.2 billion declining. This entire week had high volume with the first four days averaging about 9.0 billion shares per day. This was easily the highest volume week of the year. That suggests a capitulation event. On Wednesday there were 8.4 billion shares of advancing volume compared to only 894 million shares of declining volume. We normally claim a capitulation event when the volume is reversed at 10:1 declining but that also works on the upside with 10:1 advancing so this rally may have legs. Thursday had roughly 7:1 advancing to declining but Friday faded to 3:2 advancing to declining as the weekend prompted some traders to take profits and resistance levels were reached.

I am neutral for next week. The seasonal trend is for a gain but I am expecting some choppy trading on low volume. That means anything is possible. I do expect the bulls to come back after Christmas to finish out the year.

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Random Thoughts

Apple is slowly going private. Actually it would take it about 16 years to go private at the current pace but it did buy back nearly $60 billion in shares in the 12 months ending September 30th. Given their authorization for $90 billion that suggests they probably bought back another $15 billion in Q4 if not more. They bought $17 billion in shares in Q3 and the largest in any one quarter by a S&P company since 2005. Apples $56 billion buy dwarfs IBM as the number two repurchaser with $19.2 billion. Buying back shares not only returns money to shareholders but it reduces the number of outstanding shares and raises the earnings per share. Given the pace of their buybacks the Q4 earnings could beat by an even larger margin.

Suburban home prices are going higher in the spring. If gasoline prices remain low the price of a suburban house will go up. Realtors are already reporting higher buyer traffic as a result of gas prices. People that commute to work try to move close when gas prices are high and that forces them to pay more for a home. When gas prices are low they look farther out from the city in hopes of getting more home for the money. While this is silly it is a fact of life. Since oil prices are always volatile and will eventually rise again these new suburban home buyers will end up paying more for gas in the long run. In the short term it makes sense but in the long run that commute will cost them more. The short term demand for suburban homes will escalate prices so the early birds here will get the best home.

Defectors claim North Korea recruits hackers from outstanding young talent they recruit out of school. They send them to a five year course at a special school in Pyongyang and then send them to study in either Russia, China or both. Each nation has extensive cyberwar divisions. The hackers are rewarded with special status, privileges and housing. They have to shower these hackers with special benefits because they have access to the Internet and realize that the outside world is very different from what is portrayed inside North Korea. There are numerous reports that the hacking division is actually based in China where they have reliable Internet access. There are also rumors of a secretive division called Bureau 121 that operates out of Pyongyang over a subterranean T1 cable connected to Chinese internet infrastructure.

North Korea is investing heavily in the cyberwar division because they can always attack anyone over the Internet while they can't attack them with bombs or missiles. For instance they could attack and disable the American electrical grid without ever launching a missile of sending submarines to U.S. shores. Cyberwar attacks are always deniable and extremely hard to prove. Training hackers is much cheaper than building fighter jets or missiles. Welcome to the 21st century.

President Obama is reportedly planning on putting North Korea back on the state sponsor of terrorism list as punishment for the Sony attack. You can imagine what the Kim regime is thinking about that. "Please Br-er Fox, don't throw me into that briar patch." I am sure Kim could care less about being on the list but it would complicate future negotiations with North Korea.

The problem with the Sony hack is not the hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to Sony. It is in the precedent that was set. Now any hacking group with any guts can break into a U.S. company's computers, steal their secrets and then blackmail them by making a threat of some kind if the company does not bow to the hackers wishes. The U.S. needs to make an example out of North Korea to make state supported hackers the world over think twice before trying to blackmail another U.S. corporation. Unfortunately I don't think the administration is going to take that step. It would be even better if the U.S .could simply explode an EMP over North Korea and knock out their electronic infrastructure. Unfortunately North Korea does not have any infrastructure. They have barely made it into the 20th century and it will be decades before they progress to 21st century technology levels.

Goldman Sachs looked at the cost basis for the top 400 new oil fields and found that less than a third are still profitable with oil at $70. With oil closing at $57 on Friday there are even more projects in the unprofitable status. If the unprofitable projects were halted it would shut down more than 7.25 mbpd by 2025. That equates to 8% of current production. In 2015 alone companies are making final investment decisions on 800 projects worth more than $500 billion. If prices remain around $70 more than $150 billion of those commitments won't be made. At $65 more than 50% of those projects will not be funded. These are projects that won't begin producing until 2020 or even 2025. Energy producers have to take a very long term view because of the upfront expense and the long lead times to complete.

It is all America's fault. That was what Putin told Russian citizens in his news conference last week. It was America's fault he had to invade Crimea and rescue Russian citizens from the clutches of the west. It was America's fault the ruble has dropped 50% in value and everything Russian are trying to buy now costs double. It is America's fault oil prices are so low. There is a political conspiracy between America and OPEC to bankrupt Russia. It is America's fault the Russian economy will likely decline -5% in 2015 because America forced other countries to levy sanctions on Russia. It is always nice to have somebody else to blame for your troubles. It incites nationalism in the population and they more readily endure the economic hardships because they have a common enemy. Hugo Chavez was a master at blaming the USA and his successor Maduro is following in his footsteps. The prior Iranian president blamed his country's economic woes on the U.S. in every speech. Thousands of Iranians would show up in the main plaza in Tehran every Friday to hold anti-American rallies.

Putin may be even more dangerous today. He is wounded. His pride and country are suffering. When you back a wounded animal into a corner it is likely to become even more dangerous. He may need to start another conflict he can blame on NATO in order to take the population's eyes off the economic crisis. He is running almost daily incursions by aircraft into sovereign airspace somewhere in Europe just to provoke a response and remind everyone Russia has a nuclear military and he is not afraid to use it.

Have you ever lost your phone or had it stolen and you wished you could cause it to self destruct? BlackBerry is working with Boeing on an Android phone that does self destruct if it is tampered with. The phone called the Boeing Black device encrypts calls in order to provide a secure communications solution. It will use the latest BlackBerry BES 12 platform. The phone will use dual SIM cards to allow it to access multiple cell networks and can be configured with biometric sensors and connect with satellites. Welcome to the world of James Bond.

The market exists to confuse the most people as much as possible. At the beginning of 2014 72 out of 72 economists were predicting higher interest rates and lower bond prices. That did not work out too well for everyone that shorted bonds. Rates were at 3% on the ten-year on January 2nd and they hit 2.05% on Tuesday. Ask anyone today and they will tell you the same thing about 2015. Rates will be higher and bonds are going to decline.

Nobody predicted a major correction in oil prices in 2014. Of those 72 analysts nobody predicted a crash. Everybody looks at the expert analysts for guidance but in reality they are just guessing. Their expected reality is biased based on what everyone else is predicting. If 45 analysts are predicting a bull market for the coming year then they must be right and the next 45 analysts reading those forecasts become bullish as well. At least this way there will be safety in numbers. If the market goes down they can blame it on unexpected events and point to the rest of the analysts that got it wrong as well.

There were three dissenters to the FOMC statement on Wednesday. Charles Plosser, Richard Fisher and Narayana Kocherlakota all dissented for various reasons. It should also be noted that all three are leaving the Fed and the December vote will be their last vote. That puts a little doubt on their actions. It would appear to me they see trouble coming and they wanted to make sure they were on the record as having disagreed with Fed policy as they walked out the door. That way they can always point back to that dissention if something goes wrong with the FOMC plan.

Bloomberg put together what they are calling a "Pessimist's Guide to the World in 2015." This is a list of all the global flash points that can cause trouble in the coming year. This is a well thought out presentation and worth a look. Pessimist's Guide

Researchers say Dr. Oz's medical advice is usually wrong. Syndicated talk-show host Mehmet Oz, known by some as "America's doctor," has been criticized recently by members of Congress who say his reports on "miracles" and medical breakthroughs have given millions of viewers false hopes. Researchers published a study in the British Medical Journal saying that medical research either didn't support or directly contradicted more than half of Dr. Oz's recommendations. "The public should be skeptical about recommendations made on medical talk shows," the article said. Half of Advice Wrong

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"The pessimist complains about the wind.
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The realist adjusts the sails."

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