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Commodity investing: Can tin keep outperforming metals?

Tin is among the many commodities that have enjoyed a price run in the past year. But will its price continue to soar, and is the future bullish or bearish?
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Many commodities have enjoyed a price run in the past year, but tin might be one to keep your eye on.

This rather unassuming metal has a multitude of uses, one of which is key in electronics production.

In the past year, demand for consumer electronics has soared, partly due to the rise in working from home. Add to this, problems with the container-shipping of tin out of China and Latin America and pandemic-induced delays in Indonesia, plus, smelter and mine closures due to lockdowns.

All-in-all, an accumulation of events is contributing to the rising price of tin.

The soaring price of tin

According to the London Metal Exchange, the price of tin has climbed 53% for cash buyer contracts year-to-date. And it’s up 88% since January 1, 2020. Today it’s at $32,290 a ton.

The question is, will this price hike continue, or is it set to pull back in the coming months?

Backwardation

One recurring problem tin has faced in recent years is called Backwardation. This is when the price of tin is higher than the future dated derivatives contracts.

With a sudden halt to supply, high demand forces the price up, but the underlying futures contracts are already agreed at lower prices. Today the cash price of tin is around $1,790 higher than the three-month tin price.

Mining for tin is expensive, and the price needs to exceed $25,000 per metric ton to be worthwhile, according to the CEO of mining company Alphamin Resources (CVE: AFM).

In recent weeks the price of tin surpassed the highest historical peak in over a decade.

What is tin used for?

Tin has various uses; these include soldering, tin chemicals, tinplate, lead-acid batteries, copper alloys, and several more.

18% of tin’s annual usage is in chemical stabilizers, including additives to house building supplies such as PVC pipes and cladding. Meanwhile, chemicals derived from tin are also used in touch-sensitive screens and solar panels.

Tin is non-toxic and doesn’t rust, so tinplate is used to prevent corrosion in products such as tin cans and aerosols. Molten tin is also used in the production of panes of glass.

Lead-acid batteries are cheaper to produce than lithium-ion. But lead-acid has been falling out of favor in the past decade due to pollution and poisoning concerns.

However, adding tin and silver to lead-acid batteries can reportedly increase output performance for electric vehicles by 5%. So, although lithium-ion batteries have the advantage, there’s still some demand for lead-acid batteries.

But newer breakthrough research has shown tin added to the graphite anodes of lithium-ion batteries increases energy. This is particularly promising for EV batteries in bigger vehicles and aircraft.

Meanwhile, solder is a mixture of tin and lead used to fuse metals on electronic components and printed circuit boards. It’s excellent for conducting electricity, and solders account for 49% of tin usage in the world today.

Photographer: Vishnu Mohanan | Source: Unsplash

Soldering is commonplace in semiconductors and computer circuitry. Furthermore, tin has been replacing lead in solders for some time to improve performance and reliability. As a result, it’s expected that 95% of solders will be lead-free by 2023.

And according to the International Tin Association, another recent breakthrough shows signs of improving tin’s use in semiconductors.

At the University of Tokyo, researchers have created a thin, transparent tin oxide film with record-breaking conductivity. This tin oxide film can be used in semiconductor applications such as next-generation LED lights, solar panels, and touch-sensitive displays.

Elsewhere, researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Bath are studying ways to create more efficient and stable tin perovskite solar cells as a viable green alternative to lead.

Where does the world’s tin come from?

According to a 2020 Science Direct research article, around 85% of all historically mined tin comes from a select few areas, distinguishable by their large granite belts. These include Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar), South China, the Central Andes (Bolivia, southern Peru), and Cornwall, UK.

Province and Percentage of historically mined tin:

  • Southeast Asia (40-45%)
  • South China (20%)
  • Central Andes (14%)
  • Cornwall, UK (7%)

In 2015, a tin mine was discovered in Myanmar. This brought lots of high-grade tin ore to market, diluting the price.

China tends to import its tin for smelting. It reportedly obtained 95% of its tin ores and concentrates from Myanmar last year. Although it does have some tin ore mines of its own, they’re low producers.

But escalating unrest in Myanmar caused some of its tin ore mines to close. This is bad news for China.

In Europe, the risk to supplies is slightly reduced thanks to a major producer in Belgium called Metallo.

The US doesn’t have any tin mines, so it aims to maintain reserves, but this is becoming harder as demand soars.

According to a Reuters report, Indonesian tin reserves have dried up, and now miners are heading out to sea to dredge the seabed in the hopes of finding tin ore.

China stockpiling tin

China is particularly keen to maintain and grow its tin inventory. Mainly because it’s so vital in its massive consumption of computer chips. Last year, China produced fewer than 6% of the computer chips it used. But it has made no secret of its ambition to change that. In fact, it aims to manufacture 70% of the chips it consumes by 2025.

Taiwan is currently the world-leading semiconductor producer, thanks to the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) (TPE: 2330​). But tensions between China and Taiwan are running high, which further exacerbates China’s desire to control a bigger piece of the semiconductor pie.

 Solder circuit board
Photographer: Michael Dziedzic | Source: Unsplash

Reasons to be bullish on Tin.

There’s no shortage of products requiring tin. While home working may reduce as the world reopens, it’s expected to continue at a higher rate than pre-pandemic.

This, along with a rise in smart-home and in-house entertainment systems, shows the need for tin solders on electronic circuit boards looks set to continue.

But overall demand in other areas is also projected to persist. Particularly as global electrification is paramount in shifting to a green economy.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) believes tin to be the most important metal to the energy transition. Tin is used in many areas of the fourth industrial revolution—namely, renewable energy, electric vehicles, and IT systems.

The global shortage in semiconductors will not be solved soon, which means demand will continue to outpace supply. And as semiconductor manufacturing levels resume, demand for tin should rise too.

China’s semiconductor ambition means it’s going to need a lot of tin and it’s believed to have already begun stockpiling.

The Bearish Case for Tin

Tin is just one of several commodities with rocketing prices. Mainly due to the effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on supply chains. This gives way to inflation worries that are concerning some investors and consumers.

If tin becomes too expensive, manufacturers need to raise their prices or look for cheaper alternatives.

Even though many economists believe inflation risks are temporary, a general fear can weigh heavily on stocks increasing share price volatility.

Epoxy resins can sometimes be used as an alternative to tin solder. Or circuits sporting fewer components mean less solder is needed.

Tin-based chemicals face competition from cheaper options. Also, regulatory pressures in some jurisdictions can discourage manufacturers from using tin if a more environmentally friendly alternative is available.

And if the price of tin falls, then mining becomes cost-prohibitive. So recycling efforts have been ramping up in the US and Europe. This is great for the environment and reduces the need for mining and importing tin. Around 24% of the US tin supply was recycled last year.

Artisanal tin mining is dangerous and unregulated but unfortunately contributes significantly to the world’s tin supplies. That’s another reason global tin supply chains are at high risk of disruption. It’s also the reason tin is classed as a conflict mineral.

The Responsible Minerals Assurance Process (RMAP), helps ensure responsibly sourced minerals in company supply chains. Smelters and refiners working with tin must meet these standards.

Recycling can help solve this problem and reduce the need for mining. Of course, that may again contribute to volatility in the price of tin.

A volatile investment

All-in-all tin makes for a risky but potentially lucrative investment. Demand does not appear to be slowing down, but there are many risks to be aware of. Check out our top list of tin stocks and ETFs for suggestions on where to get started.

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VIDEO — Frank Holmes: Bullish on Gold, “Perfect Storm of Inflation” Ahead

"I think it’s quite easy this year (for gold) to take out last year’s high. It’s very easy to do that," said Frank Holmes of US Global Investors.
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The gold price reached a new all-time high nearly 12 months ago, and as the summer months set in again investors are wondering whether it may do the same thing this year. 

Speaking to the Investing News Network, Frank Holmes, CEO and chief investment officer of US Global Investors (NASDAQ:GROW), said he thinks it’s possible for the yellow metal to set a new record in 2021.

“I think it’s quite easy this year to take out last year’s high. It’s very easy to do that,” he said.

 

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“And once people start believing that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) number is (an) inaccurate forecast of inflation — that there have to be other factors, which has happened in previous cycles — then all of a sudden gold will get a brand new element to it.”

Holmes explained that the CPI is understated because it doesn’t track food and energy. In his view, rising inflation is “baked in” for the next couple of years given the amount of pent-up demand related to COVID-19, as well as continued money-printing efforts around the world.

The US Federal Reserve remains seemingly unconcerned about inflation, and has repeatedly described inflationary activity as “transitory.” When asked if he expects any meaningful changes at this week’s Fed meeting, which runs from Tuesday (June 15) to Wednesday (June 16), Homes said he does not.

“I don’t see any changes. The stock market is acting still pretty resilient,” he explained. “I think it’s full throttle of printing money around the world — we’re talking about trillions and trillions of dollars. And you still have this pent-up demand, so therefore you’re going to have the perfect storm of inflation, and if you can borrow inexpensively you’ll be ahead of the curve.”

Holme also has a positive outlook on bitcoin, and he noted that enthusiasm and acceptance for the cryptocurrency are on the rise. However, he still believes investors should allocate a larger amount of their portfolios to the yellow metal, which he views as more stable.

“(Bitcoin is) very volatile; it’s much more volatile than gold — it’s six times more volatile. So I’d advocate 10 percent into gold and gold-related quality stocks and 2 percent into crypto.”

Watch the interview above for more from Holmes on gold and bitcoin, as well as the potential he sees for the US Global Jets ETF (ARCA:JETS).

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time updates! 

Securities Disclosure: I, Charlotte McLeod, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

 

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10 Top Copper-producing Companies

Codelco is in first place, and it’s followed by Glencore and BHP. Read on to find out the rest of the top copper-producing companies.
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Copper prices have made moves in 2021, rallying to record-high levels on expected demand growth amid a supply deficit.

While construction and electrical grids have long been big markets for copper, today the rise in demand for electric vehicles, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and energy storage applications are considered some of the biggest drivers of copper consumption.

CIBC analysts have forecast that copper prices will rise to US$5.25 per pound in Q4 2021 and into the first quarter of 2022. Prices are expected to average US$4.62 in 2021 and US$4.75 in 2022.

 

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Given those factors, investors may want to keep an eye on the world’s top copper-producing companies. According to the latest stats from financial market data provider Refinitiv, the following top copper-producing companies produced the most copper in 2020.

1. Codelco

Production: 1.76 million tonnes

The first top copper-producing company on the list is state-owned Codelco. As the world’s biggest copper producer, the company put out 1.76 million tonnes in 2020. Although there were concerns early in the year that operation curtailments due to the coronavirus pandemic would knock Codelco from its top spot, the Chilean company defied those expectations to meet its production guidance for the year.

In May 2021, Codelco announced the start of a US$1.4 billion project aimed at extending the life of its Salvador mine through 2068 by converting the underground mine to an open-pit operation. The project is a part of the company’s 10 year, US$40 billion plan to upgrade its many aging mines.

2. Glencore (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF)

Production: 1.26 million tonnes

Major diversified miner Glencore produced 1.26 million tonnes of copper in 2020. After suffering an 11 percent drop in copper production for the first half of the year versus the same period in 2019, the company cut its annual production guidance for the full year to 1.23 million tonnes.

Rather than COVID-19 disruptions, Glencore attributed its production decline to its Mutanda mine being placed on care and maintenance in 2019. Operations at Mutanda, the world’s biggest cobalt mine, are set to resume sometime in 2022. In addition to cobalt, the mine has five copper production lines.

3. BHP (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BHP)

Production: 1.21 million tonnes

In 2020, BHP produced 1.21 million tonnes of the red metal. The Australian mining giant managed to keep its copper production numbers high despite the year’s COVID-19 disruptions and strikes at Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine.

Labor strife has continued for BHP into 2021 at the Escondida and Spence copper mines in Chile, although the company claims the current strikes have not impacted production.

 

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4. Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX)

Production: 1.08 million tonnes

Freeport-McMoRan recorded 1.08 million tonnes of copper production for 2020. Despite coronavirus-related production setbacks, strong copper prices helped to buoy profits for the company.

One of the company’s biggest copper assets is the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, the 10th largest copper mine in the world. The company continues to make significant investments in Grasberg to increase both its copper and its gold production.

5. Grupo Mexico

Production: 975,898 tonnes

Grupo Mexico’s mining division is the largest copper producer in the country. 2020 marked a year of record copper production for the company despite the global coronavirus crisis.

On its website, Grupo Mexico says expansion work at its Buenavista del Cobre mine in Mexico and Toquepala mine in Peru will make the company the world’s third largest copper producer.

6. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM,OTC Pink:FQVLF)

Production: 715,762 tonnes

Canada’s First Quantum Minerals produced more than 715,000 tonnes of copper in 2020. The company was able to increase its production guidance for the year despite temporary coronavirus shutdowns at its Cobre Panama mining operation.

In 2021, output is expected to be strong from Cobre Panama, as well as First Quantum’s other two key copper mines, Kansanshi and Sentinel in Zambia.

7. Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,NYSE:RIO,LSE:RIO)

Production: 548,074 tonnes

Rio Tinto’s copper production in 2020 totaled 548,074 tonnes. The company is one of the largest diversified mining companies in the world behind BHP — and like BHP, Rio Tinto was also negatively impacted by strikes at Chile’s Escondida mine. Rio Tinto holds a 30 percent interest in the project.

 

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8. KGHM Polska Miedz (FWB:KGHA.F)

Production: 543,672 tonnes

Poland’s KGHM Polska Miedz has operations in Europe, North America and South America, and says that it holds over 38 million tonnes of copper ore resources worldwide. In 2020, the company produced more than 543,000 tonnes of copper.

KGHM recently announced it’s cutting a few small assets from its portfolio, including the Carlotta copper mine in the US. In the first quarter of 2021, the company achieved its best operating and financial results in nearly a decade.

9. Antofagasta (LSE:ANTO,OTC Pink:ANFGF)

Production: 503,577.6 tonnes

Chilean copper miner Antofagasta operates four mines in Chile and produced more than 503,000 tonnes of copper in 2020. The company’s output was impacted by having to place its flagship Los Pelambres mine on care and maintenance, as well as by lower grades at its Antucoya operations.

Antofagasta recently pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2025 by using renewable energy sources. By the end of 2020, the company reported that it was already powering 19 percent of its operations with renewable sources.

10. Norilsk Nickel (FWB:NNIC)

Production: 456,240 tonnes

Russia’s Norilsk Nickel produced more than 456,000 tonnes of copper in 2020. The company is also the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium.

Moving forward, by 2030 Norilsk Nickel is looking to increase its copper production by 20 percent from its current level. The company is upgrading its production capacity at the Ruchey copper-nickel mine, replacing its obsolete Kola copper refinery with a state-of-the-art plant.

This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2016.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

 

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Economics

Slowly At First… Then All At Once

Slowly At First… Then All At Once

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

Bull markets always seem to end the same – slowly at first, then all at once.

My recent discussion on why March 2020 was a “correction” and…

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Slowly At First... Then All At Once

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

Bull markets always seem to end the same – slowly at first, then all at once.

My recent discussion on why March 2020 was a “correction” and not a “bear market” sparked much debate over the somewhat arbitrary 20% rule.

“Price is nothing more than a reflection of the ‘psychology’ of market participants. A potential mistake in evaluating ‘bull’ or ‘bear’ markets is using a ‘20% advance or decline’ to distinguish between them.”

Wall Street loves to label stuff.  When markets are rising, it’s a “bull market.” Conversely, falling prices are a “bear market.” 

Interestingly, while there are some “rules of thumb” for falling prices such as:

  • A “correction” gets defined as a decline of more than 10% in the market.

  • A “bear market” is a decline of more than 20%.

There are no such definitions for rising prices. Instead, rising prices are always “bullish.”

It’s all a bit arbitrary and rather pointless.

The Reason We Invest

It is essential to understand what a “bull” or “bear” market is as investors.

  • “bull market” is when prices are generally rising over an extended period.

  • “bear market” is when prices are generally falling over an extended period.

Here is another significant definition for you.

Investing is the process of placing “savings” at “risk” with the expectation of a future return greater than the rate of inflation over a given time frame.

Read that again.

Investing is NOT about beating some random benchmark index that requires taking on an excessive amount of capital risk to achieve. Instead, our goal should be to grow our hard-earned savings at a rate sufficient to protect the purchasing power of those savings in the future as “safely” as possible.

As pension funds have found out, counting on 7% annualized returns to make up for a shortfall in savings leaves individuals in a vastly underfunded retirement situation. Moreover, making up lost savings is not the same as increasing savings towards a future required goal.

Nonetheless, when it comes to investing, Bob Farrell’s Rule #10 is the most relevant:

“Bull markets are more fun than bear markets.” 

Of this, there is no argument.

However, understanding the difference between a “bull” and a “bear” market is critical to capital preservation and appreciation when the change occurs.

Defining Bull & Bear Markets

So, what defines a “bull” versus a “bear” market.

Let’s start by looking at the S&P 500.

Bull and bear markets are evident with the benefit of hindsight.

The problem, for individuals, always comes back to “psychology” concerning our investing practices. During rising or “bullish,” markets, the psychology of “greed” keeps individuals invested longer and entices them into taking on substantially more risk than realized. “Bearish,” or declining, markets do precisely the opposite as “fear” overtakes the investment process.

Most importantly, it is difficult to know “when” the markets have changed from bullish to bearish. Over the last decade, several significant corrections have certainly looked like the beginning of turning from a “bull” to a “bear” market. Yet, after a short-term corrective process, the upward trend of the market resumed.

So, while it is evident that missing a bear market is incredibly important to long-term investing success, it is impossible to know when the markets have changed.

Or is it?

The next couple of charts will build off of the weekly price chart above.

Identifying The Trend

“In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run it is a weighing machine” – Benjamin Graham

In the short term, which is from a few weeks to a couple of years, the market is simply a “voting machine” as investors scramble to chase what is “popular.” Then, as prices rise, they “panic buy” everything due to the “Fear Of Missing Out or F.O.M.O.” Then, they “panic sell” everything when prices fall. However, these are just the wiggles along the longer-term path.

In the long-term, the markets “weigh” the substance of the underlying cash flows and value. Thus, during bull market trends, investors become overly optimistic about the future bid-up prices beyond the practical aspects of the underlying value. The opposite is also true, as “nothing has value” during bear markets. Such is why markets “trend” over time. Eventually, excesses in valuations, in both directions, get reverted to, and beyond, the long-term means.

While the long-term picture is relatively straightforward, valuations still don’t do much in terms of telling us “when” the change is occurring.

Change Starts Slowly, Then All At Once

“Tops are a process and bottoms are an event” – Doug Kass

During a bull market, prices trade above the long-term moving average. However, when the trend changes to a bear market, prices trade below that moving average.

The keyword is TREND. 

The chart below which compares the market to the 75-week moving average. During “bullish trends,” the market tends to trade above the long-term moving average and below it during “bearish trends.”

Since 2009, there are four occasions where the long-term moving average was violated but did not lead to a longer-term change in the trend.

  • The first was in 2011, as the U.S. was dealing with a potential debt-ceiling default and a downgrade of the U.S. debt rating. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke started the second round of quantitative easing (QE), flooding the markets with liquidity.

  • The second came in late-2015 and early-2016 as the Federal Reserve started lifting interest rates combined with the threat of Britain leaving the European Union (Brexit). Given the U.S. Federal Reserve had already committed to tightening monetary policy, the ECB stepped in with their version of QE.

  • The third came at the end of 2018 as the Fed again tapered its balance sheet and hiked rates. The market decline quickly reversed the Fed’s stance.

  • Finally, the “pandemic shut-down” of the economy led to a price reversion in the market. The Fed intervened with massive liquidity injections and the start of QE-4.

Each of these declines only gets classified as “corrections.” The market did not sustain the break of the long-term trend, valuations did not revert, and psychology remained bullish.

Still A Bull Market

Today, Central Banks globally continue their monetary injection programs, rate policies remain at zero, and global economic growth is weak. Moreover, with stock valuations at historically extreme levels, the value currently ascribed to future earnings growth almost guarantees low future returns.

As discussed previously:

Like a rubber band stretched too far – it must get relaxed in order to stretch again. The same applies to stock prices that are anchored to their moving averages. Trends that get overextended in one direction, or the other, always return to their long-term average. Even during a strong uptrend or strong downtrend, prices often move back (revert) to a long-term moving average.”

The chart below shows the deviation in the market price above and below the 75-week moving average. Historically, as prices approach 200-points above the long-term moving average, corrections ensued. Thus, the difference between a “bull market” and a “bear market” is when the deviations occur BELOW the long-term moving average consistently. 

Since 2017, with the globally coordinated interventions of Central Banks, those deviations have started exceeding levels not seen previously. As of the end of May, the index was nearly 800 points above the long-term average or 4x the normal warning level. 

We can see the magnitude of the current deviation by switching to percentage deviations. Historically, 10% deviations have preceded corrections and bear markets. Currently, that deviation is 22.5% above the long-term mean.

Notably, the decline below the long-term average reversed quickly, keeping the “bull market” trend intact.

Conclusion

Understanding that change is occurring is what is essential. But, unfortunately, the reason investors “get trapped” in bear markets is that when they realize what is happening, it is far too late to do anything about it.

Bull markets are lure investors into believing “this time is different.” When the topping process begins, that slow, arduous affair gets met with continued reasons why the “bull market will continue.”  The problem comes when it eventually doesn’t. As noted, “bear markets” are swift and brutal attacks on investor capital.

As Ben Graham wrote in 1959:

“‘The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.’ I have always thought this motto applied to the stock market better than anywhere else. Now the really important part of the proverb is the phrase, ‘the more it changes.’

The economic world has changed radically and will change even more. Most people think now that the essential nature of the stock market has been undergoing a corresponding change. But if my cliché is sound, then the stock market will continue to be essentially what it always was in the past, a place where a big bull market is inevitably followed by a big bear market.

In other words, a place where today’s free lunches are paid for doubly tomorrow. In the light of recent experience, I think the present level of the stock market is an extremely dangerous one.”

Pay attention to the market. The action this year is very reminiscent of previous market topping processes. Tops are hard to identify during the process as “change happens slowly.” The mainstream media, economists, and Wall Street will dismiss pickup in volatility as simply a corrective process. But when the topping process completes, it will seem as if the change occurred “all at once.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/15/2021 - 10:10

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