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ECRI Leading Economic Index Drops To 44 Week Low, Predicts Massive Economic Contraction

Tyler Durden's picture


David Rosenberg's favorite leading indicator, the Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI) Leading Index, fell to 123.2 in the week ended June 4, down from 124 the week before, a -3.5% annualized contraction: the first time this has gone negative in over a year. This is the lowest level since July 31, 2009, when it was at 122.4, as the chart below demonstrates.

What is more troubling is a historical comparison to the dark days of the 1970's recession. While the amplitude of the recent pick up has been unprecedented, from -30 to +30, it is only mirrored by the -20 to +20 jump seen in 1971-1973. However, as can also be seen below, the ensuing crash following the first spike, was the worst one in the past 35 years. If history is any predictor, does the ECRI Leading Indicator index anticipate a comparable collapse in the economy to what was seen in late 2008?


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Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:20 | 408324 macfly
macfly's picture

Hell, I just wanted unicorns, sunshine, and house music all night long!

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:20 | 408326 Mark of Zerro
Mark of Zerro's picture

q: "If history is any predictor, does the ECRI Leading Indicator index anticipate a comparable collapse in the economy to what was seen in late 2008?"

a:  Yup.



Sat, 06/12/2010 - 03:02 | 409457 jeff montanye
jeff montanye's picture

however note the very substantial recovery in the index following its initial foray into negative territory.  

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:23 | 408332 Ragnarok
Ragnarok's picture

Good stuff.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:24 | 408336 HarryWanger
HarryWanger's picture

Hmm...don't know what to really extrapolate from this other than its getting back to the mean. Need to see next month to really determine where this is heading. Could actually stabilize like it has historically at the mean. We'll see.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:48 | 408407 AR15AU
AR15AU's picture

Your chart reading ability is lacking...  Can you not see the velocity?

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:11 | 408438 economicmorphine
economicmorphine's picture

Yeah, if I had next month's chart I could probably tell you where we're heading too.  

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 14:58 | 408662 Assetman
Assetman's picture

ROFL, Morphine!

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 13:03 | 409716 RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

Where's the Scary Clown Dude now?  Shouldn't he be predicting this stuff?

Oh, that's right, we'll hear about how accurate he was when the smoke clears.

He never did post that chart  predicting my bowel movements as requested.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 14:24 | 408584 mephisto
mephisto's picture

How about this - previous years in which the index has been this low




none of which I remember as particularly productive, peaceful years in the equity markets.

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 03:13 | 409460 jeff montanye
jeff montanye's picture

1991 and 1998 were each + 26% or so for the spx.  possibly not peaceful though.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:25 | 408338 sawyer
sawyer's picture

I guess one's need to be a member to get this week's reading?

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:27 | 408347 joebren
joebren's picture

check out the data and chart here:

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:30 | 408357 spinone
spinone's picture

The rebound was a stimulus driven sugar high.  Now that the stimulus is wearing off, its dropping again. We need another, bigger dose of sugar.  Sweet, sweet sugar.


Here is a little song I dedicate to "sugar daddy" Bernanke

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:39 | 408382 EscapeKey
EscapeKey's picture

We need a bigger, and bigger stimulus, thus solving the problem once and for all.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:59 | 408420 GNH
GNH's picture

Solving the problem = Killing the system.  If the bigger stimulus is QE2 ($5T+), the anticipated currency crisis ensues, system will crash.  So, you're right.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 14:40 | 408610 mtomato2
mtomato2's picture

Man.  Great song.  Remember when Watergate was considered a scandal?


Good times...


I especially love the single snare and crash.


Thanks.  Makes me want to get a transistor radio and a jean jacket and lie down in the park.  Maybe play a little frisbee.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:31 | 408360 doomandbloom
doomandbloom's picture

why u so pessimistic Tyler?...look at Leo...

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:32 | 408364 oklaboy
oklaboy's picture

dddadum dumpdumpdump...  we need a bigger boat

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:41 | 408393 Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

The Silver Argaunaut is quick and nimble.  We are already offshore.  We search for new lands.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:40 | 408388 Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Well maybe the Hollywood Futures will give hope to a new bubble next week.  Oh this bubble economy is disgusting.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:41 | 408392 Mikebrah
Mikebrah's picture

The highlighted '70-74 time period would indicate the ECRI is bottoming here and has another three years of growth before retesting the early 2009 lows.


This doesn't fit with the ZH mantra so I'm curious why the comparison is being highlighted.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:48 | 408406 hambone
hambone's picture

Perma bear I am, I hate to agree but seems Mikebrah has a fair point...the chart showed multi year stabilizing before the 2nd downturn.  If we follow this logic it says we'd continue stabilizing til...2012!!!  Damn Mayan's were right after all.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:23 | 408460 spartan117
spartan117's picture

Well, doom in 2010 or 2012.  Doesn't matter when it occurs so long as the result is the same.  Look at it this way, we have about 2 years to prepare.  One interesting thing I noticed is that the intensity of the 2008 drop was much more severe than the 70-74 drop.  We're in for a world of hurt.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:32 | 408484 Joe Shmoe
Joe Shmoe's picture

I think you raise a good point.  But, we didn't have HFT then.  So maybe the time frame would be compressed?

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 14:43 | 408620 mtomato2
mtomato2's picture

Technology makes bad things happen even faster.

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 03:25 | 409466 jeff montanye
jeff montanye's picture

all interesting points.  however the recession of 1970 was but the first squeeze by the fed to slow the gathering inflation that would characterize the decade to come.  it was not the end of a credit cycle dating from at least three decades prior if not six, seven or eight.  if the question is do you buy puts in quantity, the answer is possibly not yes.  but if the question is do you buy stocks in quantity the answer probably is no.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 16:38 | 408398 Hungry For Knowledge
Hungry For Knowledge's picture

THe top chart, with its shorter time frame of measurement (10 years), allows one to see the actual slope of the descending line.....based on that "slope" in prior downturns, and the negative momentum we have now to fall from such high heights, IMO, I believe that it will be at -20 within 4 weeks.

Consumer Metrics Institute

shows a daily chart of consumer consumption/spending, and it has yet to show a bottom - just a long, slow slide down.  Their metrics of many areas of consumer spending in the US are not behaving in any way like previous slowdowns, according to their numbers - whereas other recoveries have bottomed after a period of time, this one is showing no bottom forming...just data points moving slowly down day by day.

US Government Leading Economic Indicators, being approx 6 months behind more "real time" indicators like the aforementioned two, "tipped over" in recent months.

The downward fall will be fought, but it's coming, as exposed by the real activity numbers.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:49 | 408410 cainhoy
cainhoy's picture

coming soon to a theatre near you.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:53 | 408414 Thorny Xi
Thorny Xi's picture

Economy, Schmeconomy.  But you have to watch BP's version of "Black Water!"

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:00 | 408421 wang
wang's picture

I like to listen/read/watch Mr. ECRI's comments on his own index rather than see them through Rosies' bear colored glasses

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:10 | 408434 plocequ1
plocequ1's picture

Too many indicators. There is a new indicator that traders go by. It is called the WGAF Indicator. (WGAF= Who gives a fuck)

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 14:59 | 408667 WeeWilly
WeeWilly's picture

The WGAF indicator closely tracks the FUBAR (fucked up beyond all recognition) indicator. That one is skyrocketing!!

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:15 | 408445 Tarheel
Tarheel's picture

this seems like an obscure indicator

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:22 | 408461 SwapThis
SwapThis's picture
WLI Drops, But No Double-Dip Yet

June 11, 2010

(Barron's) - The Economic Cycle Research Institute today offered up its view of last week’s “weekly leading indicators,” a closely watched private mailing, today showed a dip in the indicator for the week ended last Friday to 123.2, a decline of 3.5%, in contrast to the 0.3% rise the preceding week.

The Institute’s Lakshman Achuthan, however, remarked that “While the plunge in WLI growth to a one-year low assures a significant slowing in U.S. economic growth in the coming months, the recent weakness has not lasted long enough to signal a new recession threat.”

The ECRI notice follows better-than-expected consumer confidence data this morning from the University of Michigan, but also a smaller-than-expected gain in business inventories in Apri, this morning’s weak retail sales data for May and, of course, last Friday’s disappointing jobs number.

---  Looking at that chart, I wonder how soon the hard questions, like the implied velocity of the change and estimated downside target for this measure, are asked of Mr Achuthan, a regular on CNBC/Bloomberg. Steve Liesman?  no way he brings this up. The chart speaks for itself though.  This cannot be good.  I do hope Tom Keene has the balls to ask him about it though, maybe somebody can convince me this isnt as bad as it looks.


Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:23 | 408463 Leo Kolivakis
Leo Kolivakis's picture

You guys are reading way too much into the ECRI's drop:

U.S. Watch

The Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI) weekly leading index (WLI) of GDP growth in the U.S. registered a fourth decline in a row at the end of May, reaching a 43-week low. Some market participants have argued that this greatly increases the likelihood of a “double dip” scenario in the U.S. We do not agree. First, the growth rate of the WLI on a three month basis is volatile and often leads to false signals even in an expansion phase. Second, the institute is also far from drawing this conclusion: “There is no strict meaning for each value of the growth rate of the WLI…what is important is whether the move is significant according to the « 3 Ps » criteria (how pronounced, persistent and pervasive is the rise/fall compared to past cyclical moves)’’. As today’s Hot Chart shows, the growth in the smoothed WLI  has decelerated to zero but this phenomenon has been observed in each of the past recoveries without any exception (green arrows). Therefore, the recent trend in the WLI does not necessarily reflect an imminent weakness in activity. In order to call a recession, the smoothed WLI needs to be negative and for a long period of time. Needless to say we prefer the slope of the yield curve as a leading indicator of a possible downturn. At +240 basis points, the odds of a double dip scenario are very low. Before crying wolf, at least give the Fed a chance to start normalizing monetary policy. Right now, real rates are still in the abyss.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:40 | 408504 Joe Shmoe
Joe Shmoe's picture

Looks to me like we have two of the three p's they say they need: pronounced and pervasive.  All we need, according to the article you posted, is pervasive. And, before we go putting too much on this ECRI quote, last week on Bloomberg, ECRI's spokesman said that the JOCSIND commodities index trend is very negative and that we have to get used to it.  I like your style Leo, but I think your half-full glass has only a third in it.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 14:10 | 408559 ghostfaceinvestah
ghostfaceinvestah's picture

Hasn't the yield curve in Japan been positive for decades?

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 18:19 | 409037 Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Japanese women love yields!

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 03:40 | 409471 jeff montanye
jeff montanye's picture

ghost i think you make an excellent point.  the u.s. positive/negative yield curve history is biased, imo, by the prevalence of fed-desired slow downs/recessions.  this is clearly not fed desired.  but might it still be a slow down/recession based on economic forces more powerful than the (fiscally strapped, short-term interest rate reduction spent) u.s. govt/treserve?  very possibly.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 14:24 | 408582 Hungry For Knowledge
Hungry For Knowledge's picture

WIth all due respect, economists look at slopes of lines more that just absolute values (ie, how did we get to a -3.4% reading?  At a leisurely pace, or an almost frantic, direct drop from substantially higher levels......look at the slope, Leo.  It's almost vertical negative slope for several months.  Prior years had a gentle downdraft (seen in the top 10 year historical chart).  The slope of this line is what I would call a "negative parabolic curve"

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 14:51 | 408637 SwapThis
SwapThis's picture

Another interestin

g chart, via David Rosenberg

The ECRI not only leads but is also more timely than the ISM since the data are released weekly and the index covers the whole economy, not just manufacturing.

We divided the ECRI into four different phases:

1. From the trough to zero (coming out of recession).
2. From zero to the peak (“sweet spot” of the cycle — from the end of the recession to the cycle peak in growth).
3. From the peak back to zero (past the peak in growth; economy slows but not back in recession).
4. Zero back to the negative trough (heading back into recession).

Sure looks to me we are going to go significantly below zero Leo, do you disagree?

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 14:53 | 408643 Rick64
Rick64's picture

Before crying wolf, at least give the Fed a chance to start normalizing monetary policy. Right now, real rates are still in the abyss.

 The FED? Yea they got a good track record. How many chances do they want this time?

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 15:09 | 408688 Assetman
Assetman's picture

Before crying wolf, at least give the Fed a chance to start normalizing monetary policy. Right now, real rates are still in the abyss.

Real rates have been in the abyss for over 15 months now... and we're getting a leading indicators that are PLUNGING.

Either those indicators are going to turn around any day now... or the extreme "liquidity" measures taken by the Fed over the last 15 months are wearing off-- big-time.

Either way, we're in for slower economic activity... and reduced profit expectations.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 15:16 | 408698 ghostfaceinvestah
ghostfaceinvestah's picture

Right on.  Note that a lot of economic indicators, including the stock market, started heading down once QE1 was starting to wrap up - the MBS program "ended" in March, but a lot of MBS still settled in April and May (and a tiny bit is still settling).

Bottom line is, without the Fed pumping cash into the economy, it will whither on the vine as debt deflation takes over.

QE2 is a near certainty, the only uncertainty is the timing and magnitude.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 17:51 | 409005 chinaguy
chinaguy's picture

"QE2 is a near certainty"......go long financials?

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 16:29 | 408850 Leo Kolivakis
Leo Kolivakis's picture

Slower growth, yes, but not a double-dip recession. Learn to distinguish between a recession, and a moderation of growth.

Sun, 06/13/2010 - 08:30 | 410420 Hungry For Knowledge
Hungry For Knowledge's picture

growth is now negative, at -3.4%.  That is a precursor to negative GDP growth, negative earnings growth, as the readings are now truly negative (not just "slowing").


Mon, 06/14/2010 - 13:27 | 412843 Assetman
Assetman's picture

Every lower data point on the ECRI increases the chances of a double dip, Leo.

I'm way ahead of you on the difference between a moderation of growth and a recession.  In many cases, the former leads to the latter.  Unless the weekly readings on the ECRI change for the better real soon, a double dip is pretty much guaranteed.

You might want to learn that linkage, dude. 

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 22:57 | 409337 AndrewWJewell
AndrewWJewell's picture

horay, Leo is here and is too amazingly, he's seemed to turn bullish; all aboard ....... Rock on Leo

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 07:57 | 409539 Snidley Whipsnae
Snidley Whipsnae's picture

" Before crying wolf, at least give the Fed a chance to start normalizing monetary policy. Right now, real rates are still in the abyss."

...and real rates are going to remain in the abyss for a long, long time. Think about what would happen to the FIRE sector if rates were raised a couple of percentage points.

...and consider how many more mortgages would be instantly under water.

...would Obama's plan to double exports be helped by raising rates a couple of percent.

...if you think there is any chance of a Fed rate hike in the next couple of years you should send me some of whatever you are ingesting or inhaling...thanks in advance.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:27 | 408468 vote_libertaria...
vote_libertarian_party's picture

My recession times for the 70's is fuzzy.  But look at the early 80', 90's, 00's and 07/08 on the chart.  Negative values AND a recession.

Negative ECRI = recession.


so buy buy buy those equities you Cramer clones

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:29 | 408472 sheep92
sheep92's picture

Being a ZH acolyte I understand that the world is diving headlong into a depression at breathtaking speed.  One thing I am confused about is the airline index ($xal).  I had been taught that it was a highly cyclical industry extremely sensitive to economic swings and outlook.  Could someone perhaps explain to a neophyte why it is within 2 points of a 52 week high?  Most confusing.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:31 | 408480 Bananamerican
Bananamerican's picture

Goin out on a limb here.....


Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:36 | 408488 Remington IV
Remington IV's picture

1973-1974 ... the good old days


Tricky Dick .....   Nobama Obama

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:36 | 408489 Rogerwilco
Rogerwilco's picture

The only thing propping up this "recovery" is 11% deficit spending and some foolish RE investments made by people who actually believed we had a bottom in place. The markets are way smarter than all of us and they are showing a big move into cash. Deflation is our future and we will have it in spades until all this rancid, rotten debt is removed from balance sheets, public and private.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:48 | 408521 I need more asshats
I need more asshats's picture

Past performance is NO indication of future performance. This is a whole new methodology this time around. It's going to work.

Thick walled bubbles for every sovereign nation who follow the plan.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 18:27 | 409049 aaronvelasquez
aaronvelasquez's picture

We have the new reinforced bubbles from the Shenzou factory.

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 05:10 | 409500 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

If those bubbles have gold armor-plating, then I'm in favor!

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 14:15 | 408568 DoctoRx
DoctoRx's picture

The smoothed WLI growth rate of -3.5% (and dropping) is identical to that of one year ago.  Look where SPY was then.  And the absolute # of the WLI is where it was around the beginning of August one year ago.  Some comment for SPY (and QQQQ).

Why shouldn't we expect the averages to continue to trend back to levels of one year ago?

Sun, 06/13/2010 - 08:47 | 410428 Hungry For Knowledge
Hungry For Knowledge's picture

Just wanted to post the dataseries are right, one year ago we were -3.5% growth.  Notice how in 2009 we were accelerating and had just hit -3.5, while this year we are slowing and just hit -3.5% growth.

27-Feb-09  105.5 -24.0 6-Mar-09  105.2 -23.9 13-Mar-09  105.6 -24.0 20-Mar-09  106.0 -23.4 27-Mar-09  106.4 -22.4 3-Apr-09  107.4 -21.0 10-Apr-09  107.4 -19.7 17-Apr-09  107.6 -18.5 24-Apr-09  108.2 -17.2 1-May-09  109.7 -15.7 8-May-09  111.4 -13.5 15-May-09  111.6 -11.2 22-May-09  112.7 -8.7 29-May-09  114.3 -6.2 5-Jun-09  116.4 -3.5 12-Jun-09  117.3 -0.5 19-Jun-09  118.1 2.4 26-Jun-09  118.1 4.6 3-Jul-09  119.3 6.3 10-Jul-09  118.2 7.2 17-Jul-09  118.8 8.0 24-Jul-09  120.3 9.4 31-Jul-09  122.4 11.2 7-Aug-09  124.9 14.6 14-Aug-09  125.6 18.0 21-Aug-09  125.3 20.5 28-Aug-09 125.8 22.3


Fri, 06/11/2010 - 15:18 | 408705 Cursive
Cursive's picture

Meh.  Econometrics has proven to be about as valid as astrology, maybe less so.  And ECRI is the outfit with that Laksman character.  Very shift, that one.  Everytime I see him I think, "Chrome Dome."  I don't need a group of pointy-headed intellectuals, who happen to be ignoring their own data, to tell me that things are bad and getting worse.  Talk to a real estate broker, check out the rollbacks at Wal-Mart, get some quotes on a triple net lease.  Everything says down from here, except the stock market.  BTW, ECRI's metrics are HEAVILY dependent on stock market values and M2.  For those unfamiliar with M2, it ain't gonna save housing, ergo the banks.

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 18:47 | 409903 Hungry For Knowledge
Hungry For Knowledge's picture

Consumer Metrics Institute does not measure the stock market at all, and measures consumer purchases on discretionary spending on a DAILY basis.....and their numbers correspond 100% to the ECRI slope/rate of descent - they are right on, leading the gov't LEading Economic INdicators by 120 days when back-testing their data......and are at a  -1% GDP growth for the 3rd quarter right now, -2% for 4Q 2010.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 16:59 | 408917 OutLookingIn
OutLookingIn's picture

This is a very interesting graph #2, one more piece of the puzzle falls into place. If the ECRI takes 24 - 36 months (72 to 75) to take it's next dive, then this will be approx. June 2012 or 2013.

At which time;

1/ The 120 year 'Epoch cycle' touches down.

2/ The 60 year 'Kondratieff wave' hits bottom.

3/ The 30 year 'Kusnet cycle' comes home.

4/ The 10 year 'Jugler cycle' bottoms.

5/ The  6 year 'Kithin cycle' bottoms.

Mind you, this is all just so much technical "mumbo jumbo". Or? Then again... CBAHS!M. (could be a holy s**t! moment) 

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 18:39 | 409060 Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

The Mayans must have not only been amazing astrologers, but also economists!

"Hey Kuitclawack, smoke this."  "Yes, <cough cough> thank you."  "So you know how we figured out that the stars would align and what not in 2012?"  "Oh shit mayne, <cough cough> that is some good herb....yeah what about it?"  "Well, your uncle was looking at his crystal ball, and he saw that the people ruling the world at that time are going to fuck everything up monetarily!"  "No shit?!"  "Yeah.  They are going to fall from the gold standard, and use a ponzi scheme instead."  "What numbsculls."

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 13:20 | 409730 RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

"Numbskulls" is an anachronism, they would not have used that term.  This term was not used until the Age of The 3 Stooges

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 19:00 | 409092 slingshot
slingshot's picture

Seems like economic numbers are not relevant to equity markets.   GS JPM can move futures up 2% overnight on no volume then continue the push to 3% during regular hours.  They have done this each time dow breaks 10k.  What is to prevent them from continuing this action to stop another large selloff and keep markets stable perpetually?

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 04:04 | 409478 jeff montanye
jeff montanye's picture

belief in the omnipotence of the fed is, perhaps, a crucial component in the bullish sentiment necessary for a major equity bear decline to occur (like whatever bricks compose the wall of worry-gold is in a bubble, you can't eat it, it has little economic use, the central and bullion banks are opposed-required for major bull advances).  somehow there is always a slope of hope sufficient for the slide.

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 08:10 | 409546 Snidley Whipsnae
Snidley Whipsnae's picture

"What is to prevent them from continuing this action to stop another large selloff and keep markets stable perpetually?"

Fed balance sheet headed north (think another round of QE) will eventually cause more currency flight into commodities, especially PMs, and investors to demand more interest to hold US Treasuries. Continued Fed printing will eventually cause dollar to crash against other bs fiat currencies plus massive inflation which will be exported to CBs holding dollars. Oil priced in dollars will take off higher. Lots of bad things can happen with Fed printing. 

Most do not get the disconnect at the last G20 when US wants to continue QE and Europe wants to tighten. Huge disconnect there.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 23:25 | 409355 Kina
Kina's picture

Maybe the Fed intends buying the whole market. The public buy and sell on the melt up until such time everyone has their cash and is out of the market and the Fed transferred trillions to the public. Only thing to remember, don't buy back in.

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