Archive for August, 2012

Baba Ramdev’s Great Revelation

August 14, 2012 3 comments

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Salvaging the UPA Gravy Train Wreck

August 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Salvaging the UPA Gravy Train Wreck


In our last article, Shaelja and I detailed the veritable explosion of government subsidies between 2004-05, when this UPA government took control, and 2011/12.  The following chart makes that obvious at a glance.


Subsidies in 000s of crores


Between the years 2004-05 and 2011-12, total subsidies grew by a whopping 396% while the GDP increased by a more modest 75%.  When this government assumed charge, subsidies were a modest 1.74% of GDP.  They currently amount to an unsustainable 4.91% of GDP.  Clearly, subsidies have to be cut drastically if bankruptcy on the external and internal debt front is to be avoided.  Is this politically feasible must be the key question agitating the minds of the politicians.  Elections are due in 2014.  Between now and elections, either the ruling party has to put its house in order this year, or postpone reforms to after elections for the next government.  Should reforms be postponed to after elections, it should be obvious the next government will have a huge mess on its hands, with little reserves and no room for maneuver.  Therefore, it is in the interest of all politicians, ruling and opposition who hope to grab power in the next elections, to resolve the mess here and now.   How can it be done?


Contrary to the general impression created by our flawed political discourse, most of the incremental subsidies over the levels prevailing at the end of 2004-05 have gone to the well off middle class, rich and the corporate sector.  Subsidies to the poor grew from R25.4 thousand crores to R90.8 thousand crores and at the end of 2011/12 amounted to no more than 1.74% of GDP.  In contrast, subsidies to the rich and corporate sector grew from R28.89 thousand crores to R165.48 thousand crores amounting to over 3.17% of GDP at the end of 2011/12.  Clearly, it is not welfare program for the poor that have led to the explosion in subsidies.  Instead, it is the unwillingness to raise administered prices of goods like petroleum based fuels and fertilizers that antagonize the middle class that have ballooned the subsidy bill.  Political pusillanimity in the face of the powerful, rather than philanthropy for the poor, is the real malaise that grips this government.


A glance at the composition of subsidies at the end of 2011-12 makes the steps necessary to resolve the mess obvious.


Subsidies in 000s of crores, 2011-12











Only about R4000 crores of the subsidies on petroleum based fuels go to the poor BPL families.  The rest, amounting to R68.44 thousand crores go the middle and upper classes; people with a marginal savings rate of 30% or more.  Surely, this class of people can pay the economic cost of fuels they use much like their counter-parts in poor countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan.  There is absolutely no economic case for subsidizing petroleum based fuels to anybody except the BPL families.


Fertilizer subsidies comprise two parts.  One half is an outright production subsidy to urea manufacturers.  That this subsidy goes to farmers is mere convenient fiction.  With fully depreciated plants, manufacturers have no economic case for continuation of such subsidies.  The other half comprises import subsidies to DAP [Diammonium Phosphate] fertilizers where local production is minimal.  There is global shortage of DAP due to depleting reserves of Phosphates that is never going to go away.  Farmers in any case are given a cost based support price for their produce.  It is far better for government to cutoff subsidies to manufacturers and importers and to instead compensate farmers through higher support prices.  A onetime adjustment in food prices is not inflationary.  In fact it will be deflationary.  Prices will soon settle down and in the long run inflation will come down.


No reform can happen unless it benefits the ruling party.  Such is the utter cussedness of our politicians and political system.  So is there some way that a skilled politician like Sonia Gandhi can be made to see direct self-interest in reforms?  Consider.


Recall that one of the key reasons for UPA’s victory at the last polls was the bank loan write offs given to farmers.  Can something like that be worked out without increasing net subsidy?  It turns out that you can have a strategy to win 2014 polls through reforms although it means hard work and high political risk.  So let us examine this strategy.


The strategy involves the following steps pursued by Sonia Gandhi.  In the ruling party only she has the stature to pull it off successfully and it is in her interest to see this through to completion anyway.


  1. 01.  SG should put the full weight of her political authority, in party and government, to implement the Adhar Scheme in manner that payment of subsidies to farmers and BPL families in, at least a few of the Congress ruled States, becomes feasible well before 2014 elections.  Just cut through the bureaucratic infighting and make the UID based scheme for payment of subsidies directly to beneficiaries in cash happen.  Once the poor and the farmers see actual cash in their bank accounts, all argument will cease.  This is the pay off for Congress in its real support base.
  2. 02.  The subsidies to be paid directly to beneficiaries should include food, fuel, and in the case of farmers, urea based fertilizers.  All subsidies to urea manufacturers should be phased out.  Subsidies to DAP importers can continue till a mechanism is designed to pay farmers directly or the cost of the same is included in minimum support price mechanism for food crops.
  3. 03.  Remove all petroleum based subsidies except 1, or at most 2, cylinders per family.  Make consumer pay full price for the LPG and credit the subsidy for the same directly to their bank account.  Consumers who want the subsidy should be asked to fill out a form based on their voter’s card or UID when available to claim the subsidy.  Likewise, self-employed transport operators who oppose reduction in diesel subsidies, should be offered a fixed subsidy in cash for a certain amount of diesel payable into their bank account.  For the rest everybody should pay the economic price of all fuels.

Note, if the government can knock off R68 thousand crores of fuel subsidies and about R25 thousand crores of fertilizer subsidies, the total subsidy bill comes down to R163 thousand crores which is about 3.1% of 2011/12 GDP.


Should SG be able to push through the UID scheme and have it implemented in a few Congress ruled states, something entirely feasible given the time frame, she has a good chance of not only eliminating fuel subsidies but also implementing her pet Food Security Bill that she hopes will fetch her more votes.


SG will have realized by now that her NAC based agenda, right or wrong, was defeated by simply crowding out the poor by the middle class and the rich snouts at the subsidy trough.  She can push back vigorously using the UID as a tool to focus sharply on the poor and eliminate needless subsidies to the well off. Direct cash payments will empower and enthuse the poor like nothing else.  So the Congress gets a rich harvest of votes.  And the total subsidy bill will have come down from close to 5% of GDP at present to something like 3% of GDP which will give our economy some breathing space to reform and restructure for more sustainable growth.  UID, and elimination of petroleum subsidies, is her key to the next election.


Pertinent to note that in case SG and the Congress do not pick up the courage to take the above steps now, the government that takes over in 2014, will have little option but to take these steps anyway.  In other words, for us voters the real choice is between the government doing it now or after elections in 2014.  The earlier the better.  Subsidies are a cancer gnawing away at the vitals of our economy.


Growth in subsidies under UPA



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The UPA Gravy Train Wreck

August 13, 2012 Leave a comment

The UPA Gravy Train Wreck


Between the years 2004-05, when the UPA took charge at the Center, and 2011-12, a span of 7 years, out of every incremental Rupee generated by the country as GDP, 9 paisa, or a little over 9%, has been given away as subsidy by this government.  No, this is not a poor joke.  A full 9%, if not more, of all incremental output over the last 7 years, is now being disbursed as subsidies to some lobby group or the other.  How can any country survive such profligacy and for how long?


But first let us consider the numbers themselves which are given in the attached spreadsheet.  Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the GDP grew by a little over 75%.  The growth rate during the period, a shade under 9% in real terms, was truly respectable.  However, in the same period, subsidies to various groups, detailed in the attached sheet, grew by a little under 396%. Yes 396% against the growth in GDP of just 75%!  At the end of 2004-05, total subsidies as a %age of GDP stood at 1.74% a respectably “safe & sustainable” level that the UPA government inherited from NDA.  By 2011-12, subsidies had shot up to 4.9% of GDP.  Note India went bankrupt in 1990 when subsidies reached almost 3.5% of GDP.  We are already at nearly 5% of GDP.


The above figures do not include hard-to-calculate cross-subsidies such as those given to farmers on power, under recoveries of service charges in Government services and mispricing of such resources as water to households and farmers.  If these are taken into account, the subsidies would be much larger than the figures given here.  The enormous distortion in general prices by such a high level of subsidies is simply mind boggling.


As noted earlier, the UPA government inherited a fairly low and sustainable level of gross subsidies and fiscal deficit from its predecessor NDA government.  The mess that we are in is therefore entirely due to the utterly irresponsible way in which the UPA has cravenly caved in to demands for handouts from various pressure groups.  What is astounding is that almost 10% of all incremental output from the economy over the last 7 years is being doled out as a handout to some claimant or the other. Why has the UPA government been so supine to pressure groups given that it is the one that claims to be for reforming the economy and cutting out subsidies?  What went wrong?


Before you can answer that question let us take a look at what these subsidies are and whom do these subsidies go to.

As at the end of 2004-05, subsidies totaled R51,614 crores and were  1.74% of GDP made up of the following items.


By the end of year 2011-12, subsidies had grown by a whopping 396% from R51,614 crores to R256,296 Crores.  As a percentage of GDP, subsidies grew from 1.74% of GDP to 4.91% of GDP.  They were made up of the following items.


Note the change in composition carefully.  Petroleum subsidies which were negligible at the end of 2004-05 grew to 27% of total subsidies in 2011-12.  While food subsidies, which were 47.50% of the total subsidies in 2004-05, shrank, yes decreased, to just 28.4% of total subsidies in 2011-12.  In terms of composition of subsidies, the supposedly pro-poor UPA government has been shrinking food subsidies to the poor and substituting them with subsidies on fuel for the middle and upper middle classes!


Note just about R3500 crores is spent on fuel subsidies to below the poverty line families, and over the years, this figure is shrinking.  Most of the petroleum subsidy, now totaling R68,481 crores goes to the middle & upper classes including diesel subsidy to transport operators who by no means can be classified as poor.  Likewise, much of the fertilizer subsidy goes to the corporate sector, be it as production subsidy to urea manufacturers or to DAP importers.  If the subsidy were really intended for farmers, this can and should go directly to farmers but by design it doesn’t reach there.  For this analysis, we have assumed about 65% of the food subsidy goes to the actual poor rather than leaking to the middle class.  Note, of all the subsidies, only employment assurance does not “leak” if implemented honestly.  Government pretends it isn’t subsidy in the first place.  But the effort hardly creates any assets and leak it does albeit through corruption.  But we have assumed all of it does go to the poor.


On the above basis, as at the end of 2004-05, the subsidies were split as under among the poor and the rich, including the corporate sector.  Note subsidies to the corporate sector eventually end up as dividends to shareholders who aren’t poor.


Note, a little less than half the subsidy as at the end of 2004-05 did reach the poor.  Below is the data pertaining to 2011-12; UPA’s gorgeous pro-poor record in its entire splendor.


Lo and behold the UPA magic.  The share of the poor, in whose name all subsidy is created by liberal bleeding hearts, has shrunk from a little under half to just about a third.  Mind, total subsidy during the period grew by 396% and the share of the poor shrank from half to one-third!  What of the well off?  As usual they had smuggled themselves into the subsidy trough under the guise of the ubiquitous “common man” to grab over two-thirds of all subsidy after it had nearly quadrupled from the level prevailing in 2004-05.  Yet this very class of people is on twitter screaming itself hoarse about inordinate increase in food subsidies for the poor or the inequity of MNREGA.  Hypocrisy thy name is our vocal middle class.


Sonia Gandhi, and her Marxist kitchen cabinet at the National Advisory Council, may note that they have been roundly beaten in the subsidy game by the government using the guise of “common man”.  While MNREGA and Food Security Act etc require positive acts of Parliament to get through, open ended subsidies like petroleum and fertilizer need positive acts from Government to check.  If government does nothing, as is UPA’s wont, petroleum & fertilizer subsidies will increase merrily while Food Security Act languishes.  NAC has been outflanked by crowding it out of the subsidy trough.


We do not support open ended subsidies of any kind, be it food or unemployment mitigation schemes.  Subsidies should be merely a way of supporting people in training to integrate them into the mainstream economy.  Farmers can well be compensated for higher fertilizer costs through higher support prices for produce.  The reason this is not done is simply because the corporate sector would be deprived of its nest egg in the shape of assured post tax returns on net worth.  Similar is the case of petroleum subsidies and assured post-tax returns to refineries.  While it is difficult to explore the ridiculousness of the government’s assured post-tax return on net worth here, we may note that the formula is open-ended in time.  If a fertilizer plant or refinery’s entire plant is depreciated in say 10 to 15 years, then the subsidy on the same should also end in a similar period of time.  Instead, the subsidy continues in perpetuity!  That is the dirty little secret of assured post-tax return and why the corporate sector loves the scheme.  One wonders why the government has not woken up to the implications.


Subsidies need to be brought down to about 1.50% of GDP immediately if we are to avoid bankruptcy.  The government itself promises to bring subsidies down to 1.90% by the end of 2013.  How that may be accomplished with a looming draught and falling growth rate is uncertain.  We will return to this topic in another article.


Time Sonia Gandhi, government and the opposition, woke up to the imminent disaster.  Subsidies now total 4.90% of GDP and about 10% of all incremental output is being eaten up by subsidies.  If reforms are not forced through, and petroleum subsidies cut to zero forthwith, the country does not have the reserves to last beyond 2013/14.  Who-so-ever takes over government in 2014 will have a bankrupt economy with no latitude for any maneuver.  If we do not reform now, UPA will follow a scorched earth strategy in the ensuing election year in a bid to garner as many seats as possible.  So it is in the interest of all parties, no matter who wins 2014, to reform now and compete for votes on some other basis.  Stalling reforms is not an option any more.


Growth in subsidies under UPA

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MARKET NOTES: The US equity markets look toppish

August 12, 2012 Leave a comment

MARKET NOTES: The US equity markets look toppish.









As mentioned in the last post, Gold was expected to continue its pullback to the vicinity of $1660 area on the charts, which it did all through last week, closing the week at $1617.14 after making a high of $1626.


The pullback can continue next week.  The metal’s 200 DMA, now sloping down, is in the $1650 area while its 50 DMA is at $1600, with the metal price sandwiched between the two.  The pullback over the ensuing week could test $1650 or even attempt a false breakout to the top.  It is unlikely to convince anybody but the most gullible.


Wave counts show Gold continues in a fierce bear grip.  The last leg of the correction down can begin anytime after the next week or two.  Investors should avoid going long in the metal for now.  The downside target for the last leg of the correction could be much lower than $1550.



Crude [$WTIC]:






WTI Crude is in a very strong upswing in the early stages of what promises to be a fairly stretched out rally from its recent low of $77.50.


Crude closed the last week at $92.87 after having made a high of $94.72, which was a notch above its 200 DMA, which currently stands at $93.60.  The fact crude did not hold above its 200 DMA is hardly material at this stage since such things take more than 3 or 4 attempts usually.  Crude could find support on the way down around its 50 DMA, which stands at $89.25.  Crude is unlikely to get there and may rally much before that in an attempt to take out its 200 DMA again.  Crude remains a buy at all dips.




Dollar Index [$USD]:




The US Dollar has been correcting since its recent high of 84.10 made on 23rd July.  It closed the last week at 82.63 just atop its 50 DMA, which currently stands at 82.5480.


The Dollar’s 200 DMA is at 80.618 and in the current correction this area could be tested over the next two weeks.  The support is unlikely to be breached given the Dollar’s long-term bullishness.  On the other hand, a rally beyond 83 to the topside is unlikely.


Dollar would be a strong buy in the vicinity of its 200 DMA.  The 81.50 area is also a region of strong support for the Dollar.  Position traders should look for drops to supports to buy.




Euro$ [FXE]: 





The Euro’s failure to rally beyond 1.2750 in June betrayed great weakness in the currency.  It has been correcting since then and made a low of 1.2040, where it found support and rallied to 1.2450.  Euro closed the week at 1.2289.


The counter-trend rally in the Euro, jagged and weak as it is, is not over yet in my opinion.  The Euro could find support around 1.2200 and attempt a rally from there to 1.2450 and perhaps even beyond that.  However, any rally in Euro would be short-lived and subject to violent corrections.  While not bullish on the Euro, shorts should be avoided until the downtrend resumes and is confirmed.










The Dollar continued to consolidate in the Indian market between 55 and 55.50 over the last week.  It closed at R55.28.


My wave counts indicate the Dollar should rally from these levels to retest 57 in the near future.  Note that all through the current correction the Dollar has tested the 54 region only once.  I would have liked to see a more rigorous test of the region.


The probability of retest of 54 has now receded in terms of time.  The Dollar remains a buy at all dips in the Indian market.


A fall below 54.25 would invalidate my analysis.  A break above 56 will almost certainly confirm the prognosis.  Expect big moves towards the end of the week.










S&P 500 [SPX]: 





The S&P 500 index closed last week at 1405.98.  As expected, SPX cleared the 1390 resistance level fairly easily and then had a shy at 1405 level.  The next resistance lies at the previous top of 1422.  Will that be attempted and taken out over the next week or two?


Wave counts indicate two things quite clearly.  Firstly, there is little scope for the SPX to go anywhere beyond 1420 at this stage.  It could take a shy at that level but what lies beyond that?  Secondly, in terms of time, the rally from the recent low of 1266.74 is almost exhausted and a correction is due any day now.


In my opinion SPX is now toppish and traders should look for opportunities to establish short positions at every rally with a stoploss placed in the 1425 to 1430 region.




Sensex [$BSE]:







The Sensex’s 50 DMA once again pierced the 200 DMA on the daily charts generating a bullish buy signal.  It has given such signals before that turned out to be false breakouts.  Is it real this time?


In terms of wave counts, the signal could be spurious.  The Sensex could continue to correct over the next week.  It has multiple supports spanning between 17,000, 16500 and 15,500.


How far down the index goes is impossible to say.  Ideally one would like to see it go all the way to 15,500 before September end.  That may yet happen.  On the other hand, the market could stop short of that mark and stage a rally to 19,000 and then come down over a stretched out correction that follows.  The latter would give the market more time to catch up with fundamentals.


Either way, am not particularly bullish on the market overall.  But it bears noting that we are pretty much towards the end of a bear market in terms of wave counts and these are times to accumulate blue chips, not sell.  Look for buying opportunities without chasing stocks.



Shanghai Composite [$SSEC]:





The Shanghai Composite Index [SSEC] turned up from 2100 instead of the earlier low of 2130 more or less indicating that the Chinese market has put in low in that region.  The index closed the week at 2168.81.


The index has time enough to come back and retest 2100 before the end of August and could well do that over the next few weeks.  On the other hand, its 50 DMA stands at 2205.  That would be the first major resistance to cross in a rally.  It may be time to accumulate Chinese blue chips as well.



NB: These notes are just personal musings on the world market trends as a sort of reminder to me on what I thought of them at a particular point in time. They are not predictions and none should rely on them for any investment decisions.



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BPL Mobile Cross-connections

August 11, 2012 Leave a comment

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Modi’s Fair Exchange Offer

August 9, 2012 Leave a comment

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MARKET NOTES: The Fed did not add to the central bank created liquidity

August 5, 2012 Leave a comment

MARKET NOTES:  The Fed did not add to the central bank created liquidity.



Gold [$GOLD]: 






Gold continues in its complex correction and is currently compressing between $1530 on the downside and $1660 on the upside.  As mentioned last week Gold has the potential to test its 200 DMA area currently centered on $1660 and even nick it thereby triggering a “breakout”.  However, the wave counts indicate such a breakout, while possible, would be false breakout and the downtrend would resume shortly thereafter.


Gold closed the week at $1603 after making a low of $1586 which is its 50 DMA.  Expect Gold to drift slowly towards the $1660 area over the ensuing week.  However, in the intermediate term, the correction in the metal has sometime to run and is far from over.  Note however, that the charts indicate substantial short-covering is taking place around $1550.  Not bullish on the metal.


Silver [$SILVER]:



As mentioned in the last post, Silver is in an orderly pullback mode and should drift towards the target of $31 in the next few months albeit with fairly sharp corrections on the way.  Silver made a high of $28.4 last week, corrected down sharply to $26.94 and then closed the week at $27.10.  Expect similar jerky drift over the next few months towards $31.  Unless you are a compulsive trader, better to stay away from the metal over the next few months.


WTI Crude [$WTIC]:


Crude made a high of $92.94 the week before last, had an orderly correction down to $87 and then spiked up on Friday to close the week at $91.40.  Crude’s price action after the low of $77.28 on 28th June is very bullish.


Crude’s 200 DMA is in the $94 area.  Over the next week, expect crude to pierce through its $92 resistance to challenge $94 and the 200 DMA.  While not expecting a breakout at the first attempt, I continue to be bullish on crude.  On a break above $92, expect crude to consolidate between $90 and $94 for a while before moving up again.


Once crude breaks atop its 200 DMA convincingly, the slight hope that still animates India bulls will be squelched as the government continues to dither on petroleum price pass through.  Government of India has been subsisting on curious brand of “hopium” since 2004 when crude prices took off.  8 years of dithering have not taught it any lessons on the futility of hoping for reduction in crude prices.  Wonder when it will wake up to the new normal in commodity prices and debasement of the Dollar.


Dollar Index [$USD]: 



As mentioned in the last post, the Dollar is in correction and consolidation mode after a very long bullish run.  After having made a top of 84.2646 the week before last, the index moved down to close last week at 82.46 with sharp corrections in between.  Expect similar jerky drift down to continue in the ensuing week with the ultimate target of 81.  Not bearish on the Dollar in the long-term.  What we are seeing is a short-term correction in a normal bullish uptrend.


Incidentally, the Dollar Index 50 DMA is in the 82.50 area while 200 DMA is approaching the 81 area.  Both could offer support to the correcting index.


Euro$ [FXE]:



As mentioned in the last post, the Euro found an intermediate term bottom at 1.2040 on 24th July and is in a pullback from there.  This upward correction in the Euro may continue for a while.  During the week, Euro made a high of 1.24 and then corrected sharply down to 1.2132 before closing the week at 1.2385.


With this we can say that the bottom of 1.20 was retested during the week and the Euro held ground well above it.  A break above 1.24, the next resistance level will see the Euro aim for 1.2750 the next major resistance, albeit with sharp corrections on the way.  Barring corrections, expect a fairly strong upward bias in the value of the Euro over the next few weeks.





I was expecting the $ to come down and retest the R54 region before moving up again.  However, the $ made a low of R54.18 on 3rd July and followed that up with a series of higher tops and bottoms without really testing the R54 region again.  That could be interpreted as a bullish sign but I am not very comfortable with that interpretation.


Nevertheless, in terms of wave counts and time, we have run out of room for a correction down to the R54 region.  In the ensuing week the $ could drift up against the Rupee.  The first target on the upside is 56.50 followed by the previous top at 57.50.  While not expecting a new high at the first attempt, the possibility does exist.  Don’t be short the Dollar in the Indian market in the near term.   Whether or not the $ goes parabolic against will be know only after the $ retests the 57.50 region.



S&P 500 [SPX]:



The S&P 500 continued its incredible gravity defying act last week making unexpected highs despite sharp corrections.  The index closed at 1390.99 last week not far from its previous top at 1422.65.  The index has multiple resistances between 1390 and 1420 the first being at 1400 and the next at 1410.  The possibility of the index taking a shy at its previous top can’t be ruled out.  Whether it can sustain a break atop 1420 is a different matter.


It is hard to be bullish at this stage in the rally, especially given the sharp corrections and jerky nature of the pullback.  I would rather wait for the market to decide which way it wants to go as it attempts to regain the previous high.  My bias would be to sell at the top of the rally if it fails to make a new high over the next two weeks.  Mind the market could turn down on a dime from here.  Note also that volumes have not favored the up moves and have been decidedly heavier in falling markets.





After making a low of 16,586 on 26th July, the index pulled back to 17,292 before falling again.  The index should continue to drift down with the first target at 16.500 followed by the 15,500 region.  If we are close to a true end of the correction in the Sensex, the index should accelerate its down-trend from here as the destructive tail end of the last impulse wave takes hold.  We have seen no evidence of that happening so far.


While one must recognize that we are towards the end of a long bearish trend, there is little evidence of the capitulation that is necessary for a confirmation to the end.  The next few weeks are crucial for a full capitulation without which it is hard to end such a long bearish spell that we have had.


NB: These notes are just personal musings on the world market trends as a sort of reminder to me on what I thought of them at a particular point in time. They are not predictions and none should rely on them for any investment decisions.

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