Quote of the Day- "From the House's Mouth"
"Usually, there is not enough equity to make it worthwhile. A lot of times, there is not much action. A glut of (auctioned properties) are so highly leveraged there is no room for the investor to pick them up." - Francis Ho of Alameda-based JWI Investment Corp. said Tuesday before entering an unsuccessful bid for a Livermore condo at a Bay Area (Calif.) auction. (Inside Bay Area, Aug. 1st)
Real Estate Sales and House Prices
- Socal Brokerage Sells 48% More Luxury Homes (OC Register, Aug. 1st): "Prudential California Realty says its sales of homes priced at $5 million-plus are up 48% vs. first half of 2006 (123 vs. 83.) The company said this '07 sales burst includes a property in Laguna Beach that went for $31.5 million. Prudential California, has more than 90 offices from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, with a sales staff of 4,600 making nearly $19 billion in sales in 2006. It's owned by famed investor Warren Buffet's HomeServices of America.
- Mass Home Sales Fall In June (Express States, Aug. 1st): "Warren Group: Home sales in June dropped 8.3% from June 2006, and prices fell 4.6%, with the median home price at $334,000… [Condo sales declined] 12.3% [with] a 4.1% drop in the median price, to $280,000… The Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported sales fell 6%, to 4,959 closings last month, compared with 5,276 in June 2006, while the median single family home price fell 1.6%, to $364,000… Condo sales dropped 3.6%, though the median price increased 4.4%, to $296,000… The realtors group tracks only transactions that involve a broker while Warren Group draws from the larger database of court-recorded sales, which include those sold directly by homeowners."
- Massive Housing Demand Here (Ballard News Tribune, July 31st) Seattle: "Building permits for 1,550 new residential units in Ballard have been issued in the past 18 months by Seattle's Department of Planning and Development… Much of that development has been in the form of condominiums and town homes. According to Gunnar Hadley, a realtor with Ballard Windermere, 60% of everything sold here for the first five months of the year were condominiums and town homes. Hadley, who specializes in condo sales, called that an "impressive" statistic… Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Condo sales were up 6.1% compared to 2006 for H1'07 and prices jumped 15.6%.".
- New Study Shows Impact of Government Fees On Home Affordability (Mortgage News Daily, Aug. 1st): "A National Homebuilders Association study looked at what happens to housing affordability in 357 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) when house prices rise… Geographically, overall the study found that using typical assumptions - a 10% down payment, private mortgage insurance, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, local information about property taxes from census data, insurance pricing from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the Insurance Information Institute, and underwriting standards as approved by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae - a $1,000 increase in the median price of a house would price 217,000 households nationally out of the market."
Real Estate Investing and Sentiment
- Fear Is Driving Market Volatility (Chad Brand in Seeking Alpha, Aug. 1st): "Beazer's (NYSE:BZH) book value is $38, but the stock traded as low as $8 Wednesday… This shows you that you can't always trust book values… The actual value of the land may be far below what a company paid for it… I have no plans to [purchase any homebuilders]. They are simply too hard to value… Conversely, when Citigroup (NYSE:C) tells investors that perceived risky loans make up only 5% of their exposure to the credit markets, you can put things into perspective. You can find out what percentage of the big banks' loan portfolios come from mortgages, or investment banking, or sub-prime borrowers… You can make aggressive assumptions and still realize where the overreactions are in today's market environment."
- Hail the Water Taxi (The Real Deal, Aug. 1st): "Brooklyn waterfront development Schaefer Landing, now in its second phase of sales, is one of many properties touting Manhattan ferry service along the East, Hudson and Harlem rivers as an appealing transportation alternative. Some developers, including the trio of companies behind Schaefer Landing--BFC Partners, L & M Equity Participants and Allstate Realty Associates--are paying water taxi operators annual subsidies to guarantee they get docking barges."
- City Unveils Redesign For Brooklyn Park (Crain's NY Business, Aug. 1st): "The city unveiled a design plan for the upcoming $40 million restoration of Brooklyn’s Dreier-Offerman Park… Dreier-Offerman’s restoration is part of more than $1.2 billion devoted to capital improvements in the city’s parks… In addition to the Dreier-Offerman redesign and a $50 million restoration of the McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn, regional parks slated for redevelopment include the Highbridge in Manhattan and the Bronx, Soundview Park in the Bronx, Fort Washington Park in Manhattan, Highland Park Reservoir and Rockaway Beach in Queens and Ocean Breeze Park in Staten Island."
Mortgates and Real Estate Lending
- M&A Update 8-2-07: Accredited Home Lenders Volatility Spikes (AOL Blogging Buyouts, Aug. 2nd): "Accredited Home Lenders (LEND) a mortgage company originating, financing, securitizing, servicing and selling non-prime mortgages, is recently down $2.14 to $6.07. Dow Jones said, "LEND on Thursday filed its delayed 2006 annual report, and raised concerns about its ability to continue to operate as a going concern." Lone Star announced on 6/4/07 it would acquire all of LEND's common stock for roughly $15/share in cash. LEND September option implied volatility is above 225 according to Track Data, suggesting larger risk."
- Applications Decrease in Latest MBA Weekly Survey (Originator Times, Aug. 1st): "Mortgage Bankers Association: For the week ending July 27, 2007, the Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 607.1, a decrease of 0.3% on a seasonally adjusted basis from 609.0 one week earlier... The Refinance Index increased 1.8% to 1724.1 from 1692.9 the previous week and the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 1.8% to 416.6 from 424.2 one week earlier. The seasonally adjusted Conventional Index decreased 0.5% to 887.2 from 892.1 the previous week, and the seasonally adjusted Government Index increased 2.2% to 139.9 from 136.9 the previous week… The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 39.4% of total applications from 38.5% the previous week."
- When Debt Freezes Over (The Slatin Report, Aug. 2nd): "Wachovia's Tony Butler, a director specializing in CDO and CMBS research: Some serious risk factors have taken on elevated profiles in recent weeks: From "systemic risk" – the risk that a larger percentage of assets in a given debt pool will default – to the "growing risk of implied correlation," or the spreading of risk across asset classes... As a result, the credit markets are heading into what may be a sustained repricing period… The slow late-summer trading season, with many traders on vacation, could actually delay the kind of activity needed to eventually create a "more permanent repricing to risk that was mispriced. At present there is almost no lending activity… The market is "extremely illiquid". The clear message is that investors simply will not tolerate the lending standards of 2006… The negative sentiment has already led to some pullback in CMBS issuance. Already headed for a 50% slower pace than last year… "It's difficult to make loans when you don't know where you can sell the liabilities."
- Barclays Says Subprime Risks Won't Reduce 2007 Profit (Bloomberg, Aug. 2nd): "Barclays Plc, the U.K. bank competing to buy ABN Amro Holding NV, posted a 14% increase in first-half net income and said subprime mortgage defaults in the U.S. won't hamper the investment bank this year. Barclays President Robert Diamond: Barclays's first-half profit rose to 2.63 billion pounds ($5.35 billion), or £0.40.1/share, from £2.3b, or £0.35.1, in H1'06. The securities unit, Barclays Capital, will boost profit at least 15% a year through 2008 and has limited risks in subprime mortgages… Growth is decelerating at the investment bank, which boosted profit at half the 66% pace of H1'06. Companywide profit slowed as well from 25% in H1'06."
- HRACU Reports Huge Loss (MLive, Aug. 2nd): "Huron River Area Credit Union reported a $58.9 million loss for the six-month period ended June 30, as the credit union recently put aside more than $61.5m to cover potentially bad loans it made. That compares to a profit of $2.6m at the end of Q2'06, according to financial reports filed with the National Credit Union Administration agency, [which] regulates and insures credit unions… Between 2005-2006, HRACU reported a 61% jump in its loan portfolio. In 2006, according to its restated financial statements, HRACU's total portfolio hit $311m, up from $193m at the end of 2005, riding unprecedented growth in real estate loans. Such growth can be tough to manage, especially now given the state's high foreclosure rate and shaky housing market."
- Bond Insurers Hammered By Subprime Woes (Crain's NY Business, Aug. 1st): "Two companies that specialize in guaranteeing risky bonds… MBIA Inc. and Ambac Financial Group Inc… saw shares tumble Tuesday and Wednesday…. [both] are trading at or near 52-week lows. In an effort to calm frazzled shareholders, MBIA is holding a conference call Thursday morning to discuss its exposure to subprime mortgages… CreditSights: MBIA has about $5 billion of direct subprime mortgage exposure… plus another $114b in other structured finance instruments. Ambac has about $10bof direct subprime exposure… Subprime makes up a small part of both firms’ total insurance portfolios, which is $650b at MBIA and about $550b at Ambac. Both firms have more than $13 billion on their books to pay claims."
- As Countrywide Financial Goes, So Goes the Mortgage Sector (Christopher Whalen in Seeking Alpha, Aug. 1st): "Even with the Q2 bad news, CFC's defaults are still very low and, along with the rest of the mortgage specialization peer group, have a long, long way to go before we hit 20-year averages much less declare a significant "peak" in terms of loan defaults… Of note, the Loss Given Default of CFC's lead unit at the end of Q1'07 (latest data available) was 92%. The LGD has been well above the peer average of around 75% for several years, a troubling metric for a supposedly secure mortgage portfolio… Wachovia Bank (NASDAQ:WB) consistently turns in an LGD around 50-60%... CFC's management team better hope that LGD falls as the bank's default rate climbs in coming months... Bottom line: the unwinding process in the US real estate market has quite a long way to go, years in fact."
- Title Insurer First American Posts Surprise Loss (Reuters, Aug. 2nd): "First American Corp. (NYSE:FAF), one of the nation's largest title insurers, posted a surprise Q2 loss on Thursday... FAF said it added $243.6 million to reserves to cover title policy losses and other claims, reducing net results by $158.3m, or $1.64/share. The company's net loss totaled $66m, or $0.68/share, vs. net income of $25.5m, or $0.26, a year earlier. Results also included a $0.18/share loss for asset write-downs and title branch closures… First American said the higher reserves stemmed mainly from adverse real estate market conditions, "including a significant increase in defaults, foreclosures and mortgage fraud… relating mainly to policies issued from 2004-2006."
- Auctions Of Home Foreclosures On Rise (Inside Bay Area, Aug. 1st): "RealtyTrac: In June, 150 foreclosed homes went [to] auction in Alameda County, vs. 74 a year ago… In Contra Costa… [there were] 408 foreclosed home auctions in June, vs. 70 a year ago. In Solano County, [there were] 216 home auctions in June, up from 44 a year ago, and in San Joaquin County, [there were] 293 [June] home auctions, vs. 62 a year ago… San Mateo County saw 40 foreclosed home auctions vs.10 a year ago… Robert Kramer, foreclosure sales consultant: Most of the homes being offered in Alameda County foreclosure auctions were financed with subprime, no-money down loans… There is little — if any — equity in the properties to attract new buyers."
- Living the American Nightmare (San Francisco Chronicle, July 29th): "After refinancing more than a dozen times over the years to pull out money, the Gardners now owe $454,500 on their [soon-to-be foreclosed Oakland, Calif.] house. Joann Gardner thinks it's probably worth about $350,000… The Gardners' mortgage broker, Apply4Homes says: "They were put in a better situation. Their monthly obligations have been reduced. There were no excessive fees charged on this loan." Argent Mortgage Co.: "Argent is a wholesale lender, [with] no direct interaction with the customer. We deal through independent brokers and they coordinate with their clients. The loan was approved within our underwriting guidelines based on documented income."
Global Impact and Alternatives To The Housing Slump
- Lafarge Second-Quarter Net Rises 17% on Prices, Asia (Bloomberg, Aug 2nd): "Lafarge SA, the world's biggest cement maker, boosted Q2 profit 17% as it raised prices and increased sales to eastern Europe and Asia. Net income jumped to €572 million ($781m), or $0.3.31/share, from €490m, or $0.2.81, a year earlier, the Paris-based company said in a statement today. Sales advanced 2% to €4.69 billion… North America was the only region where quarterly sales fell, crimped by the U.S. housing slump… Lafarge is counting on growth in emerging markets to compensate for declines in North America. The gypsum business will be "strongly impacted by the residential market slowdown'' there, Lafarge says."
- Germany's IKB Has $24-Bln Subprime Exposure-Source (Reuters, Aug. 2nd): "Banks funding the rescue of Germany's IKB expect it to lose up to a fifth of its roughly €17.5 billion ($24b) exposure to the troubled U.S. sub-prime mortgage market, a source familiar with the plan told Reuters on Thursday. German banks have clubbed together to provide €3.5b to cover IKB's potential losses from the sub-prime crisis… IKB's problems last weekend prompted German financial watchdog Bafin to warn a collapse of the bank could trigger Germany's worst financial crisis in more than 75 years."
Macro Impact, And Will The Housing Slump Cause A Recession?
- Housing Slump Also Scuttling Boat Sales (Sign On San Diego, Aug. 1st): "As real estate prices recede, so too do the number of boat buyers. An estimated 58,000 boats will be sold in California this year… 8% less than were sold during 2004, when the housing boom was nearing its peak. Bob Brown, spokesman for the Southern California Marine Association, which tracks statewide boat sales: “In [the boom] years people… were refinancing and buying luxury items like boats… By 2006, that market had pretty much dried up.” Sales will drop about 3% from last year… National Marine Manufacturers Association: U.S. boat sales are projected to be off between 7%-10% from 2004."
- Pending Home Sales Up Nationwide (Inman News, Aug. 1st): "National Association of Realtors: Although the Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in June, was still 8.6% lower than a year ago, it rose 5% to 102.4 from the downwardly revised May index of 97.5. This is the largest monthly gain in more than three years, since a 6.1% increase in March 2004. An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales."
- A Look At U.S. Home Price Performance in 20 Markets (Bespoke Investment in Seeking Alpha, Aug. 1st): "The Composite 10-City and Composite 20-City indices once again saw m/m and y/y declines in May… Some areas continue to show home-price growth. Seattle, Charlotte, Portland, Dallas and Atlanta all showed modest gains in home prices versus a year ago. Detroit saw the biggest declines at 11.06%. One modest m/m gain where people probably didn't expect it was Boston. We also track the CME housing futures that trade off of the Case-Shiller indices to see what traders are expecting for home prices going forward. Based on the contracts expiring in May 2008, traders are looking for further declines across the board. Denver, Miami and Boston are expected to take the biggest hit from current levels, while Chicago, New York and San Francisco are expected to fall the least."
- “This Problem Is Getting Worse. It's Not Getting Better” (NJ Report, Aug. 1st): "Bloomberg: Railroads, chemical producers and insurance companies are blaming the worst U.S. housing slump in 16 years for their earnings woes. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., the second-biggest U.S. railroad, said lower shipments of housing products and lumber reduced Q2 earnings. DuPont Co., the third-largest chemical maker, said slumping demand for kitchen and bathroom countertops was partly responsible for its profit drop. Genworth Financial Inc., the former insurance unit of General Electric Co., said earnings will be at the “lower end” of its forecast this year as mortgage-insurance claims increase."
- Fresno Vows to Help Control Spread of West Nile Virus (KFSN/ABC TV, Aug. 1st): "The West Nile Virus has killed two more people in California. The announcement from the State Health Department came the same day the City of Fresno vowed to prevent the spread of the disease… Tuesday, the Fresno City Council voted to develop a plan that would give them more power to clean up unmaintained pools. City leaders say vacant homes with pools that are no longer being maintained can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes… Abatement officials say there are more abandoned pools because of the increase in foreclosures."
- Housevalues Closing Call Center, Laying Off 100 (Inman News, Aug. 1st): "HouseValues will cut 100 positions and close its Yakima, Washington call center, after Q2 revenues plunged 28% from last year to $16 million and the company posted a Q2 loss. HouseValues said it suffered a net loss from continuing operations of $286,000 during Q2, compared to net income of $2.5m during Q2'06. SEC filing: HouseValues [said] real estate agents have shown a "reduced propensity to invest in marketing" as sales slowed in many major markets. HouseValues operates HouseValues.com, JustListed.com and HomePages.com… With a $74m balance sheet… HouseValues said it will rack up about $1m in expenses to downsize."
- Homeownership Rates Continue to Slip (Builder Online, Aug. 1st): "Census Bureau: The homeownership rate for Q2'07… declined to 68.4% of 110.3 million housing units that are occupied, compared to 68.6% in Q1, 68.7% in Q4'06 and 68.9% in Q3'06… Perhaps even more telling is the recent jump in homeowner vacancy rates, which rose above 2% for the first time in Q1'06, and have gone up sharply this year, to 2.8% in Q1 and 2.6% in the second. Even in the worst days of the past two housing recessions, during the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, homeowner vacancy rates never exceeded 1.8%."
Homebuilders And Housing Stocks
- Beazer Skids, Denies Bankruptcy Talk (Susan Lerner in Seeking Alpha, Aug. 2nd): "Moody's credit officer: "We're confident that what's going on today is much ado about nothing. If anything, [Beazer is] more liquid than they were before and they're coming into their FQ4'07, where they generate the most cash. So we think it's just a bear raid on the company." Beazer also said last week that it had entered into a four-year $500M revolving credit agreement and expected to end the year with more than $300M in cash… Checks of court dockets in Atlanta, where the company is based, New York and Wilmington, Delaware, found no bankruptcy filing for Beazer."
- Jim Cramer's Stop Trading! Stock Picks and Comments 8/1/07 (Miriam Metzinger in Seeking Alpha, Aug. 2nd): "Beazer (BZH), Thornburg Mortgage (TMA), Citigroup (C), Countrywide (CFC): Cramer says the major selloff in housing is not a reason to buy, and even if TMA is getting hammered more than it deserves, "who needs it?" Cramer might consider buying financials CFC and C if the Fed lowers interest rates, but given Ben Bernanke's inflation obsession, he wouldn't take the risk just yet."
- Lifetime Brands Announces Second Quarter 2007 Results (Business Wire, Aug. 2nd): "Lifetime Brands, Inc. (NASDAQ:LCUT), a leading designer, developer and marketer of nationally branded consumer products for the home, announced Wednesday Q2'07 [results]: Lifetime’s net sales totaled $91.4 million, vs. net sales of $84.1m for Q2'06. Lifetime reported a net loss of $2.0m, or $0.15/share, vs. a net loss of $1.5m, or $0.11/share, for Q2'06. Lifetime’s Q2'07 results include a full quarter of the Syratech business acquired in April, 2006… CEO Jeremy Siegel: "Reflecting the confidence we have [in our business, Lifetime has] authorized the repurchase of up to $20m of the Company’s common stock through open market purchases or privately-negotiated transactions.”
- Martha Stewart Brand Helps Weather Housing Slump (MarketWatch, Aug. 1st): "CFO Howard Hochhauser: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is seeing the effects of the weak housing market, but Omnimedia… which designs housing communities that are then built by KB Home (NYSE:KBH) has seen success with the venture and it's been a bright spot for the otherwise beleaguered home-building market. "Our brand is helping sell homes, however, the overall housing market is really disappointing. So, on a relative basis we're doing great, however, on an absolute basis it's a little disappointing… We're helping KB… and making some money. It's a great opportunity. And once the housing market comes back, we're well positioned."
- LandAmerica 2Q Earnings Tumble (Forbes, Aug. 1st): "LandAmerica Financial Group Inc., a real estate transaction service provider, said Wednesday its Q2 earnings tumbled 78% from Q2'06 due to weakness in the housing market. LandAmerica Financial Group (LFG)'s Q2 earnings fell to $7.9 million, or $0.42/share, from $35.6m, or $2.06/share, during Q2'06. [On average], analysts [had] forecast earnings of $1.84/share for Q2 on revenue of $1.01 billion. LandAmerica Financial Group reported total revenue of $1.01b in Q2, up from $1b during Q2'06. LandAmerica set aside $80.2m for claims in title operations, up from $46.6m during Q2'06 due to an increase in frequency and severity of claims for policies filed between 2004-2006."
- Mortgage Lender, Homebuilder Launch New Joint Venture In Texas (San Antonio Business Journal, Aug. 1st): "Countrywide Mortgage Ventures LLC (CFC) formed a new joint venture with Highland Homes, called Highland Loan Source, to provide prospective homebuyers with a range of home financing options. Highland Loan Source will work with prospective homeowners in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio to assist them with purchasing a new home built by Highland Homes… Highland Loan Source will work to offer competitive loan products, interest rates and services in Texas, including zero down-payment loans and fixed- and adjustable-rate options."
- Patrick Industries Reports Second Quarter Results (PR Newswire, Aug. 1st): "Patrick Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:PATK) announced Wednesday Q2 results, highlighted by the completion of the Adorn acquisition and the related beginning phases of operational integration. Patrick, a leading manufacturer and distributor of building and component products for the Recreational Vehicle, Manufactured Housing and Industrial markets, reported a net loss of $1.3 million, or $0.25/share, on net sales of $113.1m for Q2'07, compared with net earnings of $1.3m, or $0.27/share, on net sales of $94.7m for Q2'06. Q2'07 included a $1.1m acquisition/restructuring charge."
- Masco Corp. Drops 6 Percent (Builder Online, Aug. 1st): "The Masco Corp. (NYSE:MAS), a manufacturer of home improvement and building products, is reporting a 6% decline in sales to $3.1 billion (compared to $3.4b in Q2'06). The Michigan-based company says its net income for Q2 was $189 million. The report also states that North American sales declined 10% while international sales increased 14%… As a result of the Q2 decline, Masco is reducing its 2007 housing starts estimate to approximately 1.4 million, or the low end of its previous range of 1.4 to 1.5 million."
Commercial Real Estate and REITs
- AIMCO Posts Higher 2Q Profit (Chron.com, Aug. 2nd): "Apartment Investment and Management Co. REIT (AIVPRU) said Thursday its Q2 results increased 22% on lower casualty losses and higher transaction income. Funds from operations, or FFO, in Q2 rose to $87.3 million, or $0.88/share, from $71.4m, or $0.73/share, in the year-ago period. Adjusted FFO also rose to $63.6m, or $0.64/share, from $52m, or $0.53/share. On average, analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected FFO of $0.80/share."
- RAIT To Discuss $95M Exposure to AHM (Globe St., Aug. 1st): "RAIT Financial Trust (NYSE:RAS) REIT has revealed that American Home Mortgage Investment Corp. failed to make its payment on RAIT’s trust preferred financing due on July 30. All other issuers of RAIT’s trust preferred securities did meet their obligations. RAIT says its net equity exposure to AHM is approximately $95 million resulting from trust preferred financing RAIT provided to AHM in 2005… RAIT says it will further discuss its exposure to the troubled AHM on its Aug. 2nd conference call [pushed up from Aug. 3rd]… RAS shares fell 36.6% Tuesday."
- Commercial Real Estate Delinquencies Hit 5-Year Low (San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 1st): "California Mortgage Bankers Association quarterly report, .03% of all loans were in foreclosure. The figure is the lowest since June 2002 when it dropped to .01%, and significantly below the 13% recorded in March… Peter Ulrich, a consultant for the state association and a retired mortgage banker. "Vacancy rates… in the various sectors are down. That means the properties are performing well, the income stream is steady and it allows the owners to make their payments… The survey conducted by the state association at the end of June included $88.2 billion of mortgage loans serviced by 17 mortgage banking firms. Among the sectors studied - multi-family, office, retail, warehouse, hospitality, mobile home parks and research-and-development properties - only the hospitality and health care industries have delinquent loans. Hospitality has $12.1 million in delinquent loans, and health care recorded $13.7 million in delinquencies."
Web Site of the Day
Irvine Housing Blog has been chronicling "the seventh circle of real estate hell" (speculators who bought houses with no money down) since September 2006. The blog will tell you what an area house was bought for, how much it's on the market for now, and the debt it carries. It then figures out how much the seller and the mortgage holder(s) will lose if the sale goes through at the current asking price [unlikely, it seems]. As a special service to its readers, IHB will even tell you which year the asking price compares to—i.e., if the price has fallen to 2004 levels, or 2003 levels and so on. It's somewhat entertaining if you consider that Irvine is one of the capital's of subprime excess, with so many mortgage lenders in residence.
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