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Cliff Wachtel, CPA, is currently the Director of Market Research, New Media and Training for, a fast growing forex and CFD broker. He covers a variety of topics including global market drivers, forex, currency hedged and diversified income investing, and is currently working on a... More
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  • September-Mid November Long/Short EURUSD Positioning: Observations & Conclusions

    It's useful to know what's driving intermediate term trader positioning behind the EURUSD. Unlike shorter term traders who are in and out of their positions in a matter of hours or days, these traders aren't focused purely on technical analysis or short term news plays.

    Instead, this group is speculating on fundamental trends and changes in the monthly calendar events, particularly Fed and ECB policy, as well as the reports that are believed to influence these leading central banks.

    In other words, the changes in the long-short positioning ratios can at times yield insights into sentiment on the key fundamental drivers of the pair.

    This group is also a good one for newer forex traders to watch. For reasons I discuss in depth in my book, newer traders have a much better chance of success by trading off of longer time frame charts (4 hour, daily, weekly, or monthly) with planned holding periods spanning weeks or months.

    If you're looking for a quick real time guide to retail small trader positioning in the 5 minute, hourly, or daily time frames, for the EURUSD, GBPUSD, or USDJPY, I've found a potentially useful tool on the homepage of, labeled "Positions/Live Accounts."

    I came across this as part of my mandate here at to periodically cover new trader tools.

    I used the daily time frame charts, which covered traders with a roughly 7 week holding period.

    The sample size is just under 500 live traders. What this sample lacks in size or statistical significance, it makes up for in its ability to give you a real time look (vs. the delayed commitments of traders (NYSE:COT) reports) at the long/short positioning ratios of your fellow small forex traders. Also, their average trade duration is about 7 weeks, so these traders' positions indeed reflects their thoughts on fundamental trends over the coming weeks and months. By observing its behavior over time in a given time frame, you can glean ideas regarding:

    • What's driving sentiment for these longer term traders, particularly regarding the fundamentals that they watch more than short term traders who are in and out of positions in no more than a few days or hours. Those traders are focused on solely on technical analysis or specific news event based trading.
    • The prevailing range of the long/short positions ratio. When positioning exceeds the extremes of the range, that gives you an oversold/overbought indicator.

    The following are some observations gleaned from studying the daily EURUSD long/short positioning.

    The October 30th Fed Hawkish Surprise, EURUSD Shorts Take Profits, Enter New Long Positions

    On October 30th we had the "Fed Fake," the FOMC minutes raised the odds of an earlier QE taper. That was good for the USD, and thus bad for the EUR, both because a stronger dollar weakens the EUR, and because the prospects of less stimulus hurt risk appetite, again weakening the EURUSD, which tends to move up and down with overall risk appetite.

    Not surprisingly, the daily price charts the EURUSD dropped hard on from October 30th to November 1st.

    However somewhat counter-intuitively, the long/short ratio shifted long in our sample group, not just due to closed short positions, but also due to increased numbers of long positions. Looking at charts 1 and 2 below, note:

    • The long/short ratio jumping from 31% long and 69% short (chart 1) to 50% long and 50% short (chart 2).
    • Not only did the number of short positions fall from 324 to 242, as traders took profits, the number of long positions increased from 144 to 242.

    September-Mid November Long/Short EURUSD Positioning: Observations & Conclusions

    September-Mid November Long/Short EURUSD Positioning: Observations & Conclusions


    01 nov 20 1722

    ScreenHunter_02 Nov. 20 17.25


    02 Nov 20 17 25

    As we noted here, EURUSD traders had correctly anticipated that expectations had become too optimistic for a longer period of QE before any taper began. The EURUSD had been coming falling since October 28th. Indeed we see the ratio of shorts to longs growing throughout the prior month.

    The shift in the long short ratio was not just due to shorts closing out positions. Instead, we had a combination of the EURUSD short traders taking profits and, surprisingly, new long positions too. Note how, from chart 1 to chart 2, not only did the number of short positions fall, the number of longs also increased.

    One lesson is that these traders' overall short positioning proved correct

    Another is that a portion of these intermediate term traders saw the Fed's hawkish surprise as not only a time to take profits on short positions, but also to establish new long positions at what they saw as a favorable price.

    Apparently they were anticipating some kind of EURUSD bounce. Certainly there was an argument to be made for such a move. The ECB was not expected to make any policy changes, and there were real concerns that the coming US Q3 GDP and monthly jobs reports would be weak, especially considering the possible damage from the recent US federal government shutdown.

    The November 7th Reversion To Overweight Short Positioning

    The reversal of this long/short ratio position from roughly 50% long/short to a return to a clear majority of shorts came on November 7th, when the EURUSD was hit with two major events:

    1. The ECB announced a surprise rate cut of 25 bps
    2. The US reported advanced Q3 GDP of 2.8%, far exceeding the 2% expected

    Both of these events were bad for the EURUSD for two reasons:

    1. The rate cut obviously weakened the EUR
    2. The US GDP beat increased early QE taper fears in yet another "good news is bad news" move, so risk appetite dropped in both Europe and the US, as shown by the declines in both European and US indexes, AND the USD got a boost from rising odds of a taper sooner rather than later. The bearish early taper fear overpowered the bullish effect of the ECB rate cut, even in European stock indexes.

    As we see from chart 3 below, these events returned the EURUSD medium term traders' long short ratio back down to 38% long/62% short.

    There are no surprises here. The ECB signaled easing, and the US data signaled a rising chance of tightening sooner than expected. We would expect traders with these typically 7 week holding periods to be firmly influenced by shifts in such basic fundamentals as policy shifts of the ECB and Fed.

    ScreenHunter_03 Nov. 20 18.08


    03 Nov 20 18 08

    This was the start of a slow but steady drop back to the roughly 35% long/65% short positioning ratio we had seen since mid-September, as shown in Chart 4 below.

    ScreenHunter_05 Nov. 20 18.43


    05 nov 20 1843

    Medium term EURUSD traders remain modestly overall short.

    Again, this is not surprising given the continuing flow of evidence that the ECB is considering additional easing, while the Fed is expected to begin cutting back its QE in the coming months.

    However the extent and timing of that move in favor of the USD is unclear, hence the only modest short bias of the medium term traders.


    As long as the ECB continues to make clear their dovish policy bias and willingness to increase stimulus if needed (likely given the EU's overall weakness and deflationary risks), and the Fed moves in the opposite direction, the longer term bearish trader positioning bias for the EURUSD should continue, as ECB policy undermines the EUR and Fed policy supports the USD. We don't expect that short EURUSD bias to become stronger unless USD interest rates make a sustained move higher (benchmark 10% treasury note yields move decisively over 3%).

    Meanwhile, the continued overall dovish Fed policy and continued strength in US and European stocks suggests continued risk appetite that should continue to limit longer term EURUSD trader shorts and keep the current long/short ratio within its current 30% - 50% band for the coming weeks, barring any big surprises in US data, Fed, or ECB policy.

    However, as suggested in chart 4 above, any dips in the long/short ratio below 30% long should be seen as a sign of short term buying opportunity. Similarly, when longs hit the 50% area, that's a signal of a possible coming drop in the number of long positions and thus in the EURUSD itself.

    The "Positions/Live Accounts" charts of long/short ratios provides a helpful barometer of retail trader positioning. Although the sample is small, it is displayed in real time. So although you wouldn't base your trading decisions solely on these positioning ratios, they can be a helpful additional indicator to consider in your trading decisions.

    To be added to Cliff's email distribution list, just click here, and leave your name, email address, and request to be on the mailing list for alerts of future posts.


    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

    Tags: UUP, FXE, SPY, forex
    Nov 22 10:47 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Inter-Market Analysis: The Must-Know Primer & Review

    Part 1A of a series on the basics of inter-market analysis: a short primer on what it is, why it works and how to profit from it

    The big market movers of the past year, a variety of sources and markets have come from a variety of sources, places and markets, but they've affected almost all markets everywhere. As we begin reflecting on the outlook for the fourth quarter, it's worth reviewing the key elements of inter-market analysis and how to profit from them.

    This is the first of a series of articles on the basics of inter-market analysis; what it is, and how to use it to improve your performance in your primary market of interest, be it stocks, forex commodities, etc.

    Summary: What It Is, Why You Need It

    As the term suggests, inter-market analysis is all about studying how different markets are behaving, with any of a number of goals, including:

    · Getting a better overall big picture of market sentiment

    · Spotting potential arbitrage opportunities

    · Seeking advance trend change signals or confirmation of existing trends in another market, as some markets tend to lead others

    In essence, inter-market analysis is all about:

    · Knowing how and when different assets, asset classes, and markets correlate to the ones in which you trade. Do they tend to move in the same direction (positive correlation) or the opposite direction (negative correlation)? Do they tend to be leading, lagging, or coincident indicators for your market? Once we know if and how and when two separate markets correlate, we can use price movements in one market to help predict movements in our primary market of interest. These relationships can change in the short or long term.

    · Watching for normal correlations or divergences from those correlations:

    · Normal Correlations: When different markets are moving in the same or opposite direction as they normally do, you can use movements in one market to confirm or even predict movements in another.

    · Divergences From Normal Correlations: However when markets that normally trend in the same direction start to diverge, those trend divergences are often leading or coincident indicators of changing market conditions. Over time you'll see how some markets tend to react before others, and so provide advanced notice of changes from which you can profit.

    Now let's look at why and how it all works, and how it can help you.

    Why Inter-market Analysis Works

    Inter-market analysis works because the movements of most globally traded asset markets are indirectly or directly related.

    Indirectly: Most markets are indirectly related because they are influenced by the same set of underlying market driving events or trends. Seemingly unrelated global markets are in fact profoundly influenced by many of the same factors, albeit in different ways. In other words a given news item or economic trend can cause certain assets called risk assets (and their markets) to trend higher, and others, called safety or safe haven assets, to trend lower, or vice versa. More on that below in our explanation of risk and safety assets.

    Directly: Some markets directly influence other markets. For example a sudden rise in the price of oil or credit (aka interest rates) is an added expense for business and thus hurts stocks and other assets that rise with optimism and fall with pessimism (aka risk assets). Changes in credit markets that affect the cost or availability of credit directly affect most major asset markets, as we've seen from Subprime Lending Crisis, the resulting Great Financial Crisis, the resulting European Debt and Banking Crisis, and the from the resulting attempts to deal with them such as the Fed's QE program and its attempts to curtail or taper it.

    Both Directly And Indirectly: Some inter-market relationships are driven by a combination of both indirect and direct links to each other.

    Virtually all kinds of assets can be classified as risk or safety (aka: safe haven) assets. Here are somewhat simplified but useful working definitions.

    Markets' Indirect Connections

    Most markets are heavily influenced by the same big macro-market movers, economic or political events or trends that shape the global economy.

    However they don't respond in the same way.

    Any experienced market observer knows that a given event or economic trend generally sends some assets higher and others lower, depending greatly on whether they're risk or safety (aka safe haven) assets.

    Understanding Risk vs. Safe Haven Assets

    If you're not thoroughly familiar with this topic do not move on until the below is clear. It is critical to understanding how to do your own inter-market analysis and will save you a lot of time and money.

    · Risk Assets: By definition these rise in times of optimism because they are believed to provide better returns when economies are expanding. For example:

    · The classic risk assets include stocks, especially cyclical sector stocks that appreciate the most in times of prosperity when consumers want to spend. Construction, discretionary consumer goods, and travel sectors are classic examples of these. So are industrial commodities like oil, copper or iron that are in higher demand in times of expansion. As we discuss in depth here, in most time frames, most major global stock indexes like the S&P 500, FTSE 100, DAX, CAC, and Nikkei trend in a similar manner.

    · Higher yielding currencies tend to rise in times of expansion relative to currencies from nations with lower benchmark interest rates due to demand from carry trade, a more technical forex topic.

    See here for details on that, and on risk vs. safety currencies in general, for a deeper understanding of these and how to use forex trends to improve your performance as a trader or even an income investor.

    · Safe Haven Assets: rise in times of pessimism because it's believed they'll depreciate less or even appreciate in value. For example:

    · The classic safety assets include bonds with the highest credit rating

    · Low yielding currencies that tend to be bought as carry traders close out their carry trades in times of fear and seek shelter in these currencies.

    NB: THESE LABELS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH SAFETY OF AN ASSET AS A STORE OF VALUE. Rather these refer solely to how an asset or asset class typically behaves in response to market optimism or pessimism. For example:

    o Sovereign bonds with top credit ratings have historically been considered the classic safe-haven asset because they generally (at least pre-taper era) move in the opposite direction as stocks and other risk assets. Indeed, risk of loss of principal with bonds is generally lower than with stocks, as long you hold them until they mature. However if interest rates are expected to enter a long term uptrend, bonds would be likely to see a long term drop in price. Bond investor would then need to choose between selling them at a loss, and holding them until maturity for years while missing the chance for higher income for the same level of risk.

    o Similarly the US dollar has for years been ranked among the leading safe haven currencies, even though it's been in a decade long decline against most other major currencies. See here for a full discussion of how the USD has fared over the course of decades against many 'risk' assets.

    What Determines The Strength Of These Indirect Correlations?

    The strength of these positive or negative correlations depends on sensitivity to risk appetite (greed) or risk aversion (fear). In other words:

    · Some risk assets will rise more on good news than other risk assets, and fall harder on bad news.

    · Some safe haven assets will fall harder on good news than others, and rise higher on bad news.

    For example:

    · The largest global stock indexes tend to have very high positive correlations to each other because they're all risk assets. In other words, they tend to move in the same direction, not necessarily on a daily basis, but usually over a given number of days (barring any extremely good or bad country or region-specific developments). That's because the same news or longer term economic developments affect all of them more than local developments in their own native economies. This is especially true for smaller and more export-oriented economies that are highly dependent on specific large trading partners.

    · Bond markets tend to move in the opposite direction of stocks because bonds are safety assets

    · Certain currencies tend to trend with risk assets and are called risk currencies. Others trend with safe haven assets and are called safety currencies. Here's a how they rank as risk or safe haven currencies.

    (click to enlarge)

    Source: The Sensible Guide To Forex: Safer, Smarter Ways to Survive and Prosper from the Start, Cliff Wachtel, John Wiley & Sons, 2012

    01 oct 071653

    · For example, Japanese Yen (JPY) and Australian Dollar AUD) in recent years have tended to have very negative correlations to each other. That's because the JPY is a strong safe haven currency (note how it's all the way on the right). That is, it tends to fall hard in times of optimism and rise strongly when markets are fearful. The AUD is the top ranking risk currency, and thus behaves in the opposite manner, rising on good news and falling on bad news. Thus the two tend to move in opposite directions when there is a clear bias to risk or safety. The same could be said when comparing other currencies that are on opposite ends of the currency risk spectrum.

    For the full story on currency rankings, their basis, and how they can change, see here.

    Other Market Drivers Can Override Risk Appetite

    Note that the above relationships are often obscured or overridden by other market forces, especially on daily or shorter term time frames. For example, it's common to see risk assets rising as a group yet see one particular risk asset falling due to some long or short term phenomenon that mostly affects just this asset. For example, if global stock indexes and other risk assets are rallying, one would expect the AUD to be soaring in tandem. However if there's bad news for the Australian economy, the AUD could easily be lower

    Direct Inter-Market Relationships

    Some markets have a clear direct influence on others. For example as noted above:

    Oil And Stock Indexes: Although crude oil is a risk asset that usually tracks or follows stock indexes, if oil prices suddenly spike (typically from supply concerns due to Mideast tensions) they can send most risk assets lower because demand for oil is inelastic in the short term and cuts earnings and growth.

    Credit Markets And Currencies: As we discuss in some detail here, one of the most influential drivers of a given currency's price and trend is:

    · Its central bank's benchmark rate and related bond rates, relative to those the other major currencies. The higher its benchmark interbank and bond rates, the stronger the currency's uptrend versus those currencies.

    · Similarly, any data that changes expectations about the direction, timing, or size of increases of decreases in these benchmark and related bond rates.

    Some Asset Markets Have Direct And Indirect Relationships

    In addition to being influenced by the same global market moving events or economic trends, some asset classes act directly on others.

    · EUR and USD: These two currencies move have a strong negative correlation powered by both indirect and direct factors:

    · Indirect: Out of 8 major currencies the EUR has the fourth highest benchmark interest rates, a fragile EU economy desperate for any good news makes the EUR a clear risk currency that moves up with optimism.

    · Direct: These are by far the two most widely traded currencies, so when markets are buying one, they tend to be funding those purchases via sales of the other. Thus they tend to move like two children on a seesaw, one up, one down.

    See here for more on how the major currencies rank and why.

    These Relationships Can Change In Both Short And Long Term

    For example:

    Oil and stocks: as noted above, oil normally follows stocks, a temporary sudden spike in oil prices due to supply fears (typically due to Mideast turmoil) means rising oil prices pushing stocks lower. In other words, oil changes from being a risk asset that follows stock indexes into a safe haven asset that drives stock indexes in the OPPOSITE direction, with oil prices rising on oil supply fears and stocks falling.

    The USD and stocks: The USD has usually been a safe haven asset in recent years, while stocks or stock indexes are risk assets, and so they've tended to move in opposite directions. However as we discuss here, like any currency, the USD is strongly influenced by expectations about the future direction of benchmark USD bank and bond rates. The Fed has said it will not raise rates until there are certain improvements in US economic data. Thus when markets see that data improving, or expect it to improve, not only do stocks rise as they normally do with good data, so does the USD. That rise in the USD isn't because the USD has become a risk asset, but rather because that same data or news is improving expectations for the pace and size of interest rate increases.

    Ok, So How Do I Use Actually Use Inter-Market Analysis?

    Note that this is just an introductory article to a huge topic that can fill volumes, and that specifics vary depending on your specific market of interest. That said, here are some generally applicable guidelines.

    Understand what really drives your asset of interest/Know your market movers: It isn't enough to just know if it's a risk or safety asset. For example as noted above, the USD may generally behave as a safety asset, but more fundamentally it moves with US interest rates and expectations about their future direction. Indeed, as we discuss here, interest rates and expectations about them are prime determinants of whether a given currency is a risk or safe haven asset.

    Find good barometers of those factors that move your market: For example:

    · For monitoring risk sentiment, a major stock index like the S&P 500 tends to be as good an overall risk appetite barometer as any. It's got the largest stock index by market capitalization, and thus by nature shows how a wide range of sectors and regions are feeling. If you trade during hours when US markets are closed, use one of the largest indexes that are open during the session you trade, be it Asia or Europe. See here for more on how and why forex traders need to monitor stock indexes. However as we discuss here, your choice of stock index will vary depending on your estimated holding period, time frame, and depending on those, the hours during which you trade.

    · Income investors need to pay extra attention to interest rate trends for the currency in which their investments are denominated, because both bonds and dividend stocks are highly interest rate sensitive.

    · Commodity prices are more influenced by specific supply and demand considerations. Indeed unlike stocks and currencies, commodities tend to behave like risk assets only to the extent that risk appetite or optimism influences supply. Thus commodities for which demand varies most with economic conditions (like copper or iron) tend to be more sensitive to changes in risk sentiment.

    Want To Know More?

    Inter-market analysis is a huge topic, so this series is just to provide an overview so that you're better able to pursue more in-depth study on your own. See the next two parts of this series:

    What Everyone Must Know About Currencies: Profiting From Risk Rankings

    Stock Indexes And The One Chart All Must Watch

    For more in-depth coverage of this topic, and all topics covered in this series on inter-market analysis, see The Sensible Guide To Forex: Safer, Smarter Ways to Survive and Prosper from the Start (Wiley 2012).

    What You Need To Succeed

    If you're a forex trader or income investor seeking safer, higher returns, then this book is a must-read.

    You can view parts of it for free using the "Look Inside" feature here on the book's page.

    It's the only forex book specifically for those interested in safer, simpler ways to trade currencies (or other assets), or to build a currency-diversified income stream that will keep central bank currency debasers out of your pocket.

    The hardest thing about gaining expertise in trading or investing is finding the right guides that don't waste and exhaust your time and money.

    I wrote this book because I couldn't find that one book that would get me started on these topics.

    For aspiring traders

    It's got a wealth of information on:

    · The fundamentals of forex,

    · Technical and fundamental analysis,

    · How to find and implement trades with the best risk/reward ratio

    · The risk and money management skills to keep your capital and confidence intact

    · The key psychological aspects of trading to help you

    · find the trading method that fits you and avoid the futile, fatal mistake of trying to fit yourself to trading methods for which you're unsuited

    · maintain the right attitudes towards successes and failures, both of which can destroy your trading career if you're not prepared for them.

    For long term income investors

    In addition to the above, it shows you how to build an income stream that's diversified into the currencies most likely to hold their long term value

    To be added to Cliff's email distribution list, just click here, and leave your name, email address, and request to be on the mailing list for alerts of future posts.

    DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: The above is for informational purposes only and not intended to be specific trading advice. In other words if somehow you lose money based on the above I take no moral or legal responsibility for it. Deal with it.

    Oct 10 3:44 AM | Link | Comment!

    Or any other risk asset, like the EURUSD, AUDJPY, etc

    Investors are more bullish now than at any time since 2002. So a brief reminder is in order.

    The Last Time Stocks Were This High….

    No matter how good the company's prospects, no matter how high or solid the dividend, no matter what the analysts are telling you, consider market risk.

    Before you go long any risk asset, even if it's a great income stock that will provide a steady high yield no matter what the market does, consider market risk.

    For those not familiar with the term, market risk is the risk that your investment will lose value because it gets dragged down in a falling market.

    Most risk assets move in the same direction, regardless of whether they're stocks, commodities, or risk currencies. Most stocks move with the major relevant index, and most global stock indexes move in very close correlation.

    How high is that risk?

    First, look at the chart below of the S&P 500 for the past 14 years. Look at what happened to those who bought risk assets the last two times this bellwether index was at the current level (ok, another 50 points or so), back in 2000 and 2007. Markets plunged in the months that followed, ultimately ceding about half their value.

    Sure, they came back. But why risk the opportunity cost? Moreover, if they take years to recover, what will your stock be worth in real terms, given how the Fed and other leading central banks are trying to debase their currencies?

    (click to enlarge)


    Source: MetaQuotes Software Corp,

    This Time It's Different - No Really

    Second, ask yourself this: is there reason to believe it will be different this time?

    Yes, but not for the better.

    The underlying fundamentals behind the current rally are worse than they were in 2000 and 2007. Just a few highlights include:

    • At those prior peaks, growth, earnings, employment, jobs were all improving, or at least not stagnant or materially deteriorating.
    • There was no global deleveraging to hamper spending for years to come. As BoFA's Chief currency strategist David Woo reminds us here, US wage earners are just starting to realize their paychecks have shrunk.
    • There was no unsolved EU debt crisis threatening to crash financial markets.
    • The central banks behind the most widely held currencies were not openly committed to devaluing them and imposing another long term drain on our purchasing power through currency debasement.

    I could go on and on, but this is meant to be just a short reminder.

    So Why Are Investors Bullish?

    The current rally has not been fueled by improved prospects of actual growth and wealth creation. Instead it's mostly due to:

    • Investors desperate for income denied them elsewhere by central bank policies
    • Printed stimulus cash seeking a home. This is indeed a difference from the past. The only huge question is how long it can continue without a loss of purchasing power from debased currency that does more harm than the stimulus does good.
    • Most recently, sheer technical momentum (of course, at decade highs momentum will be good.

    All of the above could continue, but few believe they're sustainable.

    Risk Versus Reward?

    Even medium risk investments are only paying about 6%, yet a normal correction could cost you 10-15% of your principle for a long time (at least in real terms) and also means opportunity cost (in principle and income) of missing a better, post-pullback purchase.

    Again, nothing new here, it's just a needed reminder. Remember what happened the last time.

    Curious to hear your thoughts, dear readers.

    Can You Help Me Out?

    It should only take about 120 seconds.

    Please help me spread the word about how to protect oneself against central banks debasing the USD, EUR, JPY, GBP, etc, and stealing your savings by devaluing them and cutting the returns you can earn on them.

    Please vote for vote "The Sensible Guide to Forex" in's Awards-BEST NEW BOOK category

    Voting ends early Friday Feb 25th.

    For more info on the book, its topics, reviews, see:

    I'd be especially grateful if you'd pass this request on to anyone with who has assets tied to the above currencies.


    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Feb 12 2:00 PM | Link | Comment!
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