TYLER MATHISEN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: The magic of Macy’s (NYSE:M) disappeared just a bit in the first quarter, sales were soft but management is optimistic. Is the CEO Lundgren right or is the consumer pulling back?
SUE HERERA, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) kid. Earnings and revenue topped expectations, the stock initially takes off. Could this Dow component be setting the tone for tomorrow?
MATHISEN: Taking a toll. President Obama says hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk if Congress lets the Highway Trust Fund run dry, halting projects to rebuild roads and bridges across the country.
All that and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Wednesday, May 14th.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome. I’m Tyler Mathisen.
HERERA: I’m Sue Herera, filling in tonight for Susie Gharib.
Well, there were no records set on Wall Street today as investors did a little profit-taking and sold out of stocks. We’ll have more on that in a moment.
But we begin tonight with Macy’s (NYSE:M), the nation’s biggest department store chain and an anchor in malls from coast to coast, and a shopping staple for most Americans for generations. Shares of the chain ended just a hair lower today after reporting sales fell short of forecast last quarter due to all that brittle and brutal winter weather and a slow start to spring even though profits were slightly higher.
Courtney Reagan has more on last quarter’s results and how confident the retailer is about business in the months ahead.
COURTNEY REAGAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Macy’s (NYSE:M) turning in a first quarter a little less magical than previous quarters. The department store posting an increase in profits but disappointing sales. Macy’s (NYSE:M) says colder weather and the shift in timing of its friend and family sale had a material impact on the quarter.
But on a conference call, the retailer’s chief financial officer said year-to-date, sales are already back well in positive territory. And Macy’s (NYSE:M) believes underlying consumer demand is strong enough to reiterate the earnings forecast. The retailer is also increasing its dividend and stock buyback program.
(on camera): Well Fargo analyst Paul Lejuez says it’s not Macy’s (NYSE:M) best quarter but it’s good enough. Many on Wall Street consider Macy’s (NYSE:M) to be one of the strongest retailers, so today’s lackluster sales have some worried about what competitors, like JCPenney and discounter Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) will report when earnings are released tomorrow.
MATTHEW BOSS, J.P. MORGAN SENIOR RETAIL ANALYST: You’re seeing a choppy backdrop. You’re seeing a consumer that last year was hit by a 2 percent payroll tax. This year has the uncertainty around health care.
So, I think you’re seeing shifts taking place between, you know, home improvements as well as apparel.
REAGAN (voice-over): Home was the weakest category in the quarter for Macy’s (NYSE:M). The company saying the weakness may be related to fewer housing starts and lower new home sales. They say the trend has improved in early May. It’s the improving trends that has Wall Street giving Macy’s (NYSE:M) a pass, at least for now.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Courtney Reagan.
MATHISEN: Well, Macy’s (NYSE:M) isn’t the only retailer reporting this week. Both Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and JCPenney are set to report their first quarter results tomorrow.
Burt Flickinger is managing director at Strategic Resource Group and he joins us now to talk more about his expectations for these retailers.
Let’s start, though, with a wrap-up on Macy’s (NYSE:M) if you don’t mind. It has been a darling of Wall Street. Everybody loves Terry Lundgren, deservedly so.
Are they going to be able to meet their goals for the rest of the year? Are they sort of best to breed in this space?
BURT FLICKINGER, STRATEGIC RESOURCE GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR: Macy’s (NYSE:M) is a special breed, along with Macys.com. So, Macy’s (NYSE:M) is shifting customers from Target (NYSE:TGT), from Penney, from every — Banthan (ph), every major retailer in mid-tier specialty and department store.
So, Macy’s (NYSE:M) will continue to win while the rest of retail is really a big cause for concern.
HERERA: You know, I was surprised with some of the results in the retail space. Mostly because there was so much discounting. But that didn’t seem to resonate with consumers this time around. Why?
FLICKINGER: Sue, to your point, it’s been desperation discounting now for seven straight months through the 21 wild winter storms that we had. The consumers are immune to discounting and consumers using his or her mobile devices to find better price points. So, they’re forcing — they’re out-smarting the stores and forcing the stores to sell at even lower profit margins than before.
HERERA: How much did the data breach affect the consumers? Because it seems they want to use more cash than before.
FLICKINGER: So, you’re completely correct, the consumers are moving much more to cash, less to debit, much less to on and off playing credit.
Target (NYSE:TGT) has been hurt the worst but it’s affecting all retailers, particularly apparel and jewelry and accessory retailers that are most dependent on credit.
MATHISEN: Let’s pivot to what you think or expect from Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) tomorrow — and I’m going to pick up on the point that you just made, which is could Target’s pain with that data breach be Wal-Mart’s gain?
FLICKINGER: Target’s pain is definitely Wal-Mart’s gain. Wal-Mart’s same store sales have been negative for over a year. So, now, you have Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) (INAUDIBLE) already reported declining revenue, marginal same store sales.
Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) U.S., the same store sales won’t be good but the forecast will be much better than people expect for two reasons: one, the gain at Target’s pain. Two, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), with the World Cup coming, 6,000 Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) stores wired with the proprietary Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) partnership for every World Cup match that a billion viewers will see around — in every country, every continent.
HERERA: You know, we also have the fact that Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is moving into less traditional and more niche areas such as — we saw that in the Whole Foods report earlier this week. Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is offering more organic, more locally grown and that’s really taking the steam out of some of the niche players in the food business.
FLICKINGER: So great point, when you look at Whole Foods down 20 percent in a day, sprouts, fresh market down 20 percent or more, 40 percent for the year with Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) going shell stable, with Wild Oats brand bringing it in for natural organic and the fresh that you referenced, advantage Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), disadvantage to the organic and fresh retailers.
MATHISEN: Let’s get to two retailers that had their share of troubles, quickly, JCPenney and Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD). How is JCPenney going to do when they come out with their numbers? And is Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) going to survive?
FLICKINGER: Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) may not survive, because it won’t get a big enough number for Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) Canada, that’s reportedly up for sales. As Courtney Reagan referenced a few minutes ago, home was a difficult area for Macy’s (NYSE:M).
FLICKINGER: Penney to save itself has to win on home. If Penney can’t win at home, it can’t win and may have to re-organize in a bankruptcy reorg sometime in 2015.
MATHISEN: Very interesting. Burt, fascinating stuff, stores we all know and use. Burt Flickinger, thank you.
FLICKINGER: Appreciate (INAUDIBLE), Tyler.
MATHISEN: You bet.
HERERA: All right. Well, Ty mentioned Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) and that other major retailers was indeed making news today. Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD), the troubled chain, is considering selling off its 50 percent ownership stake in Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) Canada. Sales at its stores in the Great White North have been declining for years and it recently closed down in some unprofitable locations. Investors were not impressed. Shares of Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) Holding Corporation which also owns Kmart, that discount chain fell nearly 6 percent today.
MATHISEN: Earnings after the bell from the computer networking equipment giant, Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), and the results were better than expected, despite sluggish demand for hardware. Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) made 51 cents a share in the third quarter. That topped estimates of 48 cents, excluding accounting items. Revenue also beat expectations at $11.5 billion. That was down from more than $12 billion a year ago, but it beat the expectations.
Shares initially higher in after-hours trading.
Sheila Dharmarajan joins us now from the NASDAQ exchange with more on Cisco’s results.
Sheila, we always like to ask, what’s the big takeaway you see in these numbers?
SHEILA DHARMARAJAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tyler, if there is one takeaway from Cisco’s report is that Cisco’s business may finally be turning the corner. The company has reported several weak quarters, but this one was definitely better than expected. And importantly, the company said that the guidance for the current quarter, which is Cisco’s fiscal fourth quarter, would be much better than expected.
In fact, Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) said they only expected revenue decline between 1 percent and 3 percent, which is far better than the negative 5 percent that Wall Street had been expecting.
So, a lot of positive news coming about the traction of Cisco’s business. CEO John Chambers particularly talking about some impressive growth rate when it comes to their high-end routers to perhaps some good signs ahead for Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO).
MATHISEN: Sheila, thank you very much. Sheila Dharmarajan at NASDAQ tonight.
HERERA: As we told you at the top of the show, there was a big selloff in the markets today, especially for small cap stocks, as the Dow and the S&P retreated from yesterday’s record highs. Those blue chip Dow stocks ended lower for the first time in six sessions, falling 101 points today.
The NASDAQ was down 29, and the S&P is lower by about nine.
Another factor giving traders the jitters today, a spike in inflation as the producer price index for April rose by more than a forecast, by 6/10 of 1 percent. Part of the reason for that increase, a new and more accurate way for the government to track wholesale prices, and which parts of the economy are most affected.
Steve Liesman explains.
STEVE LIESMAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Once upon a time, America was a manufacturing powerhouse. About one in every three American jobs was on the factory floor. But beginning sometime around the end of the Korean War, services began to take over. Now, just one in every ten Americans is in manufacturing.
Yet, the government for a long time stuck to the old ways of measuring the old economy. That’s slowly changing. This year, the government revamped its wholesale inflation indicator, and take account far more of the service sector. In fact, the index once only covered about 35 percent of the activity. Now, it’s near 75 percent and should do a much better job of pinpointing inflationary pressures.
And (AUDIO GAP) do seems to be some now. The two times the index has been published including today, it’s shown an inflation well above expectations. That’s made former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan nervous.
ALAN GREENSPAN, FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Now, I’m not forecasting inflation is about to run. I doubt it very much. But the presumption that it’s no longer on the horizon I think is a mistake.
LIESMAN: To be sure, these are producer prices. And they often don’t get passed along one for one to consumers. But if inflation is going to start, it is likely to be picked up first in wholesale prices. Maybe especially now that it covers more of the U.S. economy.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Steve Liesman.
MATHISEN: President Obama is looking to keep a campaign promise pushing legislation to raise more money to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. But it won’t be easy. Much needed repairs to roads, bridges and tunnels may mean higher federal taxes and tolls.
Hampton Pearson has more.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, New York!
HAMPTON PEARSON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama chose the construction site of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, a major crossing point over the Hudson River, getting a multibillion dollar overhaul to dramatize that America’s transportation infrastructure is falling apart and the federal government is running out of money to fix the problem.
OBAMA: America doesn’t stand still. There is work ready to be done. There are workers ready to do it. Not just rebuild one bridge but I want us to rebuild every bridge.
PEARSON: A few hundred miles away, Vice President Joe Biden in Cleveland, making a stand for mass transit to boost the economy.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America remains the most dominant economic force in the world and we’ll continue to be the most dominant economic force if we invest, if we invest in the future, if we invest in infrastructure.
PEARSON: Two separate funding crises are on the horizon. The Highway Trust Fund which finances more than $50 billion a year in major projects is running out of money, just as city and states begin the annual repairs that come with warmer weather.
The Department of Transportation predicts delays on more than 110,000 projects this summer and the loss of several hundred thousand construction jobs next year. The chief source of funding, the federal gas tax, now at about 18 cents a gallon, hasn’t been raised in more than 20 years, and it’s even less likely in an election year.
ROBERT PUENTES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: We’re going to have to figure out a way to patch that over the next couple of months to make sure that states aren’t losing the billions that they’re expecting, that we’re not laying off workers. It’s about 11 percent of the American workforce that somehow is in infrastructure.
PEARSON: Meanwhile, the bill that governs all transportation policy expires at the end of September. A bipartisan six-year plan to maintain current spending levels at about $105 billion per year has just been introduced in the Senate.
The Obama White House is pushing a four-year, $300 billion transportation overhaul to be paid by gas tax revenue, business tax reform and more tolls on interstate highways.
PUENTES: The Senate hasn’t really talked about what they will use to fund the proposals, all we have left is good ideas for what should happen on the federal level when it comes to transportation, the revenues to pay for it is the real sticking point at this time.
PEARSON: With so many moving parts, the infrastructure overhaul will be like traffic in America’s cities, subject to frequent stalls along the way.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Hampton Pearson in Washington.
MATHISEN: Still ahead, regulators are close to voting on a new controversial plan that could directly impact anyone who surfs the web using a smartphone or tablet.
HERERA: Quite a scare today for Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) investors. The price of the stock fell sharply this afternoon falling by 6 percent in less than a second, in what’s being called a mini-flash crash, but then within a minute, the stock rebounded. Nonetheless, shares still close about a half a percent lower.
MATHISEN: A little bit of trouble at the New York Stock Exchange today. Get this — the exchange reported a problem with its data feeds on companies using the ticker symbols D through J. DuPont, Eaton (NYSE:ETN), General Motors (NYSE:GM), but it says the bottleneck didn’t affect trading in the shares and the problem was quickly resolved.
HERERA: The FCC has a big vote coming up tomorrow over how much wireless spectrum, the nation’s biggest mobile phone companies will be allowed to own and how much should be left over for smaller or future competitors.
Morgan Brennan has more on the vote and why it matters to all of us.
MORGAN BRENNAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: When the Federal Communications Commission meets Thursday, it will vote on proposals that will affect wireless carriers and with them consumers. The topic? Spectrum.
AMIR ROZWADOWSKI: The way to think about this for a bigger picture is, spectrum is the life blood for a lot of these wireless carriers. It is the connection point from the consumer to the network.
BRENNAN: There are different bands of the spectrum and the FCC has a screening process to determine how much and what kind wireless carriers can use. Up for debate is whether to expand those guidelines. But the commission will take up another vote as well, whether to set aside some of the most sought-after spectrum low band that is expected to come to auction next year.
Such a proposal would limit the amount that industry giants Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T) could purchase, reserving it instead for smaller competitors like Sprint and T-Mobile that could otherwise be out-bid.
ROZWADOWSKI: If you can free up more pipes, the actual cost of stuff that goes through the pipes can go down. So, it is and that benefit to consumers that the FCC frees up the spectrum. The key question is how do they free it up in a matter that is supportive of a competitive environment?
BRENNAN: Low band spectrum can travel farther distances through walls and other obstacles. And it is used primary for data plans, as consumers increasingly turn to smartphones and tablets for more of their media consumption, especially video streaming, low band becomes more important.
WALTER PIECYK, BTIG RESEARCH ANALYST: The more spectrum that operators have, the more innovative services and faster speeds that they can offer to consumers.
BRENNAN: That’s why the details of the FCC’s proposal will be especially important. They will help determine what carriers participate in the 2015 auction and whether the broadcasters that currently own the spectrum think their wireless real estate is worth selling.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Morgan Brennan in Los Angeles.
HERERA: And to read more about the FCC’s vote on spectrum and how it could impact consumers, go to our Web site, NBR.com.
MATHISEN: Deere posted a strong profit, but weak outlook sent shares lower, and that’s where we begin tonight’s “Market Focus.”
Earnings and revenue beat estimates as cost cuts helped the company offset lower sales of its tractors and other gear, but Deere lowered its forecast for the full year, saying with farmer income expected to decline, sales of agriculture and turf equipment will fall for the full year and the stock fell 2 percent to $91.70.
Sony (NYSE:SNE) shares plunged after the electronics giant said it had a quarterly loss of $1.3 billion hit by costs from selling its PC business. The company also predicts, this year, it will post its fifth annual loss in six years. The CEO and others are returning their bonuses to make up for the rough quarter. The stock tumbled 6 1/2 percent to $16.50.
Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! is buying the mobile messaging app Blink for an undisclosed amount. The application lets users send messages that will supposedly self-destruct at the time set by the sender. Blink is shutting down its application in the coming weeks, following the acquisition. Shares of Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! down a fraction, $34.17 was the close.
HERERA: Kate Spade saw its first quarter sales grow, driven by a surge in its core namesake brand. The accessory and apparel designer did post a wider loss from continuing operations, but that didn’t seem to bother investors. The stock popped 8 1/2 percent to $37.60.
“The New York Times (NYSE:NYT)” announced that Jill Abramson is unexpectedly leaving the position of executive editor. She will be replaced by the company’s managing editor, Dean Baquet. Abramson, who has been the newsroom’s leader since 2011, was the first woman to serve in the job. Baquet will be the first African-American to take the position. Shares were down 4 1/2 percent to $15.06.
And SeaWorld posted a wider than expected loss after the bell. Attendance dropped 13 percent, causing revenue to fall. The theme park operator blamed the declining traffic on the shift in the timing of Easter and the spring break season, as well as bad weather. Shares were down initially after the report. The stock ended the regular session off by about 2 percent to $29.34.
MATHISEN: It’s biggest democracy on earth and this week, voters in India will choose a new prime minister. So, why should U.S. investors care? Well, that’s because the frontrunner for the top job is considered to be very business-friendly and willing to open the country even more to more foreign investment. And a lot of U.S. companies are ready to jump right in.
Seema Mody has more.
SEEMA MODY, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The voting is over in India and the election results are expected in just two days. Estimates are that more than half a billion Indians voted in this pivotal election. India’s economy is a key issue, with a huge budget deficit, rising inflation and rampant corruption. India’s growth rate has nearly half in the past two years to just below 5 percent.
Enter prime minister candidate Narendra Modi, representing the Bharatiya Janata Party, who has emerged as a frontrunner in the exit polls. Modi has used India’s laundry list of problems as ammunition for his campaign, making economic reform the key issue. So far, investors like Modi’s message.
GEOFFREY DENNIS, UBS HEAD OF GLOBAL EMERGIGN MARKET STRATEGY: I think India is an economic power house already. It’s just got the potential to be an even bigger economic power house going forward. A win for Mr. Modi becoming prime minister should usher in some structure reforms over the next couple of years. And that should get growth going back to the 7 percent or 8 percent range, which is right where India should really be going at this point.
MODY: Many American corporations have exposure to India, including DuPont, Mosaic (NYSE:MOS), American Tower (NYSE:AMT) and Pepsi. In an effort to capitalize on India’s growing middle class, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) having gradually expanding their presence in the country. Experts say pick-up in India’s economic growth will only be good news for these companies.
(on camera): But be cautious, skeptics say, Modi may not be able to deliver on the reforms he promises.
SUJATHA KRISHNAN-BARMAN, ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT ANALYST: Markets are just reacting to what they hope will be a big win by Modi and the BJP. I think they’re a bit too optimistic, because I think, inevitably, Modi will need to be a part of the coalition government and what held back policy-making in the previous government was also the same constraints of coalition politics.
MODY (voice-over): But even if Modi does face initial hurdles as prime minister, the business community believes he will still be able to do a better job than the incumbent Congress Party, which has been blamed for India’s laundry list of problems, including sharp slow down in growth.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Seema Mody.
HERERA: Coming up, baggage fees, little leg rooms, long lines. It’s what happens when you fly these days but not everyone is complaining. We have the surprising results of a new survey.
MATHISEN: You hate to fly these days? Well, before you answer, you should know that despite higher ticket prices, long lines and all of those fees you end up paying, a new survey says that airline passenger satisfaction has never been higher. It hit an all-time high.
J.D. Powers annual North American airlines satisfaction study finds that fliers are happier than ever mostly because of easier check-ins and more in-flight amenities like Wi-Fi.
We asked some travelers whether they felt more satisfaction about flying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel as though everything has been running smoothly as far as my flights and everything, as far as leaving at the right time. Sometimes you go through delays, but I mean, it’s to be expected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The prices haven’t come down, but the fees go up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It’s reasonable to assume that people are traveling with luggage should be included in the flight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do I want to pay $75 extra to get my bag here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just like to be more legroom on the plane.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All they want to do is get as many people as possible. So, yes, we don’t have a high speed rail system in this country, so we’re stuck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m still going to travel. If they increase it, it is one of those things. You’ve got to pay it if you want to go somewhere.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MATHISEN: For all the gains made by the airlines, J.D. Power says customer satisfaction is still below the hotels rental car companies and other service industries.
HERERA: And finally tonight, an update on the spring art auction season which has exploded in its first week with Christie’s Auction House in New York City making history last night, selling three-quarters of a billion dollars worth of contemporary art in one night.
So, what were last night’s big winners and who is doing all of that buying?
Robert Frank has the story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m selling it here at $75 million.
ROBERT FRANK, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the best single auction ever for Christie’s Auction House — their post-war and contemporary sale pulling in a record $744 million. About a dozen pieces sold for more than $20 million.
(on camera): Buyers went for big paintings that made a statement. And Asian buyers accounted for about half of the top 10 sales showing that Chinese collectors have become the biggest new force in the soaring art market.
(voice-over): The top seller was also the night’s surprise, it was “Black Fire,” by Barnett Newman, which sold for $85 million, including commission. That was way above the estimate of around $50 million, and twice the previous record for Barnett Newman. While not well known among the broader public, Newman is a big trophy for wealthy collectors.
ANDREW FABRICANT, RICHARD GRAY GALLERY PARTNER: This is sort of like big game hunting when it comes to abstract impressionist art. If you’re collecting Jackson Pollock and Rothko, getting a Newman is sort of like the white whale of big game hunting.
FRANK: The second top seller was Francis Bacon’s called 1984 triptych called “Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards”. It sold for $80 million. But it was a slight disappointment compared to earlier estimates. Francis Bacon triptych last fall sold for $142 million, becoming the most expensive piece ever sold at auction.
Warhol was a big winner last night. His “Race Riot” piece from 1964 went for $63 million and his “White Marilyn” went for $41 million, double the estimate.
And Jeff Koons always brings some playfulness to the auctions, as well as big prices. His nine-foot long Jim Beam, J.B. Turner Train made from stainless steel went for $38 million. Each of the cars is filled with a fifth of Jim Beam Bourbon. So, at least if it falls in price, the buyer can always ease his pain with the stiff drink.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Robert Frank.
HERERA: Well, for $38 million, you might need a stiff drink, right?
MATHISEN: Yes, that’s a dual purpose piece of art.
HERERA: It is, maybe that makes it worth $38 million, I don’t know.
That’s NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight. I’m Sue Herera. Thanks for joining us.
MATHISEN: And thanks from me as well. I’m Tyler Mathisen. Have a great evening, everyone. We’ll see you back here tomorrow night.
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