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  How Bonds Have Fared Since 8/4/20
Posted Under: Bond Market

 
View from the Observation Deck  
  1. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note (T-note) closed at an all-time low of 0.51% on 8/4/20, according to Bloomberg.  
  2. From 8/4/20 through 6/21/22, its yield rose from 0.51% to 3.28%, or an increase of 277 basis points, based on the close of trading. It reached as high as 3.48% on 6/14/22 during the period.    
  3. As indicated in the chart above, the only debt category in positive territory for the period is leveraged loans (senior loans), which are floating rate, speculative-grade securities.  
  4. Since 8/4/20, speculative-grade debt, including both leveraged loans and high yield corporate bonds, has significantly outperformed the majority of investment-grade fixed-income securities (see chart).  
  5. Emerging market bonds and intermediate-term global government bonds were deep into negative territory for the period captured in the chart. The strength in the U.S. dollar definitely had a negative impact on the performance of foreign bonds, in our opinion. The U.S. Dollar Index (DXY) rose by 11.84% over the same period, according to Bloomberg.   
  6. Inflation has surged. The trailing 12-month CPI (Consumer Price Index) stood at 8.6% in May 2022, up from 1.3% from August 2020. The CPI is at a level not seen since 1982, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  7. As of 6/21/22, the federal funds target rate (upper bound) stood at 1.75%, up from 0.25% this past March. The Fed has signaled that it intends to raise this benchmark lending rate by another 50-75 basis points at its next meeting on 7/27/22 and could take the rate above the 3.00% mark by year-end.
  8. For comparative purposes, the federal funds target rate (upper bound) averaged 2.46% for the 30-year period ended 6/21/22. Stay Tuned!
This chart is for illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any actual investment. The illustration excludes the effects of taxes and brokerage commissions or other expenses incurred when investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. The ICE BofA U.S. High Yield Constrained Index tracks the performance of U.S. dollar denominated below investment grade corporate debt publicly issued in the U.S. domestic market. The S&P/LSTA U.S. Leveraged Loan Index is a market value-weighted index designed to measure the performance of the U.S. leveraged loan market. The ICE BofA Emerging Markets Corporate Plus Index tracks the performance of U.S. dollar and euro denominated emerging markets non-sovereign debt publicly issued in the major domestic and eurobond markets. The ICE BofA Fixed Rate Preferred Securities Index tracks the performance of investment grade fixed rate U.S. dollar denominated preferred securities issued in the U.S. domestic market. The ICE BofA 1-3 Year U.S. Corporate Index is a subset of the ICE BofA U.S. Corporate Index including all securities with a remaining term to maturity of less than 3 years. The ICE BofA 1-3 Year U.S. Treasury Index tracks the performance of U.S. dollar denominated sovereign debt publicly issued by the U.S. government with a remaining term to maturity of less than 3 years. The ICE BofA 22+ Year U.S. Municipal Securities Index tracks the performance of U.S. dollar denominated investment grade tax-exempt debt publicly issued by U.S. states and territories, and their political subdivisions with a remaining term to maturity greater than or equal to 22 years. The ICE BofA U.S. Corporate Index tracks the performance of U.S. dollar denominated investment grade corporate debt publicly issued in the U.S. domestic market. The ICE BofA 7-10 Year Global Government (ex U.S.) Index tracks the performance of publicly issued investment grade sovereign debt denominated in the issuer's own domestic currency with a remaining term to maturity between 7 to 10 years, excluding those denominated in U.S. dollars. The ICE BofA 7-10 Year U.S. Treasury Index tracks the performance of U.S. dollar denominated sovereign debt publicly issued by the U.S. government with a remaining term to maturity between 7 to 10 years. The ICE BofA Freddie Mac Mortgage Backed Securities Index is a subset of the ICE BofA U.S. Mortgage Backed Securities Index including all generics representing pools issued by Freddie Mac.

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Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2022 @ 10:33 AM • Post Link Share: 
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  S&P 500 Index Dividends And Buybacks Still Setting Records
Posted Under: Stock Dividends

 
View from the Observation Deck  
  1. Companies have a number of ways in which to return capital to their shareholders. Two of the more popular ways in recent years are cash dividends and stock buybacks. 
  2. Today's blog post shows that both dividend distributions and stock buybacks have set new all-time highs approximately two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as measured by the S&P 500 Index.  
  3. For comparative purposes, we include the dividend distributions and share buybacks for the past eight quarters. Companies are clearly spending more on buybacks than dividends. 
  4. The all-time high for the S&P 500 Index's quarterly dividend payout was the $137.6 billion distributed in Q1'22, according to data from S&P Dow Jones Indices. 
  5. The record for quarterly stock buybacks was the $281.0 billion registered in Q1'22, according to data from S&P Dow Jones Indices.
  6. As of 3/31/22, the S&P 500 Index sectors contributing the most to its total dividend payout were as follows: Information Technology (17.2%); Health Care (14.9%); Financials (14.5%); and Consumer Staples (10.7%), according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.
  7. As of Q1'22, the S&P 500 Index sectors that were most aggressive in repurchasing their stock were as follows (% of all stocks repurchased): Information Technology (25.5%); Financials (19.5%); Health Care (14.6%); and Communication Services (12.1%), according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.
  8. Overall, the companies in the S&P 500 Index are flush with cash, as measured by the S&P 500 Industrials (Old) Cash & Equivalents. This measure excludes Financials, Utilities and Transportation companies. Cash holdings totaled $1.7 trillion on 3/31/22, which matched the $1.7 trillion held on 3/31/20 (onset of COVID-19), according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. 
  9. Keep in mind that, from 3/31/20-3/31/22, S&P 500 Index companies spent $1.5 trillion on stock buybacks and another $1.0 trillion on dividends, yet they hold the same amount of cash today as they did on 3/31/20.    
This chart is for illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any actual investment. The illustration excludes the effects of taxes and brokerage commissions and other expenses incurred when investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged index of 500 companies used to measure large-cap U.S. stock market performance. 

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Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 @ 2:05 PM • Post Link Share: 
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  US Stock Markets Ended June 17, 2022
Posted Under: Weekly Market Commentary

 
The S&P 500 Index shed more than 5% for the second straight week as equities entered their first bear market since the Covid-19 pandemic. Monday began on a sour note as all 500 S&P members were in the red at one point during the day. On Wednesday the Fed announced a well anticipated 75 basis point increase in the federal funds rate. While it was largely expected based on comments from FOMC board members leading up to the meeting, the market still struggled to digest the news of the largest rate hike since 1994 with indications that more raises of the same size may be on the horizon. Many market strategists believe that the S&P 500 has very nearly priced in a recession as the forward price to earnings multiple on the index has contracted by nearly a third to 15.5x. Unlike other recessionary environments, the labor market continues to be strong as shown by the low Initial Jobless Claims figure of 229,000 released on Thursday. Energy was the worst performing GICS sector due to news that Russia is continuing to wage its commodity war and halted supply of natural gas to Europe. President Biden wrote an open letter to major US oil refiners asking them to increase production to alleviate supply shortages. He reasoned that energy companies have profited substantially from the current supply squeeze and ought to invest more in production capacity that has been woefully underfunded mostly due to the long payback periods and the increasing green energy narrative in Washington. While the twelve worst performing stocks in the S&P 500 all came from the energy sector, the best performing stock during the week was Fedex Corp (FDX, 11.2%) as the shipping company raised its dividend in a sign of balance sheet strength before it releases earnings next week. Other companies releasing earnings announcements in the coming week include Carnival Corp, Darden Restaurants, Inc., and Accenture PLC.
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 @ 8:36 AM • Post Link Share: 
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  US Economy and Credit Markets Ended June 17, 2022
Posted Under: Weekly Market Commentary

 
High inflation drove the Federal Reserve to declare a 75-bps increase to the target Federal Funds Rate – to a target range of 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 percent. Their statement added a new line voicing that the committee is "strongly committed to returning inflation to its 2 percent objective." Markets have very rapidly priced in higher rates amid elevated inflation readings. Understanding this year's rapid price changes is maybe most easily explained in review of the Federal Reserve Dot Plot. The December 15, 2021 FOMC Dots Median was 0.875 for 2022.  After the June 15, 2022 release of the FOMC Dots the 2022 now stands at 3.75.  This represents a striking increase of nearly 300 bps in just 6 months. Last week's economic reports included Tuesday's PPI reading for May showing an increase of 0.8%. Energy prices rose 5% for the month and food was unchanged. On a year over-year-basis, Producer prices are up 10.8%. This came on the heels of Friday, June 10's CPI reading; taken catastrophically by financial markets, which induced the Federal Reserve to raise rates higher than what they had previously guided too. On Thursday, applications to build US housing plummeted 14.4% in May and starts were off 3.5%. This was the steepest monthly decline since the start of the pandemic amid rapidly increasing mortgage rates. Last week's Friday Industrial Production registered a small rise of 0.2%, undershooting expectations of 0.4%. This was the fifth consecutive month of increased production; May powered by utility and mining output increases. Next Monday will feature a first-ever market close in honor of Juneteenth. Major economic reports (related consensus forecasts, prior data) for the upcoming week include Tuesday: May Existing Home Sales (5.40m, 5.61m); Wednesday: June 17 MBA Mortgage Applications (n/a, 6.6%); Thursday: June 11 Initial Jobless Claims (225k, 229k), June preliminary S&P Global US Manufacturing PMI (56.0, 57.0); Friday: June final University of Michigan Sentiment (50.2, unch.) and May New Home Sales (590k, 591k).
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 @ 8:34 AM • Post Link Share: 
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  Sector Performance Via Market Cap. (2020-2021 and YTD-6/14/22)
Posted Under: Sectors

 
View from the Observation Deck  
  1. All three S&P stock indices in the table above recently shifted from correction mode into bear market territory. The returns in blue ink reflect year-to-date total returns.   
  2. A correction is usually defined as a 10.00% to 19.99% decline in the price of a security or index from its most recent peak. A bear market is defined as a 20.00% or greater decline in the price of a security or index.    
  3. As of the close on 6/14/22, the S&P 500 Index stood 22.12% below its all-time closing high, according to Bloomberg. The S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600 Indices stood 21.53% and 22.68% below their respective all-time highs. 
  4. The three major indices featured in the table comprise the S&P Composite 1500 Index, which represents approximately 90% of total U.S. equity market capitalization (cap), according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. 
  5. Large-cap stocks performed significantly better than their mid- and small-cap counterparts from 2020-2021 (black columns). YTD through 6/14/22, large-caps have lagged the performance of both small- and mid-caps, (see table above). From 12/31/19 through 6/14/22 (period covered in the table that captures the COVID-19 pandemic), the S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600 Indices posted cumulative total returns of 20.29%, 14.75% and 14.83%, respectively, according to Bloomberg. 
  6. Sector performance can vary widely by market cap (see table). A couple of the more extreme cases (2020-2021) include Information Technology, Real Estate and Utilities. So far in 2022, it is Financials, Health Care and Utilities. 
  7. As of the close on 6/15/22, the percentage of stocks in the S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600 Indices trading above their 50-day moving averages were 5%, 10% and 17%, respectively.
  8. The percentage of stocks in the S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600 Indices trading above their 200-day moving averages stood at 16% across the board.  
  9. Moving averages tend to smooth out day-to-day price fluctuations and can be a useful tool for traders and investors to identify both positive trends and reversals, in our opinion.  
This chart is for illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any actual investment. The illustration excludes the effects of taxes and brokerage commissions and other expenses incurred when investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged index of 500 companies used to measure large-cap U.S. stock market performance. The S&P MidCap 400 Index is a capitalization-weighted index that tracks the mid-range sector of the U.S. stock market. The S&P SmallCap 600 Index is a capitalization-weighted index that tracks U.S. stocks with a small market capitalization. The 11 major sector indices are capitalization-weighted and comprised of S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600 constituents representing a specific sector.

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Posted on Thursday, June 16, 2022 @ 11:08 AM • Post Link Share: 
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  The Buy And Hold Investment Strategy Is Not Dead
Posted Under: Conceptual Investing

 
View from the Observation Deck  
  1. Equities moved into bear market territory as of yesterday's close, as measured by the S&P 500 Index. A bear market is defined as a 20.00% or greater decline in the price of a security or index from its recent peak.    
  2. YTD-6/13/22, the S&P 500 Index posted a total return of -20.79%, according to Bloomberg. 
  3. Investors who follow the financial media have been told by the likes of traders and hedge fund managers for years that buying and holding stocks no longer works. 
  4. The notion that investors are vulnerable to surrendering gains achieved over time to negative events, such as wars, inflation and the occasional black swan, is misguided, in our opinion. While nothing is guaranteed with respect to the performance of equities, the fact is, up until this point, the S&P 500 Index has never failed to fully recover the losses sustained in a bear market. 
  5. We selected the period in the chart above (over 20 years) to show how the S&P 500 Index and its top-performing subsectors have performed since the bursting of the technology bubble at the start of this millennium. The start date of 3/12/01 was selected because it marked the point in which the S&P 500 Index moved into bear market territory. For the record, the peak in the S&P 500 Index (closed at 1,527.46) happened on 3/24/00.   
  6. The S&P 500 Index is comprised of 11 sectors and 122 subsectors, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. We are focusing on the subsectors to show which industries performed the best over the period.
  7. For comparative purposes, from 1926-2021 (96 years), the S&P 500 Index posted an average annual total return of 10.46%, according to Morningstar/Ibbotson Associates. 
  8. Our takeaways from this snapshot are that investors can prosper with a buy and hold strategy and they do not have to necessarily overweight the newest, shiniest, most cutting-edge industries to make a buck. 
This chart is for illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any actual investment. The illustration excludes the effects of taxes and brokerage commissions and other expenses incurred when investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. This chart is for illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any actual investment. The illustration excludes the effects of taxes and brokerage commissions and other expenses incurred when investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged index of 500 companies used to measure large-cap U.S. stock market performance, while the S&P sector and subsector indices are capitalization-weighted and comprised of S&P 500 constituents representing a specific sector or industry. 

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Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 @ 10:32 AM • Post Link Share: 
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  US Stock Markets Ended June 10, 2022
Posted Under: Weekly Market Commentary

 
The S&P 500 Index declined another 5% last week to mark the ninth week in the last ten to see a decline. The market barometer has drawn down over 18% from all-time highs, within striking distance of the 20% drawdown mark that indicates a bear market. Equities sold off near the end of Thursday and throughout Friday as the May CPI number surprised to the upside. The 8.6% reading was a new high for this cycle and showed that inflation did not peak in March. Although prices continue to rise above-trend, the labor market remains strong as nonfarm payrolls in May of 390,000 beat the estimate of 318,000 and reaffirm a strong backdrop for the Fed to raise rates against. Gasoline made up a large part of the month to month rise in prices as the national average price of gasoline rose above $5/gallon this week and oil eclipsed $120/barrel for the first time since the initial spike in March when Russia invaded Ukraine. Energy stocks performed the best during the week although all eleven GICS sectors finished the week down, led by Financials and Information Technology. Solar stocks reacted positively to news on Monday that President Biden will waive tariffs on solar panels from Southeast Asia for another two years as he seeks to implement his clean energy plan. Solar stocks had previously been weighed down by the overhanging grey cloud of a federal probe into whether Chinese companies were sidestepping tariffs by exporting to the US through Southeast Asian intermediaries. Cruise line stocks could find no respite from the newly announced CDC guidelines that no longer require a negative test before re-entering the US as Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL, -18.8%), Carnival Corp (CCL, -18.2%), and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH, -15.8%) were the worst performers in the S&P 500 index during the week. The best performing stocks in the S&P 500 during the week were the JM Smucker Co. (SJM, +4.6%) and Valero Energy Corp (VLO, +3.8%). The upcoming week holds another Fed meeting on Wednesday where investors are pricing in at least a 50bps rate hike with a 27% chance of a 75bps hike.
Posted on Monday, June 13, 2022 @ 9:13 AM • Post Link Share: 
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  US Economy and Credit Markets Ended June 10, 2022
Posted Under: Weekly Market Commentary

 
Treasury bond yields rose meteorically across the yield curve last week as the bond selloff deepened. Last week's rise in Treasury bond yields was highlighted by the two-year Treasury note hitting its highest level in nearly a decade and a half. Friday morning's May Consumer Price Index (CPI) print was the leading cause for the upward move in Treasury bond yields. The CPI increased 1.0% in May, 0.3% higher than expected, with energy prices up 3.9% and food up 1.2%. While real wages (ex-inflation) were down 0.6% last month. According to Bloomberg, in response to the higher-than-expected May CPI data, the front-end of the yield curve repriced to a 50% chance of the Federal Reserve increasing the policy rate by 75 basis points as early as the July Federal Reserve policy meeting. Barclays revised their forecast and now call the Federal Reserve increasing the policy rate by 75 basis points in the June policy meeting. With CPI up 8.6% versus last year, it is becoming increasingly apparent that inflation is not transitory. Major economic reports (related consensus forecasts, prior data) for the upcoming week include Tuesday: May PPI Final Demand MoM (0.8%, 0.5%), May Final PPI Ex Food and Energy MoM (0.6%, 0.4%), May PPI Final Demand YoY (10.8%, 11.0%), May Final PPI Ex Food and Energy YoY (8.6%, 8.8%); Wednesday: June 10 MBA Mortgage Applications (n/a, -6.5%), June Empire Manufacturing (4.5%, -11.6%), May Retail Sales Advance MoM (0.2%, 0.9%), June 15 FOMC Rate Decision (Upper Bound) (1.50%, 1.00%); Thursday: May Building Permits (1789k, 1823k), May Housing Starts (1709k, 1724k), June 11 Initial Jobless Claims (215k, 229k), June 4 Continuing Claims (1300k, 1306k); Friday: May Industrial Production MoM (0.4%, 1.1%), May Capacity Utilization (79.2%, 79.0%), May Leading Index (-0.4%, -0.3%).
Posted on Monday, June 13, 2022 @ 9:11 AM • Post Link Share: 
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  A Global Snapshot Of Government Bond Yields
Posted Under: Bond Market

 
View from the Observation Deck  
  1. Today's blog post shows the yields on a couple of benchmark government bond maturities from key countries/economies around the globe.
  2. While bond yields are up from their historic lows, in many instances, they remain depressed.
  3. The yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury Note (T-note) stood at 2.97% on 6/7/22, 246 basis points (bps) higher than its all-time closing low of 0.51% on 8/4/20 (not in table), but 99 basis points below its 3.96% average yield for the 30-year period ended 6/7/22 (not in table), according to Bloomberg.
  4. The yield spread between the U.S. 2-year T-note and the 10-year T-note was 24 basis points on 6/7/22, well below its 30-year average spread of 114 basis points as of 6/7/22, according to Bloomberg.  
  5. As of 6/7/22, the federal funds target rate (upper bound) stood at 1.00%. The Federal Reserve ("Fed") has signaled that it intends to raise this benchmark lending rate by 50 bps on June 15th and another 50 bps on July 27th, pushing it up to 2.00%.
  6. Loretta Mester, Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President, commented that she could see herself voting for another 50 bps increase at the September 21st meeting if there is not compelling evidence that inflation has peaked, according to Reuters. 
  7. With the rise in government bond yields throughout much of the globe over the past year, the amount of negative-yielding debt has declined significantly, as measured by the Bloomberg Global Aggregate Negative Yielding Debt Index. The total value stood at $2.41 trillion on 6/7/22, down from $13.07 trillion a year ago. 
  8. We will continue to monitor the situation to see if high inflation plus any tapering the Fed does to its balance sheet of assets is enough to push bond yields higher in the months ahead.   

This chart is for illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any actual investment.  

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Posted on Thursday, June 9, 2022 @ 12:05 PM • Post Link Share: 
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  Top-Performing S&P 500 Index Subsectors YTD (Thru 5/31)
Posted Under: Sectors

 
View from the Observation Deck  
  1. Today's blog post is for those investors who want to drill down below the sector level to see what is performing well in the stock market. 
  2. Equities are off to a rough start in 2022. The subsectors in the chart above offer proof that equity investors can prosper even when the major broader market indices are down. 
  3. The S&P 500 Index is currently comprised of 11 sectors and 123 subsectors, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.
  4. As indicated in the chart above, Energy and Consumer Staples had five and four subsectors, respectively, on the list. All five subsectors that comprise the energy sector made the list. Materials, which are cyclical in nature, could potentially benefit over time from the robust inflationary climate, in our opinion.  
  5. As of 5/31/22, the most heavily weighted sector in the S&P 500 Index was Information Technology at 27.1%, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. Energy and Consumer Staples came in at 4.8% and 6.5%, respectively. 
  6. The 15 top-performing subsectors in the chart posted total returns ranging from 14.39% (Tobacco) to 62.82% (Oil & Gas Exploration & Production).  
  7. With respect to the 11 sectors, only two of them posted positive total returns for the period captured in the chart. Energy and Utilities were up 58.43% and 4.65%, respectively, on a total return basis, according to Bloomberg. The third-and fourth-best performers were Consumer Staples and Materials, with total returns of -3.16% and -4.72%, respectively. The S&P 500 Index posted a total return of -12.76% for the period. 
  8. There are a growing number of packaged products, such as exchange-traded funds, that feature S&P 500 Index subsectors.  
This chart is for illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any actual investment. The illustration excludes the effects of taxes and brokerage commissions and other expenses incurred when investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged index of 500 companies used to measure large-cap U.S. stock market performance, while the S&P sector and subsector indices are capitalization-weighted and comprised of S&P 500 constituents representing a specific sector or industry. 

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Posted on Tuesday, June 7, 2022 @ 11:00 AM • Post Link Share: 
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These posts were prepared by First Trust Advisors L.P., and reflect the current opinion of the authors. They are based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable. Opinions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice. This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.
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