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  How The S&P 500 Index Has Fared Since The Onset Of The Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Posted Under: Broader Stock Market

 
View from the Observation Deck  
  1. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established a "COVID-19 Incident Management System" on 1/7/20, according to its own release. We used that date as the starting point for the chart above.
  2. The epicenter of the COVID-19 virus was Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. As of 3/25/20, the virus had been detected in 196 countries, areas or territories, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  
  3. WHO data indicates there were 416,686 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide as of 3/25/20, with 18,589 confirmed deaths.  
  4. As indicated in the chart, some sectors of the economy have been hit very hard by the arrival of the coronavirus, particularly those that are more cyclical in nature. Keep in mind, Energy has also been negatively impacted by the ongoing crude oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. 
  5. As of 10:04 AM CST this morning, only 2% of the stocks in the S&P 500 Index were priced above their respective 50-Day moving average, according to Bloomberg. Only 6% were above their 200-Day moving average.
  6. While nobody knows when the sell-off in stocks will subside, for those investors with a long time horizon, we believe that buying opportunities are already presenting themselves. 
  7. Congress is expected to pass a stimulus bill valued at approximately $2 trillion to help mitigate the economic fallout from COVID-19. The bill was just passed by the Senate and has now moved to the House of Representatives. 
  8. We intend to monitor and report on the developments of COVID-19 over the coming months. Click here to see a snapshot of this chart showing returns through 3/9/20.   
This chart is for illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any actual investment. There can be no assurance that any of the projections cited will occur. The illustration excludes the effects of taxes and brokerage commissions or other expenses incurred when investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged index of 500 stocks used to measure large-cap U.S. stock market performance. The 11 major S&P 500 Sector Indices are capitalization-weighted and comprised of S&P 500 constituents representing a specific sector. 

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Posted on Thursday, March 26, 2020 @ 1:22 PM • Post Link Share: 
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  A Snapshot Of Bond Valuations
Posted Under: Bond Market

 
View from the Observation Deck  
  1. Today's blog post is one we do ongoing so that investors can monitor fluctuations in bond prices relative to changes in interest rates. This one features activity from the all-time high in the stock market on 2/19/20 through 3/20/20 (1 month). 
  2. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell from 1.57% at the close on 2/19/20 to 0.85% at the close on 3/20/20, or a decline of 72 basis points (bps), according to Bloomberg. 
  3. Since 2/19/20, the Federal Reserve ("Fed") has decreased the federal funds target rate (upper bound) by 150 bps, from 1.75% to 0.25%, according to Bloomberg. For the 30-year period ended 3/20/20, the federal funds target rate (upper bound) averaged 2.90%.
  4. With respect to the Fed's about-face on monetary policy, the plunge in the federal funds target rate (upper bound) to 0.25% means the Fed is now back to where it held rates from the end of 2008 through the end of 2015. That signals a problem is at hand. 
  5. While the Fed was battling the financial crisis in 2008, and for several years thereafter, the problem today is COVID-19, a coronavirus pandemic. The manner in which the Trump administration, and some governors, have chosen to mitigate the anticipated escalation of the virus is by literally shutting down large chunks of the economy to enable millions of people to shelter in their homes. The Fed is also doing what it can to inject much needed liquidity into the debt markets.  
  6. As indicated in the chart above, despite the plunge in interest rates, there was tremendous selling pressure in the bond market over the past month. The only categories that weathered the storm were government-backed securities. 
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 BofAML 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 BofAML 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 S&P/LSTA U.S. Leveraged Loan 100 Index is a market value-weighted index designed to measure the performance of the largest segment of the U.S. syndicated leveraged loan market. The ICE BofAML 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 BofAML 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 ICE BofAML 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 BofAML Global Corporate Index tracks the performance of investment grade corporate debt publicly issued in the major domestic and Eurobond markets. 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 Tuesday, March 24, 2020 @ 12:53 PM • Post Link Share: 
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  US Stock Markets Ended March 20, 2020
Posted Under: Weekly Market Commentary

 
Stocks roared and whimpered throughout the week as the S&P posted two historic moves not seen since 2008. Friday's 9% rally into the end of the day eclipsed a record set in October 2008. One day earlier, the S&P 500 had its biggest down day since 2008 after dropping over 9%. The markets had been waiting on a policy with a defined direction and magnitude. Those announcements came on Friday with the President declaring a national emergency and congress almost simultaneously announcing a bill to stem the epidemic. Earlier in the week the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, causing President Trump to address the nation and restrict travel from European nations. The Energy sector was the worst-performing group last week after crude fell over 19%. Oil and natural gas driller Apache Corp sold off to end the week 60% lower. Cruise line operators Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Carnival Corp also felt the impact of the virus outbreak with the group of companies among the worst performers in the S&P 500. To support the credit markets, the Federal Reserve announced on Thursday it would inject $1.5 trillion dollars to combat "highly unusual disruptions". Economic repercussions are yet to be realized in the United States as the potential slowdown is met with government capital infusions and payment deferrals. Next week we will look at the growth of new COVID-19 cases and the policies designed to identify and quell the outbreak as the main market-moving events.
Posted on Monday, March 23, 2020 @ 8:24 AM • Post Link Share: 
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  US Economy and Credit Markets Ended March 20, 2020
Posted Under: Weekly Market Commentary

 
In historic fashion, last weekend the Federal Reserve fired the proverbial "bazooka" at the coronavirus. The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate to 0.00%-0.25%, the lowest since December 2015, and implemented a repurchase agreement of $700 billion worth of Treasury debt and mortgage-backed securities. The Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell stated the central bank has no intention to push the benchmark interest rate below zero. Throughout the week, numerous cities and states ordered shelter-in-place orders and the Federal government has closed the borders to non-essential travel in efforts to further combat the coronavirus. In response, US Treasury bond yields were down for the week as investors favored safe haven assets fearing an economic slowdown. As for February economic data, new home sales declined for the month but still beat the consensus estimate, while existing home sales rose 6.5%, easily beating estimates. Industrial production in February rose 0.6%, beating estimates. Retail sales dipped in February by half a percent, below the consensus estimate of 0.2% growth. The dip in sales was largely due to gas stations and autos. Major economic reports (related consensus forecasts, prior data) for the upcoming week include Monday:  February Chicago Fed National Activity Index ( n/a, -0.25); Tuesday: March Preliminary Markit Us Manufacturing PMI ( 45.0, 50.7),  March Preliminary US Services PMI (44.0, 49.4), March Preliminary US Composite PMI (n/a, 49.6), February New Home Sales (750K, 764K), March Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index (-10, -2); Wednesday: March 20 MBA Mortgage Applications (n/a, -8.4%), February Preliminary Durable Goods Orders ( -1.0%, -0.2%), January FHFA House Price Index MoM (0.4%, 0.6%); Thursday: February Preliminary Wholesales Inventories MoM (n/a, -0.4%), 4Q Third GDP Annualized QoQ (2.1%, 2.1%), March 21 Initial Jobless Claims (750K, 281K), March 22 Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index (n/a, 63.0); Friday: February Personal Income (0.4%, 0.6%), February Personal Spending (0.3%, 0.2%), March Final University of Michigan Sentiment Index (93.3, 95.9).
Posted on Monday, March 23, 2020 @ 8:23 AM • Post Link Share: 
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  Trump Rally vs. Trump Tariffs vs. Trump Bear Market

 
View from the Observation Deck  

  1. With respect to the stock market, perhaps three of the most defining dates for the Trump administration in its first term have been election day (11/8/16), the day the first round of tariffs on imported steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) were launched (3/8/18) and the day the S&P 500 Index peaked following an impressive 10-year, 11-month bull market run (2/19/20), in our opinion. 
  2. As we are witnessing on a daily basis, the negative toll on the global economy and securities markets from the escalation and spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is substantial. 
  3. The U.S. dollar, which can be a safe-haven destination for foreign investors, didn't strengthen under the Trump administration until the tariffs commenced on 3/8/18. From 11/8/16 through 03/8/18, the U.S. dollar declined by 7.85%, as measured by the U.S. Dollar Index (DXY), according to Bloomberg. From 3/8/18 through 3/18/20, however, the U.S. Dollar Index rose by 12.18%.
  4. The U.S. Dollar Index stood at a reading of 101.16 on 3/18/20, the highest it has been since March 2017, according to Bloomberg. Its historical average is 90 to 91. 
  5. The combination of the trade tariffs and COVID-19 have created some serious headwinds for stocks, as indicated in the table above.
  6. For comparative purposes, click here to see where total returns stood for the indices in the table above as of 1/10/20, prior to the 2/19/20 peak in the S&P 500 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 NASDAQ 100 Index includes 100 of the largest domestic and non-financial companies listed on The NASDAQ Stock Market based on market capitalization. The S&P SmallCap 600 Index is a capitalization-weighted index that tracks U.S. stocks with a small market capitalization. The S&P 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index comprised of 500 stocks (currently 505) 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 MSCI World (ex U.S.) Index is a free-float weighted index designed to measure the equity market performance of developed markets. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure equity market performance of emerging markets. The U.S. Dollar Index (DXY) indicates the general international value of the dollar relative to a basket of major world currencies.

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Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2020 @ 1:32 PM • Post Link Share: 
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  How Bonds Have Fared During The Sell-Off In Stocks
Posted Under: Bond Market

 
View from the Observation Deck  

  1. The S&P 500 Index hit its all-time closing high of 3,386.15 on 2/19/20. From 2/19/20-3/16/20, the index posted a total return of -29.41%, according to Bloomberg.  
  2. In addition to the plunge in stock prices, the economic fallout from the escalation and spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has negatively impacted the cyclical categories in the bond market.
  3. As indicated in the chart above, the vast majority of negative total returns (red bars) are tied to corporate bond issuers.
  4. The bond categories that generated positive total returns (green bars) represent government-backed debt. This suggests there has been a flight to quality since 2/19/20, in our opinion.  
  5. Since 2/19/20, the Federal Reserve has slashed the federal funds target rate (upper bound) from 1.75% to 0.25%, putting this key benchmark lending rate back to where it stood in December 2008.
  6. Click here to see how these bond categories were performing prior to 2/19/20. 

This chart is for illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any actual investment. The illustration excludes the effects of taxes and brokerage commissions 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. The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged index of 500 stocks used to measure large-cap U.S. stock market performance.  

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Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 @ 3:11 PM • Post Link Share: 
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  US Stock Markets Ended March 13, 2020
Posted Under: Weekly Market Commentary

 
Stocks roared and whimpered throughout the week as the S&P posted two historic moves not seen since 2008. Friday's 9% rally into the end of the day eclipsed a record set in October 2008. One day earlier, the S&P 500 had its biggest down day since 2008 after dropping over 9%. The markets had been waiting on a policy with a defined direction and magnitude. Those announcements came on Friday with the President declaring a national emergency and congress almost simultaneously announcing a bill to stem the epidemic. Earlier in the week the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, causing President Trump to address the nation and restrict travel from European nations. The Energy sector was the worst-performing group last week after crude fell over 19%. Oil and natural gas driller Apache Corp sold off to end the week 60% lower. Cruise line operators Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Carnival Corp also felt the impact of the virus outbreak with the group of companies among the worst performers in the S&P 500. To support the credit markets, the Federal Reserve announced on Thursday it would inject $1.5 trillion dollars to combat "highly unusual disruptions". Economic repercussions are yet to be realized in the United States as the potential slowdown is met with government capital infusions and payment deferrals. Next week we will look at the growth of new COVID-19 cases and the policies designed to identify and quell the outbreak as the main market-moving events.
Posted on Monday, March 16, 2020 @ 8:07 AM • Post Link Share: 
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  US Economy and Credit Markets Ended March 13, 2020
Posted Under: Weekly Market Commentary

 
Last week was a historic week in global markets. Fixed Income was not immune to large price swings as world markets responded to a global pandemic. Notably, the yield on 30-year treasury bonds fell below 1% for the first time ever. Monday of last week saw 10- year yields close at 0.501% and 30- year yields close at 0.938%. These are both low absolute yields and represent a startingly flat yield curve. These low yields are indicative of high prices as bonds benefit from increased safe asset demand.Oil markets digested both a supply shock as Saudi Arabia's state oil production announced plans to cut prices and potentially unleash supply increases and a demand shock as global forecasts for oil demand have declined with lowered economic activity resulting from responses to COVID-19. Suprisingly, though a safe-haven asset, Gold declined 4 of 5 days last week as deflationary expectations took hold. On Sunday, the United States Federal Reserve agreed to a surprise interest rate cut. The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark rates by 100 basis points to a range of zero to 0.25% and announced a new round of Quantitative Easing. Major economic reports (related consensus forecasts, prior data) for the upcoming week include Monday: March Empire Manufacturing (5.0, 12.9); Tuesday: February Retail Sales Advance (0.2%, 0.3%) and February Industrial Production (0.4%, -0.3%); Wednesday: March 13 MBA Mortgage Applications (N/A, 55.4%), FOMC Rate Decision Upper Bound (0.75%), FOMC Rate Decision Lower Bound (0.50%); Thursday: March 14 Initial Jobless Claims (219K, 211K) and February Leading Index (0.1%, 0.8%); Friday: February Existing Home Sales (5.51M, 5.46M).
Posted on Monday, March 16, 2020 @ 8:05 AM • Post Link Share: 
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  Commodities Can’t Catch A Break
Posted Under: Commodities

 
View from the Observation Deck  
  1. As of this morning, the S&P 500 Index crossed over into bear market territory (a 20% or more price decline from the most recent high). If it is still down by 20% or more at the close of trading the 11-year bull market will be no more. 
  2. From 3/9/09-3/11/20 (current bull market), the S&P 500 Index posted a cumulative total return of 409.73%, compared to a return of -29.08% for the TR/CC CRB Commodity Index, according to Bloomberg. 
  3. That is not a typo. Commodities, overall, have not participated in the second-longest bull market in history. The recent plunge in the S&P 500 Index, which naturally has investors on edge, is in the vicinity of the percentage decline experienced by commodities since 3/9/09. 
  4. The strength in the U.S. dollar has negatively influenced commodity prices of late, in our opinion. As indicated in the chart above, commodities were enjoying a nice rally from mid-2017 to mid-2018, while the U.S. dollar (green line in chart) was trending back towards its historical average, as measured by the U.S. Dollar Index. Click here to see our latest perspective piece on the U.S. dollar. 
  5. From 3/9/09-3/11/20, the U.S. Dollar Index was up 8.43%, according to Bloomberg. 
  6. Commodity prices tend to have an inverse relationship with the U.S. dollar over time. A strengthening U.S. dollar can put downward pressure on commodity prices, while weakness in the dollar can help boost prices. Persistent low levels of inflation worldwide has likely contributed to the lackluster performance of commodities over the past decade or so, in our opinion. 
  7. It is no coincidence that the Trump administration's launch of new trade tariffs in March 2018, and the subsequent escalation of said tariffs, was followed by a fairly strong rally in the U.S. dollar (see chart). The U.S. dollar can serve as a safe-haven destination for global investors, especially when global economic growth is slowing. In February 2020, the White House admitted that President Trump's trade stance depressed economic growth and business investment, according to Bloomberg.
  8. Looking ahead, commodity prices would likely benefit from a weaker U.S. dollar and some stronger inflationary pressures, in our opinion. We intend to monitor the climate for commodities moving forward.  
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 Thomson Reuters/CoreCommodity CRB Commodity Index is an average of commodity futures prices with monthly rebalancing, while the U.S. Dollar Index (DXY) indicates the general international value of the U.S. dollar relative to a basket of major world currencies. The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged index of 500 stocks used to measure large-cap U.S. stock market performance. 

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Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2020 @ 1:38 PM • Post Link Share: 
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  How The S&P 500 Index Has Fared Since The Onset Of The Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Posted Under: Broader Stock Market

 
View from the Observation Deck  
  1. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established a "COVID-19 Incident Management System" on 1/7/20, according to its own release. We used that date as the starting point for the chart above.
  2. The epicenter of the COVID-19 virus was Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. As of 3/7/20, the virus has been detected in nearly 90 locations internationally. 
  3. As indicated in the chart, some sectors of the economy have been hit very hard by the arrival of the coronavirus, particularly those that are more cyclical in nature. 
  4. The virus represents a potential threat to global economic growth and has already negatively impacted such industries as manufacturing (China is integral to the global supply chain), energy and travel and leisure. 
  5. Investor concerns over slower growth appear to be playing out in the U.S. bond market. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note has plunged from 1.82% on 1/7/20 to 0.54% on 3/9/20, or 128 basis points, according to Bloomberg. That decline is considerably more than the 50 basis point cut (1.75% to 1.25%) in the federal funds target rate (upper bound) over the same period, which suggests investors are seeking additional rate cuts from the Federal Reserve, in our opinion. 
  6. Keep in mind, the steep sell-off in stocks (S&P 500 Index) has likely been exacerbated by the fact that the index has been setting all-time highs nearly 11 years into the current bull market. Investors are sitting on a lot of gains. 
  7. As of the close on 3/9/20, only 5% of the stocks in the S&P 500 Index were priced above their respective 50-Day moving average, according to Bloomberg. Only 16% were above their 200-Day moving average.
  8. While nobody knows when the sell-off in stocks will subside, for those investors with a long time horizon, we believe that buying opportunities are abound.
  9. We intend to monitor and report on the developments of COVID-19 over the coming months.
This chart is for illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any actual investment. There can be no assurance that any of the projections cited will occur. The illustration excludes the effects of taxes and brokerage commissions or other expenses incurred when investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged index of 500 stocks used to measure large-cap U.S. stock market performance. The 11 major S&P 500 Sector Indices are capitalization-weighted and comprised of S&P 500 constituents representing a specific sector. 

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Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2020 @ 2:32 PM • 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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US Stock Markets Ended March 6, 2020
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