Tag Archives: Federal Reserve

Obama reassures Democrats on health care, immigration

President Obama sought Wednesday to reassure Democrats nervous about the impact of his health care law and the prospects for immigration legislation, telling them “You’re on the right side of history.” In the first of two closed-door meetings on Capitol Hill, Obama focused on financial gains as the economy emerges from the worst downturn since the Depression. He was warned about nominating former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers as chairman of the Federal Reserve and faced questions about his health care law. Some lawmakers complained that three years after its passage, the law still baffles many Americans.

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Big Win For Retailers Over Banks In New Debit Swipe Fee Ruling

By Halah Touryalai, Forbes Staff

It’s back to the drawing board for banks and retailers over the heated debit card swipe fee debate. A judgetoday rejected a rule set by the Federal Reserve back in October 2011 which capped the amount banks could take from retailers when consumers swipe their debit cards. …read more

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Demand for Mortgages Falls as Rates Remain Unchanged

By Reuters

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David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

By Leah Schnurr

Applications for U.S. home mortgages decreased last week with potential buyers shying away from the market as rates held steady just below their two-year highs.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, declined 3.7 percent in the week ended July 26. It was the seventh week in a row the index has been lower.

The MBA’s seasonally adjusted index of loan requests for home purchases, a leading indicator of home sales, fell 3.4 percent.

Fixed 30-year mortgage rates averaged 4.58 percent, unchanged from the week before and only 10 basis points below a two-year high hit earlier in July.

Rates have risen sharply since early May, pushed higher by the Federal Reserve’s plan to start slowing its economic stimulus later this year if the economy progresses as expected.

The Fed is currently buying $85 billion in bonds a month to keep borrowing costs low. The cheap mortgage rates have helped lure homebuyers and worries have emerged that higher costs could take some of the strength out of the housing market’s recovery.

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Still, most economists don’t expect it to derail housing’s growth altogether. Rates have risen about 1 percentage point since early May, but still remain low by historical standards.

Refinancing activity has been hit harder than purchases by the rise in rates, which makes refinancing less lucrative. The gauge of refinancing applications fell 3.8 percent.

The refinance share of total mortgage activity was unchanged at 63 percent of applications.

The survey covers over 75 percent of U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, according to MBA.

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Zombie Economy Overshadows Fed Meeting

By CNBC

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APFederal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

By Patti Domm

GDP data Wednesday is expected to show a slow-moving, zombie-like economy, as the Fed meets for a second day.

Many economists expect second quarter growth to be paltry, less than one percent, and some think that data could help shape the Fed’s thinking if it’s even weaker than expected. The first quarter grew at a 1.8 percent rate.

The Fed meanwhile, isn’t expected to say much new when its meeting ends. The 2 p.m. Eastern time statement isn’t seen altering what Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has already said about the Fed’s plans to taper bond purchases before the end of the year. But it may adjust its comments to reflect a temporary slowing of the economy. The Fed, and many economists, expect a stronger growth rate in the second half of the year.

“[Wednesday] is an action-packed today. It’s one of those weird ones where it’s so action-packed, what if it is a dud?” said George Goncalves, Treasury strategist at Nomura Americas. “We have all these high expectations — GDP, revisions to GDP, ADP, the Treasury going to announce at 8:30 their intentions for borrowing. We have the Fed later on.”

It is also the end of the month, and that could make markets more volatile as traders square positions. For July, the S&P 500 is up five percent, bringing its year to date gain to 18.2 percent, The Dow was up four percent in July so far. Markets Tuesday were in a wait-and-see mode ahead of the Fed’s announcement Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) edged 1 point lower to 15,520 and the S&P 500 (^GSPC) rose less than a point to 1,685.

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The 10-year Treasury note was at 2.61 percent Wednesday. Traders are watching that yield level, as a move higher could take the market to a potential nervous zone for stocks.

“We’ve had a little bit of a backup in yields. [Month end] could amplify whatever’s happening toward the end of the day,” Goncalves said.

“I think GDP will be constructive. I think it’s still coming in on the weak side. The Fed will react to it by not being too hawkish. Then we’re going to quickly turn our attention to [nonfarm payrolls] on Friday,” he said. The Fed has said it would base its tapering decisions on economic data , and it is particularly focused on employment so some traders expect to get more new information from the jobs data than the Fed statement.

The 8:30 a.m. Eastern time GDP release is also be important because the government will release revisions in the data going back to 1929. It last issued massive revisions in 2009. “It’s clear the level of GDP is going to be higher by …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at DailyFinance

Market Minute: Merck, Pfizer Beat Earnings Forecasts; Hospital Giants Merge

By DailyFinance Staff

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Drug giants Pfizer and Merck grab the earnings spotlight. Those stocks and more are what’s in business news Tuesday.

The Dow industrials (^DJI) fell 36 points Monday, the S&P 500 (^GPSC) lost 6 and the Nasdaq (^IXIC) fell 14.

Pfizer’s (PFE) operating profit and revenue edged lower, but still beat expectations. The company has been coping for several years with the loss of patent rights on the top-selling cholesterol drug Lipitor, and sales of Lipitor tumbled 55 percent in the latest period. Pfizer also says it will reorganize, a move some analysts say could lead to another spinoff.

Matt Rourke/AP

Rival drug-maker Merck (MRK) reports net edged past Wall Street expectations, but revenue was a bit light. Sales of several key drugs fell as it too struggles with the expiration of patents.

After the closing bell we’ll hear from biotech leader Amgen (AMGN).

Community Health Systems (CYH) has agreed to buy Health Management Associates (HMA) for $3.9 billion. Both companies operate for-profit hospitals, mostly in smaller cities and rural areas.

Herbalife’s (HLF) net easily beat expectations. The nutrition supplement company has been at the center of a high-profile battle between some big-time investors during the past year, with one hedge fund manager claiming the company is run like a Ponzi scheme, and he’s been betting against its stock. So far, he’s lost more than $200 million on that bet. On the other hand, Carl Icahn has made a cool quarter of a billion by backing the company.

AIG (AIG) is getting out of the retail banking business. The company says it will return deposits because of limits placed on insurance companies under the Dodd-Frank law. Allstate Group (ALL), MetLife (MET) and Hartford Financial Services (HIG) have already backed away from retail banking.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) reportedly has agreed to pay $400 million to $500 million to settle federal charges that it manipulated the power markets in California and other states in 2010 and 2011.

On the economic front, the Federal Reserve begins a two-day policy meeting. Everyone will be looking for clues about when and how it will taper down on its massive bond-buying program.

Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.


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Investors Eye Fed for Further Clues on Interest Rates

By The Associated Press

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Manuel Balce Ceneta/APFederal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER

WASHINGTON — When the Federal Reserve offers its latest word on interest rates this week, few think it will telegraph the one thing investors have been most eager to know: When it will slow its bond purchases, which have kept long-term borrowing rates low.

The Fed might choose to clarify a separate issue: When it may raise its key short-term rate. The Fed has kept that rate near zero since 2008. It’s said it plans to keep it there at least as long as unemployment remains above 6.5 percent and the inflation outlook below 2.5 percent.

Unemployment is now 7.6 percent; the inflation rate is roughly 1 percent.

Chairman Ben Bernanke has stressed that the Fed could decide to keep its short-term rate ultra-low even after unemployment reaches 6.5 percent. Testifying to Congress this month, Bernanke noted that a key reason unemployment has declined is that many Americans have stopped looking for jobs. When people stop looking for work, they’re no longer counted as unemployed.

If that trend continues, Bernanke said that lower unemployment could mask a still-weak job market and that the Fed might feel short-term rates should stay at record lows.

In the statement the Fed will issue when its two-day meeting ends Wednesday, it could specify an unemployment rate below 6.5 percent that would be needed before it might raise its benchmark short-term rate. It might also say that it won’t raise that rate if inflation fell below a specific level.

Investors would react to any such shift in the Fed’s guidance. Financial markets have been pivoting for months on speculation that the Fed will or won’t soon slow its $85-billion-a-month in Treasury and mortgage bond purchases. Those purchases have led more consumers and businesses to borrow, fueled a stock rally and supported an economy slowed by tax increases and federal spending cuts.

The Fed has signaled that it might slow its bond buying as soon as September — if the economy has strengthened as much as the Fed has forecast. If not, the Fed would likely maintain its stimulus.

On Wednesday, the government will report how fast the economy grew in the April-June quarter. Most economists predict an annual rate of barely 1 percent — far too weak to quickly reduce unemployment. Most think the growth is picking up in the second half of the year on the strength of a resurgent housing market, stronger auto sales, steady job gains and higher pay.

Many economists think the key goal of the Fed’s policy discussions Tuesday and Wednesday will be to stress that the Fed’s actions in coming months will hinge on how the economy fares, not on any timetable.

Some economists think the Fed will be mindful …read more

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Larry Summers Fed Nomination Would Bypass ‘Steady’ And ‘Right’ Janet Yellen

By The Huffington Post News Editors

WASHINGTON — Leading Democrats are struggling with the idea that President Barack Obama may actually nominate economist Larry Summers to head the Federal Reserve. If he does, he’d pass over Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen, who saw the warning signs of the 2008 financial collapse, for Summers, whose deregulatory advocacy as treasury secretary contributed to it.

Summers’ critics typically cite his role in the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall financial regulations and the 2000 deregulation of the derivatives market as key contributors to the financial collapse of 2008. But Yellen accurately read signs of bank trouble before the crash, when she served as president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve.

“She’s steady, she’s been right and she hasn’t ignored the real economy and the role of employment,” former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), now president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said Wednesday. “The reputation she has is as someone who has certainly been more interested in the full employment side of the mission than just the anti-inflationary side.” Yellen pushed for transparency at the Fed before it was popular and ate with fellow workers in the cafeteria, Perriello noted.

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Big Government and Central Banks: The Real Criminals

By Steve Forbes, Forbes Staff

The British government has announced that it will be proposing legislation to have senior bankers face prison for “reckless” risk taking. This news item underscores two dangerous trends. The first is the largely unremarked upon phenomenon of modern democratic governments criminalizing more and more activities. In the U.S., for example, numerous prosecutions have been successfully pursued against corporate managers for the activities of subordinates that the managers didn’t order or even know about. Isn’t it a basic tenet of law that you can’t be charged with a crime you didn’t commit? A corollary to this is penalizing people for offenses they didn’t know they had committed. Yes, there has always been the axiom that ignorance of the law is no excuse. But that is for basic crimes like thievery, which you should know is illegal. In recent years, however, governments–especially regulators such as the EPA–have issued voluminous rules that can easily catch the unwary. The federal tax code is notorious for this. The frightening truth is that if the federal government wants to “get” you or your business, it can. There’s no way for law-abiding citizens not to get ensnared in the regulatory maw. Noted social observer and author Charles Murray is writing a book on what he rightfully describes as the increasing lawlessness of the U.S. government. The blizzard of new rules, many of them vaguely worded, undermines the basic foundation of the rule of law: simplicity and predictability. Murray finds the phenomenon far more widespread than most people realize. The recent Inspector General’s report on extensive, deliberate IRS abuses is but the tip of the iceberg. Another disturbing thing about the British news report is its reflection of the naive belief that more regulation means a safer, less risky financial system and economy. Big Government here and in Europe has perpetrated the astonishing myth that the recent financial crisis was caused by reckless and greedy private-sector bankers. No wonder the public howls for bankers’ heads. The real villains here were governments, particularly central banks. Experience has demonstrated time and again that when a country undermines the value of its currency, bad things happen. Both in the 1970s and in the early part of the last decade the Federal Reserve continually devalued the dollar, and other central banks followed suit with their monies to varying degrees. The result, predictably, was a commodities boom, a surge in prices for houses and farmland, a binge in government spending and a drought in productive investments. Just as a virus corrupts information in a computer, an unstable currency distorts markets. Take housing. People really believed that housing prices could only go up and up. No wonder lending standards went down. If a buyer defaulted, so what? The always appreciating asset would easily cover the mortgage. Under those circumstances purchasing a house with debt and little or no down payment looked like a sure, easy way to get rich. And weren’t brilliant financial engineers, like alchemists, designing securities that were turning packages of subprime …read more

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Report: Ford books $1.2B profit in second quarter on strength of trucks

By Brandon Turkus

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Ford is rolling along nicely, with a positive second-quarter sales report and a $2.3 billion profit in North America. The Dearborn, Michigan-based manufacturer captured $1.2 billion globally from April to June, with a $177 million profit in Asia. Even in Europe, the land of doom and gloom for automakers not named Mazda, Ford saw some success as it lowered its expected full-year loss from $2 billion to $1.8 billion. The company lost $348 million in Europe during the second quarter, which, believe it or not, represents a $56-million improvement over 2012.

According to the report on CNBC, Ford enjoyed a three-percent increase in pre-market trading thanks to the news. The strong demand for the F-150 propelled growth in the US market, while Ford’s 47-percent increase in Asian sales can be attributed to the new EcoSport crossover and Kuga (Ford Escape in the US) arriving in the somewhat fragile Chinese market.

Pre-tax profits for Ford are expected to be in the neighborhood of $8 billion by the end of the year, with sales the US, Europe, and China all looking up. The company also shifted $4.78 billion of asset-backed debt in the form of bonds, according to a report by Bloomberg. This move came amidst rumors of the Federal Reserve cutting back on its $85-billion-per-month bond purchases. Ford wasn’t alone among automakers looking to sell off debt, though, as Mercedes-Benz and Nissan shifted around $1 billion each in bonds relating to auto loans.

Ford books $1.2B profit in second quarter on strength of trucks originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 24 Jul 2013 10:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Sales of New Homes Rise to 5-Year High as Prices Soar

By Reuters

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Mike Groll/AP

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON — Sales of new U.S. single-family homes vaulted to a five-year high in June, showing little signs of slowing in the face of higher mortgage rates.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday sales increased 8.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 497,000 units, the highest level since May 2008.

Sales increased 1.3 percent in May.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected new home sales to rise to a 482,000-unit rate last month.

Compared with June last year, sales were up 38.1 percent, the largest increase since January 1992.

The third straight month of gains in new home sales, which are measured when contracts are signed, suggested the housing market was gaining more muscle and should allay concerns that higher mortgage rates could slow down momentum.

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Mortgage rates have spiked in anticipation of the U.S. Federal Reserve starting to taper its generous monetary stimulus later this year. Rates still remain low and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last week expressed optimism the housing market recovery would continue.

Last month, the inventory of new homes on the market increased 1.3 percent to 161,000, the highest since August 2011, as builders continue to ramp up production to meet the growing demand.

Still, supply remains tight, putting upward pressure on prices. The median new home price increased 7.4 percent from a year ago.

At June’s sales pace it would take 3.9 months to clear the houses on the market, down from 4.2 months in May. A supply of 6.0 months is normally considered as a healthy balance between supply and demand.

Sales last month rose in three regions, but fell in the Midwest.

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Fears Rise That Larry Summers Is Likely To Be Named Fed Chairman

By The Huffington Post News Editors

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is leaning towards former White House Economic Adviser Larry Summers as his choice to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve, according to people who have been briefed on the administration’s thinking. Liberal critics of Summers’ economic record, along with those who continue to question his ability to work with women, are waging a last-minute campaign to persuade the president to change his mind and instead choose the other frontrunner for the job, Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen.

Chatter increased Tuesday among Summers’ opponents when Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin’s name was floated as a possible deputy to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. Raskin, who has been harshly critical of the Fed, is broadly popular with progressives. Liberal Fed watchers suspected the move was aimed at people pressing Obama to name a woman to the Fed, and they worried selecting Raskin for Treasury would give the president cover to name Summers Fed chairman.

“We are concerned by rumors that Larry Summers, a man known for his offensive and callous opinions on women, is currently being considered to head the Federal Reserve. Women will not soon forget if President Obama picks Mr. Summers for such an important post, a man who believes women are somehow inherently less capable than men,” Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of feminist group UltraViolet, said in a statement. “It is high time to shatter the glass ceiling at the Fed and appoint a woman to a post that impacts so many women, and Janet Yellen would be a much celebrated pick.”

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TDS Sees More Short Covering In Gold, Followed By Retreat When Fed Tapers QE

By Kitco News, Contributor (Kitco News) – TD Securities looks for additional short covering to lift gold further in the near term, particularly if some U.S. economic data disappoints, but then expects the market to pull back whenever the Federal Reserve starts tapering its quantitative easing, the firm’s director of commodity strategy said Tuesday. …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Forbes Latest

Event Risk Remains In Play Before Fed Testimony

By Dean Popplewell, Contributor

In the current environment, capital markets are being held captive by the smallest of expressions from key central bankers, with ‘helicopter’ Ben Bernanke’s appearance before U.S. Congress later today likely to dominate and test the nerves of most traders. Many expect the Chairman of the Federal Reserve to reiterate the point that he and his fellow policymakers will remain accommodative for an extended period, despite considering paring the amount of its monthly asset purchases. The market can expect the Fed to cite any economic “soft patch” examples as a temporary off-putting reason not to wholly engage in their definition of tapering. …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Forbes Latest

Oil near $105 ahead of supplies data, Bernanke

The price of oil dropped to near $105 a barrel Wednesday as investors awaited a report on U.S. crude inventories and the Federal Reserve chairman’s congressional testimony.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 54 cents at $105.46 at early afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 32 cents to finish Tuesday at $106 a barrel.

This week’s direction in oil futures could be determined by fresh information on U.S. stockpiles.

Data due Wednesday for the week ending July 12 is expected to show a decline of 2.5 million barrels in crude oil stocks and no change in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos. That would be the third straight week of a drop in U.S. crude supplies, suggesting an increase in demand.

Markets are also looking to Ben Bernanke’s remarks to Congress for any new insight into when the Federal Reserve will start scaling back its monthly purchases of bonds and other assets that are aimed at keeping interest rates low and encouraging an economic recovery.

The withdrawal of that stimulus could push the dollar higher as U.S. interest rates would tend to rise. That in turn might weigh on the oil price since the commodity is traded in dollars.

In London, Brent crude was down 38 cents to $107.76 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 2.9 cents to $3.024 per gallon.

— Heating oil shed 1.1 cents to $3.035 a gallon.

— Natural gas dropped 2.1 cents to $3.656 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

The Fed Is Easing America's Debt Problems While Increasing Future Fiscal Risk

By Donald Marron, Contributor

Is the Federal Reserve part of the government? You might think so, but you wouldn’t know it from the way we talk about America’s debt. When it comes to the debt held by the public, for example, the Fed is just a member of the public. …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Forbes Latest

Fed: Manufacturing Picked Up Steam in June

By Reuters

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By Paige Gance

WASHINGTON — U.S industrial production rose slightly more than expected in June as manufacturing output picked up speed, a welcome sign for an economy that appears to have slowed sharply in the second quarter.

Output at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities rose 0.3 percent last month after an unchanged reading in May, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.2 percent increase in June.

For the second quarter as a whole, industrial output rose 0.6 percent.

Manufacturing output increased by 0.3 percent last month, beating economists expectation of a 0.1 percent rise, after an upwardly revised 0.2 percent increase in May. Manufacturing was bolstered by a 1.3 percent increase in the production of motor vehicles and parts and a 1.5 percent rise in machinery.

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Mining output jumped 0.8 percent and utilities dropped 0.1 percent, a third consecutive monthly decline.

Industrial capacity utilization, a measure of how fully firms are deploying their resources, was barely changed at 77.8 percent, a rate that lies 2.4 percentage points below its estimated long-run average. Economists had expected a reading of 77.7 percent.

Officials at the Fed look at the utilization measures as a signal of how much slack remains in the economy, and how much room growth has to run before it becomes inflationary.

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Consumer Prices Driven Higher by Jump in Gas Prices

By Reuters

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AP

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer prices rose more than expected in June as gasoline prices jumped, but underlying inflation pressure remain benign against the backdrop of lukewarm domestic demand.

The Labor Department said Tuesday its Consumer Price Index increased 0.5 percent, the largest increase since February, after nudging up 0.1 percent in May. Gasoline prices accounted for about two thirds of the increase in the CPI.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected consumer inflation to increase 0.3 percent last month.

In the 12-months through June, consumer prices advanced 1.8 percent after rising 1.4 percent in May. It was also the largest increase since February.

Stripping out volatile energy and food, consumer prices increased 0.2 percent for a second straight month. That took the increase over the 12 months to June to 1.6 percent, the smallest increase since June 2011. The so-called core CPI had increased 1.7 percent in May.

While both inflation measures remain below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target, details of the report suggested the recent disinflation trend had probably run its course, with medical care costs rising.

There were also increases in the prices for new motor vehicles, apparel and household furnishings. That could keep on track expectations the U.S. central bank will start scaling back its massive monetary stimulus in September.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who last month said the central bank would start cutting back the $85 billion in bonds it is purchasing each month to keep borrowing costs low, has viewed the low inflation as temporary and expects prices to push higher.

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