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The Fed and Interest Rates

Most experts agree that through the manipulation of short-term interest rates, the central bank by means of expectations regarding future interest rate policy can also dictate the direction of long-term interest rates. On this way of thinking expectations regarding future short-term interest rates are instrumental in setting the long-term rates. (Note the long-term rates are an average of short-term rates on this way of thinking).

Given the supposedly almost absolute control over interest rates, the central bank by correct manipulations of short-term interest rates could navigate the economy along the growth path of economic prosperity, so it is held. (In fact, this is the mandate given to central banks).

For instance, when the economy is thought to have fallen below the path of stable economic growth it is held that by means of lowering interest rates the central bank could strengthen aggregate demand. This in turn will be supportive in bringing the economy onto a stable economic growth path.

Conversely, when the economy becomes “overheated” and moves onto a growth path above that which is deemed as stable economic growth, then by lifting interest rates the central bank could slow the economy back onto the path of economic stability.

But is it valid to suggest that the central bank is the key factor in the determination of interest?

Individuals time preferences and interest rates

According to great economic thinkers such as Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises interest is the outcome of the fact that every individual assigns a greater importance to goods and services in the present against identical goods in the future.

The higher valuation is not the result of capricious behaviour, but because of the fact that life in the future is not possible without sustaining it first in the present. According to Carl Menger,

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US Household Debt Hits Record $13.3 Trillion

Total household debt hit a new record high, rising by $82 billion to $13.29 trillion in Q2 of 2018, 3.5% higher than a year earlier according to the NY Fed’s latest household debt report. It was the 16th consecutive quarter with an increase in household debt, and the total is now $618 billion higher than the previous peak of $12.68 trillion, from the third quarter of 2008.  Overall household debt is now 19.2% above the post-financial-crisis trough reached during the second quarter of 2013.

Mortgage balances—the largest component of household debt—rose by $60 billion during the second quarter, to $9.00 trillion. Credit card debt rose by $14 billion to $829 billion; auto loan debt increased by $9 billion in the quarter to $1.24 trillion and student loan debt hit a record high of $1.41 trillion, an increase of $2 billion in Q2.

Balances on home equity lines of credit (HELOC) continued their downward trend, declining by $4 billion, to $432 billion. The median credit score of newly originating mortgage borrowers was roughly unchanged, at 760.

Mortgage originations edged up to $437 billion in the second quarter, from $428 billion in the first quarter. Meanwhile, mortgage delinquencies continued to improve, with 1.1% of mortgage balances 90 or more days delinquent in the second quarter, versus 1.2% in the first quarter.

Most newly originated mortgages continued went to borrowers with the highest credit scores, with 58% of new mortgages borrowed by consumers with a 760 credit score or higher.

Outstanding student loan debt was mostly unchanged in the second quarter and stood at a record $1.41 trillion as of June 30. Auto loan balances also hit an all time high, as they continued their six-year upward trend, increasing by $9 billion in the quarter, to $1.24 trillion. Meanwhile, credit card balances rose by $14 billion, or 1.7%, after a seasonal decline in the first quarter, to $829 billion.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Top U.S. Shale Producers Soaring Debt Service Guts Profits

Top U.S. Shale Producers Soaring Debt Service Guts Profits

The massive debt accumulated by the U.S. Shale Industry is now decimating company profits.  As company debts and interest rates rise, these shale producers interest expense also continues to increase.  Debt service is not only cutting into company profits, but it also takes a great deal of oil and gas production to cover this expense.

For example, 16 of the top U.S. shale energy companies racked up a hefty $5 billion interest payment.  The company with the highest annual interest expense is Anadarko Energy at a stunning $932 million in 2017:

Devon Energy came in a distant second at $514 million while Chesapeake took the third spot at $425 million.  The 16 shale energy companies shown on the right-hand side of the chart are listed from highest to lowest annual interest expense for 2017.  And, it is a simple rule-of-thumb that the higher the annual interest expense, the higher overall debt on the company’s balance sheet.

Anadarko has such a high annual interest expense ($932 million) because it holds over $15 billion in debt.  Devon Energy had the second highest interest expense in 2017 due to its $10+ billion in debt.  However, Devon has recently sold assets and paid down its debt and lowered its interest expense considerably.  Furthermore, Chesapeake is paying $425 million a year to service its $9+ billion in debt.

It is quite remarkable that these 16 shale energy companies forked out $5 billion to service their debt last year.  The debt service is an expense that impacts the company’s net income profits.

For example, Anadarko posted a loss of $456 million in 2017.  However, they paid $932 million in interest expense last year.  If Anadarko didn’t have an interest expense, their $456 million loss would have been a $479 million net income profit.  So, these 16 companies lost $5 billion in potential profits because they have to service their skyrocketing debts.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The U.S. Government To Fork Out A Half Trillion To Service Its Debt In 2018

The U.S. Government To Fork Out A Half Trillion To Service Its Debt In 2018

The U.S. Government is going to surpass another significant milestone this year.  According to the recently released data from the TreasuryDirect.gov, the government will fork out a stunning half trillion dollars just to service its debt in 2018.  Unfortunately, as U.S. interest rates rise, along with ever-expanding public debt, the cost to service the debt will continue to increase.

In just the first nine months of the year, the U.S. interest expense has increased by an additional $40 billion.  Last year, the U.S. Government paid only $375 billion to service its debt from October to June, but this year it has jumped to $415 billion:

Now, if we consider that the U.S. Treasury paid $83 billion in interest expense for the three remaining months last year, and add it to the current total, it would equal $498 billion.  However, the U.S. interest expense is up over 10% already.  So, if we assume that the interest expense for July-Sept will also be up 10%, then the estimated total debt service for fiscal 2018 will reach $506-$510 billion.

A half a trillion dollars to service one’s public debt is truly a staggering figure.  Since 2012, the U.S. interest expense has increased from $360 billion to an estimated $500+ billion this year:

Interestingly, the U.S. debt service in 2000 of $361 billion was higher than the $360 billion in 2012.  The U.S. government paid more interest payments in 2000 because of a much higher interest rate of 6.6%, even though the public debt was only $5.6 trillion.  In the chart below, we can see how the falling interest rate and higher debt kept the U.S. debt service from exploding:

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Fed Sweeps Yield Curve Under the Rug – What Are They Trying to Hide?

Federal reserve and the yield curve

Fed Sweeps Yield Curve Under the Rug – What Are They Trying to Hide?

A few weeks ago we reported the Fed was getting hawkish despite what they were calling “low inflation.”

In that article, we showed rates possibly being raised more than 4 times in 2019. But more importantly, we warned that anyone investing in the market should start preparing to expect the unexpected.

And right now, it looks like the Fed’s bizarre moves are continuing.

This time it involves the yield curve. The yield curve represents the difference in interest rate paid on short-term Treasury notes and long-term Treasury notes in the bond market.

A common signal of economic health from the bond market involves looking at the difference between the 2-year and 10-year rates (also called the “spread”).

Over the last three decades, when 2-year yields are lower than the 10-year bond yields, it signaled a healthy economic outlook.

But when that “spread” shrinks, the yield curve is said to be flattening. If it “reverses” entirely, the yield curve is inverted (or negative).

Since 1980, an inverted yield curve preceded an economic recession with reliable accuracy (see graph below, red arrows point to 3 recent events):

us treasury yield

So the yield curve is a fairly reliable signal for imminent recession. And notice the downward trend of the yield curve on the right side of the graph. That indicates a flattening yield curve heading towards inversion.

And when we zoom in, the picture looks even more dire.

As of July 11th, 2018 the Treasury reported the difference between the 2-year and 10-year bonds to be 27 basis points (or .27% – see chart below).

This is the lowest spread since the 2008 Great Recession, and already much lower than the historical graph above.

us treasy yield

There is no doubt the yield curve is flattening, and at an alarming pace.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is Trump Starting To Lean On The Fed Or Setting It Up?

Is Trump Starting To Lean On The Fed Or Setting It Up?

President Trump said in an interview with CNBC’s Joe Kernan this morning he “does not agree”, is not “thrilled” or “happy” with the FOMC’s interest rate hikes.  The full interview and transcripts will be available tomorrow.

Jul19_Trump Interview

Click here for excerpt of interview

You Heard It Here First

Presidents never, or rarely comment on monetary policy or currency market moves. for that matter,  x/ the hackneyed meme “a strong dollar is the best interest of the United States.”

President Trump hit them all in this interview today, from the Fed to the Euro and Chinese RMB (“dropping like a rock”).  It doesn’t surprise us.

Recall our March 21st post, The Biggest Risk At The Fed.

But this doesn’t concern us as much as the Fed’s independence.

“Just let it rip”

That is we are worried more about the freedom from White House pressure and interference in conducting monetary policy than getting a few bps wrong on the Fed Funds rate.   This is especially true and relevant given the strongman tendencies and  lack of respect for institutional norms of the current president.

Here is Larry Kudlow, the president’s new chief economic adviser:

“Just let it rip, for heaven’s sake,” Kudlow said of economic growth in the U.S., during a more than hour-long interview Wednesday on CNBC. “The market’s going to take care of itself. The whole story’s going to take care of itself. The Fed’s going to do what it has to do, but I hope they don’t overdo it.”  – CNN
– Global Macro Monitor,  March 21, 2018

We were assured by Fed insiders shortly after that post in March Chairman Jerome Powell was tough and we should not underestimate his independence.   He has thus far proven to be an extraordinarily competent Fed leader.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canary in the Coal-MIne–Emerging Market Contagion

  • Emerging market currencies, bonds and stocks have weakened
  • Fears about the impact of US tariffs have been felt here most clearly
  • The risk to Europe and Japan is significant
  • Turkey may be the key market to watch

As US interest rates continue to normalise and US tariffs begin to bite, a number of emerging markets (EM’s) have come under pressure. Of course, the largest market to exhibit signs of stress is China, the MSCI China Index is down 7% since mid-June, whilst the RMB has also weakened against the US$ by more than 6% since its April low. Will contagion spread to developed markets and, if so, which country might be the ‘carrier’?

To begin to answer these questions we need to investigate this year’s casualties. Argentina is an obvious candidate. Other troubled countries include Brazil, Egypt and Turkey. In each case, government debt has exacerbated instability, as each country’s currency came under pressure. Other measures of instability include budget and trade deficits.

In an effort to narrow the breadth of this Macro Letter, I will confine my analysis to those countries with twin government and current account deficits. In the table which follow, the countries are sorted by percentage of world GDP. The colour coding reflects the latest MSCI categorisation; yellow, denotes a fully-fledged EM, white, equals a standard EM, green, is on the secondary list and blue is reserved for those countries which are so ‘frontier’ in nature as not to be currently assessed by MSCI: –

EM Debt and GDP

Source: Trading Economics, Investing.com, IMF, World Bank

For the purposes of this analysis, the larger the EM as a percentage of world GDP and the higher its investment rating, the more likely it is to act as a catalyst for contagion. Whilst this is a simplistic approach, it represents a useful the starting point.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ron Paul Warns That When The “Biggest Bubble In The History Of Mankind” Bursts It Could “Cut The Stock Market In Half”

Ron Paul Warns That When The “Biggest Bubble In The History Of Mankind” Bursts It Could “Cut The Stock Market In Half”

When this bubble finally bursts, will we witness the biggest stock market crash in U.S. history?  “The bigger they come, the harder they fall” is a well used phrase, but I think that it is very appropriate in this case.  From a low of 6,443.27 on March 6th, 2009, we have seen the Dow nearly quadruple in value since the last financial crisis.  It has been a remarkable run, and it has lasted far longer than virtually any of the experts anticipated.  But what goes up must come down eventually.  This stock market bubble was almost entirely fueled by easy money from the Federal Reserve, and now that easy money has been cut off.  The insiders can see the handwriting on the wall and they are getting out of the market at a pace that we haven’t seen since 2008.  Could it be possible that the day of reckoning is finally at our door?

Of course we have been hearing warnings like this for a very long time.  In fact, I have been warning about a market crash for a very long time.  Just the other day, one of my readers insisted that if something was going to take place that “it would have happened by now”.  In the Internet age, we have been trained to have very short attention spans, but financial bubbles don’t care about the length of our attention spans.  They all inevitably come to a bitter end, but they don’t reach that end until they are good and ready.

And without a doubt we are on borrowed time, but meanwhile so many of us that are continually warning about what we are facing are getting a lot of heat for it.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

NIRP Did It: I’m in Awe of How Central-Bank Policies Blind Investors to Risks

NIRP Did It: I’m in Awe of How Central-Bank Policies Blind Investors to Risks

“Reverse-Yankee” Junk Bond Issuance Hits Record.

It’s paradise for US companies looking for cheap money. They range from sparkly investment-grade companies, such as Apple with its pristine balance sheet, to “junk” rated companies, such as Netflix with its cash-burn machine. They have all been doing it: Selling euro-denominated bonds in Europe.

The momentum for these “reverse Yankees” took off when the ECB’s Negative Interest Rate Policy and QE – which includes the purchase of euro bonds issued by European entities of US companies – pushed yields of many government bonds and some corporate bonds into the negative.

By now, yields in the land of NIRP have bounced off the ludicrous lows late last year, as the ECB has been tapering its bond purchases and has started waffling about rate hikes. Investors that bought the bonds at those low yields last year are now sitting on nice losses.

But that hasn’t stopped the momentum of reverse Yankees, especially those with a “junk” credit rating.

Bonds issued in euros in Europe by junk-rated US companies hit an all-time record in the first half of 2018, “taking advantage of decidedly cheaper financing costs in that market,” according to LCD of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

In the first half, US companies sold €8.2 billion of these junk-rated reverse-Yankee bonds, a new record (chart via LCD):

These bonds are hot for European investors who are wheezing under the iron fist of NIRP that dishes out guaranteed losses even before inflation on less risky bonds. Anything looks better than bonds with negative yields.

And here is why it makes sense for US companies to chase this money: It’s still ultra-cheap particularly for lower-rated companies. The chart below shows just how much sense it makes for the companies – though investors are going to have their day of reckoning.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bank of Canada Hikes Rates By 25bps, Loonie Rises On Hawkish Take

The Bank of Canada raised the overnight rate by 25bps to 1.5%, in line with consensus estimates.

In justifying the move, the Bank said it expects the global economy to grow by about 3.75% in 2018 and 3.5% in 2019, adding that the US economy is proving stronger than expected, reinforcing market expectations of higher policy rates and pushing up the US dollar. It warned that this is “contributing to financial stresses in some emerging market economies” suggesting that Canada was dragged into the rate hikes rather than welcoming it.

In other words, the BOC hopes that demand from the U.S. will trump the drag on trade from tariffs the two neighbors, as well as the uncertainty over the future of Nafta.

It also noted that while oil prices have risen, the Canadian dollar is lower, reflecting broad-based US dollar strength and concerns about trade actions, noting that “the possibility of more trade protectionism is the most important threat to global prospects.”

Perversely, even as the BOC hiked rates, it warned that household spending is “dampened by higher interest rates and tighter mortgage lending guidelines.”

Curiously, despite market concerns, the BOC raised its Q2 GDP forecast to 2.8% from 2.5% previously, with Q3 seen at 1.5%; The bank also raised the potential output growth to 1.8% in 2018, and 1.9% in 2019 and 2020.

Commenting on the ongoing trade war with the US, the BOC estimates US tariffs on steel and aluminium will reduce level of real Canadian exports by 0.6%, with the impact expected to be felt in H2 2018. Meanwhile, Canadian counter measures estimated to reduce real imports by 0.6% starting Q3, while tariffs will temporarily boost inflation in Q3 2019.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Make Capital Cheap and Labor Costly, and Guess What Happens?

Make Capital Cheap and Labor Costly, and Guess What Happens?

Employment expands in the Protected cartel-dominated sectors, and declines in every sector exposed to globalization, domestic competition and cheap capital.

If you want to understand why the global economy is failing the many while enriching the few, start with the basics: capital, labor and resources. What happens when central banks drop interest rates to near-zero? Capital becomes dirt-cheap. It becomes ludicrously easy to borrow money to buy whatever cheap capital can buy: stock buybacks, robots, automation tools, interest-sensitive assets such as housing, competitors or potential competitors, high-yield emerging-market bonds, and so on.

What happens when cartels take control of core domestic industries such as banking, defense, higher education and healthcare? Costs soar because competition has been throttled via regulatory capture, and these domestic sectors are largely non-tradable, meaning they can’t be offshored and have little meaningful exposure to globalization.

Labor-intensive cartels such as these can pass on their rising costs for labor, resources and profiteering. Do you really think assistant deans could be pulling down $250,000 annual salaries in higher education if there was any global or domestic competition?

As for healthcare, I’ve often noted that healthcare/sickcare will bankrupt the nation all by itself. When a cartel such as healthcare / sickcare can force higher prices on employers and employees, the cost of labor throughout the economy rises.

Sickcare Will Bankrupt the Nation–And Soon (March 21, 2011)

Can Chronic Ill-Health Bring Down Great Nations? Yes It Can, Yes It Will (November 23, 2011)

You Want to Fix the Economy? Then First Fix Healthcare (September 29, 2016)

As I’ve indicated on the chart, labor-intensive cartels in non-tradable sectors–higher education, defense/national security, healthcare and banking– can pass on their rising labor costs to their captive customers.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Michael Pento: When The Yield Curve Inverts Soon, The Next Recession Will Start

Michael Pento: When The Yield Curve Inverts Soon, The Next Recession Will Start

Expected timing: this Fall

Collectively, the world’s major central banks have pumped $1.1 trillion into the markets over the past year.

The result of all this money printing is now well known: massively inflated real estate, stock and bond asset price bubbles, as well as extraordinary wealth and income gaps across society.

Some day all of this insanity will end. But how? Will it unwind in an orderly and polite way, as the world’s central planners hope? Or will be disorderly, resulting in painful portfolio losses and mass layoffs?

Michael Pento, fund manager and author of The Coming Bond Bubble Collapse returns to the podcast this week to offer his prediction that events will most likely take the latter route. In fact, he sees the developing inversion of the yield curve as a dependable precursor to the US economy entering recession as soon as this Fall:

The Fed is now raising rates. They raised rates from 0% up to 2%. They’re supposed to do it again in September/October. And again in December. That will be four hikes this year.

They are also selling assets, aka ‘draining their balance sheet’. I say ‘selling’ because that’s exactly what they have to do. Let’s say the Fed is holding a 10-year note that’s due: if they want to destroy that money, they say “OK, Treasury, give me the principal”. The Treasury doesn’t have any money so it has to go the public and raise money. Well, the Treasury will have to do that to the tune of $50 billion per month come October. Right now it’s $30, it has to go in July to $40 billion a month then it goes to $50 billion. That’s $600 billion a year added to the public supply of Treasurys they have to actually finance at a market rate. That’s on top of the $1.2 trillion debt we’re going to have in fiscal 2019.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Living Dangerously

Regular readers of Goldmoney’s Insights should be aware by now that the cycle of business activity is fuelled by monetary policy, and that the periodic booms and slumps experienced since monetary policy has been used in an attempt to manage economic outcomes are the result of monetary policy itself. The link between interest rate suppression in the early stages of the credit cycle, the creation of malinvestments and the subsequent debt dénouement was summed up in Hayek’s illustration of a triangle, which I covered in an earlier article.[i]

Since Hayek’s time, monetary policy, particularly in America, has evolved away from targeting production and discouraging savings by suppressing interest rates, towards encouraging consumption through expanding consumer finance. American consumers are living beyond their means and have commonly depleted all their liquid savings. But given the variations in the cost of consumer finance (between 0% car loans and 20% credit card and overdraft rates), consumers are generally insensitive to changes in interest rates.

Therefore, despite the rise of consumer finance, we can still regard Hayek’s triangle as illustrating the driving force behind the credit cycle, and the unsustainable excesses of unprofitable debt created by suppressing interest rates as the reason monetary policy always leads to an economic crisis. The chart below shows we could be living dangerously close to another tipping point, whereby the rises in the Fed Funds Rate (FFR) might be about to trigger a new credit and economic crisis.

 

living danger 1

Previous peaks in the FFR coincided with the onset of economic downturns, because they exposed unsustainable business models. On the basis of simple extrapolation, the area between the two dotted lines, which roughly join these peaks, is where the current FFR cycle can be expected to peak. It is currently standing at about 2% after yesterday’s increase, and the Fed expects the FFR to average 3.1% in 2019.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

America’s Greatest Crisis Upon Us…Debt to GDP Makes It Clear

America’s Greatest Crisis Upon Us…Debt to GDP Makes It Clear

America in the midst of its greatest crisis in its 242 years of existence.  I say this based upon the US federal debt to GDP (gross domestic product) ratio.  In the history of the US, at the onset of every war or crisis, a period of federal deficit spending ensued (red bars in graph below) to overcome the challenge but at the “challenges” end, a period of federal austerity ensued.  Until now.  No doubt the current financial crisis ended by 2013 (based on employment, asset values, etc.) but federal spending continues to significantly outpace tax revenues…resulting in a continually rising debt to GDP ratio.  We are well past the point where we have typically began repairing the nation’s balance sheet and maintaining the credibility of the currency.  However, all indications from the CBO and current administration make it clear that debt to GDP will continue to rise.  If the American economy were as strong as claimed, this is the time that federal deficit spending would cease alongside the Fed’s interest rate hikes.  Instead, surging deficit spending is taking place alongside interest rate hikes, another first for America.
The chart below takes America from 1790 to present.  From 1776 to 2001, every period of deficit spending was followed by a period of “austerity” where-upon federal spending was constrained and economic activity flourished, repairing the damage done to the debt to GDP ratio and the credibility of the US currency.  But since 2001, according to debt to GDP, the US has been in the longest ongoing crisis in the nations history.

But what is this crisis?  The chart points out the debt to GDP surges in order to resolve the Revolutionary war, the Civil War, WWI, and WWII. But the debt to GDP surges since 1980 seem less clear cut.  But simply put, America (and the world) grew up and matured, but the central banks and federal government could not accept this change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Weekly Commentary: The Great Fallacy

Weekly Commentary: The Great Fallacy

A big week in the world of monetary management: The Federal Reserve raised rates 25 bps, the ECB announced plans to wind down its historic QE program, and the Bank of Japan clung to its “powerful monetary easing” inflationist scheme. A tense People’s Bank of China left rate policy unchanged, too weary to follow the Fed’s path.
The renminbi declined a notable 0.5% versus the dollar this week. More dramatic, the euro was hammered 1.9% on Draghi’s game plan. Also on Thursday’s dollar strength – and even more dramatic – the Argentine peso sank another 6.2% (down 34% y-t-d). The session saw the Brazilian real drop 2.2%, the Hungarian forint 2.6%, the Czech koruna 2.2%, the Polish zloty 2.0%, the Bulgarian lev 1.9%, the Romanian leu 1.9% and the Turkish lira 1.7%.

The FOMC, raising rates and adjusting “dot plots” higher, was viewed more on the hawkish side. The ECB, while announcing plans to conclude asset purchases by the end of the year, was compelled to add dovish guidance on rate policy (“…expects the key ECB interest rate to remain at present levels at least through the summer of 2019…”). Blindsided, the market dumped the euro. The Fed and ECB now operate on disparate playbooks, each focused on respective domestic issues. Anyone these days focused on faltering emerging market Bubbles, global contagion and the rising risk of market illiquidity?

June 13 – Financial Times (Sam Fleming): “Jay Powell put his personal stamp on the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, as the new chairman vowed to speak in plain English and hold more regular press conferences as he fosters ‘a public conversation’ about what the US central bank is up to. The Fed’s statement after the Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which detailed its decision to raise rates 0.25% and set a course for two more increases this year, also bore his imprint, as Mr Powell stripped away some of the economic verbiage that cluttered its communications in recent years. Mr Powell’s break from the approach of his predecessor… was more a stylistic one than a radical change of monetary policy strategy.”
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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