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Lumber: Scary-Crazy Inflation Now Gets Passed On. But These WTF Price Spikes Cannot Last

Lumber: Scary-Crazy Inflation Now Gets Passed On. But These WTF Price Spikes Cannot Last

Irrational behavior by buyers confidently betting on being able to pass on that irrationality to their customers. It works until it doesn’t.

Lumber futures on Chicago Mercantile Exchange currently trade at a record high of $1,610 per thousand board feet, having quadrupled since February 2020, just before the Pandemic, a sign of scary-crazy inflation amid suddenly blistering demand from builders, insufficient supply to meet that sudden surge in demand, growing lead times, and irrational behavior by buyers betting on being able to pass on that irrationality via higher prices to their customers (chart via Trading Economics):

Here’s another boots-on-the-ground observation being passed around about this scary-crazy inflation, triggering irrational behavior by buyers betting on being able to pass on that irrational behavior to their customers.

And these are the pros, not consumers.

A local electrician with a shop in Idaho near Moscow (where the University of Idaho is) was talking with one of the house builders he does work for. And this is the story he passed on to WOLF STREET:

“Moscow Building Supply (MBS) is the big building wholesaler in Latah County – last summer, you could buy a sheet of OSB [Oriented Strand Board, a type of plywood] at about $12 a sheet (4×8). Last week, $50 a sheet.

“A couple days ago, MBS got a truck load of OSB. A big home builder in Spokane drove down to MSB and bought the entire truck load – even before it was unloaded – for $80 a sheet.

“The next load is scheduled in two weeks. MBS is now telling customers to expect to pay $105 a sheet.

“Also plastic piping, such as 3-inch PVC pipe, commonly used by electricians as conduit. Last fall, my son paid 12 cents a foot. Now it is going for $5 a foot.

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

Inflation Jumped by 3.8% in Q1, “Real GDP” Rose 1.6%, Dragged Down by Record Trade Deficit and Drop in Inventories

Inflation Jumped by 3.8% in Q1, “Real GDP” Rose 1.6%, Dragged Down by Record Trade Deficit and Drop in Inventories

Even the Fed’s repressed inflation measure without food and energy rose 2.3% annual rate in Q1.

The US economy, as measured by inflation-adjusted GDP, grew by 1.6% in the first quarter from Q4 2020, according to the advance estimate of the Bureau of Economic Analysis this morning.

If you read in the headline that it grew by “6.4%,” that sounded impressive, but it was “annualized”; it essentially multiplied the quarterly growth rate (1.6%) by 4. There are not many countries outside the US, if any, that report “annualized” GDP growth rates, because they’re really just misleading for normal people.

GDP inflation jumped by 3.8%, PCE inflation by 3.5%.

The BEA’s broadest inflation measure, the price index that roughly parallels the inflation adjustment to GDP (the “price index for gross domestic purchases”), jumped by 3.8% annual rate in Q1, more than double the rate of 1.7% in Q4.

The BEA’s narrower PCE (“personal consumption expenditure”) price index jumped by 3.5% annual rate in Q1.

And the BEA’s price index that has become the Fed’s measure for inflation, “core PCE” (PCE without food and energy) rose by 2.3% annual rate, tracking above the Fed’s former target of 2.0%. “Former target” because now the Fed is looking for inflation above 2%.

GDP in dollars.

In dollar terms, real GDP in Q1 amounted to a “seasonally adjusted annual rate” of $19.09 trillion. This was still down about 0.9% from the peak in Q4 2019 – catching up:

Consumer spending rose 2.6% from the prior quarter, to an annual rate of $13.3 trillion in “chained 2012 dollars” (to adjust for inflation), a tad below the peak in Q4 2019.

This jump was powered by the $600 stimmies that went out in late December and the first waves of the $1,400 stimmies that went out in the latter part of March. In Q1, consumer spending accounted for 69.7% of GDP:

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

The Taper Next Door: Bank of Canada Cuts Bond Purchases by 25%. Total Assets Drop by 13%. Rate Hikes Moved Forward, Possibly July 2022

The Taper Next Door: Bank of Canada Cuts Bond Purchases by 25%. Total Assets Drop by 13%. Rate Hikes Moved Forward, Possibly July 2022

Housing craziness is front and center.

The Bank of Canada, which already holds over 40% of all outstanding Government of Canada (GoC) bonds – compared to the Fed, which holds less than 18% of all outstanding US Treasury securities – announced today that it would reduce by one-quarter the amount of GoC bonds it adds to its pile, from C$4 billion per week currently, to C$3 billion per week beginning April 26.

In its statement, it pointed at the craziness in the Canadian housing market – “we are seeing some signs of extrapolative expectations and speculative behavior,” it said.

Back in October, the BoC made the first reduction, tapering purchases of GoC bonds from C$5 billion per week to C$4 billion, and it had stopped adding mortgage-backed securities, of which it had never bought many to begin with.

In March, the BoC announced that it would unwind its liquidity facilities, thereby reducing its total assets by about 17%, from C$575 billion at the time, to C$475 billion by the end of April. And this has progressed as planned.

The BoC cited “moral hazard” associated with this central bank craziness as one of the reasons for the unwinding of its liquidity facilities, what are now mostly repurchase agreements (repos) and short-term Government of Canada Treasury bills. Its total assets dropped by 13% over the past month, to C$501 billion on its most recent balance sheet through the week April 14:

The total amount of the assets has declined because the BoC is unwinding its liquidity facilities. The largest remaining categories are the term repos and the short-term Treasury bills. As they mature, the BoC gets its money back, but doesn’t replace those securities, and the balance declines…

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

Get Ready for a Wild “Base Effect”: Highlighted Forcefully when it Suits Them, as with Inflation; Silenced Forcefully When it’s Awkward, as with Corporate Earnings

Get Ready for a Wild “Base Effect”: Highlighted Forcefully when it Suits Them, as with Inflation; Silenced Forcefully When it’s Awkward, as with Corporate Earnings

We’re going to be awash in huge and even absurd percentage-growth numbers.

The numbers are starting to crop up everywhere: For example, new vehicle sales in March jumped nearly 60% from March a year ago. But last March was the beginning of the lockdowns. Compared to two years ago, March 2019, new vehicle sales were down 1.2%. In the first quarter, new vehicle sales were up 11% year-over-year, but were down 2.9% from Q1 2019.

Today, the New York Fed released its latest Weekly Economic Index (WEI), one of the high-frequency measures that came out of the crisis. The index is based on ten daily and weekly indicators of real economic activity, compared to the same time last year, and is scaled to line up with year-over-year GDP growth. Last year, it fairly accurately predicted GDP growth, I mean plunge.

In Q1 2020, GDP had dropped sharply, and in Q2 2020, it plunged. The year-over-year growth rate of the upcoming GDP report compares the dollar GDP in Q1 2021 to that of Q1 2020. Given the sharply lower dollar GDP in Q1 2020, and the plunge in Q2 2020, the year-over-year growth rates for Q1 and Q2 this year will be massive, even as GDP in dollars will likely remain below where it had been in Q4 2019. But these are the kinds of year-over-year percentage spikes we’re going to see, even as dollar figures have not reached back to 2019 levels:

Another example, to dip into absurdity: The TSA reports daily checkpoint screenings, a measure of how many people entered into airports. Airlines were essentially shutting down last April and the number of passengers collapsed by over 90%, to just a trickle. Compared to 2019, the current 7-day moving average of daily checkpoint screenings is still down 37%, but compared to a year ago, it spiked by 1,168%.

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

Bank of Canada Now Owns 40% of Government of Canada Bonds. Fed a Saint in Comparison. Taper on the Table

Bank of Canada Now Owns 40% of Government of Canada Bonds. Fed a Saint in Comparison. Taper on the Table

“Makes you wonder if there’s a potential mid-QE-life crisis taking shape in Ottawa”: strategists at the National Bank of Canada in a note that would be hilarious if it weren’t so serious.

The Economics and Strategy shop at the National Bank of Canada, the country’s sixth largest bank, sent a missive to clients today that would be hilarious if it weren’t pointing at such a serious and massive issue: It celebrated “40,” referencing a 40th birthday, but instead of a birthday, it referred to the Bank of Canada’s ballooning holdings of Government of Canada (GoC) bonds, which will hit a stunning 40% of all GoC bonds outstanding this Friday.

By comparison, the Fed holds 17.6% of all Treasury securities outstanding: It holds $4.94 trillion in Treasury securities, of $28.1 Trillion outstanding. We – that’s the universal “we,” meaning “a few of us” – complain about the Fed’s crazy buying of Treasury securities and all the distortion and craziness this causes. But compared to the Bank of Canada, the Fed looks like a saint.

The Bank of Canada announced a couple of weeks ago, citing “moral hazard” associated with its central bank nuttiness, that it would unwind its crisis liquidity facilities, and that this would reduce its total assets by about C$100 billion, or by about 17%, from C$575 billion at the time, to C$475 billion by the end of April. In October, it had started a mini-tapering of its purchases of GoC bonds and is jabbering about tapering its GoC bond purchases further. And its total assets have started to drop over the past two weeks:

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

wolf richter, wolfstreet, bank of canada, liquidity, qe, quantitative easing

Prices Surge Broadly Across the Massive Service Sector and Companies Are Able to Pass On these Higher Prices

Prices Surge Broadly Across the Massive Service Sector and Companies Are Able to Pass On these Higher Prices

The entire mindset has changed.

Services are about two-thirds of the economy. During the Pandemic, discretionary services such as travel and entertainment have been hard hit, and consumer spending on services in February was still down 5.2% from a year ago. But the services sector is enormous, ranging from healthcare to tech, and demand has been strong in many segments, and is coming back in others. Amid backlogs and shortages, input prices are soaring and companies are able to pass on those higher prices. The Fed might refuse to acknowledge it, but everyone else is seeing it.

“The biggest concern is inflation, with price gauges hitting new survey highs in March as demand often exceeded supply for a wide variety of goods and services,” reported IHS Markit in its Services PMI today.

“On the price front, input costs soared in March. The rate of inflation accelerated to the fastest since data collection for the services survey began in October 2009,” the report said.

“Subsequently, firms sought to pass on higher costs to clients through a sharper rise in selling prices,” the report said.

“A number of companies also stated that stronger client demand allowed a greater proportion of the hike in costs to be passed through. The resulting rate of charge inflation was the quickest on record,” the report said.

These types of price pressures in the services sector were also reported today by the Institute of Supply Management’s broad ISM Services Report on Business, whose index for prices paid for materials and services increased in March at the steepest rate since 2008.

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

wolfstreet, wolf richter, inflation, consumer prices

QE During the “Everything Mania”: Fed’s Assets at $7.7 Trillion, up $3.5 Trillion in 13 months

QE During the “Everything Mania”: Fed’s Assets at $7.7 Trillion, up $3.5 Trillion in 13 months

But long-term Treasury yields have surged, to the great consternation of our Wall Street Crybabies.

The Fed has shut down or put on ice nearly the entire alphabet soup of bailout programs designed to prop up the markets during their tantrum a year ago, including the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) that bought corporate bonds, corporate bond ETFs, commercial mortgage-backed securities, asset-backed securities, municipal bonds, etc. Its repos faded into nothing last summer. And foreign central bank dollar swaps have nearly zeroed out.

What the Fed is still buying are large amounts of Treasury securities and residential MBS, though no one can figure out why the Fed is still buying them, given the crazy Everything Mania in the markets.

But for the week, total assets on the Fed’s weekly balance sheet through Wednesday, March 31, fell by $31 billion from the record level in the prior week, to $7.69 trillion. Over the past 13 months of this miracle money-printing show, the Fed has added $3.5 trillion in assets to its balance sheet:

One of the purposes of QE is to force down long-term interest rates and long-term mortgage rates. But long-term Treasury yields started rising last summer. The 10-year Treasury has more than tripled since then and closed today at 1.72%. Mortgage rates started rising in early January. Bond prices fall as yields rise, and the crybabies on Wall Street want the Fed to do something about those rising long-term yields and the bloodbath they have created in the prices of long-term Treasury securities and high-grade corporate bonds.

But instead, the Fed has said in monotonous uniformity that rising long-term yields despite $120 billion of QE a month are a welcome sign of rising inflation expectations and a growing economy:

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

wolf richter, wolfstreet, qe, quantitative easing, money printing, credit expansion, fed, us federal reserve, central bank, interest rates, wall street

US Dollar’s Status as Dominant “Global Reserve Currency” Drops to 25-Year Low

US Dollar’s Status as Dominant “Global Reserve Currency” Drops to 25-Year Low

Central banks getting nervous about the Fed’s drunken Money Printing and the US Government’s gigantic debt? But still leery of the Chinese renminbi.

The global share of US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves dropped to 59.0% in the fourth quarter, according to the IMF’s COFER data released today. This matched the 25-year low of 1995. These foreign exchange reserves are Treasury securities, US corporate bonds, US mortgage-backed securities, US Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities, etc. held by foreign central banks.

Since 2014, the dollar’s share has dropped by 7 full percentage points, from 66% to 59%, on average 1 percentage point per year. At this rate, the dollar’s share would fall below 50% over the next decade:

Not included in global foreign exchange reserves are the Fed’s own holdings of dollar-denominated assets, its $4.9 trillion in Treasury securities and $2.2 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, that it amassed as part of its QE.

The US dollar’s status as the dominant global reserve currency is a crucial enabler for the US government to keep ballooning its public debt, and for Corporate America’s relentless efforts to create the vast trade deficits by offshoring production to cheap countries, most prominently China and Mexico. They’re all counting on the willingness of other central banks to hold large amounts of dollar-denominated debt.

But it seems, central banks have been getting just a tad nervous and want to diversify their holdings – but ever so slowly, and not all of a sudden, given the magnitude of this thing, which, if mishandled, could blow over everyone’s house of cards.

20 years of decline.

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

wolfstreet, wolf richter, us dollar, world reserve currency, central banks, money printing, fed, us federal reserve, money, us debt, debt, united states

Archegos Implosion is a Sign of Massive Stock Market Leverage that Stays Hidden until it Blows Up and Hits the Banks

Archegos Implosion is a Sign of Massive Stock Market Leverage that Stays Hidden until it Blows Up and Hits the Banks

Banks, as prime brokers and counterparties to the hedge fund, are eating multi-billion-dollar losses as they try to get out of these secretive stock derivative positions.

The implosion of an undisclosed hedge fund, now widely reported to be Archegos Capital Management, is hitting the stocks of banks that served as prime brokers to the fund. The highly leveraged derivative positions, based on stocks, had blown up spectacularly. Banks get into these risky leveraged deals because they generate enormous amounts of profit – until they blow up and banks get hit as counterparties.

Credit Suisse [CS] is down 13% at the moment in US trading after it warned this morning that “a significant US-based hedge fund defaulted on margin calls made last week by Credit Suisse and certain other banks,” and that it and “a number of other banks are in the process of exiting these positions,” and that the loss resulting from this exit “could be highly significant and material to our first quarter results.” The bank deemed it “premature to quantify” the loss.

Nomura Holdings [NMR] is down 14% at the moment in US trading after it warned this morning that “an event occurred that could subject one of its US subsidiaries to a significant loss arising from transactions with a US client.” It estimated the loss from this one client at “approximately $2 billion, based on market prices as of March 26.”

As Credit Suisse pointed out, “a number of other banks” are also involved as counterparties to that one unnamed hedge fund, and have been trying to get out of these positions since last week.

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

financial markets, archegos, wolf richter, wolfstreet, stock market leverage, credit suisse, banks, nomura

What’s Behind the Stunning Spike in Used Vehicle Auction Prices? That Consumers Aren’t on Buyers Strike Shows Something Big about Inflation Has Changed

What’s Behind the Stunning Spike in Used Vehicle Auction Prices? That Consumers Aren’t on Buyers Strike Shows Something Big about Inflation Has Changed

Need a used pickup truck? Forget it, or pay out of your nose for it. But even spurned mid-sized cars are seeing stunning price increases.

Prices of used cars and trucks of up to eight years old that were sold at wholesale auctions during the week ended March 21 jumped by 3.1% from the prior week, according to data by J.D. Power on Friday. Over the past four weeks, prices have spiked by 8.3%. Compared to early March 2020, just before the end of the Good Times, prices have spiked by 19.5%:

When you talk to dealers that came back from auctions to buy vehicles to replenish their inventories, they tell you with an exasperated voice about prices being bid up to ridiculous levels, particularly on trucks. But they’re in the business of buying and selling vehicles, and they have to replenish their inventory, and so they’re buying, and in order to buy, they have to bid up prices, and they’re planning to pass those ridiculous prices plus adequate profits on to their customers.

And in a big change with past practice, the astute American consumer that haggled and shopped to get the best deal has not been resisting the price increases that started last year — but has been paying them.

Manheim, the largest wholesale auto auction operator and a unit of Cox Automotive, reported in its mid-month update that wholesale vehicle prices mid-March had jumped by 3.75% from February, based on its Used Vehicle Value Index (adjusted for mix, mileage, and seasonal factors).

The index is now 22.3% higher than in February 2020, before all heck broke loose, the largest 13-month increase in the data going back to 1998, beating the 13-month surge of 20% in 2010, following the cash-for-clunkers program that had taken a whole generation of serviceable older used vehicles off the market:

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

wolf richter, used vehicle prices, inflation, wolfstreet,

Blocked Suez Canal Adding to Container Shortages, Supply Chain Snarls, Component Shortages for Manufacturers

Blocked Suez Canal Adding to Container Shortages, Supply Chain Snarls, Component Shortages for Manufacturers

Exactly at the worst possible time. Ripple effects to be felt for months.   

Today is Thursday, and the Suez Canal is still blocked by one of the largest container carriers in the world. The last thing the tangled up and strained supply chains needed amid a historic surge in demand for durable goods, and component shortages that have led to numerous shutdowns of assembly plants, was a traffic jam at both ends of one of the world’s most important shipping choke points.  But that’s what manufacturers were served up when the Ever Given got stuck in a narrow part of the Suez Canal where about 30% of the world’s ocean container volume transits. Image by Airbus Space, this morning:

The Ever Given in all its beauty. Owned by Japan’s Shoei Kisen, operated by Taiwan-based Evergreen Group, and registered in Panama, it has a capacity of 20,000 TEU or Twenty-foot Equivalent Units.

On Tuesday at around 7:45 a.m. local time (Monday night in the US), the Ever Given got stuck in high winds, sailing northbound through the Suez Canal on its way from China to Rotterdam. And it is still stuck, despite all-out efforts to refloat the ship, blocking traffic in both directions. The estimates as when it could be moved out of the way range all over the place, from days to weeks, and might have to include partially unloading the ship.

About 19,300 vessels passed through the Suez Canal in the fiscal year 2020, or roughly 52 per day, according to the Suez Canal Authority. And they’re now piling up at both ends of the canal, and are stuck in the Great Bitter Lake in the middle.

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

 

Bank of Canada Announces Balance Sheet Reduction, Suddenly Worried about “Moral Hazard”

Bank of Canada Announces Balance Sheet Reduction, Suddenly Worried about “Moral Hazard”

“Once crisis tools have served their purpose, central banks should scale them back.”

The Bank of Canada will unwind its crisis liquidity facilities, will further reduce its purchases of Government of Canada bonds, which it already started tapering in October, will let short-term assets “roll off” the balance sheet when they mature, and will as a result reduce its total assets from C$575 billion now to $C475 billion by the end of April, announced Bank of Canada Deputy Governor Toni Gravelle in a speech today.

Most of the speech was focused on the reasons for the QE and liquidity programs that the Bank of Canada unleashed starting in mid-March last year, in a two-fold role: In its role as “lender of last resort,” to deal with the “extreme stress” in the markets, as liquidity dried up and markets weren’t functioning or had “seized completely” as everyone was trying to sell everything in a mad “dash for cash.” And in its role as provider of stimulus as the economy that was spiraling down.

But these actions ballooned the balance sheet fourfold, to C$575 billion, and it created the possibility of “moral hazard.”

“Moral hazard emerges whenever market participants or other economic actors feel that they can engage in risky behavior without bearing consequences if things go wrong,” Gravelle said, a year after moral hazard became forever the guiding principle of the markets.

But moral hazard can be limited “by ensuring that such actions have a predetermined expiry date or are unwound when they’re no longer needed,” he said.

“Once crisis tools have served their purpose, central banks should scale them back to show that they are emergency measures and don’t reflect business as usual,” he said.

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

wolf richter, central banks, bank of canada, wolfstreet, canada, housing bubble, mortgage bubble, interest rates, qe, quantitative easing

First Signs that Surging Mortgage Rates Are Dialling Down the Heat under the Housing Market

First Signs that Surging Mortgage Rates Are Dialling Down the Heat under the Housing Market

The Fed smiles upon rising long-term Treasury yields as sign of economic growth and rising inflation expectations.

Long-term US Treasury yields have continued to march higher despite the Fed’s purchases of about $120 billion a month in Treasury securities and MBS, whose purpose it is to push down long-term rates. And the Fed governors continue to voice unanimous support for those higher yields as a sign of a growing economy and rising inflation expectations. Just about every day, they come out shrugging and expressing their support for those higher yields. On Friday, it was Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin’s job to spread the gospel.

“There’s a lot of momentum in the economy right now,” he told CNBC. “I think we are going to have a very strong summer, a very strong fall, as pent-up demand comes back in the economy, as vaccines roll out, and I think the economy is going to be strong enough to take somewhat higher rates.”

This comes on top of Jerome Powell’s insistence earlier in the week that the Fed will consider the rise in inflation as temporary, and that the Fed won’t do anything about it, and that the resulting rise in long-term yields, as long as it doesn’t create “disorderly conditions” in markets, are a welcome sign of economic growth and rising inflation expectations. This Fed is looking forward to a surge in inflation, and is promoting it, and so on Friday, the 10-year yield closed at 1.74%, the highest since January 2020:

The 30-year yield closed at 2.45% on Friday, the highest since July 2019. When yields rise, bond prices fall. The price of the iShares 20 Plus Year Treasury Bond ETF [TLT], which tracks Treasury securities with maturities of 20 years or more, has dropped 21.5% since August 4.

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

Stock Market Leverage Spikes in Historic Manner: Another WTF Chart of a Zoo that Has Gone Nuts

Stock Market Leverage Spikes in Historic Manner: Another WTF Chart of a Zoo that Has Gone Nuts

In an investment environment where nothing matters anymore – until it suddenly does.

In the current craze that encompasses everything from sneakers and NFTs to stocks, where valuations don’t matter because of widespread certainty that valuations will be even greater in a few days, and where folks are chasing lottery-type returns, supported by the Fed’s interest rate repression and $3 trillion in asset purchases, and by the government’s trillions of dollars of handouts and bailouts – well, in this perfect world, there is a fly in the ointment: Vast amounts of leverage, including stock market leverage.

Margin debt – the amount that individuals and institutions borrow against their stock holdings as tracked by FINRA at its member brokerage firms – is just one indication of stock market leverage. But FINRA reports it monthly. Other types of stock market leverage are not reported at all, or are disclosed only piecemeal in SEC filings by brokers and banks that lend to their clients against their portfolios, such as Securities-Based Loans (SBLs). No one knows how much total stock market leverage there is. But margin debt shows the trend.

In February, margin debt jumped by another $15 billion to $813 billion, according to FINRA. Over the past four months, margin debt has soared by $154 billion, a historic surge to historic highs. Compared to February last year, margin debt has skyrocketed by $269 billion, or by nearly 50%, for another WTF sign that the zoo has gone nuts:

But margin debt is not cheap, especially smaller amounts. For example, Fidelity charges 8.325% on margin balances of less than $25,000 – in an environment where banks, money market accounts, and Treasury bills pay near 0%. Margin debt gets cheaper for larger balances, an encouragement to borrow more. For margin debt of $1 million or more, the interest rate at Fidelity drops to 4.0%

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

 

THE WOLF STREET REPORT: Market Manias Galore, But Long-Term Interest Rates Smell a Rat

THE WOLF STREET REPORT: Market Manias Galore, But Long-Term Interest Rates Smell a Rat

These manias and the rising long-term yields are on collision course. (You can also download THE WOLF STREET REPORT wherever you get your podcasts).

wolfstreet, wolf street report, wolf richter, long-term interest rates, interest rates, financial markets

 

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