Abenomics on the ropes as yen soars, markets plunge

Picture expired. Sustained growth in the Japanese economy has been elusive and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to overhaul the economy have been widely criticised as half-hearted AFP

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  • 20

    Yubaru

    Abenomics was based upon people's emotions and impressions and nothing concrete that would work in today's economy. Abe is a dinosaur, and hopefully soon to join them in extinction.

  • 7

    some14some

    A tax hike could further damage consumer spending, as doubts about Abenomics mount

    what's consumer confidence? No consumers and if any they don't have confidence, as such No Data available !

  • 4

    Farmboy

    To be fair, the major moves going on in markets now have a lot more to do with what is happening internationally than about Abenomics, and no country has been able to remain unaffected. That guy from the Bank of Scotland who said, "Sell everything" made a pretty accurate call. Not that Abenomics is anything to write home about...

  • 8

    WarwickNchuaa

    “Policymakers ... have basically failed and need to bear the blame.”

    Oh, I'm sure that will happen. A senior Japanese politician admitting he was inept?

    I propose JT begin a new section, entitled "Oh, what a surprise" for future stunning revelations like this. Abenomics isn't working - more like an astonishingly expensive disaster we can't afford? Why, fan my brow.

  • 12

    Aussieboy

    I`m no economist but to increase sales taxes and give big business large corporate tax cuts hoping they will pass savings on to everyday workers was probably never going to work. Oh yeah and forgot about the increasing inflation too, good one.

  • 9

    DannytheGaijin

    Walking into a store, you'd swear the only people actually buying stuff are tourists. If anything, the lack of consumer confidence has nowhere to go but down.

  • 3

    SenseNotSoCommon

    Abenomics on the ropes as yen soars, markets plunge

    Quick: call a snap election!

  • -2

    chomskyite

    The only things that can save Japan now are 1- immigration , 2- fiscal austerity, 3- oppressive taxation. My Number anyone?

  • 5

    5petals

    "To be fair, the major moves going on in markets now have a lot more to do with what is happening internationally than about Abenomics, and no country has been able to remain unaffected."

    If thats true then it was a weak plan to start with. The third arrow would provide resiliency against whats going on in China and Europe, because China is actually going through their own third arrow reforms. Reforms show a commitment to change instead of easy talk, and that would attract investors to the stock market instead to the safety of the yen. Instead he tried to copy what Europe is doing with neg interest and made things worse. reforms, as I knew all along, are all but impossible in Japan. Its much more easy to crawl into the shell and continue with whats safe and gambaru. Agreed, its not all Abes fault, but as with many things Japanese, they dont want to talk about why. The rest of the world doesnt have time to wait or play games and reacts accordingly. If Abe and crew would have a candid discussion in English for the international community on a financial platform, then it would provide transparency as to what is really going on, and might just be the start of change.

  • 0

    RainMonster

    Fixes for the economy.

    Immigration. Agreed more labor and more tax payers. (unlikely to happen as the right wing government would rather not have more foreign workers.)

    Stronger support for small businesses, domestic and foreign. So many people want to launch businesses here. So many small companies want to come do business here. Better tax structures, easier set up, incentives for small businesses would help bring companies here to fill needs in Japan. Or help Japanese retool from decaying industries to take up new ones.

    Rational Austerity. Austerity does not work in its traditional form. Rational spending does. Japan needs to change what it spends on. Making a hand full of exporting companies richer does not help. Spending on business and industry development makes sense. Spending on small company job creation makes sense. And maintaining her infrastructure via a "new deal" kind of approach also makes sense.

    Taxation. Bottom line it has to go up. Even thought I don't want it to. But to pay for things it needs to go up. But a tax hike alone will not work. Immigration is key here, we have to replace the declining work force as we likewise create new industries. Japan should be leading industries like sustainability based tech. But they have to make it easy for companies to come here, bring their employees and set up shop.

  • 6

    5petals

    @rainmonster,

    that sums it up nicely. Its entrenched, almost fanatical, resistance to change. Its just more of the bring in cheap immigrant labor, no integration, and a still very hierarchical society that protects the caste.

  • -3

    FizzBit

    Maybe it's just a rope-a-dope move.

  • 9

    warispeace

    Abenomics is working just fine! It is shifting public funds to the corporate and financial elite, as intended, and they are enjoying a consumptive boom, as a walk around Aoyama and Omotesando will reveal.

    GDP growth with Japan's demographics was never going to be possible. All the talk about prosperity for the country is just rhetoric to cover for the big swindle.

  • 6

    Gary Raynor

    Just out

    ' Japan's economy contracted at an annualised rate of 1.4 percent in October-December.'

    Say no more,

  • 3

    Aizo Yurei

    Every time I read news about Abe I can only think of Gomer Pile.

  • 2

    WesternerJapan87

    Yep the news is out. -1.4% YoY (-0.4% QoQ) decline in GDP vs forecast of -0.8% YoY (-0.2% QoQ) decline.

    Expect more attempts at quantitative easing and expect Japan Inc. to reduce wages further. Oh, and probably expect more NIRP as we approach mid to late 2016.

  • 1

    Evan Hayden

    I hate to say it, but as someone who just moved back to the US after a few years in Japan, I'm pleased to see the value of the yen shifting back in my favor. I decided to wait on exchanging my yen to dollars to see if that would happen, since I was due to take such a hit on the exchange rate. Not good for Japan, but good for me at least, and others who want to change their yen out.

  • 2

    WesternerJapan87

    Abenomics is working just fine! It is shifting public funds to the corporate and financial elite, as intended, and they are enjoying a consumptive boom, as a walk around Aoyama and Omotesando will reveal.

    Omotesando is now a tourist cluster****. I don't enjoy going there at all now.

  • 6

    gogogo

    Abe will blame business' for not raising wages, it's his own damn fault for trying to print money to fix a problem. No amount of finger pointing will fix this.

  • 5

    nattorice

    How on earth are you supposed to create a spending boost by injecting consumer cash into the economy when the wage stays the same and taxes go up ? you can't just relay on tourism alone and the Olympics around the corner. There is a very large portion of people working part time due to the ageing work force refusing to take retirement so with little to no job opportunities for skilled works how is there going to be any growth even if there is a boost in production nobody's got the cash to spend.

    If you tax alcohol cigarettes fuel then yes you'll have more, but lowing the cost of essentials such as food and so on is a must. If rent is high and food then there is no balance so a think tank needs to address this problems now not tomorrow.

  • 5

    Joeintokyo

    Abenomics, Reganomics, supply-side economics, trickle-down economics...it's all the same thing...and a proven failure.

  • -7

    ghoneim mohamed

    China bank chief blames"Speculators",the same can be applied on Japan and whats going on in Nikei,and Yen.Shooting Abe Shinzo all time is illogic and makes no sense,absolute subjectiveness.No one speaks about international markets crisis,uncertainty,and instability.Japan is not an exception.When i blame Speculators mafia to stand behind whats going on in China and Japan proves to be right.QE normally should take yen down,not flying high in sky,what is this called gentlemen,but mere God damn speculations?!!What Abe Shinzo is doing,has been doing since3years,that time all praised his efforts and reformations as promising achievement and success,what changed now?!Flash back to Asia financial crisis of 1997 by Speculation Mafia,same scenario same game rules.We will see Nikei bleeding and crazy violent speculation on yen taking it to 106 or less.Forget about Abe Shinzo and Abenomics and see facts as it should seen,not as we wish to see.

  • 2

    fxgai

    Tokyo is calling on cautious firms to raise pay

    Tokyo has this so wrong.

    Firms will raise pay when they perceive it as being both sustainable and necessary for their business to do so.

    Tokyo is trying to have companies skip all such practical, real-world considerations, and just jump to the outcome they want, without doing any ground work to create a more dynamic and competitive business environment that is a pre-condition for such wage hikes.

    The economic advisers behind Abe are loons. Can't wait for a new LDP leader to be elected. The reflationists have had their turn, and failed.

    A tax hike could further damage consumer spending

    So too does continuous out-of-control government spending, that fosters fear about the future amongst individuals.

  • 1

    William Wong

    One Word. Decline. Abe is born in wrong economy period. Couple with international oil bust, his name will be in bad history textbook. Aging population is increasing since young generation loves early retirement and work part time. Old generations wants to do own house cleaning and enjoy their pensions and will stop at nothing to protest against their intrusion of life. Meaning untouchable. Not in favor of policy i vote u down in my district. Gst no problem, tax no problem and rising cost of living no problem as long i can afford cheap import basic food items. No problem. Old gen just sip cup of hot tea and enjoy the toil of young gen hard work and pay pay social tax.

  • 5

    Kabukilover

    Remember who specifically benefitted from so-called Abenomics: exporters. Abe printed money which devaluated the yen, thereby increasing exporters' profits. At the same time it hurt importers, no small thing considering Japan's dependence on imports. All this raised prices, which hurt consumers. To top that off, Abe raised the sales tax. Abe did ask companies to raise wages. They didn't and Abe didn't much care. The Abe LDP gang voted in corporate tax cuts in March last year. The whole thing should have crashed long ago; with a less resilient economy it would have. Even so, what we have is a fine mess. It will get worse.

  • 1

    joeamerican

    When Abe says the word "stimulus" and Kuroda starts quoting children's fairy tales let's see if they can fly like Peter Pan out of the Mitsubishi Bank Tower.

  • 3

    Disillusioned

    The Japanese yen will soon become the new pacific paso unless Abe and his crony economists are stopped.

  • 1

    Gary Raynor

    fxgaiFeb. 15, 2016 - 09:58AM JST

    Firms will raise pay when they perceive it as being both sustainable and necessary for their business to do so.

    Firms will raise pay, when we have a true pluralistic society and the interests of the workers are truly represented by proper unions that replace the existing unions centered around firm and base themselves on an industry.

    In the absence of that, it is the function of government to look after the economic interests of the worker, such as Japan 1960-70 and the push to double incomes over a decade. It worked then and there's no reason it shouldn't work again.

    Begin by doubling the minimum wage and doubling the spouse tax credit.

  • 5

    Supey11

    Most of the current up-turn on the yen (and in the past couple years, most of the down-turn) has been caused by the very-famous-but-hardly-ever-mentioned "yen carry". It has existed for a couple decades. If you don't know about or understand this currency move, you can not even begin to analyse the Japanese financial situation, since it is essentially why Japan (unlike any major economy of the world) can have an increasing value of its currency while having a decreasing value of its economy.

    The problem is not simply imports/exports, not Abenomics, not de-population, not lack of immigration, not taxes, not consumer confidence, not Fukushima (though, yes, they all have a part). All of those things point to a decreasing currency with a decreasing economy (and vice-versa). But that is not what happens.

    Simply put, the 'yen carry' is this: collectively (but not necessarily a conspiracy) world currency traders, including Japanese ones, borrow yen at near zero rates in Japan then exchange this money for foreign currency. The removal of so much money from Japan makes the yen weaker and weaker the more its done, and its done on a massive scale. All currency traders know this scam/system. They don't need to conspire, they all just know it. The borrowed money is then put elsewhere with better interest rates (like foreign bonds), and as others do this over and over, the value of the original amount borrowed in Japan technically becomes less and less as the yen loses value because everyone collectively keeps doing it. (though the borrowed yen is still owed at the same amount, since one now has that yen in foreign currency and the foreign currency is worth more than what it was first exchanged at, the amount needed to pay back that yen is less).

    But, as soon as things go a bit sour with world markets, traders get nervous, look to go liquid, or just look to make their profits finalized, so they pay back their loans by exchanging some money back to yen. This huge influx is again like a snowball going down a mountain, and as people seek to put money back into Japan it makes the yen stronger (and conversely, it makes the foreign currencies weaker). Once things hit bottom, it repeats.

    So in reality, 'Abenomics' has been a way for the government to try embrace the 'yen carry' (past governments tried to fight it with little success). Its how the yen went from 80 to 120 in about two and a half years (thats a 50% increase). Its why Japan just introduce negative interest rates to banks (meaning, your better off lending out your money to whoever will take it than to hold on to it). But its not a sound policy. Japan needs to break from this as it means the economy is beholden to speculators who most often not even Japanese. For a reporter not to mention the yen carry in an article like this, well one can only guess why they wouldn't.

  • 4

    Christopher Glen

    Good, now at last people might wake up and kick him out

  • 2

    warispeace

    @Supey11

    Agree about the importance of the yen-carry trade yen movement, but this would not be attractive if there were any vigor in Japan's economy and a sufficient demand for yen and capital here for local investment. So the yen-carry depends on the fundamental weakness of Japan's economy, caused primarily by demographics (GDP growth depends on more people using more energy for productive and consumptive purposes), neoliberal policy and the very cheap cost of borrowing.

  • 4

    dodosuko

    It's good for me as I'm booking my travels this spring break.

    My yen will stretch me farther at least for enjoying my trips to tropical paradises. We're looking to visit Koror this time.

    It's a good time to travel at least. Can't wait :D

  • 3

    Wolfpack

    There are no solutions that do not involve a whole lot of sacrifice - either voluntarily on Japan's own terms or involuntarily and in chaotic fashion. No economic system can defy the laws of economics - however unclearly they are understood. Japan has the largest debt in the world, an aging society, and an economy that is perpetually mismanaged. Nothing the Japanese have tried for the last 25 years has made any difference because they have been avoiding the hard choices. I expect more of the same until things really begin to fall apart.

  • 1

    fxgai

    Gary Raynor,

    I'm not sure that 1960's / 70's policies will help in 2010's Japan, and I don't think unions are a pre-condition for getting higher wages.

    The way I see it, if the business environment were more competitive, companies would see it as being in their interests to raise wages as neccessary to retain their staff. Japan needs more competition in it's domestic economy, competition amongst companies to get the best workers, and competition amongst workers to get better jobs.

    The government needs to create incentives for such competition through reforms.

    Begin by doubling the minimum wage and doubling the spouse tax credit.

    Artificially forcing higher wages for unskilled labour doesn't strike me as being a useful step, it's just a variation of what isn't working with Abenomics. Such a policy actually incentivises firms to invest in automation, which would work against unskilled labour even more, increasing disparities between rich and poor.

    warispeace,

    this would not be attractive if there were any vigor in Japan's economy and a sufficient demand for yen and capital here for local investment.

    Totally agree, although I disagree that Japan's economy can not grow in the face of it's demographic issues. The demographics do not help, no doubt, but with reforms things could be improved.

  • 2

    Gary Raynor

    fxgai

    Gary Raynor, Artificially forcing higher wages for unskilled labour doesn't strike me as being a useful step, it's just a variation of what isn't working with Abenomics. Such a policy actually incentivises firms to invest in automation, which would work against unskilled labour even more, increasing disparities between rich and poor.

    Sorry this argument is so worn out by the monetarists and conservatives - a bit like the trickle down theory. Try ordering your Big Mac from an area with a cheaper labor resource and see how it tastes after the night flight from Vietnam and trying getting a robot to make your beef bowl at a cost effective price?

    The truth is that this fear of raising the minimum wage prices the lowest paid out of jobs has been proven wrong time and time again in the UK and Europe and only serves those who own the low paid service economies.

  • 1

    Supey11

    Yes @warispeace, the yen carry would be unattractive if Japan's economy was strong and stable, but the fact that the economy is currently beholden to a system like the yen carry is what helps make it weak and unstable (because the yen carry de-couples the currency from the economy).

    So while the causes are a chicken-and-egg scenario, the fact is that it is currently happening. So how to stop it? Yes, if Japan became a strong economy again it would fade out (but as you said, this is unlikely due to demographics). The BOJ could raise interest rates instead of making them negative (but raising rates is usually the sign of a strong economy. Further, raising rates would only gravely weaken the overall economy even more at this point). Or Japan could regulate open market foreign exchange, but there's probably a ton of rules preventing this in the WTO, IMF, and the newly signed TPP.

    The only other way would be to print more and more yen to the point that it starts to water down any effect of remittance, and this is whats happening. As Abe went on a printing-spree recently, we probably won't see the yen at 75 per $ this time around, but I won't rule out it topping somewhere in the 90s. The next downturn in a few years time the top may only reach 105, then 115, and so on. So in the long run, being that strength is nearly impossible, the only way for Japan to escape a system caused by weakness would be to become exponentially weaker.

  • 0

    Christopher Glen

    Abe is a dinosaur, and hopefully soon to join them in extinction.

    Here's hoping

  • -1

    fxgai

    Gary,

    Sorry this argument is so worn out

    But how is it different from Abe's failed approach of just telling business, "hey, raise wages please, even though it doesn't make sense for you to do so"?

    Whether they force it via law changes, or beg for it through jawboning, if it doesn't make economic sense, it doesn't make economic sense. There is no free lunch.

    only serves those who own the low paid service economies.

    Disagree. It also serves consumers too, because they would bear some of the burden of the higher wage costs, through higher costs.

    People who are on the minimum wage should get off it by getting more skills and getting a better job. Let's leave flipping burgers to the kids who want to earn some pocket money. I got my first job doing even worse. In that sense, appropriately low wages act as an economic incentive for unskilled workers to become skilled workers. Paying more for unskilled workers means that we will get LESS skilled workers. Incentives matter.

    The government's role should be to provide a safety net for those who struggle, not centrally plan and command the economy.

    Supey11,

    Or Japan could regulate open market foreign exchange, but there's probably a ton of rules preventing this in the WTO, IMF, and the newly signed TPP.

    Besides that the free market would have something to say about it, but let's not overlook that currencies go both up and down. Japan's bureaucrats have enjoyed the yen's depreciation for the past 3 years, without complaining about it. They would look silly now if they complain too much, as it goes up a bit for a while.

  • 2

    Gary Raynor

    FXgai.

    Spoken like a true Republican..

    Well argued put proven to be totally flawed

    There is no free lunch.

    There are for the likes of Walmart and MacyD.

  • 1

    JeffLee

    @supey11

    "The removal of so much money from Japan makes the yen weaker and weaker."

    How can yen be "removed" -- when someone else is buying it (in exchange for the other currency). And what happens to the yen that is purchased in the deal you describe. It's not as if someone throws in a dumpster.

  • -3

    ghoneim mohamed

    Yen is reaching 114,this supposed to be resistance level,i dont think is gonna break it,most probably will turn hurry on down to 106(Fibonacci level)or little less.Nikei gains today is no more than normal reaction to following violent losses,big loss is expected to continue.i mentioned this in my comments last days.Lets wait and see what might happen.Am not expecting intervene before coming to 106 or less,this can be red line,it couldnt be bearable.Even 115 supposed to be the beginning of hardship to economy.What i wanna every one to realize,is whats going on in Nikei should take Yen to hell as it happens in any other stock markets From Dow Jones to banana republics stock markets,how comes its the opposite in Nikei?!No one comment or talks about it.Every one only and mainly wanna put blame on Abe Shinzo and Abenomics.Am afraid they will blame Abe Shinzo for Taiwan earth quick!!i hope to see logic comment not just personal opinions,up till now there is non,but mere personal views.

  • 1

    Supey11

    @JeffLee By saying "remove" it doesn't mean its thrown away. Imagine this: You come to Japan with no money. You then go to a bank in Tokyo, borrow 10,000yen, then convert that into USD at say 114yen/$, giving you about $87. You then take that $87 and leave Japan. The yen is still in Japan, but now you have $87 in your pocket when you arrive in New York. You just removed $87 (or 10,000yen) from Japan. That currency exchange is propped up by the BOJ, and by you doing this it makes the yen weaker (as in, there's now more yen in the BOJ with less foreign currency reserve. Or another way to put it, the yen is less sought after than dollars.) Therefore, this decreases the yen's value compared to dollars. When a huge amount of money is moved this way, it will push the yen up to maybe 120yen/dollar (as we saw). Now, you can revert your dollars back to Japan to pay off your 10,000yen loan, but at 120/$ it now only cost you $80 to do this. Congratulations, you just made $7 !!

    (Note: when everyone reverts back to yen to pay off their loans at the same time, the opposite effect on exchange rates happens. The yen is now sought after, dollars are abandoned, and the yen increases with value. This reversion has been happening for the past 2 weeks, even causing the BOJ to create negative rates to try to convince people to keep on borrowing, even though everyone wants to just pay back their loans and make a tidy profit.)

    This isn't some secret deal, just under-reported (especially in Japan). Just google "yen carry" or look at the actual wikipedia article about it

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carry_(investment)#Currency

  • 1

    fxgai

    Gary Raynor,

    I've never even set foot in America, and suddenly I'm judged a Republican!

    But yes I'm for free markets in general. I don't think governments can control labour markets any better than they can financial markets, or butter markets.

  • -2

    erlols

    I'm not a supporter of Abenomics. However, it is always surprising to see a lot of people with little or no knowledge of fiscal and monetary policy evaluating extremely complex issues on this forum. And doing it with such verve! And yes, you need technical knowledge to provide valuable opinions on complex policies.

  • 2

    Lloyd Weems

    "you need technical knowledge to provide valuable opinions on complex policies"

    Well, if that's true how come the bureaucrats and politicians who have been in charge of the Japanese economy for the last 20 years have failed so miserably? The country is circling the plughole and slips nearer to oblivion every year.

  • 1

    erlols

    Well, if that's true how come the bureaucrats and politicians who have been in charge of the Japanese economy for the last 20 years have failed so miserably? The country is circling the plughole and slips nearer to oblivion every year.

    It can be for three major reasons, or a sum of them:

    1) Bureaucrats and politicians had no intention to change things

    2) They had intentions, but they could not do it properly because of the way politics works

    3) They are incompetent

    Regardless the outcome of past attempts to 'fix' the economy, I believe it is difficult to judge complex policies. This is especially true if you focus on the short-term effects of policies intended to produce results in the long-term. In addition, external elements can further complicate things. Also, there isn't a 'right' way to deal with economies. A good example is the so called 'liquidity trap'. Economists (within schools and from different schools) still debate on how it should be dealt with.

  • -1

    AstoBoy

    JAPANTODAY is where the world's best economists gather. lol

  • 0

    Gobshite

    Oh, I'm sure that will happen. A senior Japanese politician admitting he was inept?

    Inept politicians are normal, even corrupt politicians don't get fired...

  • 1

    jj1067

    This is all totally so wrong.

    What's happening is because of oil price, deutsche bank down, China crisis and US interest rate tactics. Not because of Abenomics.

    JapanToday, why this internet journalism so biased? What is your purpose? I understand JapanToday is a propaganda group not a journalist organization. Sorry but we are not that stupid. I don't dance with JapanToday's sorry amateurs.

  • -1

    Mike3113King

    Abenomics, Quantitative Easing, or Whatever it takes, are all the same, from Japan, America, or Europe : The central bank buys more government bonds, drives interest rates lower, and increases the debt and money supply. Interest rates, the cost of capital, and thus the most important component of an economy, used to be set by the free market. This was the decision of millions voting with their dollars. Now we have central bankers, caught between a rock and a hard place. Can't raise rates because of too much government debt, and they've already reached zero so they have to go negative. The market solution will come when sovereign bond markets worldwide begin to implode.

  • 1

    sf2k

    forget arrows, it was about moving deck chairs around. There needs to be a few goals underneath as a foundation to enterprise. With social pressures and ever increasing elderly what are Japan's goals? It could have been social justice but it's not. It could have been energy independence but it's not. With a government so cloistered by corporations there are no goals of public value and the ship of Japan rudderlessly continues on

    policies are announced but are so devoid of any actual value or goal as to be a threat not a blessing. It's a credit to everyday Japanese that Japan is not in a worse state. Japan would certainly benefit with a real government not the puppet shows of the last 40 years and counting

  • -1

    25psot

    Abe-no-mix about effectiveness of his plan just give it more time and results come plenty..

  • 2

    md2009

    Go into any Bank and see the public face of inefficiency. Companies in Japan will not be able to increase wages until they deal with all the dead wood. The only saving grace is that Japanese population ages and the dead wood is ageing with it. Japan is a disaster all round from the education system, to the immigration system, to the entrenched interests, to the inherent anti-foreigner bias that many still hold. And don't forget we still have the real possibility of the big earthquake and further nuclear contamination. Japan has so many creative, talented people who could change Japan for the better with a more flexible and global thinking Government. But not likely in the short term. I feel sorry for the Japanese people who are victims at so many levels. Most do not trust their Government any more but are powerless to drive change.

  • 0

    ghoneim mohamed

    erlols,you are right.i do appreciate your objective presentation among chaos of personal and subjective opinions have nothing to do economic issues.Abe Shinzo PERSONALLY is their main target,aim and mean to take revenge of Abe Shinzo PERSONALLY.its Abe Complex terminology,same as Abenomics.

  • 1

    kurisupisu

    Double the minimum income tax threshold and start a phased immigration program and watch the economy take off!

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