Homeownership isn’t for everyone, money coach says: Don’t fall for artificial ‘pressure to buy’

Jannese Torres is the founder of the blog Delish D’Lites and the podcast “Yo Quiero Dinero.”

Photo Jannese Torres

In her upcoming book, “Financially Lit!: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Level Up Your Dinero & Become Financially Poderosa,” author Jannese Torres discusses how she became the first woman in her family to graduate from college, build a career and achieve what she believed were marks of success.

Yet in her pursuit of the American dream, she realized that she didn’t know what to do with her financial success. She also realized certain milestones, such as homeownership, often aren’t so much achievements as a new set of challenges.

“It’s just important for people not to just feel this pressure to buy a home because you’re a certain age or you’ve reached a certain life milestone,” said Torres, a Latina money expert who hosts the podcast “Yo Quiero Dinero” and an entrepreneurship coach who helps clients pursue financial independence.

As part of its National Financial Literacy Month efforts, CNBC will be featuring stories throughout the month dedicated to helping people manage, grow and protect their money so they can truly live ambitiously.

CNBC spoke with Torres in early April about what drove her to write her new book, how she has worked through “financial survivor’s guilt,” and why pursuing the American dream can become a nightmare for some.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity).

‘Nobody talks about the grief that comes with growth’

“I wanted to write the book that I needed when I was graduating from high school and that could have saved me from making a lot of financial mistakes because I didn’t learn anything about money,” said Jannese Torres, author of “Financially Lit!: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Level Up Your Dinero & Become Financially Poderosa.”

Courtesy: Jannese Torres

Ana Teresa Solá: What drove you to write this book? 

Jannese Torres: When I was doing the market research for the book, one of the things that I did was look and see what the competitive market looked like out there, or if there is a reason that this book needs to exist. 

I couldn’t find a single book that was specifically marketed to the Latina community or Latinos in general being the majority minority in this country. 

Our families have told us to go and pursue the American dream, but we haven’t been given instructions for how to manage the emotions that come with it.

I felt like I wanted to write the book that I needed when I was graduating from high school and that could have saved me from making a lot of financial mistakes because I didn’t learn anything about money. The more that I’ve talked to folks through the podcast and through my social media platforms, that’s been a very common sentiment. We’re told to go to school, get a job and make money, but then that’s the end of the conversation. What do we actually do with it? 

ATS: Like many younger generations of Latinos in the U.S., you overcame many hurdles and achieved major goals. But you describe in the book that these milestones also come with a sense of guilt. Why is guilt tied to success? 

JT: I call it “financial survivor’s guilt” because this is one of those things that we have not been prepared for. Our families have told us to go and pursue the American dream, but we haven’t been given instructions for how to manage the emotions that come with it. Nobody talks about the grief that comes with growth. Nobody talks about what it feels like to be on the other side of the struggle when so many people that you love are still there and you feel powerless to help them all. 

Looking back at it now, it’s like I was making all these decisions because of what other people valued versus asking myself what I actually value.

It’s going to require folks to give themselves some compassion, and to be okay to feel those feelings. But don’t let them sabotage you. It’s going to require some boundaries that you learn to exercise and also being okay with feeling like you’re on this island by yourself. When you’re the first to do something, it’s always going to feel uncomfortable. But if we don’t have examples of people who can make it out, I think it’s going to be much harder for folks to believe that they can do it, too. 

‘I was over my head very quickly’

ATS: Walk me through the chapter or that point in time when you bought a house, but it wasn’t all you thought it would be. 

JT: Looking back at it now, I was falling victim to the American dream. As a first-generation kid, my parents didn’t invest. The only thing that we saw as examples of “making it” was when family members would buy homes: The sacrifices were worth it and this is the thing that you have to show for your success.

When you’re the first to do something, it’s always going to feel uncomfortable. But if we don’t have examples of people who can make it out, I think it’s going to be much harder for folks to believe that they can do it, too. 

Jannese Torres

Latina money expert and entrepreneurship coach

I definitely felt the pressure to keep up with the Joneses in that respect. I was turning 30 years old and I saw friends buying homes, getting married, doing all those things that are on the successful adult checklist of life. When I decided to purchase the home, it was coming from a place of, “Well, I need to do this too, because this is just what everybody does.”

I quickly realized that I bought a home in a place that I didn’t even want to live in. 

Looking back at it now, it’s like I was making all these decisions because of what other people valued versus asking myself what I actually value. The freedom to have that flexibility that comes with renting is something that I valued much more.

But I felt like I was falling victim to that narrative that says, “You’re wasting money if you rent, and successful adults purchase homes.” It took a lot of unlearning of those narratives and realizing that just because something works for one person doesn’t mean that it’s universally applicable. 

Homeownership is one of those things where more people need to question if they have the personality, lifestyle, or the value system for this, or are you just wanting to do it because that’s what everybody else is telling you to do. 

Jannese Torres

Courtesy: Jannese Torres

ATS: What would you tell someone who’s financially comfortable or has reached certain benchmarks where they could potentially invest in a property but are still wary about it? 

JT: One of the things that made me realize I was over my head very quickly was the fact that two weeks into moving into the home, I discovered that the basement would flood. The sewer line was blocked, and that was not something that we checked during inspection. I ended up having to spend $4,000 on replacing the pipe in the basement two weeks after moving in. That pretty much depleted the little money that I had left over after closing costs. 

I ended up having to take a 401(k) loan to pay for repairs and putting things on credit cards. It’s important to realize that closing costs, the fees and the down payment are just the beginning.

There’s this narrative where if you get a mortgage, then you’re going to be paying the same amount of money forever and that’s why you should buy a home instead of renting. And I’m like, “Absolutely not.” Your property taxes and insurance will increase. You’re not going to be able to predict when things go wrong in the home and when you need to fix something. 

You have to make sure you can afford the maintenance costs and the things that will inevitably come with homeownership. And from a value perspective, you have to really be honest with yourself: “Does this suit my lifestyle? Do I want to stay in this place for like a decade or more? … Or do I want the flexibility to give my landlord 30 days’ notice and be able to move somewhere else? Are you in a job that feels like it’s something you want to do long term? Or do you want to make a career pivot?”

‘The American dream is more of an illusion’

ATS: Do you think the American dream has changed? 

JT: I definitely do think that the American dream is in the process of being redefined because it has become so inaccessible, especially to the newer generations. I think there was this path to “success” where you could go to school, you could buy a home with a regular job, and previous generations were not saddled with the level of student loan debt and the cost of living was not as high. There’s factors in play that are making the American dream obsolete or at least inaccessible to people. 

We are seeing sort of this questioning of it and this shift. I think that the Great Recession was a big impetus for people starting to wonder. It feels very much like the American dream is more of an illusion for a lot of folks, and I am curious to see where it goes.

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What a $418 million settlement on home-sale commissions may mean for you

A landmark class-action lawsuit may change the way Americans buy and sell homes.

The National Association of Realtors agreed to a $418 million settlement last week in an antitrust lawsuit where a federal jury found the organization and several large real-estate brokerages had conspired to artificially inflate agent commissions on the sale and purchase of real estate. 

The NAR’s multiple listing service, or MLS, used at a local level across areas in the U.S., facilitated the compensation rates for both a buyer’s and seller’s agents.

At the time of listing a property, the home seller negotiated with the listing agent what the compensation would be for a buyer’s agent, which appeared on the MLS. However, if a seller was unaware they could negotiate, they were typically locked into paying the listed brokerage fee.

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The proposed settlement would have the commission offer completely removed from the NAR’s system and home sellers will no longer be responsible for paying or offering commission for both the buyer and seller agents, said real estate attorney Claudia Cobreiro, the founder of Cobreiro Law in Coral Gables, Florida.

“The rule that has been the subject of litigation requires only that listing brokers communicate an offer of compensation,” the NAR wrote in a press release.

“Commissions remain negotiable, as they have been,” the organization wrote.

However, some of these changes may take time to materialize, experts say.

Settlement process ‘can take some time’

If a settlement agreement is accepted within a lawsuit between two people, the court generally won’t look at the settlement. Yet, in a federal class-action lawsuit, one that affects a large number of people, there will be a period for the court and interested parties to review the settlement and offer commentary and feedback on the agreement, Cobreiro said.

“That’s the process that we’re about to enter, and that process can take some time,” she said.

As proposed, the settlement would have the NAR completely remove commissions from its MLS system by July. That may be optimistic, Cobriero said.

“It would be more realistic to see this being implemented later this year,” she said.

Redfin CEO on NAR settlement: People should have a voice in how much a real estate agent gets paid

In the meantime, it’s “business as usual” for buyers and sellers, Cobreiro said. “There is nothing that agents should be doing differently currently in their ongoing transactions.”

A buyer or seller already in the market is probably not going to be affected by the settlement unless their property happens to be on the market a little longer than what’s customary, she said.

“The big gray area here is how will buyer [agent] commissions be handled moving forward,” said Cobreiro, as there is no finalized agreement yet that clearly indicates how that will be handled.

What the settlement could mean for homebuyers

The settlement agreement doesn’t say that the buyer’s agent will not be paid nor that the buyer’s agent cannot charge fees.

“The big question here is who is going to pay for those services moving forward. Will it ultimately be a buyer that will have to get the buyer’s agent’s commission together, on top of closing costs and on top of down payment?” Cobreiro said.

While commission fees are negotiable between involved parties, knowing what cards you have on the table as a homebuyer will be more important now than before. Using an agent will still be a smart way to achieve that, experts say.

“A great local agent can give you a competitive advantage,” said Amanda Pendleton, a home trends expert at Zillow Group. That’s especially true as low-priced starter homes are expected to remain in demand, she said.

Here are two things to know about how the settlement could change the process of buying a home:

1. Buyers could be responsible for their agent fees: Historically, real estate commissions typically come out of the seller’s pocket, and are split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents.

As a result of the settlement, the seller will no longer be responsible for commission fees for a buyer’s agent. So this is a new potential charge buyers need to consider in their budget. Historically, if a buyer’s agent got half of a 5% or 6% commission, that equaled thousands of dollars.

For example: The median home sale price by the end of 2023 was $417,700, according to the Federal Reserve. That would mean commissions at a 5.37% rate — the 2023 average rate, according to Lending Tree — amount to roughly $22,430, about $11,215 of which might go to the buyer’s agent.

But bypassing an agent’s services may not lead to direct savings, especially for first-time buyers, experts say. You could put yourself at risk by leaving the homebuying process entirely to the seller and their agent, said Cobreiro.

Sometimes things show up in your home inspection report that merit a credit from the seller, but if you don’t have an agent, the seller’s agent may not volunteer that, said Cobreiro.

Doing so would be a breach of their fiduciary duty to the seller, and it affects their commission if the price of the property declines, she said.

“Signing the contract is the least of it; there’s so many things that happen throughout the transaction that really require the expertise and the navigation by someone who understands the process,” she said.

2. Buyers may be required to sign a contract early on: If buyers become responsible for their agent’s commission, you’re likely to see more agents asking buyers to sign a buyer-broker agreement upfront, before the agent starts helping them find a property.

Most brokerages have a buyer agency agreement, but it’s common for real estate agents to wait to present the contract.

“They want to win the person’s business, they don’t want to scare them with having to sign any contracts,” said Steven Nicastro, a former real estate agent who writes for Clever Real Estate.

Moving the contract talks to earlier in the process is a precaution to protect buyer’s agents in the market.

“That could lead to negotiations actually taking place at the first meeting between a buyer and the buyer’s agent,” Nicastro said.

Know you can negotiate the commission rate as well as the duration of the contract, which can span from three months to a year, Cobreiro said.

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2 out of 5 industrial stocks are at record highs. Here’s our post-earnings outlook on all of them

Eaton Corporation signage at the NYSE

Source: NYSE

Earnings season was not perfect for our industrial-focused portfolio companies, but we’re feeling pretty good about their prospects for the rest of the year.

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Insurers such as State Farm and Allstate are leaving fire- and flood-prone areas. Home values could take a hit

Some insurance companies are pulling back coverage from fire- and flood-prone areas, leaving homeowners with limited affordable options. This trend may even affect the property value of American homes, experts say.

The nation’s largest homeowner’s insurance company, State Farm, stopped accepting new applications for policies on property in California in May. Allstate announced in November 2022 that it would “pause new homeowners, condo and commercial insurance policies in California to protect current customers,” the Associated Press reported in June.

This trend will likely continue across the insurance industry, said Jeremy Porter, head of climate implications research at First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research organization that compiles comprehensive climate risk data.

“They know the risk is just too high to be actuarially sound for their business,” he said.

In its announcement, State Farm said too many buildings are being destroyed by climate catastrophes, inflation is making it too expensive to rebuild, and it can’t protect its investments any longer. 

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The problem is not just in California, where wildfires are prevalent. Louisiana and Florida homeowners are also contending with a lack of access to insurance, due to flood risk.  

“Losses are increasingly related to climate risk,” said Sean Kevelighan, president and CEO of the Insurance Information Institute, an insurance industry association. “As that risk increases, so does the cost of insuring those assets that people have on hand.”

Even though there wasn’t an increase in major disasters in 2023, he said, the industry is still expecting to see $50 billion in losses just because of “severe convective issues” such as flash flooding and the implications of heavier everyday storms. 

What happens when a homeowner can’t get insurance

Darlene Tucker and Tom Pinter

Without insurance, many homeowners can find themselves in big financial trouble. 

Darlene Tucker, 66, and Tom Pinter, 68, are longtime homeowners in Sonora, California. The couple bought their “dream home” 18 years ago and have been enjoying their retirement from their respective jobs in manufacturing.

Tucker also cares for her horses and a rescued 100-pound tortoise on the property, and runs a dog day care center to help make ends meet. She said Pinter also works as a delivery driver to help out.

Darlene Tucker and Tom Pinter’s home in Sonora, California.

The couple received a nonrenewal notice from Allstate in November. Tucker told CNBC she has been working with her Allstate agent to find another insurer.

“I had one company step up and said they’d do it for $12,000 a year,” she said — that’s roughly six times her previous annual premium under Allstate of about $2,000.

She said there was no way the couple could afford that new policy, and they would likely have to move. 

Dogs play at Darlene Tucker and Tom Pinter’s home in Sonora, California.

But Tucker and Pinter may find that selling their home also comes with a steep cost.

Porter said First Street Foundation’s research in California concluded that “the moment that an individual gets a non-renewal letter from the private insurance market, they essentially lose 12% of their property value.”

Insurance costs ‘should be an alarm’ for homebuyers

Experts say the insurance landscape in California is particularly tricky because, in addition to the wildfire risk, the state has a law that adds extra approval measures, including board approval and review by the insurance commissioner, if an insurance company wants to raise the rate of insurance by more than 7%. That’s been in effect since the 1980s.

Kevelighan, of the Insurance Information Institute, said that law, called Proposition 103, creates a regulatory environment in California that restricts the industry from adequately including climate risk in its forecasting and is one of the reasons the industry is being forced to pull back coverage in the state.

“Risk management does not come into play until it’s entirely too late when it comes to individual personal property purchasing,” Kevelighan said. “It comes into play when the mortgage provider needs you to go get it.”

“And that’s the first time when a consumer even begins to think about where they’re living and what the risks might be,” he said. “The cost reflects that risk. That should be an alarm to tell them that they’re living in a risky place and then ask themselves: How could I reduce that risk? Or do I need to think about living somewhere else?”

‘Give me something to work with’

With just days remaining until Tucker and Pinter’s Allstate policy expires, on Feb. 15, the couple is still looking for more options. Tucker told CNBC that a recent quote they received was three times what they were originally paying, with a $10,000 deductible.

Of the whole situation, she said she feels frustrated.

Darlene Tucker and Tom Pinter

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Taiwanese youth voice income, housing concerns ahead of crucial elections

While cross-strait relations remain an overarching theme in Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections this weekend, many young voters are more concerned with domestic issues, such as low wages and housing, that preoccupy them as much as or even more than the threat of an invasion by the People’s Republic of China. FRANCE 24 met with several of them. 

Some 19.5 million Taiwanese are eligible to vote in the island’s presidential and legislative elections on Saturday, January 13. Some 2.8 million, or 15 percent, are aged between 20 and 29 years old. 

Voters will determine Taiwan’s next leader from among three candidates: the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s Lai Ching-te, the Kuomintang (KMT)’s Hou Yu-ih and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP)’s Ko Wen-je. 

Incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence DPP is due to step down at the end of her second consecutive term in May.     

Read moreTaiwan’s presidential election: Who are the candidates in the high-stakes vote?

Despite not being a large enough cohort to determine the outcome of an election, young people nevertheless represent a sizable chunk of Taiwan’s electorate capable of tipping the scales in a neck-and-neck race. 

With less than a day to go before the election, political groups have called on young people to return home and vote.  

Taiwan’s voting system relies on household registrations to determine voter eligibility. Despite moving to other cities for work and study, many young Taiwanese remain registered in their home town, so they must return in order to vote. 

While many have already bought tickets and packed their bags for the weekend, some remain uncertain whether they’ll cast their ballots on Saturday.  

Eligible youth participation in the past two elections ranged from 56.3 to 72.7 percent

Stagnant wages 

“I still haven’t decided yet if I’m going to vote … if I do, I’ll take the bus first thing tomorrow morning,” said Wang Miao, a 25-year-old woman working in Taipei’s IT sector.  

Wang’s hometown is in Kaohsiung, a southern port city over 400km from the capital. 

“The thing is, I don’t feel like the elections are going to change anything … Wages are low, and inflation is still high,” she said. 

IT worker Wang Miao pictured in Penghu County. © Wang Miao

While median wages in Taiwan grew 2.37 percent in 2023, average consumer prices increased by 2.5 percent over the same period, outpacing wage growth.  

“My company gave us a 1.5 percent raise last year, which is ridiculous compared to inflation,” said Xu Jing-chen, a 29-year-old engineer working in Hsinchu, a city southwest of Taipei.  

On the way back home to the coastal city of Tainan, Xu said he feels frustrated at the current politics because the available options seem unlikely to resolve the issues that young people face. 

“They’re all talking about raising the minimum wage, but I don’t make the minimum, so how does that affect me? I’m only voting out of civil duty … As far as I can tell, none of the candidates are offering any concrete solutions to improve our lives,” he said. 

While Lai proposes to increase the monthly minimum wage of publicly traded companies’ employees to 30,000 New Taiwan Dollars (NTD) (or €880.40), Hou proposes a general hike of minimum wage to NTD 33,000 (€968.70) from the current NTD 27,470 (€806.37). Both are significantly lower than the NTD 43,166 (€1265.13) median wage in Taiwan. 

“The only option for me, if I want to increase my salary, is to move abroad, maybe to the US. But my parents are here, my home is here,” Xu said.  

Hoping to start a family with his girlfriend, Xu said he has been looking to purchase an apartment in Hsinchu. 

Unaffordable housing 

“The market is crazy. A simple two-bedroom can cost over NTD 10 million (around €292,000), and that is without a parking space!” Xu said. 

Due to low interest rates, tax cuts and market speculation, housing in Taiwan is notoriously unaffordable, with an average unit costing over 9 times the median annual wage, far exceeding the price-to-income ratio of 3 times the annual wage recommended by the UN.  

Other young Taiwanese also talk about housing concerns. 

Wu Qian-hue, a 26-year-old graduate student working part-time and living with her parents in the suburbs of Taichung, a bustling city in central Taiwan, said soaring rents have prevented her from moving out. 

“What’s the point? I can barely pay for my daily expenses and that’s it. I barely have any savings, everything I make goes to pay my bills. There’s nothing left at the end of the month. Living with my family helps me avoid getting into debt,” she said. 

“One day I’d like to have a place of my own, but for now it’s a dream,” Wu said, lamenting her city’s high housing costs.  

“Everything’s more expensive now … House prices in Taipei are crazy. For now, I can only afford to rent. I’m glad [that] I receive a subsidy for it,” said Pheonix Hung, a 27-year-old artist working in Taipei.  

Hung added that she plans to vote for Lai in the upcoming presidential election because of his party’s policies on housing, which introduced rent subsidies for single people and households with young children in 2019.  

Taiwanese artist Pheonix Hung pictured in Taipei.
Taiwanese artist Pheonix Hung pictured in Taipei. © Phoenix Hung

Computer science student and first-time voter Sung Zhi-ming, 22, said he chose to remain in accommodations provided by his university, where he shares a room with three other students, because of high rents. 

“I don’t really have a choice. It’s either this or back home, which is too far to commute every day,” said Sung, who comes from Hualian, a city on Taiwan’s east coast. 

Sung said he plans to vote for the Taiwan People’s Party’s Ko Wen-je, a candidate popular among younger generations for his outspoken manner and focus on domestic issues. 

Both Ko and Lai propose to tax vacant properties to encourage owners to put them on the rental market.  

Cross-strait relations 

But Taiwan’s relations with its giant neighbour remain at the forefront of some young people’s minds. 

Sung, who finished his military service last year, said he’s worried about a potential Chinese invasion

Taiwan requires all male citizens of military age to serve for four months in the national army, a period that was extended to one year starting in 2024. 

“I know we hear about it all the time, Chinese drills, Chinese balloons and Chinese ships in the Taiwan Strait, and we’re all kind of numb, by the end of the day … but at the same time, you can’t not think about it,” he said.

Read more‘People don’t want to talk about war’: Taiwan civil defence battles invasion risk denial

Sung said he plans to vote for the KMT, a party that favours closer ties with Beijing, in Saturday’s legislative election. 

“My parents have always voted for the KMT. … We feel like they are more capable of making peace with China. We don’t want a war,” he said.  

While echoing Sung’s sentiments, Wu said she prefers to vote for the DPP. 

Although both parties aim to maintain the status quo, the DPP differs from the KMT ideologically in that it rejects the “One China” principle. The “One China” principle is a diplomatic consensus between mainland China and the KMT that only one “China” exists, without the sides agreeing about which country is the “real” China. 

“They’ve [the DPP] managed to safeguard Taiwan’s independence, despite the pressure from China … We can’t appease China forever; we have to stand up for ourselves,” she said.  

“Of course, I worry about war, but what can you do? It’s not really up to us whether China will invade or not, is it?” Wu said.  

“At the end of the day, you just have to live with it and carry on,” Wang said. 

“The threat of invasion isn’t going to go away any time soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t care for other issues. We have all sorts of problems, and China is not the biggest one,” she said.  

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Why tornadoes are more destructive than ever in the U.S.

May 22, 2011, began as a beautiful day in Joplin, Missouri. Families and friends gathered outside. Suddenly, the sky changed. Troy Bolander, who grew up in nearby Kansas, noticed the clouds beginning to swirl. He began to prepare his crawl space. Ann Leach, a life coach, was also at home. Tornado sirens blared. Ann took cover on her bathroom floor as a massive EF5 tornado descended upon Joplin. Troy sheltered in his crawl space.

One hundred sixty-one people were killed in the Joplin tornado. Both Troy, a city official, and Ann survived. The May 2011 Joplin tornado left behind almost $3 billion in damage, making it the costliest U.S. tornado on record.

Tornadoes are a billion-dollar problem in the United States. From 2018 to 2023, there have been 17 billion-dollar climate disasters involving tornadoes. And the costs are expected to grow.

Billion-dollar disasters

The U.S. sees about 1,200 tornadoes each year. That’s more than anywhere else in the world.

“Tornadoes are a big problem in the United States,” said Anne Cope, chief engineer at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.

In 2022 alone, the U.S. experienced two separate billion-dollar tornado outbreaks.

Based on estimated wind speeds and damage, tornadoes can range on a scale from EF0 to EF5.

“This rating scale came to us because wind engineers went out into the field to look at the damage,” Cope said. “And then based on the damage, they were trying to predict what the wind speeds are … so we have developed this system based on how the buildings react.”

That means a tornado’s rating is directly related to the resilience of the buildings in the community it hits.

The powerful EF5 tornado that struck Joplin 12 years ago had estimated winds of 200 miles an hour, according to Joplin city records. It was initially one half mile wide and expanded to three-quarters of a mile wide, traveling on the ground for about 13 miles across the city limits and beyond.

“My place was totally destroyed,” Joplin resident Ann Leach said.

In total, 7,500 residential dwellings in the city were damaged or destroyed. According to the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, 553 businesses were destroyed or severely damaged in the tornado.

But Joplin rebuilt.

“It was phenomenal how swiftly the community came together to respond and help their neighbors out,” Leach said.

“Rebuilding is a very long process and it’s one that is arduous,” said FEMA Associate Administrator for Resilience Victoria Salinas. “It oftentimes takes years to be able to rebuild communities, homes, [and] businesses. And it takes communities coming together to really think about the future and what they’re going to do differently to build more resilience into their communities as they move forward.” 

Shifting patterns

The central Great Plains of the U.S., including states like Kansas and Texas, have historically experienced more tornadoes than anywhere else in the nation.

However, experts say tornadoes can occur across the U.S.

“If you were to ask a thousand tornado scientists where Tornado Alley is, they’re all going to give you different definitions,” said Victor Gensini, associate professor in the Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Northern Illinois University. “The reality is, is that all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, receive tornadoes.”

Places in the Southeast and Midwest have seen an increase in tornado frequency.

“That is really important because we have way more people living east of the Mississippi River,” Gensini said. “And so basically, we have more targets, more exposure, more vulnerability as humans, our built environment, where these tornadoes are happening, and that creates more and more tornado disasters.”

Some cities in these regions include Memphis, Indianapolis and Nashville. 

In March 2020, a deadly tornado hit Nashville, leaving behind over $1.5 billion in damage.

“It’s kind of like this two-sided coin, if you will, where we have this change in probability due to climate. But we also have this increasing footprint and exposure and vulnerability that are going to continue to drive the losses in the future,” Gensini said. “And that’s really how we have to look at this problem. It’s a multifaceted issue.”

Investing in resilience

The U.S. is not helpless when it comes to tornado damage. Engineers know how to build stronger structures that can withstand high winds.

“A lot of tornado damage is preventable,” Cope said. “The EF0 and EF1 portion of the storms, that type of damage can be prevented with strong, resilient building construction. Costs a little bit more than typical building construction, but it’s definitely resilient and it prevents that type of damage.”

The IBHS has some specific recommendations for building resiliently, including having a wind-rated garage door and when reroofing, choosing a stronger option.

In the 2011 Joplin tornado, 84% of deaths resulted from building and structural failures. Missouri does not have a mandatory statewide building code, but in the wake of the massive EF5 tornado, the city of Joplin made some changes to protect its buildings and people from damaging winds. The new codes require anchor bolts every four feet and require hurricane clips to connect the roof to the walls, among other provisions.

“When you’re in an EF5 tornado and the winds are over 200 miles an hour, that system is still going to fail,” said Bolander, Joplin’s director of planning, development, and neighborhood services. “But many of the homes that were on the edge of that zone probably could have been spared if we had that in place.”

Not all communities have building codes in place. As of November 2020, 65% of counties, cities and towns in the U.S. are not covered by modern building codes.

“We should have building codes in all of the places in the United States where the wind can impact us, which is the whole of the United States,” Cope said. “But sadly, only 17 states in the U.S. have a statewide building code and many states that don’t have a statewide building code; it’s a patchwork of counties or local municipalities that might have one and then large unincorporated areas that don’t have one.”

Part of the challenge with building tornado resilience in the U.S. is that building codes are generally a local and a financial decision.

“So we’re talking about counties and municipalities who all have to make a choice or not make a choice,” Cope said. “And these are sometimes tough financial decisions.”

“We didn’t want to increase the cost of housing so much that people couldn’t rebuild or some people couldn’t afford to rebuild,” Bolander said. “So that was a debate amongst ourselves, you know, how far do we want to go with these building code changes?”

Federal resources are also available when it comes to building resiliently. In 2022, FEMA released the FEMA Building Codes Strategy to advance its building code efforts and strengthen resiliency nationwide. The Biden administration has also designated billions of dollars for climate resilience and weatherization through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Watch the video above to see how the U.S. can work to try and fix its billion-dollar tornado problem.

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Tech titans’ vision for a new city in Northern California raises concerns

Silicon Valley tech tycoons on Thursday announced their intentions of building a new city in Northern California. The billionaire investors have to date spent over $900 million to acquire more than 50,000 acres of land in Solano County. Local and US officials, however, have raised concerns about what one Congressman calls “a vision”, not “a plan”.

Investing through a company named California Forever, which saw the launch of its official website on Thursday, tech billionaires are laying out the blueprint for a dream city in Northern California.

On its website, California Forever said it has acquired over 50,000 acres (or 202 square kilometres) of land through its subsidiary – Flannery Associates – in eastern Solano County, which is nestled between Sacramento, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, San Francisco and Napa Valley in Northern California.

Located at the crossroads of major Northern California cities, Solano County is touted by the company as the perfect place to build the dream city from scratch.

While the website did not disclose the amount that has been injected into the project, the New York Times on Tuesday reported investments of over $900 million in land purchases alone over the past five years.

Founded in 2017 by former Goldman Sachs trader Jan Sramek, California Forever is backed by Silicon Valley heavyweights such as Laurene Powell Jobs, Marc Andreessen, Michael Moritz and John Doerr, among others.

A project shrouded in secrecy

Until Thursday, very little was known about California Forever and Flannery Associates. The parent company and its subsidiary have remained extremely discreet regarding their operations in Northern California.

While Flannery managed to keep most of its activities under wraps, local authorities were alerted when the company started acquiring vast expanses of land, and at prices often well above market rates, until it became Solano County’s largest landowner.

The identity of the company and its billionaire investors only came to light following an investigation led by US federal authorities, who raised concerns of national security after Flannery bought land parcels surrounding Travis Air Force Base, a major base located in Solano County’s seat of Fairfield.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Air Force’s Foreign Investment Risk Review Office launched a probe in late 2022 into Flannery’s purchases of roughly 52,000 acres in Solano County, including around Travis.

Fears that Flannery was representing foreign interests, especially Chinese, were soon dispelled as Silicon Valley tech titans, who unveiled their project of building a dream city, emerged as backers of the company.

City of dreams?

Citing European cities as inspiration, Flannery said it aims to build liveable communities and walkable neighbourhoods while providing “good-paying local jobs” to residents.

Flannery also revealed plans to build tens of thousands of homes, a solar farm, parks and other open spaces in the eastern part of the county.

Despite the company’s ambitious plans, local authorities have expressed worries regarding the feasibility of the project.

Pointing to Solano County’s dry weather conditions, Fairfield Mayor Catherine Moy said in an interview with abc7news that Flannery’s proposed plans are unrealistic.

“It’s an area that is known for its drought conditions. It makes zero sense. There’s no mass transit. It does not have fresh water. There is some water, but not enough for tens of thousands of homes,” Moy said.

Moy also voiced concerns regarding road infrastructure.

“The roads out there are already dangerous. Highway 12 is the highway that goes through there out to Highway 99 and Highway 5. It’s called Blood Alley for a reason,” Moy said. “There’s no way that tens of thousands of homes could be supported by that.”

While Flannery noted the need to improve local infrastructure on its website, it failed to provide details on how that could be achieved.

Other elected officials have joined Moy in voicing their concerns.

Following a meeting with Flannery representatives on Tuesday, US Representative Mike Thompson said: “They don’t have a plan, they have a vision, an idea,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“To say that this is going to be a long, long road is probably an understatement,” he added.

Meanwhile, US Representative John Garamendi described as “strong-arm mobster tactics” the company’s method of purchasing the land, the Chronicle reported.

Tech follies

But this won’t be the first time that Silicon Valley tycoons have dreamed of pioneering cities without following through.

In 2013, Google cofounder and former CEO Larry Page floated the idea of creating a high-tech utopia with minimal regulation.

California start-up incubator Y Combinator set up a research lab in 2016 to study how to build better cities.

Paypal cofounder Peter Thiel launched a pilot project for floating cities in French Polynesia in 2018, and the New York Times reported the same year that Facebook was negotiating with the city of San Francisco for permits to build a town on the outskirts of Silicon Valley.

None of these proposals have come to fruition to date.

“In the end, it doesn’t even matter that these cities are built,” said University of Glasgow sociology professor Elisabetta Ferrari, who specialises in digital media. For the entrepreneurs and investors, rather, “the most important (thing) is that we talk about it”.

“They want to show that they are not just rich, they are also people with vision and entrepreneurs that are doing something for the people,” she said.

Housing workers

In an article published in April on Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s latest endeavours in Texas, which include building a town called Snailbrook aimed at housing employees, the Guardian compared corporation-built cities to 19th-century US industrial towns.

Offering only basic accommodation and meagre amenities, these towns “were often closer to prison camps than ideal cities”, the Guardian said, and noted that companies “want to minimise overheads and squeeze as much out of their captive townsfolk as they can get away with”.

Flannery aims to provide affordable housing near San Francisco, where many employers have been forced to increase salaries to attract or retain workers who are facing soaring rents in the city.

The number of tech tycoons proposing to build towns and cities in recent years “has a lot to do with the idea of ‘technosolutionism’. A concept that can be boiled down to ‘there is an app for that’,” Ferrari said, adding that it is “the idea that technology provides the best way to address a problem”.

These entrepreneurs and investors “are pitching themselves like they are the best to deal with [the problem], when, they say, political power cannot address efficiently modern urban development challenges”, she said. 

This article has been translated from the original in French.

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Bonds Toy with Secular Bear Market — Was That the Top in Housing Stocks? Maybe Yes, Maybe No.

The market’s worsening breadth and the lack of a robust bounce on 8/18/23, even as bond yields reversed course after their runaway freight train climb during the week, is worrisome.

On the other hand, the market’s sentiment is souring rapidly, and oversold gauges are closing in on traditional bounce territory. Consider this:

  • CBOE Put/Call Ratio hit 1.25 on 8/16 – the highest reading in eight months;
  • The CNN Greed Fear Index hit 46 (neutral) on 8/18/23 – a month ago it was at 83 (extreme greed). Readings below 40 signal excessive greed in the market;
  • RSI for the S&P 500 (SPX) is at 34, just shy of the critical 30 oversold reading; and 
  • The New York Stock Exchange Advance Decline line (NYAD, see below) closed outside its lower Bollinger Band for the fourth straight day – this is as oversold as it gets.

Thus, with rising pessimism and with the market nearing an oversold level, the key to what happens next depends on what type of bounce we see in the next few days. If there is no real strength in the bounce, we may see a renewal of the downtrend.

Bonds Test Secular Bear Market Boundaries

The U.S. Ten Year Note yield (TNX) recently tested the 4.30% yield area, its highest point since late 2022, before turning lower. If TNX breaches this key chart point, bonds may have entered a secular bear market. That won’t be good for stocks.

The long-term chart for TNX shows that yields crossed a meaningful high point (3.25%) area in 2019 before re-entering a bullish phase, due to the pandemic raising the specter of a global depression.

Of course, history has shown that no such thing happened as global central banks hit the digital printing presses.

The U.S. recovered. The jury is still out for Europe. China remained closed too long. Foreign companies moved. Since China’s economy depends on foreign capital to fuel its manufacturing base, the exit of foreign companies resulted in a capital vacuum which is now affecting the Chinese property sector, as seen in the recent bankruptcy of the Evergrande Real Estate conglomerate, China’s largest developer.

Normally, this would be bullish news for U.S. Treasuries. Is this time different?

So Why are Bond Yields Rising?

The pandemic reversed globalization, as lockdowns had unintended consequences. Consider the following:

  • Companies moved out of China, taking capital out of the Chinese economy;
  • Construction of manufacturing plants and warehouses in the U.S. has increased; while
  • Supply chains have not fully adjusted.

New factories built in the U.S. are technology-focused: semiconductors, solar power technology, and electric car parts and batteries. A few factories make building materials, household appliances, furniture, cell phones, or internal combustion engine automobiles.

Ignored are food processing, medical product manufacturing, and other important areas. Normally, these items come from China. But China’s economy is slowing, and capital flight is making operations there difficult for both domestic and foreign companies, creating shortages of everyday products and raising prices. 

In the U.S., the skilled labor pool has shrunk. There aren’t enough people farming, making furniture, or processing meat. Those with those skills cost more. Meanwhile, companies looking to build factories in the U.S. are having trouble finding enough skilled construction workers, adding to rising costs and fueling inflation.

The U.S. government continues to pump money into the clean energy economy, flooding the economy with money just as the Fed is trying to tighten conditions. Too many dollars chasing too few goods – the most basic definition of inflation. Capital allocation is unbalanced and inefficient, compounding the problem. Thus, bond traders fear a squeeze in raw materials and skilled labor costs, and the related decreased production of necessary household goods.

In other words, the post-pandemic period is turning into one where inflation is becoming structural. If TNX moves above 4.3%, this notion will be all but confirmed.

Smart Money Update: Was that the Top in Housing Stocks?

We may have seen the top in the housing stocks, although the jury is still out on this. I’ve been bullish on homebuilders for quite a long time, but, unless something improves quickly, the best days for this group may be behind us.

The SPDR S&P Homebuilder crashed and burned on 8/17/23, slicing through its 50-day moving average like butter. Moreover, there was no real bounce to speak of on the next day, which is what’s usually happened in the past twelve months after heavy bouts of selling. Accumulation/Distribution (ADI) and On Balance Volume (OBV) both rolled over aggressively, both negative signs suggesting money is moving out in a hurry.

The key is if and how the sector bounces back. Still, the supply shortages in the housing market will resurface as the kindling required to reignite a rally in XHB. Meanwhile, money is decidedly finding a home in the energy sector, specifically in oil and oil service stocks (OIH).

Patient investors may eventually benefit from the uranium market, as nuclear power continues to slowly become a viable alternative in the search for clean energy sources in the face of the cuts in oil and natural gas production, as displayed in the accelerating downward path of the weekly oil rig count. There are now 136 fewer active rigs in the U.S. compared to the same period in 2022.

A sector, which is bullishly being ignored by many traders, is uranium. But the shares of the Global X Uranium ETF (URA) are under steady accumulation. I recently discussed how to spot the smart money’s footprints and how to turn them into profits. URA, in which I own shares, is featured in the video. You can get the full details here.

Do you own homebuilder stocks? What should you do with your energy holdings? Get answers at Joe Duarte in the Money Options.com. You can have a look at my latest recommendations FREE with a two-week trial subscription. And for an in-depth review of the current situation in the oil market, homebuilders and REITS, click here.

Will NYAD Finally Bounce? NDX and SPX Approach Oversold Levels

Given the drubbing stocks took last week and the oversold reading on RSI for the New York Stock Exchange Advance Decline line, you’d think we’d get a bigger bounce when bond yields turned lower on Friday. No such thing happened. That’s worrisome.

The long term trend for stocks remains up, but the short- and intermediate-term trends are in question, as NYAD remained below its 20-day and 50-day moving averages and may still be headed for a test of its 50-day, and perhaps the 200-day, moving average.

The Nasdaq 100 Index (NDX) is very oversold after breaking below its 50-day moving average the 15,000 level. Accumulation/Distribution (ADI) and On Balance Volume (OBV), remain weak, as short sellers are active and sellers are overtaking buyers. Let’s see what type of bounce we get.

The S&P 500 (SPX) looks just as bad, remaining below 4500, its 20-day and its 50-day moving averages. Both ADI and OBV are negative. Support is now around the 4300 area.

VIX Remains Below 20

VIX rolled over at the end of last week without taking out the 20 level. This is good news. A move above 20 would be very negative as it would signal that the big money is finally throwing in the towel on the uptrend. 

When the VIX rises, stocks tend to fall, as rising put volume is a sign that market makers are selling stock index futures to hedge their put sales to the public. A fall in VIX is bullish, as it means less put option buying, and it eventually leads to call buying, which causes market makers to hedge by buying stock index futures. This raises the odds of higher stock prices.

Liquidity Remains Stable

Liquidity is stable, but may not remain so for long if the current fall in stock prices accelerates. The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), which recently replaced the Eurodollar Index (XED) but is an approximate sign of the market’s liquidity, just broke to a new high in response to the Fed’s move. A move below 5.0 would be more bullish. A move above 5.5% would signal that monetary conditions are tightening beyond the Fed’s intentions. That would be very bearish.


To get the latest information on options trading, check out Options Trading for Dummies, now in its 4th Edition—Get Your Copy Now! Now also available in Audible audiobook format!

#1 New Release on Options Trading!

Good news! I’ve made my NYAD-Complexity – Chaos chart (featured on my YD5 videos) and a few other favorites public. You can find them here.

Joe Duarte

In The Money Options


Joe Duarte is a former money manager, an active trader, and a widely recognized independent stock market analyst since 1987. He is author of eight investment books, including the best-selling Trading Options for Dummies, rated a TOP Options Book for 2018 by Benzinga.com and now in its third edition, plus The Everything Investing in Your 20s and 30s Book and six other trading books.

The Everything Investing in Your 20s and 30s Book is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It has also been recommended as a Washington Post Color of Money Book of the Month.

To receive Joe’s exclusive stock, option and ETF recommendations, in your mailbox every week visit https://joeduarteinthemoneyoptions.com/secure/order_email.asp.

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Bullish Tidings: Breadth Rallies, Oil Service Makes its Move, Bonds Survive Yield Scare

Three weeks before the Fed’s next meeting, investors who have missed the AI/tech rally have thrown caution to the wind.

That urgency to catch up has led to an encouraging improvement in the market’s breadth and a marginal new high in the S&P 500 index ($SPX). The combination is likely setting the market up for what could be an impressive upward thrust. See below for full details.

And if June is any sign of what July may be, the bulls will rule the roost. Here are some grounding facts:

  • The S&P 500 index has returned an average of 3.3% in July from 2012–2022.
  • SPX rallied 9% in July 2022.

Of course, there are no guarantees that history will repeat itself. But it pays to be always ready. So, which sectors are likely to benefit? I have some thoughts just below.

Bond Yields Survive Yield Scare

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Fed joined the other global central banks that have raised interest rates in the last few weeks. However, from a trading standpoint, the action in bonds is more important, as bond yields have largely disagreed with the Fed’s perception of the economy since late 2022.

What I mean, of course, is that even as the Fed raised interest rates after October 2022, bond yields have fallen since then, setting up a divergence.

Certainly, there has been some volatility in yields. For example, the 10-Year US Treasury Yield Index ($TNX) bounced higher on June 29, 2023, as a surprising upward revision of US GDP to the 2% growth rate raised the odds of a rate hike at the upcoming FMOC meeting in mid-July. Yet, the flattening out of the Fed’s favorite indicator, the PCE inflation gauge on June 20, 2023, calmed things down.

That leaves the resistance band between 3.6–3.85% as the area to monitor. If TNX rises above 3.85%, we may see a move toward 4%, which would be very negative for stocks, especially the interest rate-sensitive homebuilders and real estate investment trusts (REITs).

The Fine Print in Housing Stats: Supply, Supply, Supply

As would be expected, as TNX flirted with 3.85%, there was a pullback in the homebuilder stocks. But as we’ve learned over the recent past, the correlation between the direction of bond yields and the action in the homebuilder stocks is nearly 100%. As a result, when bond yields, as I described above, hit resistance at 3.85% and turned lower, the homebuilder stocks regained their upward trend.  

Overall, the housing sector continues to deliver mixed news. For example:

  • New home sales recently rose—bullish for homebuilders.
  • Existing home sales are flattening out—neutral for brokers.
  • Pending home sales fell—not what you may be thinking.

The quiet part is all three stats above have two things in common—low supply and steady-to-rising demand. So new home sales are rising because builders are building enough of them to sell to enough people who are looking for housing. Existing home sales are flat because no one wants to sell a house with a 3% mortgage and buy a new one with a 6% mortgage. And, of course, if no one wants to sell their house, then you get a fall in pending home sales.

The bottom line remains unchanged. Low supply of steady demand favors the homebuilders.

Overall pending home sales fell 2.7% month to month. And if you’re wondering how each U.S. region fared in the pending home sales data here you go:

  • The Northeast delivered a 12.9% increase.
  • The South registered a 4.4% decrease.
  • The Midwest dropped by 5.3%.
  • The West’s sales dropped by 6.1% (a 62% decrease since 2001).

Moreover, the National Association of Realtors noted that there are still three pending offers per sale.

Mortgage rates ticked up last week, along with bond yields. Homebuilder stocks pulled back slightly before recovering. Several homebuilders will be reporting earnings in July, near the date of the Fed’s next meeting.

For an in-depth look at the news and trends in the housing and real estate market, check out my new publication, Joe Duarte’s Real Estate Weekly, here.  You’ll find crucial and detailed real estate market updates in an easy-to-follow and highly accessible format. This crucial information complements the stock picks at Joe Duarte in the Money Options.com. For more details on how to trade the bullish housing megatrend, check out my latest video here.

Oil Service Makes its Move

The bullish action in stocks on June 30 might be at least partially related to window dressing. That’s where portfolio managers who missed the rally play catch up to show their clients that they own stocks in groups that are rising. That means that the bullish action may or may not remain in some of the more extended market sectors, such as AI.

On the other hand, some portfolio managers use the cover of window dressing as a stealthy way to put money to work in sectors that offer value. As a result, while everyone is looking at the hot sectors, such as AI, it pays to look at sectors that have underperformed in the first half.

One of them is oil service. As the price chart illustrates, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index (OSX) shows some bullish characteristics. Note the broaching of the 200-day moving average after the recent double bottom it carved out over the last three months.

Moreover, its accompanying ETF, the Van Eck Vectors Oil Service ETF (OIH), looks even better. You can see that OIH has crossed above its 200-day moving average, marking what looks to be the start of a bullish reversal.

In addition, you can see that the Accumulation Distribution Line has begun to move higher as the On Balance Volume (OBV) indicator has bottomed out. Together, these two indicators confirm the emerging price trend in OIH as money moves in.

I have several oil service stocks in my Joe Duarte in the Money Options portfolios which are worth considering. One of them just broke out to a new high. You can check it out with a FREE trial to my service here.

NYAD Recovers and Gathers Upside Momentum

In a bullish development, the New York Stock Exchange Advance Decline line ($NYAD) turned on a dime last week and moved decidedly higher, breaking above short-term resistance. This comes after a short-lived dip below the 50-day moving average.

The Nasdaq 100 Index ($NDX) also turned around, finding support at its 20-day moving average. ADI and OBV have turned short-term negative.

The S&P 500 made a new high since the October bottom in stocks. As with NDX, SPX found support at its 20-day moving average. This is a bullish development. Both ADI and OBV stabilized.

VIX Is Likely to Bounce

After its recent new lows, the Cboe Volatility Index ($VIX) is poised to rise, as July often marks a bottom. On the other hand, VIX is at such a low level that it could take a while before the negative effects of a rising VIX affect the bullish action in stocks.

When the VIX rises, stocks tend to fall, as rising put volume is a sign that market makers are selling stock index futures to hedge their put sales to the public. A fall in VIX is bullish, as it means less put option buying, and it eventually leads to call buying, which causes market makers to hedge by buying stock index futures. This raises the odds of higher stock prices.


To get the latest information on options trading, check out Options Trading for Dummies, now in its 4th Edition—Get Your Copy Now! Now also available in Audible audiobook format!

#1 New Release on Options Trading!

Good news! I’ve made my NYAD-Complexity – Chaos chart (featured on my YD5 videos) and a few other favorites public. You can find them here.

Joe Duarte

In The Money Options


Joe Duarte is a former money manager, an active trader, and a widely recognized independent stock market analyst since 1987. He is author of eight investment books, including the best-selling Trading Options for Dummies, rated a TOP Options Book for 2018 by Benzinga.com and now in its third edition, plus The Everything Investing in Your 20s and 30s Book and six other trading books.

The Everything Investing in Your 20s and 30s Book is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It has also been recommended as a Washington Post Color of Money Book of the Month.

To receive Joe’s exclusive stock, option and ETF recommendations, in your mailbox every week visit https://joeduarteinthemoneyoptions.com/secure/order_email.asp.

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