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PM End of Week Market Commentary – 3/20/2015

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  • Sat, Mar 21, 2015 - 08:00am



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    PM End of Week Market Commentary – 3/20/2015

On Friday gold rose +11.20 to 1181.70 on moderately heavy volume, while silver rose +0.61 to 16.73 on heavy volume.

Gold's move up, while welcome, was primarily a currency effect; with the dollar down -1.42%, to stay even in international price terms, gold should have rallied at least that much.  It didn't.  My sense: gold is weakly rebounding, encouraged by massive moves in the currency market.  1190-1200 is the next resistance zone for gold to overcome.

Silver, on the other hand, was a star performer on Friday.  Silver's 3.82% gain was massive and unexpected, driving price right up to the 50 MA where the rally stopped.  Perhaps it was encouraged by gains in copper, which also had a huge +3.50% move today.  Why do I mention copper?  Copper & silver have a very high correlation – they both tend to move together most of the time.

The gold/silver ratio, which has been side-tracking now for the past four months, took a sudden dive this week on silver's big jump higher.  It dropped a huge -3.41 to 70.65, a really large move in just one week, and this is a bullish signal for PM – if it continues to hold.

Miners did fairly well Friday, with GDX moving up +3.31% on moderately high volume; GDXJ rose +3.79% also on moderately high volume.  Miners are outperforming gold, which is how you want things to be if you are a gold bull.

On the week, gold rallied +23.30 [+2.01%], silver rose +1.09 [+6.94%], GDX was up +6.97%, and GDXJ climbed +7.54%.  The pattern is exactly how we want things to look in a move higher for PM – silver outperforming gold, miners outperforming metal, junior miners outperforming the seniors.  It clearly says "risk on" for PM.


The buck marked a swing high this week, falling -1.24 [-1.25%] to 98.17.  The topping action was driven by the FOMC announcement on Wednesday, which although the Fed removed the much-anticipated word "patient", they all but ruled out a rate rise in the near term by the sum total of everything else they said.  With a rate increase off the table for a while, the buck ended up falling on the week in three very volatile trading days.

Price on my USD chart is set by the USDX futures trading; right now, the total position size of the traders in this market are about double their normal levels.  Traders are "all in" on both sides of the table.  Margin for a DX contract is about $1800.  Price movement: each 1.00 in USD movement causes $1000 gain or loss.  This means a trader can control $100,000 in currency with only $1800 in cash.  Implication: a 1.8% drop in the USD will wipe out the initial margin, resulting in a forced sale if the trader was operating in a fully margined position.

So once the price moves 1.8% – which is a really huge move for the buck – action can start to become quite violent as forced selling starts to occur.  I believe that is what happened on Wednesday, giving us that very long (but temporary) spike down.  This isn't a "broken market", just a number of traders operating on thin margins being forced out of their positions.  Most of the volume of actual currency trading happens off-exchange, between large banks, not here.

A friend of mine used to call this sort of thing a "doctor, doctor" problem.   As in, ‘Doctor, doctor, I think I’m a dog.’ ‘How long have you felt like this?’ ‘Ever since I was a puppy!’

And so my version here – not as funny:  "Doctor, doctor, I'm forced out of my position at a total loss after a 1.8% move on my DX contract because I'm fully margined!"  "So don't use that much leverage!"

Ok, so I have no future in comedy.  And if it was you swimming in those deep waters on Wednesday, it really isn't funny.

Across the pond, the Euro rose +3.18 [+3.03%] to 108.14; the dollar's loss is the Euro's gain.  The euro appears to be reluctantly moving higher.  Serious resistance for the Euro will hit at 112.


This week we saw miners break out of their recent consolidation range after the FOMC announcement of "no longer patient, but not impatient either" on some pretty good volume.  GDX broke above the 9 EMA on the first day of the breakout and has kept on going.  My sense: the GDX rally seems to be contingent on a continuing move lower in the buck.

On the weekly chart (not shown) miners have definitely marked a swing low, which is also bullish.

Mining shares look a bit better this week – most miners have had "early bullish" 9 EMA crossings.

Name Chart Change 52w ch EMA9 MA50 MA200 50/200 Last Crossing last
New Gold NGD 7.54% -29.87% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Coeur Mining CDE 7.01% -51.14% rising falling falling rising ema9 on 2015-03-20 2015-03-20
Yamana Gold AUY 5.39% -58.23% rising falling falling rising ema9 on 2015-03-19 2015-03-20
Anglogold Ashanti AU 4.68% -45.61% rising rising falling rising ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Eldorado Gold EGO 4.30% -19.59% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Franco-Nevada FNV 4.16% 10.28% rising falling rising falling ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Agnico Eagle AEM 4.06% -7.76% rising rising falling rising ema9 on 2015-03-20 2015-03-20
Silver Wheaton SLW 3.96% -18.75% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Gold Fields GFI 3.56% 8.19% rising falling rising falling ma200 on 2015-03-20 2015-03-20
Pretium Gold PVG 3.31% -11.08% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Goldcorp GG 3.01% -26.24% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-20 2015-03-20
Pan American PAAS 2.93% -29.32% rising falling falling rising ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Silver Standard SSRI 2.61% -54.94% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-16 2015-03-20
Kinross Gold KGC 2.54% -49.58% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-20 2015-03-20
Randgold GOLD 2.27% -8.39% rising rising falling rising ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Iamgold IAG 2.01% -45.87% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-19 2015-03-20
Barrick Gold ABX 1.93% -42.04% rising rising falling rising ema9 on 2015-03-20 2015-03-20
Hecla Mining HL 1.92% -5.06% rising rising rising rising ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Royal Gold RGLD 1.89% -1.17% rising rising rising rising ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Newcrest Mining NCMGY 1.18% 6.76% rising rising rising rising ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
First Majestic AG 0.90% -48.72% rising falling falling rising ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Newmont Mining NEM 0.57% -6.21% rising rising rising rising ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Aurico Gold AUQ 0.34% -32.96% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-19 2015-03-20
Fortuna Silver FSM -2.08% -2.08% falling falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-20 2015-03-20

US Equities/SPX

SPX rebounded on the week, rising 54.70 [+2.66%] to close at 2108.10, not far from its all time high.  SPX liked the FOMC announcement – price took off immediately afterwards.  Result: three week correction, over.  VIX dropped -2.98 to 13.02.  Put buyers lose again.  At some point, the slowing economy will weigh on equities, but it hasn't happened yet.

Much of the move higher was due to a recovery in energy and resource stocks, driven by the falling dollar.  High yielding stocks (Utilities, REITs, Drugs) did well too – if rates don't rise, they look more attractive.  But it is not a sign of "risk on" by any stretch.

Gold in Other Currencies

The buck topped out this week, which led to gold dropping in Euro terms.  However in most other currencies, gold did well.  I added Gold in BRL (Brazilian Real) to the chart – they are having major troubles in Brazil, driven largely by issues surrounding widespread corruption in the state oil company Petrobras, which some large number of Brazilian politicans appear to have tapped as some sort of collective piggy bank.  With the BRL falling vs the dollar, gold in BRL has done quite well.  Currency problems?  Call 1-800-GET-GOLD.  🙂

Rates & Commodities

Bonds (TLT) had a great week, rallying +3.78% and climbing back into bullish territority, rising above their 50 MA, with the bulk of the move happening after the FOMC announcement Wednesday.

Junk bonds (JNK) had a volatile week but ended up +0.15, driven primarily by fluctuating oil prices.

The CRB (commodity index) made a new low this week, but rallied back, printing a bullish hammer candle and rising +1.62%.  CRB is showing a bullish RSI divergence.  Translated from geek-speak: while CRB made a new low, downside velocity overall has dramatically slowed down – this pattern often occurs near the end of a long move.

WTIC also made a new low this week hitting 42.41, and it too rebounded printing a hammer candle of its own, and rising +1.45 to 46.45.  It also is showing a bullish RSI divergence, which may be marking a low in oil.  Both oil and commodities were helped out a great deal by the falling dollar.

Physical Supply Indicators

* Shanghai premiums dropped -3.65 to +3.55 over COMEX.

* The GLD ETF lost -6.27 tons of gold, with 744.40 tons remaining.

* GC futures remain in slight backwardation; spread of the first two month contracts is -0.10.

* ETF Premium/Discount to NAV; gold closing (15:59 close price on March 20th) of 1182.60 and silver 16.72:

 PHYS 9.80 -0.07% to NAV [down]
 PSLV 6.55 1.26% to NAV [down]
 CEF 12.02 -7.49% to NAV [up]
 GTU 40.44 -7.42% to NAV [up]

ETF premiums were mixed, with the non-Sprott funds gaining this week.

Futures Positioning

The COT report was through Mar 17, when gold was trading at 1148.30 and silver 15.56.

Once again, Managed Money loaded up short right at the turning point, and are at a positioning where gold has reversed in the past.  Managed Money added a huge +20k shorts and dropped -9.1k longs in the days immediately before the FOMC announcement on Wednesday.  If that's not enough to make our friendly bankers salivate and buy COMEX gold contracts, I don't know what is.

In silver, things weren't quite as obvious although Managed Money did add +5k shorts right before FOMC.  There is plenty of fuel for a short covering rally (as we saw this week in silver), but they are not as overextended in silver as they are in gold.

Moving Average Trends [9 EMA, 50 MA, 200 MA]

Moving averages are saying that we are at the opening stages of a PM rebound, with all elements reporting 9 EMA crossings.  Silver actually had a 50 MA crossing – at least according to my software.  Stockcharts didn't show the same thing, perhaps they use different price data than I do.  This paints a picture of "early bullish", with emphasis on early.  All the longer term averages show bearish trends.

Name Chart Change 52w ch EMA9 MA50 MA200 50/200 Last Crossing last
Silver COMEX.Silver 4.78% -17.33% rising rising falling rising ma50 on 2015-03-20 2015-03-20
Junior Miners GDXJ 3.79% -39.16% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Senior Miners GDX 3.31% -23.60% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Silver Miners SIL 3.01% -34.17% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-18 2015-03-20
Platinum COMEX.Platinum 2.49% -22.77% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-19 2015-03-19
Gold COMEX.Gold 1.34% -10.95% rising falling falling falling ema9 on 2015-03-19 2015-03-20


The dollar's drop after the FOMC announcement Wednesday was a pivotal change for PM this week.  Almost immediately following the announcement, gold, silver, and the miners took off for higher ground, with the miners in the lead.  By end of week, silver almost caught up to the miners and is looking quite strong.

From a trend standpoint, we are just starting to see the effects of Wednesday's reversal in the 9 EMA crossings.  The gold/silver ratio had a massive drop and now looks bullish.  GDX:$GOLD continues to rise and now looks "early bullish", as does GDXJ:GDX which is moving higher more slowly.  Last week GDX:$GOLD gave us the first hints of a possible reversal approaching, and this week the market followed through.

The COT report shows a massive increase in shorts by Managed Money, just in time for the gold price to reverse.  That COT report is sometimes a really useful indicator – I just wish it was realtime and not delayed by 3 days.

Physical demand is modestly positive – in the west, ETF premiums changes were mixed, and COMEX gold backwardation is a positive sign.  Premiums in Shanghai have fallen, but remain positive.

Commodity prices may be hinting at a low – certainly the downside momentum has slowed way down.  Continued support for commodity prices is probably dependent on weakness in the dollar.  An actual commodity price rally (where prices rise in all currencies) would indicate real inflation symptoms.  I don't think we're there yet.

Last thing.  Neural Net was smarter than me.  Perhaps it was able to sniff out out the Fed's plan regarding the dollar in advance.  (NN also spotted the top in the buck – something I dared not mention last time because I thought it was just too unlikely.  I'm still not sure it will stick.)  A friend of mine bought GDX calls based on the net's recommendation.  He's buying the beer next time I'm in Berkeley with his vast profits.

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  • Sun, Mar 22, 2015 - 01:11am


    Arthur Robey

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Do our friendly algorithms really effect the market that much?

I get the impression that they are most comfortable playing around with micro-movements, things that do not entertain wet-ware. Sometimes I imagine that the market is disturbed to amuse the algos. Like dropping a stone into the still pond to tell the piranhas that it is feeding time. 

I play the uber long volatility, and from my perspective, silver is aimed at $10/oz.

Edit: Alls well in the world.  /s


  • Sun, Mar 22, 2015 - 09:22am



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    What is the upper bound of micro-movements in PM-related prices?

      The literature I have read about algos (and HFT) emphasizes that they focus on very short-term movements, and often positions are not left open overnight. Yet, it would be instructive to know what is the upper bound of the percentage price changes that would be considered mere micro-movements.  If, for example, it is 3% and for my trading 3% is a significant move, then I should be concerned to learn about patterns that algos tend to create and even when to expect to see those patterns.  
    There is  broader educational imperative (I think) for retail traders like me, and that is to learn a lot about how the functioning of the market has changed in recent years and continues to change, so that we can use this knowledge to support our building of strategies and tactics.
   That such changes in the functioning of the financial markets have been underway is a theme of the interview that Chris Martensen had with Grant Williams ("Why the Smart Money is so Nervous Now"  — ).  
    Coming into the ETFs for PMs and oil as a Newbie, I have been thunderstruck by the frequent recurrence of bizarre price-change patterns, compared to what I have been accustomed to seeing in the stocks I have followed for many years. I conclude from this experience that there is some special learning that I need if I am to operate effectively (especially to not lose my shirt) in the PM world.  Look at USO in the diagram that follows. (VTI is the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF, much broader than SPY).  SLV seems well behaved compared to USO; but I have seen other five-day periods in which SLV also seems to have gone crazy.  (SLV is the dark blue curve and USO is the green curve.)


  • Mon, Mar 23, 2015 - 10:29am



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    Bart Chilton

It is early morning….I am on may way to work and have not had my coffee yet, but didn't Bart Chilton say that the HFT actually help price discovery?  Learning the ropes in a HFT world….eh….good luck.  I don't mean that to sound sarcastic.  Just that I think the computers will be a little bit ahead of you or any of us.

  • Mon, Mar 23, 2015 - 04:38pm



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    HFT not all the same


There are two types of HFT trading.

One is "electronic market-making" where a computer program puts out both a bid and an offer for an underlying item, with the goal to profit on the spread.  These HFT traders are really good for the market, since they can provide the same service as a human, but once the code is written, you don't have to pay them anything and – presumably – over time they collect enough pennies from the spread to make the risk worthwhile.  Spread ends up narrowing with enough of these in operation, which is a win for all participants.  Presumably Bart was speaking of those.  (I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here)

The other HFT traders are the penny-stealing weasels, who have a special deal with the exchange that allows them to basically see other people's trades before they hit, front run them, and thus steal pennies from them and then re-sell that stock to the original bidder at a slightly higher price.  They live in dark pools, and on BATS – anywhere that they can get a special deal from the exchange to get faster access to quote & trade data than anyone else.  They add nothing – they only engage in rent-seeking.  Theft.  Simple fix: exchanges don't sell them faster-than-normal access, problem is solved.

But the weasely exchanges make money on the deal.  So they faciliate the front-running/stealing.

Except for the IEX exchange.  Which is where I send all my trades.  I'm too small a fish to be front-run, but I like to support the good guys.

  • Mon, Mar 23, 2015 - 11:50pm



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Thanks for the response, and for the definition of HTF.  To be honest I wasn't aware that there were two types of these trades….which begs the question….

I think in the recent podcast with Chilton and in other venues, I have seen the number 50% (or MUCH higher) assigned to the amount of electronic trading that goes on.  I'm curious and I don't have the information, wondering if ANYONE would.  What percent of of the trading is the problematic HFT trading you speak of?  Generally speaking is much really known about their activities?  Based on A LOT of information presented/discussed here, if manipulation exits, it would seem this type of trade is the one many assign with the manipulation game.  Are their finger prints visible enough to get this information?



  • Tue, Mar 24, 2015 - 06:02am



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    electronic trading

So there is HFT, and there is electronic trading.  Those aren't the same thing either.

The "bad" HFT attempts to steal pennies through front-running large orders and speed.  Good HFT attempts to maintain a bid/ask spread that will make pennies per trade for the owner (adjusting the spread and the prices as the underlying market changes or as competition appears).

Other bad HFT attempts to slam the exchange servers with a vast flood of orders which are then instantly cancelled – its really a denial of service attack, in order to slow down a particular exchange so that they can take advantage in some way.  This should just be illegal, in my opinion.

Electronic trading (at least as I define it) is something else.

Some try to arbitrage small differences between almost-identical markets – say between the "SPY" ETF and the e-mini futures.

Other electronic trading algorithms are executed under the direction of traders.  "Sell these 5000 gold futures contracts, and see if you can move price down through support, run the stops, and when you see the breakdown and all the stops get triggered, cover as that happens and collect our reward."  I suspect these trading algorithms can estimate how much it will cost to move the market into position, and then further how much it will cost to break the market down – and how many stops are waiting there to "be collected" – and the trade is only executed if the cost is "most likely" exceeded by the estimated profit potential of the stops.

These events happen both on the short side as well as the long side, depending on the underlying trend, but goldbugs notice them only when they happen on the short side, and only when they happen in the gold market.  And in a downtrend, the operators will almost always pick "short" (because that's easiest – going with the trend is always easier, so goldbugs use these events as prima facie evidence of trend manipulation – which is wrong, since they are just rapid raids to collect on stops that happen in the direction of the existing trend.

These aren't HFT per se, since they (most likely) operate under the direction of people, but they do move fast.  Someone pushes the big red button, the market gets slammed in whichever direction, price level is achieved (or not), and then the controlling trader evaluates and takes his next action.

Another type of electronic trading is an if-then-else situation that occurs on release of financial information.  (I actually interviewed at a company that made hardware & software for this sort of trader – fascinating interview, neat technology).  Once the information was released, it was downloaded by the hardware, then parsed, and if certain conditions were met, a bunch of trades (either buy, or sell) were executed.  This too needs to be very high speed, to beat others to the punch.  But its not HFT per se, since it doesn't happen all the time, just at very specific events.  Like when the Fed removes the word "patient", or when a particular ISM number is below expectations.

The amount of electronic trading on more fundamental info is probably quite large.  Traders set up the parameters, and then let the algorithm run.  For instance, "buy gasoline futures if the ratio of gas price to crude oil price drops below a certain value, and then sell if they get above a different value."  Or that might be the case for crude oil & Chevron stock.  Literally anything.  Sky is the limit.

So is all that bad?  I'd prefer that the stop-running not be so easy.  Position sizing (which doesn't seem to exist these days) would help that a lot.

But the rest seem ok with me.  As humans, we can't possibly play the "trade at information release time" game, or the "arbitrage the difference between e-minis and SPY" but we definitely can play in most of the other areas.

  • Tue, Mar 24, 2015 - 08:43am



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    Will electronic market makers help in a big market down-turn?

     Thanks to everyone for very educational stuff.  
     In the interview of Grant Williams I cited above there is a chilling (to me) section where he points out that most these algo programs have been designed in the post 2007 era, and there is a question of how their design will affect  their behavior during general market down-drafts.  Williams surmises, as I recall, that they will make down-drafts deeper and swifter.  Any thoughts on this idea?
     I remember studying options stat's on Bell Canada during the mid-to-late September 2008 time period, and what was really striking was the mysterious disappearance of bids at some points.  These disappearances were associated with days when  there were pronounced downside gaps in the stock price.  This is important, to me, as an indication that when you have a crash, one "engine" there is the disappearance of bids, which could easily produce price drops of 20% or more in very short time periods.  Over a few days, back in 2008, this classic "widow and orphans" stock in Canada lost over 50% of "its value", as I recall.
    An interesting question (to me) is whether the now prevalent electronic market makers might serve to reduce the prevalence of missing bids when fear is running high among the human participants.

   BTW  — I wonder how many people saw that multiple sectors had massive seemingly instantaneous price increases just *before* Fed Chair Yellen spoke last week.  Among the ones I studied, most of the Fed-induced rally took place in that sudden price up-sweep.  It's not credible to me that the substantive implications of the Fed decisions were more or less the same for all those sectors, and yet they all had huge price gains.  Welcome to Wonderland!

  • Tue, Mar 24, 2015 - 09:27am



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    market makers


One of the good things about electronic market makers is they can react quickly to new "risk" situations.  That's also the bad thing.  If I were writing the code, I'd automatically either dramatically widen spreads, or I'd simply have the system withdraw from trading if prices became too erratic and/or the inventory of stock became too high.

So yes, I think the faster response of these systems means that they will (most likely) simply take themselves offline during the next severe move lower.  Liquidity will temporarily vanish.

Humans would probably make a similar decision (and almost certainly there are humans in the loop monitoring these market makers) but they will make the choice more slowly.

All this says is that we likely get a huge gap down at some point.  Market will eventually stabilize once the fundamental buyers return "Wait, I can get AAPL for a 50% discount?" or whatever shorts are in there gleefully ring the cash register, but in the meantime the market will go bid-less for a time.

Is this a problem?  You have to ask yourself, is it reasonable to expect a market maker – human or machine – to deliberately leave itself in a position where it will (guaranteed) lose money in the middle of a crash?  If so – just how much money should the machine be expected to lose in order to maintain orderly markets?

When things start to get more iffy, an interesting strategy for us humans is to put in "stink bids" far below the current market price for your favorite companies.  That way, when the market does go bid-less and the machines vanish, the human bids will be the only ones remaining.  And they will get some good deals.

One caveat: the exchange will invalidate trades that are "too far outside" the trading band, whatever that means.  So when setting your stink bid, its important to not set the bid too low, otherwise your (clever and successful) trade will be invalidated by the exchange.  Last flash-crash, that point was 60% below the open price.  If events repeat, a stink bid at 50% would be all good.  Humans win!

Bottom line – you have to be clever, but just not too clever.  And, last point: never, ever use market orders, especially not during such times, or else you could be inadvertently hitting someone else's stink bid.

I also think the computer traders have been probably been updated, and they will do this too.

Here's an article from Barrons on point:

Regarding code written after 2007 – I'm sure the new code has been tested against replays of the bad days of the 2008 crash, so that part is no problem.  Its just that the next crash won't behave like the 2008 crash.  In other words, its impossible to have an "all-bots" system test (i.e. how an all-bot market maker system looks under a time of stress) until the next crash happens.  And that means we'll probably be surprised.  And some companies who didn't put in fail-safes will go right out of business.

  • Tue, Mar 24, 2015 - 08:10pm



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    Will electronic market makers help in a big market down-turn?

Once again, Dave, you have delivered million-dollar counsel.  A BIG thanks! 

The stink-bid idea is new to me, and totally fascinating.  I'll think hard about how to use it with the cautions you advise.  A lot of smart chatter today says "we don't know when this bomb will drop but stay alert".

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