It was not that long ago when Greece was the main concern of global investors, but already most of us have already forgotten about that on-going saga. Now, the global financial crisis has moved from Greece to Spain, with Italy waiting to join this elite club.
Last Thursday Standard & Poor’s (S&P), credit agency lowered Spain's long-term credit rating by two notches. S&P reduced Spain's long-term sovereign credit rating to "BBB+" from "A." The agency also lowered Spain's short-term rating and assigned a negative outlook, which suggests the possibility of another downgrade in the near future. The S&P downgrade of Spain's sovereign-debt rating, Spain’s second downgrade this year, has reignited investors’ fears about the Eurozone debt crisis.
A few days later, S&P downgraded the credit rating of 16 Spanish banks. Santander's rating was lowered from A- to A-2 while that of its core subsidiary Banco Espanol de Credito S.A. was lowered from A+ to A-1. Rating of BBVA was lowered from A/A-1 to BBB+/A-2 with long term negative outlook. It has also been reported that the Spanish government is in talks with banks about how a privately run asset management company would manage their so-called toxic assets — defaulted mortgages and other non-performing loans stemming from the collapsed real estate sector -thus allowing banks to concentrate on providing credit to the private sector. The main banks are holding property loans that total €184bn (£150bn). But, more than 21% of the 298 billion euros of loans linked to property developers are non-performing.
On Monday, the latest GDP figures showed that the Spanish economy contracted by 0.3% quarter-on-quarter and that Spain was officially back in recession. This is Spain's second recession in three years. The contraction follows a similar decline in the final quarter of last year. Two consecutive quarters of economic contraction constitute a technical recession.
The country joins seven other economies in the 17-member Eurozone — Belgium, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Greece and Slovenia — and three other members of the broader European Union — the U.K., Denmark and the Czech Republic — in recession.
Yet, in spite of the fact that the unemployment rate in Spain hit 24.4%, an 18-year high, and the highest in the industrialised world, and as well as having a contracting economy, a crippled banking sector, soaring bond yields, and increasing unrest in the country, Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos Spanish doesn’t see any problem.
This is exactly how it all started with Greece. And, if you can recall, Papandreou, the then Prime Minister often told the world that Greece does not have a problem. Now in a somewhat familiar tone, Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos Spanish recently said that Spanish banks won't need external aid, nor will Spain need a bailout from its European partners. Mr De Guindos ruled out any Greek-style debt rescue and said there are no plans for new tax increases or budget cuts this year. He said the country had no "Plan B", adding: "Spain is not going to ask for a rescue. No intervention will take place.
"A country needs a rescue or an intervention when its sources of financing are cut off. That is to say, what happened in Greece, Portugal and Ireland. That is absolutely not the case in Spain." In the first three months of 2012, Spain's Treasury had already raised 50% of its financing needs for the year, he said, and the banks had enough liquidity to make interest payments for the next two years. "Spain has absolutely no financing problems or urgent needs."
Mr De Guindos said the government's 2012 budget, with spending cuts and tax increases of €27billion, was credible and based on a realistic forecast for a 1.7% contraction of economic output for the year. The government does not plan new budget tightening measures even if confidence in Spain deteriorates further, De Guindos said: "That would be incompatible with the medium-term approach we are taking."
Last year, Zapatero, the Prime Minister of Spain at the time often said that there was no problem with Spain’s finances. Perhaps these two men know something we don’t, but whatever way you look at the data, Spain is in trouble. Although Spain's credit rating is still considered as investment grade, it is a mere three notches above junk status. The lower rating will impact on the nation's borrowing costs sending rates higher as investors will likely demand higher interest rates to compensate for the greater risk implied by the downgrade.
Ultimately, the only solution will be for the central bank to fire up the printing presses again, and flood the countries with money. This of course will further debase the euro.
But, hold on a second, the Eurozone is not the only country facing challenges of this nature. Things in the US are not all that rosy either.
The latest economic data from the US was disappointing. The US economy grew at a mere 2.2% annualized rate in Q1, which was down from 3% in Q4. Initial jobless claims dropped by a mere 1000 in the week ended April 21 to 388,000. It is the third consecutive week that claims were above 380, 000.
As expected, the US Fed kept rates unchanged at 0-0.25% and did not add further monetary easing measures. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated that the central bank is 'prepared to do more as needed to make sure that this recovery continues and that inflation stays close to target'. He also suggested that the Fed will leave interest rates at exceptionally low levels at least until mid-2014. If economic growth remains sluggish and if the unemployment rate does not improve, the Fed may have to consider another round of quantitative easing. We will have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, things in the UK don’t look all that good either. UK GDP data showed a contraction of 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in Q1. The data indicates that the UK is now formally back in recession, the first double-dip recession in UK since 1970s. Nonetheless, Osborne pledged that he won't ditch his austerity plan as he said that "the one thing that would make the situation even worse would be to abandon our credible plan and deliberately add more borrowing and even more debt". It is widely believed that the BoE will pause the GBP 325 billion asset purchase program when they meet next month.
In Japan, the BoJ increased monetary easing to boost the economic recovery and inflation last week. Last week, the central bank announced that it would expand its Asset Purchase Program by 5 trillion yen to 70 trillion yen with some adjustment in the composition of the portfolio.
As these central banks pump more money into the system, they will cause successive rounds of devaluation which will lead to all sorts of imbalances, trade disruptions, huge currency volatility, and finally massive wealth destruction. The bull market in gold is therefor far from over. If the only solution to our debt problem is buying more debt, this will lead to further devaluations of these fiat currencies which will only make problems worse.
If you are already fully invested in gold, do not panic or even worry about current price levels. And, if you are not yet invested in gold, use the current lower price to accumulate physical gold bullion. In a few times, the scenario is going to be very different and those people holding gold will see their wealth appreciate substantially. Buy the dips and hold as much gold as you can.
Although gold prices remain range bound, prices firmed up during last week indicating a more bullish sentiment in the short-term. Resistance at $1675/oz and $1680 an ounce will be the next short-term target.
Some investors who bought silver in 2011 as an alternative investment and as a preserver of wealth may be reluctant to buy more silver at the moment due to the price action we have seen over the last few months. In part this is understandable, but one must realize the reason for buying physical silver is not to make a huge speculative gain in a few weeks but, as a store of value and as an insurance against monetary collapse. Of course, one may argue that silver is not a store of value especially when its price has dropped from one year ago. But, while this may be true in the short-term, everything relating to silver points to much higher prices in the long-term, and thus one should not be discouraged in any way whatsoever.
In South Africa, silver has to be one of the most infrequently covered market on the business media. And, when it is discussed, the local commentators invited to talk about it, have no clue about the market and probably have never bought or sold an ounce of silver in any shape or form. And, like gold, the coverage it gets is mostly negative and unfavourable. Also, much of the reporting on silver focuses on its industrial uses and not on silver as an investment.
While it is undeniably an amazing precious metal with more industrial applications than any other commodity apart from oil, it has been recognized as a monetary metal for longer than gold. History shows us that it was used as a medium of exchange in Mesopotamia in 700 BC. While it no longer acts as a medium of exchange, like gold history has shown that it offers investors a way in which they can protect their wealth during times of monetary turmoil.
For years, many investors preferred to own silver shares to owning the physical metal, but the latest data is showing a huge revival in the ownership of physical silver. According the latest report from the Silver Institute, world investment (including implied net investment, silver bars and coins & medals) produced another historic high total last year of 282.2 million ounces (Moz), the equivalent of approximately $10 billion on a net basis, itself a record high.
Physical silver bar investment grew by a massive 67% in 2011 to 95.7 Moz, while global coins & medals fabrication rose by almost 19% to an all-time high of 118.2 Moz. Sales of the American Silver Eagle, the worlds’ best-selling silver bullion coin hit an all-time high of Elsewhere, strong demand in China accounted for a near 60% rise in its bullion coin output last year.
Global silver ETFs holdings in general proved to be quite resilient last year, with a relatively modest drop of 4% to 576.1 Moz at end-2011, in spite of marked volatility in investor trading elsewhere.
Right now we are in the midst of a major monetary and currency problem brought upon by government’s abuse of money without intrinsic backing. If history is to repeat itself once again then the outcome of this fiat currency experiment will be the total devastation of wealth.
While no one knows all of the details and time-frame of how this will play out, a collapse is eminent. History is very clear about this. Every fiat currency cycle has ended with a return to real money.
By investing in silver bullion, you not only have one of the last chances to protect what you have, but you also have the additional opportunity of holding a severely under-valued and increasingly scarce asset - and one that could explode in price anytime – Jeff Lewis.
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In a trading pattern that has become all too familiar, almost the minute the US session began on Comex today, the price of gold was sold down by almost $40 an ounce to trade at a five month low of around the $1600 an ounce. Yet, the fundamentals for gold remain extremely bullish and only today, there were two new major pieces of market news that investors would normally consider as rather bullish. And, this is in addition to the deteriorating crisis in the Eurozone that should have seen a flight to of capital into gold. And, contrary to what one may expect, the US dollar rallied-on the back of a faltering euro- and gold was sold off sharply. But, gold was not alone. Global equities and most commodities got hit in this broad-based sell-off.
One of the articles released today was about the Indian government’s decision to rescind the doubling of duty on gold jewellery which was introduced on March 16, by the Finance Minister, Mr. Mukherjee, causing imports of gold to plunge.Imports in April had plunged to 30 tons to 35 tons from 90 tons a year earlier, according to the Bombay Bullion Association. While the new taxes were aimed at increasing the cost of gold purchases and curbing its consumption, they caused a country-wide strike by jewellers which lasted for around 6 weeks.
The removal of the excise duty is positive news for India’s jewellery industry and will probably revive demand for gold in India, the world's largest gold consumer.
"Gold demand will likely improve. It's a good decision," Prithviraj Kothari, president of the Bombay Bullion Association, said of the scrapping of the excise tax.
The other piece of bullish news was about Chinese demand for gold. According to news article published by Bloomberg, China’s gold imports from Hong Kong surged more than six-fold in the first quarter of this year. Imports from Hong Kong were 135,529 kilograms (135.53 metric tons) between January and March, from 19,729 kilograms in the year-earlier period, according to data from the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong government. Shipments in March rose 59% from February.
Demand has climbed in the world’s second-largest economy and China may overtake India this year to become the biggest user of gold, according to a forecast from the producer-funded World Gold Council. Last year, total Indian demand including for jewellery and investment was 933.4 tons compared to China’s 769.8 tons.
To me, these two events are bullish for gold, and I also maintain that the problems in the Eurozone are extremely bullish for gold. Since this global financial crisis began in 2008, things have not improved, and today the risk of a collapse in the monetary system is looking more imminent. And, a loss of confidence in fiat currencies will lead to a massive flight to hard assets especially gold and silver.
While there are many who have confidence in our global leaders, I am one who does not. Therefore I continue to urge individuals to own some gold, and the price should not be the determining factor---possession should be.
It is obvious that current policies of EU leaders are flawed and are not doing anything to reverse the downward spiral of falling growth, rising unemployment and weakening banking systems. One thing that it has done though is that it has caused mounting social, economic and political turmoil While these leaders debate the pros and cons of austerity and growth or whether sound finances will generate growth through structural reform, one thing I am sure of, is that things are going to get worse before they get any better. Right now Greece is collapsing and moving rapidly into further political turmoil. For once I agree with well-known economist, Nouriel Roubini, who said. “Greek membership of theEuro zone is now at risk with serious contagion risks for the rest of the periphery.” He also added that the “result of Greek elections is much more serious than the French one as the former leads to chaos while Hollande will turn out to be a moderate.” While Hollande has pledged to “finish with austerity,” Merkel has cautioned against hopes that the austerity measures already agreed by European leaders could now be renegotiated. “We in Germany, and I personally, believe the fiscal pact is not up for negotiation,” she said. It seems that EU financial leaders are going to have to rethink their plans of austerity measures to control their spiralling debt and runaway government spending. But, if they are to spend more money, just how are European governments going to pay for it all? If the ECB dishes out more money to their banks so that they may buy more sovereign bonds, ultimately this will exacerbate the European banking and debt crisis. Meanwhile, the latest employment figures released by the US Department of Labour on Friday showed that non-farm payrolls rose by only 115,000 in April, which was well below market expectations of plus 160,000. At the same the unemployment rate dropped to 8.1%, its lowest level in three years. Investors are now worried that a slower than expected recovery in the economy will impact negatively on hiring which in turn will curtail consumer spending which accounts for about 70% of the economy. This may be the catalyst to prompt the US Fed from another round of monetary easing which may be introduced under a new term instead of “quantitative easing.”
The latest unemployment figures from the Eurozone were not all that encouraging either. In March the unemployment in the Eurozone jumped to a record 10.9%. The figures coincided with a survey showing manufacturing in the 17-nation Eurozone stumbling to near three-year low levels as spending cuts and tax rises push the bloc towards recession. Almost 17.37 million men and women, 169,000 more than in February, were out of work in March, according to the Eurostat data agency. Even though the data showed that the southern Eurozone countries were worst affected -- with Spain's jobless rate 24.1% according to Eurostat -- there were signs of stronger states such as Germany coming under pressure too. Germany had a jobless rate of 5.6% in March, and although there was a headline increase of 19,000 it was only the second rise in 25 months. While these leaders debate the pros and cons of austerity and growth or whether sound finances will generate growth through structural reform, one thing I am sure of, is that things are going to get worse before they get any better. And, as the bullion banks continue with their surreptitious interventions in the gold markets, I am not going to be duped by any political rhetoric that things are improving.
Minutes before the opening of the US session, the price of gold gets sold off. I believe it will rebound from $1600/oz level.
According to Commodity Online, Gujarat is buying silver by the truckloads and it could become the biggest silver importing state in India. The latest data from the Customs department shows. Imports of silver in Gujarat almost doubled for the fiscal year 2011-2012.
As per the data, Gujarat imported 965.423 metric tons of silver in 2011/12. This is more than 193% higher than 328.64 metric tons imported in the state during 2010/2011. This means that Gujarat alone would account for the largest share of silver imports in the country. India imported around 4800 tons of silver in 2011, and although there is no available date for the fiscal year 2011/12 it is believed that Gujarat's silver imports could may constitute around 15%-20% of India's total silver imports!
As from May 10, the Shanghai Futures Exchange (SFE) will commence trading silver contracts, providing Chinese investors with direct access to the market. The launch of silver futures trading on the SFE will help silver-related companies hedge against silver fluctuations in the world market, give China more sway in determining global silver prices, and offer another investment option for the nation's small investors. China's miners, manufacturers, retailers and other enterprises, which rely on the precious metal, will undoubtedly welcome the start of domestic silver futures trading, which will allow them to hedge against fluctuating global silver prices. Regulators hope that this new trading option will provide China with a pricing mechanism, a tool to control price volatility, and that it will be beneficial to silver-related enterprises. Market watchers suggest that SFE contracts could prove bullish for silver prices and that they could make market manipulation more difficult. Although China is a leading producer of silver and one of the top global consumers of the metal, up and until now, China has depended on the London and the US markets when it comes to price discovery for silver. However, the Chinese now want more influence in the pricing of silver as they are tired of the price rigging that occurs on Comex which up and until now has had a monopoly on silver trading. The action taken by the CME especially the drastic margin hikes imposed in less than a week angered many market participants and the new contracts offered on the Shanghai Futures Exchange appear to be a response to the recognized need for different rules set in a different arena. The SFE contracts have a 15 kg lot size and they will be traded in yuan, and the maximum price fluctuation is set to be limited to 5% per day. There is a 7% minimum margin requirement. Given the domestic setting and the reduced size and cost of the silver contracts, it is hoped that Chinese investors will perceive the market as being more accessible than in the past. Some believe that this will prove bullish for silver on a global scale by providing a new route for money to flow into the market. According to the Shanghai Metals Market (SMM), it is expected that in the short term, Shanghai silver futures prices will move in line with London spot prices, but domestic spot trading may cause certain differences. The SMM also said silver prices generated in London and the US have resulted in a distorted reflection of the silver supply and demand scenario in China.
While I remain extremely bullish on silver, it seems that traders may attempt to push prices to $27/27.50, a key support level.
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Unless I misunderstood the various speeches of most of the Eurozone financial leaders a few months ago, I am sure that they were absolutely emphatic that Greece would not exit from the euro. Now, it looks almost certain that Greece will exit the single currency. But, hang on a second, there are now talks that Greece should not depart from the euro and should abide by the latest austerity plans. Yes, the circus is back in town. Once again, EU finance ministers are meeting. As these star performers continue to debate the Greek crisis in a saga that has now gone on for more than two years, the fact remains that the European monetary union in its current form is filled with problems and practically everything these politicians tell the public is a lie. Greece is doomed and according to the newspaper Imerisia citing “reliable information,” the level of funds in Greece’s state coffers has fallen below 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion). If the state doesn’t receive predicted revenue for the rest of this month, it will find it difficult to pay for social services, pensions and public-sector wages, the newspaper said.
In the meantime, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said “solidarity for the euro” was threatened by the on-going political crisis in Athens. At last, someone has said something correct. But, then what would a Greek exit mean?
No doubt a Greek exit from the Eurozone would damage confidence in the single currency bloc and send yields on Eurozone government debt soaring, but this may be better than continually adding more debt to existing debt. However, in the event that Greece does exit the euro, Greeks who have left their life savings in euros in Greek banks will see the value of their money evaporate overnight as capital controls are suddenly introduced and their savings are forcibly converted to the Greek drachma overnight. It is estimated that the drachma could quickly devalue by between 20% and 50%.
As I have stated countless times, since the beginning of the crisis, nothing has been resolved in the Eurozone and different programmes of monetary stimulus have merely helped banks and financial institutions from collapsing. The monetary policies of the ECB have had no impact whatsoever on stimulating economic growth and lowering unemployment. While Euro finance ministers continue to discuss the Greek crisis, unemployment is at its highest level ever in Europe since the creation of the euro. Also Spain has its own financial problems, Italy is fighting to stay afloat and France is already facing lengthening jobless queues and a growing disparity with Germany. France now has a new leader, Francois Hollande. Socialist Hollande, who has called for higher taxes, increased spending and a delayed deficit-reduction effort, got about 52% of votes in the recent French election, against about 48%. On Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel's party had its worst result in more than half a century in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein when they suffered a painful defeat in elections in Germany’s most populous state. The loss added to a growing sense that Merkel will struggle to continue to fight the debt crisis with austerity alone, and will be forced to concede some ground as the calls for growth initiatives grow stronger.
Meanwhile the news about the $2 billion trading loss made by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. dominated the market on Friday. While the amount is a fraction of the potential write downs that may occur if Greece defaults and exits the Eurozone it is nevertheless, a sizeable trading loss and enough to offer the people concerned a promotion as well as a massive bonus. The losses stemmed from trades at the bank’s chief investment office, where a single trader -- dubbed the “London Whale” -- was reported to have taken large positions for the bank in credit-default swaps. In the Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the bank said its synthetic credit portfolio had proved to be riskier and more volatile than expected. J.P. Morgan said losses have been partially offset from sales in the chief investment office’s available-for-sale securities portfolio. Trader Bruno Iksil had earned the nickname “the London Whale” in recent months by selling huge amounts of credit-default swaps to hedge funds, a strategy that soured in recent weeks. While the bank may claim that their activities were solely in risk management, and that its bets were designed to hedge risk, we all know that in reality this is hogwash and the banks were taking huge speculative bets as they did with sub-prime mortgages. If the bank was indeed hedging then there would not be any loss as hedges act as a protection of another position. Portfolio managers, individual investors and corporations use hedging techniques to reduce their exposure to various risks. In financial markets, however, hedging becomes more complicated than simply paying an insurance company a fee every year. Hedging against investment risk means that you can develop trading strategies where a loss in one investment is offset by a gain in another.
Since the beginning of May the price of gold has slipped by more than $100 from $1675 an ounce to $1550 an ounce while the dollar index has gained some 2.2% from 78.50 to 80.26. And, the EUR/USD dropped to as low as 1.2800. During this year, the euro has declined by approximately 3% against the greenback. Despite the bullish fundamentals for gold, in the short-term most of the market participants have chosen the dollar, as well as German Bunds as the safe haven trades. And, as the dollar gains in value, dollar denominated commodities including other currencies will suffer. Very few financial institutions consider gold to be money and as they bail out of euros and switch into other paper assets, the last thing on their minds is gold. The modern day trend with financial traders is to look for short-term gains and not preservation of wealth. Thus these massive inflows and outflows in the currency and bond markets will remain extremely volatile. As I have mentioned countless times before, the problems in the Eurozone are far from being resolved and will only get worse before they get better. And, as far as gold is concerned, I remain as bullish as ever. We are in a period where political and financial corruption is at an all-time high. And, while the world needs a monetary system that functions, our leaders cannot be trusted. It is a disgrace that we have come to this. What example are we setting for future generations? If you are aware of this one simple fact, then you will realise that these people who run our governments and financial institutions have no concern of any individuals’ well-being. So, it is important to look after yourself and invest in hard assets that can protect your wealth, especially gold and silver.
Even though the long-term trend of gold remains intact, the short-term damage inflicted on the chart suggests that gold may trade to between $1525/oz to $1500/oz before prices rebound.
Last week silver slipped below the $30 level and then rebounded. Then again this week it fell below $30 but has not rebounded. And, as to be expected, the questions investors are now asking is will silver climb back anytime soon. Should I sell, or buy? Firstly the answer to the question about selling is an unequivocal no; not at this price. And, if you are holding silver, do not panic and remember that the idea of holding physical metals is not to make an instant speculative gains, but to hold long-term. As I have stated dozens of times before, you must bear in mind trading is not investing. Trading is a short-term thing. You enter a position with the expectation of exiting it quickly. That can be anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 months depending on your strategy. Investing is a longer-term process, generally lasting years. So, while prices may be down in the short to medium term, I have no doubt that in five years’ time, when we look back we will kick ourselves for not buying at these levels. So, is it time to buy? While, it is impossible to pick the bottom of a correction, to me silver at current prices seem incredibly undervalued. Yes, there is a possibility that prices may test $25 an ounce before we see a rebound, but even though many market participants are looking for prices to fall lower, I maintain that we are in buying territory right now. If you are worried that prices may drop even more then I suggest that you buy in tranches spread over the next few weeks.
The gold/silver ratio is an excellent barometer for silver, and when it reaches extreme levels you can expect something to happen. Last April the ratio nearly fell below 30 in a powerful indication that the anti-dollar risk trade had become wildly overheated. Silver has always acted like a “high-beta” little brother to gold, but the beta knife cuts both ways as silver investors have painfully learned in recent months. The gold/silver ratio is now approaching key resistance in the 58-60 area suggesting that silver is due for a price rise. But, one must bear in mind that the current drop in prices is not exclusive to silver. In the last few weeks and days we have seen the price of crude oil plummet. We have seen the prices of gold, platinum, palladium, copper, corn, soybeans all fall. We have seen global equities decline in value. And, we have seen the price of many currencies fall against the greenback. In the last month alone the value of the South African Rand versus the US dollar has dropped by approximately 6%! As the European crisis worsens, we have witnessed a flight out of the euro in the US dollar, US Treasuries, German Bunds, and Canadian Dollars etc. In the last month the US dollar index which measures the greenback against a basket of six currencies has increased in value by around 4%. Today, it rose for the thirteenth successive day to 81.30.
As money flows into the dollar pushing the greenback higher, dollar denominated commodities including precious metals, suffer. Silver, already in an extended downtrend, moved further downward. And as the metal has declined, investors have continued to move away from the market. While the dollar may reign supreme for the moment, ultimately it will fall as it is in no better shape than the euro. And, while financial institutions around the world snap up more sovereign bonds as well as US dollars, this move will soon end. And, when it does, you had better expect a major reversal in the price of silver. So, use these low prices to get into this market. In the meantime, output of mined U.S. silver fell 9% versus last year and was down 6% versus January’s levels, the U.S.
Geological Service says. U.S. mines produced 77,500 kilograms of silver in February. Production in Nevada was estimated at 15,500 kg in February versus January’s revised estimate of 15,100 kg. Production in other states was 62,000 kg, down from January’s figure of 67,400 kg. The average daily production rate in February was 2,670 kg.
While it might be possible for silver to test the Key Support level (KS1) at $25 an ounce, I maintain that we are already approaching oversold levels.
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