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Where are the returns?

Americans live in a peekaboo investment climate. First we see growth, then we don't. Initially, it appeared as though the nation was getting back on its feet. The first quarter saw 2.7% growth, positive corporate earnings and rising auto sales. But by June, the signs of an anemic economic revival were apparent. Unemployment rose to 7.8%; housing starts took their steepest fall in eight years, dropping 17%; and manufacturing was down 2.5%.

Even financial gurus can't forecast a full recovery. Falling interest rates, which led past recoveries, don't seem to be working. Since 1990, the Federal Reserve Board has cut the discount rate seven times, but little happened. And yields on savings have hit bottom, forcing more savers to abandon certificates of deposit and money-market funds.

But as bleak as the outlook is through December, 1993 looks promising. Major gains are possible in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and real estate, especially for investors with the know-how and wherewithal to wait out market cycles.


Stocks rise, stocks fall. They also offer the best investment returns, averaging 1D% over the last two decades. Individual investors are wary of stocks because of a bull market that has raged and retreated since 1991. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was the only market indicator to post gains the first half of this year. By comparison other indices, such as Standard & Poor's 500, sank.

Holders of economy-sensitive stocks, such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., were rewarded with first-half price gains of more than 55%. The logical rotation of investment from growth stocks into cyclicals also was propelled by a brightening corporate profit outlook.

But the strong profit gains some investors anticipate in autos and other cyclical stocks may not materialize. And certain noncyclical stocks that were dropping--notably pharmaceuticals--may now be on the bargain counter. The upshot: There is money to be made in equities but investors should be wary.


Crumbling faith in the equities market, the economic recovery and the impact of lower interest rates have led to increased investment in short and intermediate Treasury bonds. Long-term bonds yield about 7.9%, but their rates are likely to drop. And going out on a limb with a 30year bond is risking greater volatility in price.

In 1993, corporate bonds are expected to outperform government issues. Improving corporate profits attract investors, with the average issue paying about 8.89%.

Junk bonds also are enjoying a rebound, with an average 12.1% yield. But the junk bond market is unlikely to enjoy significant capital gains over the next 12 months. Finally, once interest rates rise, there's bound to be some fluctuation in bond prices. But the potential capital loss will be small unless rates rise sharply, which is unlikely.


Investors poured $88.5 billion into mutual funds through June 1992. But that record amount wasn't enough to keep mutual funds from taking a beating after 1991's superb performance. In the first six months of 1992, the average stock fund fell 2.7%. Small company funds took a 6.1% dip. The flip side: Funds specializing in bank and insurance company stocks enjoyed a +16.3% winning streak. A diverse group of large growth stock funds may make for a strong portfoIio next year.

Bond funds specializing in high-yield issues also are enjoying impressive gains. Still, your money may go further in value funds that invest in undervalued stocks with strong earnings prospects.


With yields on conventional 30-year mortgages sliding below 8%, now may be the best time for homeowners to buy. Homeowners who haven't yet refinanced their double-digit mortgage should.

Buyers will not want to wait to snatch up bargain home prices as the median price of existing single-family homes sold has decreased nationally. And the market for new homes has remained flat. Home prices are expected to rise in 1993.

Other real estate sectors, including the commercial market, are starting to stabilize and revive. For individual investors, the easiest and least risky way to capitalize on real estate has been to invest in real estate investment trusts (REITs). They are enjoying a slight comeback, remaining slightly ahead of the S&P 500 in total returns with 1.2% versus 0.63%.


In June, BLACK ENTERPRISE convened a roundtable to solicit some choice investment advice from six of the nation's most astute stock analysts. They include John W. Rogers Jr., founder and president, Ariel Capital Management Inc., Chicago; Alan Bond, president and chief investment officer of Bond, Procope Capital Management Inc., New York; Peggy Woodford Forbes, president and chief investment officer, Woodford Capital Management Inc., New York; Maceo K. Sloan, president, CEO and chief investment officer, NCM Capital Management Group Inc., Durham, N.C.; Louis A. Holland, managing partner and chief investment officer, Holland Capital Management, Chicago; and Barbara Bowles, president of The Kenwood Group, Chicago.

We asked the pros to give us their top sectoral and individual stock selections and to shed some insight on the nation's snail-like economy.

BLACK ENTERPRISE: How do you think the economy will perform after the presidential election?

Barbara Bowles: Our view is that the economy will continue to improve but at an excruciatingly slow pace. I think the market is saying that it is time for a change. And our crystal ball predicts that Bill Clinton will be elected, and he is the guy who is going to make that change. I've spent a lot of time talking to top corporate executives around the country and for the first time I sense some real disappointment in President Bush. This is not going to be a consumer-led recovery. It will most likely be a capital-driven one, and it's going to be led by some governmental intervention.

Louis Holland: An investor should not focus on all of these mega-trends. We had good markets during both Republican and Democratic administrations. Investors ought to focus on asset classes. In fact, if they have the propensity to take some risk, stocks is the place to be. Corporate America has somewhere between 50% to 70% of their assets committed to common stocks. Most of their funds are fully funded at this point and time. Public funds, in most cases, are under-funded [because] 30% to 40% of their assets are committed to common stocks. So, I think that to get afraid and to time the market based on political events is counterproductive.

The economy will continue to grow slowly over the next several years and maybe that isn't so bad. We will continue to have relatively low inflation and maybe a higher quality of earnings. I do recognize that we're in the latter stages of the bull market. But over the next three to five years, stocks will generate a higher rate of return than bonds.

Peggy Forbes: You have to separate the noise from what's happening and concentrate on interest rates and the dollar. We see gradual improvement in the economy with interest rates remaining low until the first quarter of 1993. The weakness of the dollar will allow U.S. companies to compete effectively in the global arena. Business recovery is expected in Europe and Asia in 1993. This may serve as a locomotive to help accelerate growth in the United States.

Maceo Sloan: If we [African-Americans] are to have an investment program that is going to build any appreciable wealth in the generations to follow, we have to stop thinking about what's going to happen over the next six months and start thinking about what's going to happen over the next 10 years, like foreign investors do.

Holland: We've had maybe the third- or fourth-best decade ever for stocks. We've had the best decade ever for bonds. Investors should be enthusiastic with regards to stocks. But they ought to be more reflective on what is abnormal in terms of the kinds of rate of returns they can expect.

BE: Which sectors within the equities market do you think are poised to do well?

Forbes: We actually start out looking at stocks first. Then we move toward technology and interest-sensitive sectors. We like U.S. companies with a global presence. We believe that gives them an opportunity to expand even in a very slowgrowth environment. We also believe health care will be extremely important in the '90s.

Alan Bond: This is a very difficult investment climate for the individual investor as well as for the professional investor because interest rates are as low as they are. Conventional wisdom would have told you that the equity market would score double-digit returns this year. It also would have told you that, based on historical evaluation parameters, the equity market was a little bit extended. Several sectors are poised to do very well in months ahead. I would include retail, health care and technology in that category.

John Rogers: We try to find areas that are unpopular and misunderstood. A sector we've been working hard on is real estate. I know that sounds controversial. But we have looked at some conservative companies with good property and the stock is cheap. We're looking at regional shopping malls that are not suffering as much as some commercial office buildings.

Holland: We should reflect on sectors over two time frames. The first being on a secular basis, over the next three to five years, and then on a cyclical basis, over the next six to 18 months. In the shorter term, the focus should be more on companies that have earnings momentum. I think that at this stage of the bull market, you have to be very selective. You [investors] don't have to overpay for growth. You [investors] shouldn't pay more than two times the growth rate. For example, if a company is growing at 15% a year, you shouldn't pay 30 or 40 times the earnings for that company.

On a secular basis, I agree that health is unequivocally a very attractive area. Another is the environment--firms with environmental concerns, such as wastemanagement companies. The environment is a major problem domestically and globally. These companies have the legal resources to deal with the many lawsuits worldwide.

BE: But haven't environment funds taken a kick in the teeth so far this year?

Holland: That is correct. Most of the environmental companies have had problems. They've had some sensitivity to the economy. I think people thought they were immune to slowdowns in the economy; that is not the case. Waste Management Inc. has had some pricing problems with chemical waste in its plant in Alabama. Obviously, that's impacted earnings. Because the company is having some earnings problems and margins problems, its growth rates will probably come down. Still, waste is a global problem and there are only a handful of companies that are in a position to do something about it.

BE: Maceo, in the past, an area you liked was transportation. Do you still feel the same way?

Sloan: There are still some opportunities in transportation if you're very, very careful. How are we going to move all of the goods necessary to rebuild America?

Holland: There's another area that has potential and that's energy. Now, obviously no one rings a bell when it's time to buy energy stocks. Of course, these stocks have been in a protractive bear relative market. I think that over the next three to five years, energy stocks probably will pay relatively [solid] well dividends. Certainly, they've not over priced right now.

Bowles: We only put a maximum weighting of 15% in any one industry. Were looking at companies that have tremendous franchises in technology and are creating products for the future. We are seeing a secular migration from the personal computer to the chip [microprocessor] or from the mainframe to the PC to networks.

We look at companies on a companyby-company basis. We start with the premise that we want good companies at low prices, which have a niche in the market and a lot of pricing flexibility. We also look at companies where we can get close to management so that we understand how they operate. Both growth and value managers occasionally look at the history of a company to determine its future. We are unabashedly value managers. We have a motto at our company that says we want to buy stocks that will not get any cheaper rather than companies we think will go up a lot. We are overweighted in interest-rate sensitive stocks like banks. We're also overweighted in some health care companies. And we like technology companies. We really believe this market is going to be driven by companies that are involved in manufacturing.

BE: Are you talking about box companies or software companies?

Bowles: We like one software copany, Autodesk Inc. We also like SunMicro Systems Inc.

Forbes: Our largest holding is Intel Corp. It has been growing at 30% for the last 10 years. Neither the Japanese or anyone else has been able to really damage it [in respect to its dominance in the microprocessor market]. We think this company is going to do tremendously well throughout this decade as we look for technological innovation and thrust. Also, a lot of Intel's earnings come from overseas and it has terrific management. It also makes modems as well as chips. A smaller technology company that we like is Octel Communications Corp. It is the leading voice processing vendor. It has a new product series that does more than voice messaging but integrates other business communications needs. It has very good earnings, very good management and high equity returns.

BE: A few of you mentioned global expansion and the fact that many U.S. companies are going overseas. A lot of the food distributors and manufacturers are looking to expand internationally, Kellogs, for instance. Is this an area that you're going to be considering?

Bowles: Food companies are very low-margin stocks, so you would have to really be alert to what's going on in the market. The problem with the food industry right now is partly one that we all like and that is low inflation. Food companies don't do well in a low-inflation environment. However, they tend to be global-oriented and we like that about them. Nevertheless, I think there will be continued consolidation in the industry. Therefore, you [investors] probably will want to pay attention long-term to those companies that have the ability to get bigger and to control their destiny, which includes the ever likelihood of raising prices.

Sloan: The other problem that you have is that when you look at the food companies is that a lot of the large conglomerates that have significant overseas presence are still partly commodity companies. [Their growth depends on supply and demand.] There are all kinds of variables that make the earnings of these types of companies fluctuate. It's very difficult to find a company that is just doing processed foods overseas and has a significant global presence.

Holland: This sector is what you would call consumer noncyclicals, and there's a whole series of companies that fall into this category. You're basically talking about the Cokes and Pepsis that make up that universe. I mean, there are some fabulous companies in that industry.

[For instance], Sara Lee is a company that we own and it has had a very good growth rate. There are some others. Gerber Products is another company that we've liked from time to time. In many cases what happens to these companies is that when people are concerned about the economy, they tend to move to these companies, because they have highly predictable streams of earnings. And generally the companies that I've talked about so far, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Sara Lee Corp., Gerber Products and Kellogs Corp., are fairly stable in terms of their earnings flow and they are fairly predictable. Needless to say, they do have some problems with commodity prices and what have you. They tend to lag in the kind of environment that we're currently in (or are in fact coming out of). When you start to come out of a recession, you start looking for sectors where, in fact, there are more earnings left. So, I think to that extent, these companies are less attractive now than they might be. Now, should we go back into a "triple dip," meaning dip back into another recession, some of these companies with predictable earning streams could do quite well.

BE: Maceo, what industries are you looking at?

Sloan: We like retailing. Eventually, consumers are going to have to get back into this economy if it is going to pull itself totally out of this recession. We [The country] really can't get back to growth in this economy without the consumer. So, retailing is going to benefit from that. We think it will do well over the next 12 to 18 months. Also, we tend to like the auto industry. We've watched it take a beating the last two or three years. But we've also watched it go through major restructuring. As the auto industry bounces back, the auto parts industry will come back even more. An area we think is being overlooked is forest products, especially the low-cost producers of the timber.

When you look at the fact that the government is starting to close the natural forests it owns (to lumber companies), the price of lumber is going to go up. Then there becomes a scarcity of resources and those companies that have a large position in raw timber are going to do very, very well. Also look at the building industry that has been in a slump for the last few years. As building starts increase, the demand for lumber will also increase. So, we're going to see a great deal more of that.

We think there are still some good opportunities in computers, if you are very selective in the types of companies that you put in your portfolio. Some of the computer companies have downsized in terms of their overhead and in terms of their top and middle management, and they have gotten down to the bare bones. That gives them an opportunity to generate greater increases in earnings with smaller increases in the sales that it would normally take [for such a turnaround].

Last, but not least, is financial services. We think the financial services industry is an industry that has tremendous upside potential. There has been a shakeout of financial services firms. But those organizations that are very well-managed and are very powerful are going to benefit from this move. We still like banks, especially the large super-regional types.

BE: Isn't there some question in the financial industry that it is easy right now for the banks to get money? The cost of funding loans is very low and they're going to play the spread for a while between what they're getting the money for and what they're lending out at.

Sloan: Well, if you look at it from the standpoint that the economy is going to pull itself out of the recession and that this business cycle is going to turn upwards so that company earnings start to increase, I have to assume that some expansion will come with that. [In other words], there's no demand for loans when there is nothing going on in the economy. And for the last three to four years, there has been nothing going on in the economy. Those banks that position themselves to be in the way of progress as it rolls around will do very, very well over the next few years. Holland: We currently are overweighted in banks. I think the bank index over the last 12 months was up 37%. We're focusing on companies that have been beat up a bit. American International Group Inc. happens to be one of them. We also like Fannie Mae, Sallie Mae and NBIA Corp.

Forbes: We're looking at banks like Bankers Trust Co. and real niche banks. We also like Northern Trust Co. in Chicago, which has state-of-the-art client-servicing technology. They also have reserve coverage of 250% and good management.

Sloan: When we look at the super banks in the U.S. economy, one that has been undervalued is NationsBank in Charlotte, N.C. People don't realize how fast NationsBank has been growing and how efficient it is.

Holland: But there's another side to that. I own NationsBank and I can't sleep with it. They're the biggest player in government bond trading. They haven't been making their loans. They've been taking the money that is brought in from deposits and putting it in intermediate treasuries. As a result, as that market moves around, their trading profits or losses can be very large.

BE: What are some of your other top picks?

Sloan: IBM is a company that has made a number of good streamline moves to get themselves in fighting shape. They're going to trim down to a PT boat again instead of an aircraft carrier. We also think there's potential in the next three to five years for Claiborne Industries Inc.

Rogers: Because so many companies have had disappointing earnings in the last six to eight months, we have more bargains than we know what to do with. With more and more kids being born than ever before, we've looked at children-oriented companies. One is Hasbro Inc., the largest toy manufacturer in the world. They own so many of the top games in the country. They own Milton Bradley Co., Cabbage Patch Kids, Playskool Inc. and Kenner Products Inc. Another sort of niche company is Jostens Inc., which is known for their class rings and for yearbooks sales. They also provide software programs for the schools.

Forbes: Another company we like very much from a retail point of view, (and a stock for people watching their pennies), is The GAP, which is an excellent innovative company. It has The GAP kids and it produces highquality stapled clothing. And [plans are under way] to introduce a line of underwear. The GAP also has high projected earnings growth, around 21%, high equity return and high inventory control. And management is increasing support of footage, in terms of store space.

Bond: We like CML Inc. They've found a way to diversify within this line of exercise equipment [Nordic Track equipment]. I originally liked the company because they were able to circumvent the retail chain network, which takes a pretty big chunk of the margin. So, whenever they sell a piece of equipment via their newspapers and magazine ads it boosts their profit margins.

BE: What else do you like?

Bond: BJ Wholesale, which competes with Cosco. I think from an evaluation standpoint, Cosco has come down in price and is very attractive in the near 2Ds. Again, we're looking for companies that will have earnings of 15% to 20%, a return rate of 25% to 3D% and very low debt. Surgical Care Affiliates Inc. is the kind of company that is going to do very well.

Bowles: Acuson Corp. is a health care company we like. It has an important niche in the marketplace: Essentially over 30% of the ultrasound market in the United States and more than 50% overseas. We have seen a dramatic stock price dip, well over 50%, which now puts it in the value category. A company we like that has a nice dividend is H.F. Ahmanson & Co. It is a mortgage bank. It doesn't have a lot of debt. And it sells at huge discounts to the market and even at a discount to bank stocks. Our third company is Digital Equipment Corp. It's a little more risky than the other two. But I view this stock on a long-term basis. It has come down from $100 a share to $35. It also has no debt. And it has some significant new products that will be coming out.

BE: Is this optimism inspired by Ken Olsen?

Bowles: I think that his board probably has him on a short string. The bottom line is that he does not have such a huge ownership in the company that there cannot be a change in the top. [The day after the roundtable, the CEO of Digital announced his departure, under pressure, from the company.]

Bond: I think that individual investors, have a lot of different strategies to pick from here. But it really depends from the investor's standpoint where he or she is in the financial planning stage. Let's say for instance, we are talking about an older person who wants a more conservative type of rate of returns. Then that individual may want to consider utility stocks [since these stocks have exhibited steady earnings and dividend growth over the years].

On the opposite side of the fence, we may be talking about a younger person-maybe a first-generation investor-- someone who can assume a little more risk and who may want to manage his or her own money. So that person may be looking for five or six different stocks to add to [his or her] portfolio.


John W. Rogers Jr., founder and president of Chicago-based Ariel Capital Management Inc. (312-726-0140) which has $1.9 billion under management, knows the patient investor wins the race. And during the past nine years, Rogers, 34, has proved exactly that. First, he built a full-service asset management firm, which attracts investments from institutional clients, including colleges, corporations and some of the nation's largest public and private pension funds. Then he created the nation's only equity mutual funds managed by African-Americans.

In 1986, he opened the Calvert-Ariel Growth Fund, a small and medium capitalization fund, which buys stock in companies valued at between $50 million and $1 billion. The fund is worth $260 million. Four years after closing the Growth Fund to new individual and institutional investors, Rogers launched the CalvertAriel Appreciation Fund, worth $140 million. It buys stock in companies as large as $3 billion.

Rogers buys only the stock of unspectacular but steady companies. He will not invest in companies that do business in South Africa or manufacture weapons. In fact, his mutual funds are socially responsible.

Does the approach work? The numbers tell the tale. In 1991, the value of the Calvert-Ariel Growth and Appreciation Funds, which combined have more than 30,000 investors, grew more than 30%.


Alan B. Bond, president and chief investment officer of New York City-bused Bond, Procope Capital Management (212-752.-0900) is convinced that African-Americans belong in the stock market. That is why, for the past several years, Bond has hosted "A Day on Wall Street" for two classes of inner-city elementary school children. During the school year, Bond conducts mock investment roundtables as the future stockbrokers compete to pick the better performing stocks in imaginary porffolios.

Bond picks stocks using real money, and the first half of the year was unkind to growth managers. On the plus side, Bond Procope now has roughly $200 million under management. New investors include the City of Cincinnati and the Birmingham Transit Authority.

But through June 1992, his picks were down 6%. By contrast, the Russell growth Stock Index fell 5.97%. Bond, whose firm invests capitilization stocks, is an expert at funding high-growth stocks.

The former senior portfolio manager for W.R. Lazard & Co. is not discouraged. In October 1991, he founded his own finn. which specializes in large capitalization growth stocks held for institutional investors. The firm's investors include Ernesta Procope, president of New York-based E.G. Bowman Co. Inc., the largest black-owned full-service insurance broker.


Louis A. Holland knows how to take a hit. After all, he played pro football for the British Columbia Lions and the Chicago Bears. Bet since 1968. he has performed in arenas where mistakes are more costly than merely a lest ballgame.

Holland, 50, is managing partner and chief investment officer of Chicago-based Holland Capital Management. The seven-officer staff provides clients with i.vestment services in three areas: equity, fixed income and balanced management. Last July, Holland Capital Management (312-553-1000) had $85 million under management.

There is no mystery to the former Rose Bowl halfback's approach, The University of Wisconsin economics major uses fundamental analysis to search for bargains among quality growth companies.

Holland has worn several hats. From 1983 to 1991, he was a founding partner in Hahn Holland & Grossman, an investment advisory firm, Between 1968 and 1983. he worked for AG, Becker Paribas Inc., rising to vice president specializing in asset and portfolio management for corporations and wealthy individuals, He appear regularly as an investment analyst on Waft Street Week with Louis Rukeyser.

At the end of June, Holland Capital's equity investments were down 1.7%. By contrast, the Lipper growth index dropped 3.15%.


If The Kenwood Group Inc. (312-368-1666) had a motto, it might be: If you do only one thing, do it well. The Chicago-based registered investment advisory firm exemplified that dictum in the first half of 1992. The S&P 500 benchmark was down .7% for total return. while The Kenwood Group, which invests only in equities, saw the value of its investments rise 7.66%.

Such stock-picking ability pleases Barbara Landers Bowles, The Kenwood Group founder, president and CEO. Her straightforward philosophy is usually to keep 85% to 90% invested in value-oriented stocks with minimum downside risk and a market capitalization of between $200 million and $6 billion. The former Kraft Inc. corporate vice president, who resigned in 1989, makes her equity decisions based on fundamental analysis. But Bowles considers understanding what makes a company's management tick as a crucial component in her analysis. She engages in one-on-one talks with staff and suppliers.

So far the Nashville native, who has an honors degree in mathematics from Fisk University as well as an MBA in finance from the University of Chicago, is showing that even a new shop can make big strides. The Kenwood Group invests $30 million under management on behalf of the Quaker Oats Co.; U S West Inc., a utility company in Englewood. Colo.; the State of Washington and others.


In June 1991, a management team led by Maceo K. Sloan brought one of the nation's largest AfricanAmerican-owned investment firms under their control when they brought 60% of NCM Capital Management Group (919-688-0620) from its parent company. North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co, (No. 1 on the BE INSURANCE LIST). Sloan. a Morehouse College graduate with a law degree from North Carolina Central University and an MBA from Georgia State University, says all investors are operating in a period when a weak market has been taking few prisoners. Consequently, he says NCM Capital's first-quarter return of 1.38% is representative. During the same period, the Standard and Poor's 500 benchmark fell 2.5%, and the Russell Price Driven equity index grew only 1,12%

NCM Capital, founded in 1986, has $1.4 billion under management and has added several new institutional clients. These include the Indiana Public Employees Retirement Fund, the Florida Office of the Treasurer and the Lower Colorado River Authority. Sloan is the firm's president, CEO and chief investment officer.

In 1991. Pensions & Investments magazine recognized Durham, N.C.-based NCM Capital as the nation's fastest-growing asset management firm. It increased its investments from $7 million to $761 million over five years.


For many years, Peggy Woodford Forbes has made money for a select group of institutional and individual investors. In 1990, the 10-year veteran of Merrill Lynch & Co. resigned from her position as a senior financial consultant with the company to open Woodford Capital Management Inc. (212-599-1243), her own independent registered investment advisory firm. Forbes, a Columbia University MBA graduate, is president and chief investment officer at New York-based Woodford Capital.

Woodford Capital has about S60 million under management and specializes in bottom-up assessment of large capitalization companies. The focus of the firm is the institutional investor, which includes private banks, large foundations, small corporations and public and private pension funds for business. One new investor is San Francisco-based Progress Trust, which represents many Fortune 5ge companies.

Woodford Capital takes a multidisciplinary--but strongly fundamental--approach to investment, which it calls its Strategic Asset Allocation System, integrating quantitative, economic and fundamental disciplines.

So far, the approach is working. During the first half of 1992, Woodford Capital's portfolio grew 3.76%. By contrast, the S&P 500 was down .7% during the same period.
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Title Annotation:B.E. Investment Roundtable
Author:McCoy, Frank
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Panel Discussion
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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