How to buy US stocks in Singapore? Which is the best broker to buy US Stocks?

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I usually get new readers asking for the best way to buy US Stocks as a Singapore investor.

We’ve covered this in the past, but I figured it would be good to do an updated, standalone article since some things have changed since.

Basics: How to buy US Stocks as a Singapore Investor

Very simply – you need a brokerage account that gives you access to US stocks.

Once you have that account, you need to fund it, and then you can proceed to make your trade.

So the simple answer to buying US Stocks, is to get yourself a good broker.

How do we evaluate brokers?

Broadly, we look at the criteria below:

Fees

There are 3 main types of fees to take into account:

  1. Stock Commissions – Stock Commission is basically the amount you pay on each trade. These are really important when you’re investing smaller amounts, but less important as the amount per trade goes up. The difference between paying $25 commission (DBS Vickers) and $4 commission (Saxo) is the difference between a 2.5% fee and a 0.4% fee, when you’re investing $1000. So focus on this when you’re investing smaller amounts.
  2. Forex Spread – This one only really comes into play if you’re investing big sums. To illustrate – the difference between a 50 bps spread and a 100 bps spread on a USD/SGD pair when you’re investing $1,000,000 is about $5000. That’s big. But when you’re investing $10,000, that’s only $50. So the bigger the sums you’re investing, the more you’ll prioritise good forex spreads over stock commissions.
  3. Custodian Fees – Custodian fees are when the broker charges you a certain fee each year to hold the shares. They’re either a fixed amount (eg. $2 per month per counter), or percentage based (0.1% per annum).

Ease of Use and Customer Service

This is a really underrated point. Everyone is obsessed over fees… until they open an account and simply can’t figure out how to make their stock trade… or when something goes wrong and they need to place a call to Hong Kong to speak to the customer service officer.

So don’t forget this one.

Reliability in the longer term

The thing about stock brokers is that you want them to work, reliably, forever. What you don’t want, is a stock broker that saves you a ton of money on fees, only to close operations the next day and force you to move all your shares out. Case in point – Charles Schwab recently closed its Singapore operations for good, forcing all existing customers to figure out what to do with their shares.

There’s no way of knowing for certain if a broker is here for good, but the bigger their existing base of customers in Singapore, the more comfortable I would be.

Account Opening Bonus

As Singaporeans, and there’s nothing we love more than a freebie right? Account opening bonuses are great stuff that can tip the scales in favour of a broker, especially if you’re sitting on the fence.

Which is the best broker to buy US stocks?

It took a lot of trial and error and wasted fees, but I’ve finally decided on the best brokers to buy US stocks. I’ve split them into 2 tiers, Tier 1 is the gold standard, and Tier 2 are great choices but not on the same level as Tier 1:

Tier 1: Saxo, Interactive Brokers

Tier 2: Standard Chartered Bank, FSMOne, TD Ameritrade

Tier 1 Brokers

StockbrokerSaxo MarketsInteractive Brokers

Fees

0.06%

$0.005/share

Minimum Commission (USD)

$4.00

$1.00

Forex Spread

Decent

Good

Custody Fee

0.06% – 0.12% (depending on your AUM).

Based on US$100,000, this will be $120 a year. So US$100,000 is the tipping point where it will make sense to move to Interactive Brokers.
US$10 a month (US$120 a year) unless your AUM is more than $100,000. This can be used to offset commissions.
Note that if your account is below $2000USD, the inactivity fee is raised to $20USD per month.

Sign up Promo

Cash Referral bonus available

None

Ease of use of platform (for me)

Easy to use

Pretty complex – Took me a while to learn how the platform works

Customer Service

Good

No Singapore Office (only Hong Kong)

RemarksCorporate Action Fees and Inactivity Fees waived permanentlyThere is a minimum charge of US$10 a month if your account is below US$100,000.

Tier 1 Brokers are Saxo and Interactive Brokers. Both are very great brokers, and the way I see it, the one you choose will depend on the amounts you’re investing.

Choose based on the amounts you’re investing

Interactive Brokers has a $10 a month (USD – all amounts in this article are in USD) inactivity fee, if you hold less than $100,000 (USD) with them. This amount can be used to offset any trade commissions you incur that month.

So the way I see it is this: If you plan to put less $100,000 in US stocks, go with Saxo. If you put more than $100,000 in US stocks, or if you plan to trade frequently, interactive brokers may be worth checking out.

Saxo v Interactive Brokers

I’ve been using both Saxo and Interactive Brokers for a while now, so perhaps I’ll share my experience on both Tier 1 Brokers.

Simply put, Interactive Brokers has cheap fees, but the platform is a pain in the ass to navigate.

I mean seriously. I’m not exactly new to this buying shares thing, and it still took me a while to figure out how Interactive Brokers works.

Whereas with Saxo, it was really just fund and go for me, the layout and user interface was far more intuitive for me. So that’s the biggest pain point for me from a day to day perspective.

It’s funny because I regularly get emails from readers complaining how tough the Interactive Brokers platform is to navigate, especially those who start with Interactive Brokers and then move to Saxo. So if you’re new to stocks and pick Interactive Brokers, my advice is to create an account and play around with it before you fund – just to see if it works for you.

But that said, from a fees perspective, Interactive Brokers is pretty attractive if you’re investing more than $100,000 USD, such that the inactivity fee doesn’t come into play.

Saxo does also have a cash referral bonus and great customer service though, which could tip the scales in favour of them – especially if you don’t cross the $100,000 mark.

But to be honest, I think both are really good options to buy US stocks, and you won’t really go wrong with either.

The way I see it, Saxo is probably the best choice for newer investors who don’t plan to buy more than $100,000 in US stocks.

Interactive Brokers is better for sophisticated investors who know what they’re doing (either are investing large sums, or plan to trade frequently).

If you’re on the fence, there is an affiliate bonus if you’re opening a new account with Saxo. Scroll to the bottom of this post for full details.

Note: If you’re planning to use Saxo purely for USD shares, you may want to consider setting up a USD denominated account, and fuding via USD (you can exchange USD with your own bank – I’ve found Revolut to be the most competitive option, better than the rates from DBS Multicurrency account). This also minimises any forex fees when you sell USD shares (so you get USD instead of SGD when you sell, and don’t incur forex charges until you decide to withdraw the USD).

What about TD Ameritrade and Tiger Brokers?

There have been some shakeups in the stock broking industry recently, with the entry of Tiger Brokers ($1.99 minimum commission) and TD Ameritrade waiving all commissions.

It looks like a great deal, but with brokers there’s always more than meets the eye.

The first is FX fees. With both TD Ameritrade and Tiger Brokers, there is an FX spread if you’re using the broker to change your SGD to USD. It’s about 0.5% each way, so it does eat into your returns.

With TD Ameritrade, there is also a $25 withdrawal fee to withdraw moneys into your bank account (first withdrawal is free). So the broker does make the money back in other ways, and you’ll need to plan around this withdrawal fee. The account opening times for TD Ameritrade are pretty ridiculous now, so do expect to wait a couple of weeks to get your account.

The other problem with both brokers is that they don’t have have access to many other jurisdictions. For example Tiger Brokers does not have access to European / London Stock Exchanges, which are handy for Singapore investors because of superior withholding tax treatment for London ETFs. So these will not work well as an all in one broker.

There’s really no free lunch in this world, and each broker does have their own pros and cons.

If you do want to check out Tiger brokers, you can use the link below to get Stock Vouchers up to S$200 + 30-day Commission-free Card + US stock LV2 Quote Card:

FH Referral Link: https://www.tigerbrokers.com.sg/market/sg-invitflow?account_display=standard&invite=N8RUAR&lang=en_US&skin=1&edition=fundamental&isInvitee=true&share=WhatsAPP

Tier 2 Brokers

StockbrokerStandard Chartered Online TradingFSM OneTD Ameritrade

Fees

0.25%

0.08%  

Waived for US stocks and ETFs

Minimum Commission

$10. If you are Priority Banking ($200,000 or more AUM), there is no minimum commission

$8.80

$0

Forex Spread

Decent

Decent

Decent

Annual Fee

None

 None

None

Sign up Promo

None

None

None

Ease of use of platform (for me)

Average, usual bank style platform.

Average.

Not tried.

Customer Service

Usual bank level service

Decent

Not tried

Tier 2 Brokers are acceptable, but just not on the same level as the Tier 1 guys. I’ll run through them quickly:

Standard Chartered – The big drawback with Standard Chartered Online Trading is the fees. I made a $10,000 trade with them recently and ended up having to pay $25, which I thought was ridiculous when the same trade with Saxo or IB would cost me $4. So I’ve moved it down to Tier 2 – but the lack of annual fee, and the fact that you can get minimum commission waived with priority banking status could be attractive to some.

FSMOne – I recently opened an FSMOne account to try it out since I’ve heard good things about it. What I found was that while the minimum commission was great, the forex spread I got was less amazing. And the platform too was not great fun to navigate. But a generally decent option.

TD Ameritrade – See discussion on TD Ameritrade above. The lack of commissions is really good, but do note the FX Spreads, the $25 withdrawal fee (to withdraw funds into your account), the long account opening times, and lack of access to non-US markets. It still works if all you want to buy are the FAANG stocks though, but if you want to build a more global and long term portfolio, might be worth checking out the Tier Ones.

Withholding Tax

Couple of questions coming in about withholding tax too.

The simple answer is that when you buy US stocks, you pay 30% withholding tax on all dividends.

Because of this, its not tax efficient to buy US stocks for their dividends, and looking for growth stocks with capital gains is usually my preferred approach (no capital gains tax for Singapore investors).

I wrote a longer article on Withholding Tax, you can check it out here.

Financial Horse x Saxo Affiliate Link

If you’re keen on opening a Saxo account, Financial Horse has partnered with Saxo for a special account opening bonus.

This is one of those account opening bonuses that could tip the scales in favour of Saxo, especially if you’re undecided.

The link is below, drop me an email at [email protected] for the next steps!

Financial Horse x Saxo Affiliate Link

Note: If you’re interested in this bonus, please do make sure you click through the link to open an account!

New Features from Saxo

Just a quick update on Saxo for regular readers / existing users.

Saxo has also launched 2 new features: (1) a Saxo Rewards program, and (2) Regular Savings Plan.

Saxo Rewards

Saxo Rewards is a loyalty program. Each time you take an action on Saxo, you earn a certain amount of points.

There are 3 tiers: Classic, Platinum and VIP.

If you earn enough points you’ll move to the next tier, and each tier has its own benefits such as lower fees, access to market data etc.

It’s not a gamechanger in itself, but a pretty nice add on bonus that you get at no additional cost to you.

You can check out the full details here.

Regular Savings Plan

Saxo now has their own Regular Savings Plan, that allows you to invest in 3 different types of portfolio from Blackrock – Defensive, Moderate and Aggressive.

They are actively managed funds, so you’ll need to evaluate them based on how active funds are evaluated (investment style etc).

Minimum investment sums are SGD 2,000 for the initial investment, and a minimum of SGD 100 regular contributions thereafter.

Whether you like this probably depends on the kind of investor you are. Some investors swear by active funds, whereas some would never touch them. Either way, Saxo now gives you that option, so do check it out if you’re keen.

You can check out the full details here.

Reminder: We’re running a Labour Day Promotion for the FH Course and the REITs MasterClass. You get a big discount off the usual price, and a 3 month access to Patron thrown in.

A great way to make good use of your extended circuit breaker!

Find out more here!

63 COMMENTS

    • You’re right it does look good. Could be a great second tier option to rival FSMOne / TD Ameritrade. Can’t really compare to Saxo / IBKR though IMO.

  1. Hi, I got 2 questions:

    1: What happens if your portfolio holdings exceed US$100,000 in Saxo? Do you recommend readers to transfer all holdings altogether to IB? Or keep existing holdings inside Saxo but go with IB for new trades.

    2. You mentioned inactivity fee for IB. Is there any inactivity fee for Saxo platform?

    Thankew!

    • Sure, added my thoughts below!

      1. Hm I probably wouldn’t do that because of transaction costs. If it were me, I’ll probably stick with Saxo. But I think some forward planning makes sense. If you think you’ll cross US$100,000 within 12 months of opening your account, makes sense to go with IBKR from the get go. If you think it will take many years, then Saxo makes sense.

      2. No inactivity fee for Saxo.

  2. Hi FH,

    Thanks for this article – I’ve read your earlier articles on the same topic and there are always some new perspectives coming out each time!

    I have a scenario here. Given that there is an advantage to go with IBKR if one’s AUM is >100K, but that most likely I will not hit this amount within 3 years, I would be faced with either going with IBKR outright (and incur the 10$ monthly fee for a few years – not an active investor) or start and continue to use Saxo (by which time when I hit the 100K amount, cost of switching will be high).

    If you were in my shoes, how would you deal with this? Appreciate hearing your thoughts.

    • Haha thanks for following the previous articles!

      It depends on your personal situation.

      If it were me, I would go with Saxo. I think the cost savings for the first few years outweighs the cost savings that comes at the end (time value of money right?). Don’t forget that the referral bonus from Saxo is good enough to cover a few years worth of fees by itself.

      But pretty similar to the comment above, if you think you will get there within say 12 months, maybe IBKR makes sense. But if timing is going to be a few years, or if there’s some uncertainty (eg. maybe I will choose to invest in Sg shares instead of US), I’ll just stick with Saxo first. Money saved now is worth more than money saved later.

  3. How about US withholding tax for US stock dividends? Can you talk a little about it? Are those separate deductions everytime you get a dividend?

  4. Hi Financial Horse! I’ve been using Saxo partly because of your recommendation and it’s been great! Just wanted to know, how do you top up funds into your Saxo account with minimal fees?

    I’ve been using FAST to transfer from my DBS bank account (SGD), but I realised there’s a currency conversion fee of 0.75% since my Saxo account is in USD. Was wondering if either of the following is possible to top up with no (or lower) fees:
    1. Convert to USD in my DBS multi-currency account, then transfer using DBS Remit in USD
    2. Open a HSBC multi-currency account, use that to convert SGD to USD, then transfer in USD

    I’m totally unfamiliar with transferring money in other currencies so any tips would be really helpful. Thank you 🙂

    • Yep both 1 and 2 are workable, it’s just a lot of effort haha. And transfer of USD in has a fee too if I remember right. And don’t forget that the bank charges a spread on the FX conversion too.

      I would just give both 1 and 2 a go to see the rates you get, and decide if its worth the effort. For me sometimes if I’m too lazy and it’s not a big trade I’ll just take the FX rate that Saxo gives me.

  5. Oh I see! Right, I just looked at DBS currency conversion rates and the spread doesn’t look too small…
    Just to clarify- you said “sometimes if I’m too lazy and it’s not a big trade I’ll just take the FX rate that Saxo gives me”, so that means if it’s a big trade, you would do it by some other way that has lower fees? How?

    • Depending on the size of the trade, I may use another broker. I have both IBKR, SCB and FSMOne as alternatives I can use (some of which may have spare USD from a sale). A relic from my earlier days when I was trying out all the accounts.

  6. For IB I realize the user interface depends on the mode you choose! Used to use the web trader option which was like super unfriendly.. but discovered the “account management” mode is very simple and user friendly!

  7. Hi,

    Is there any reason/s why there is little elaboration on custodian fees for both Tier 1 & 2 brokerage firms mentioned ?

    Assuming as a small timer, I have 5 different US stocks. And I intend to hold it middle to long term.

    How much would I be paying for custodian fees for Year 1, 2, …. 5.

    I keep thinking that this would add up to a considerable amount overtime – would it ?

    Of the 5 recommended brokerages – is any of them offering free custodian service ?

    Will be grateful if you could elaborate with a table illustration; to better enable me to make a decision.

    Thanks in advance.

  8. Nice article, FH. I am currently using both IBKR and TDA. Take note that TDA provides live market data at no additional cost while IBKR provides delayed data and you would need to pay subscription for live market data. TDA is more user friendly. However, for the commission fee that IBKR charges, it is just way too attractive to ignore.

  9. Hi FH,

    Nice, short and simple article ?. I have read your previous article as well similar to this, very informative.

    However, this article only talks about the Stocks and fees related to it. I am also interested in knowing more about investing in international Index funds / ETFs.

    1. Do you invest in index funds/ETFs using any of these platforms ?

    2. As I mentioned above I am thinking to do monthly investment sort of SIP (to get advantage using Dollar Cost Averaging) in Index funds / ETFs. Could you please provide more information on what are the fees for these platforms and which is the better platform to choose from SAXO, TDA, SCB, IB etc for investing in international index funds / ETFs like S&P 500 ?

    P.S. not many would be comfortable to go with Stocks due to lack of knowledge and complexity so just a suggestion, it would be very useful if you could cover more about how to invest in index funds / ETFs in a separate article. 😉

    • Hi Mittal,

      Haha thanks for following on this series, My thoughts below:

      1. Yes, ETFs as well.
      2. It will depend on the amounts you are looking to invest each time. If low, Saxo is good. If high, IB is good.

      Index investing is not all that interesting, they’re just tools. So you first need to have an investment thesis (eg. I want to invest in US Tech), and then you pick the ETF that fulfils that objective (eg. NASDAQ100). That’s about all there is to it. 😉

  10. Hi,

    2. My investment would be low only, mixture of some Stocks, index funds/ETFs.

    An index fund is a type of mutual fund anyway, what I am looking for is to invest by doing monthly SIP for ex. S$1k-2k / month which is possible in Index Fund.

    for ETF, If my understanding is correct they are directly traded like stocks.
    Is it possible to invest in ETFs mothly SIP the way we invest in MFs?

  11. Hi FH,

    After giving much thought I am looking forward to open account with Saxo for international market (for Singapore Stocks I am already having DBS Vickers Cash Upfront)

    I read somewhere in above comments that the foreign exchange rate is quite high in Saxo so the best way is to open a Saxo USD account.

    I got below queries, seeking your advise.

    1. How can I open the USD account staying in Singapore?

    2. Suppose I open Saxo USD account and majority of my investment will be in US markets but what if I want to buy and invest in other countries market like London, Hong Kong, etc, then how ?

    3. Do I have to first convert my SGD to USD and then I have to invest in Other currencies from my USD account ? imo its too much of hassle in that case.

    4. I have also read somewhere that people are providing tricks to minimise currency conversion fees would be to top your Saxo Account using Revolut or to use TransferWise to convert & send SGD into Your USD account.
    Have you tried point 4?

    Thanks.

    • Sure, comments below:

      1. Yep just sign up on Saxo website. Drop an email to [email protected] for the instructions on the referral bonus though, you need to use the link there.

      2. Use SGD account then, if you want to invest in other stock exchanges. Or you can use another broker.

      3. Don’t quite understand the question. If you’re buying HKD stocks, you will need HKD.

      4. Not tried it, but people have tried and said good things about it! I’m pretty lazy by nature.

    • No they are all slightly different. This only comes into play if you trade really large volumes though, otherwise the other points like FX and fees will feature more prominently.

  12. hi sir , thanks for this article. I’ve got a few questions and I hope you can answer them !

    if I only have $1000 to invest should I still go for US Market ?

    in my case of only having $1000 is SAXO the best broker I can go for ?

    • My thoughts below!

      1) Sure – really up to you where you want to invest – Singapore, US, HK etc. Where do you see the best opportunities?

      2) Sure, Saxo is an option, especially if sums are low. 🙂

  13. Hi, thanks for your comprehensive information. However, I have heard bad things about Saxo and TDA whereby their customers service is terrible and opening of trading accounts takes up to months. Wonder if you have this bad experience?

    • Not for me actually. I think there was this period in March / April where stock trading volume went through the roof and everyone was dying to open an account – so customer service plunged for all brokers. That should have recovered since.

  14. @Cloud C, Actually its true.

    I have recently opened account with Saxo and it took 3 weeks to open an account.
    Secondly, Very true about their Customer Service. I called them twice:
    first call 1 week before 40 mins didn’t get through,
    second call yesterday only 1 hour 50 mins still didn’t get through, even though I was in Number 1 in Q in the call.
    So after much frustration I gave up and left the voice message both the time but no use they haven’t got back to me yet.

    So if you don’t want customer service harassment then don’t go for Saxo even though they offer low fees compared to other brokers.

    • Did you try opening online via Singpass? Shouldn’t take more than a few hours if you go via the automated route.

  15. Yes, I did with the SingPass automated route which is “Sign-up with MyInfo”.

    I opened USD denominated account.

    • Shouldn’t take more than a few hours then, unless your account ran into issues and requires human intervention.

  16. I am confused.
    1) does it mean that I can use SAXO to buy SGX stocks too?
    2) when the SGX or US stocks gives dividends, the amount will be credited in SAXO ?
    3) is there a charge to withdraw the funds?

  17. Hi FH,

    eToro just extended commission-free trading in US stocks/ETFs to the APAC market. Can you share your thoughts on the platform for (1) buy and hold investors and (2) short term traders? Couldn’t locate their forex fees for SGDUSD, but I think they would still beat SAXO’s US$4 trading + 1.5% forex fees for every trade. TIA!

    • Haha Saxo’s FX fees are 0.75%, but you can bring it down to almost zero if you open a USD account and fund USD. Sure, will have a look at eToro and Tiger once things stabilise a while. Some of these brokers have great promos during the launch that don’t hold up over time – and its huge hassle to switch brokers so we want to avoid switching to a subpar one. Better to be penny wise than pound foolish when it comes to brokers.

  18. Hey FH, can you share more about the SAXO-black rock RSP? What are the pros and cons of actively managed funds? How will that differ from roboadvisors who uses algorithm to manage the funds then?

    • Well, the question ultimately is about the quality of the fund manager. Will the blackrock manager outperform say the automated algorithm of a robo? That’s the million dollar question. My bet is that if you find a good fund manager, the answer will be yes.

  19. Hi FH,

    Thank you for the informative article.

    I want to invest primarily on US market through Irish domiciled ETF and I’m thinking of opening a USD Saxo account.

    My question is, I’m planning to moving to Europe next year for some time and want to continue using the same account. Do you know if this is possible? Will the only difference be that the conversion will be EUR->USD instead of SGD->USD?

    • No difference really, if you use a SGD account it will still be SGD denominated. But if you decide to fund it in Euro then you will incur Euro -> SGD FX fees. The account denomination wouldn’t change because you relocate to Europe, unless you want it to. 😉

  20. Hi , I am having Indian passport . Currently working in Singapore on EP and having a Singapore bank account . Can I invest in foreign stocks through the above brokerage firms ? If yes , how they would be treated for tax ?

    • Should be fine actually, but best to check with the Brokers when you sign up. They will be able to advice on tax treatment for your specific situation as well. 🙂

  21. Hi, great posting! I have some questions.
    1) Singapore investors mean Singaporean and/or PR in Singapore? How about foreigners in Singapore? Above fees still being applied the same?
    2) There is 0% tax for capital gain (US stock) in case of Singapore investors, but it basically depends on country of origin. For examples, if foreigners in Singapore get capital gain by purchasing US stock, still 0% for capital gain tax or it follows the country of citizenship?
    3) Tax is decided when buying or selling the stocks (based on where they are)? This is important for foreigners as they usually cannot expect when to leave Singapore exactly. Thanks.

    • Sure, my replies below:

      1) Should be the same, but best to confirm with your CSA when you sign up!
      2) That’s a tricky one. There’s no blanket answer for this question – It depends on your country, and how your shareholders are structured. Best to check with the stock broker / tax advisor for personalised advice.
      3) Do you mean capital gains tax? The answer is similar to 2 above.

    • That’s interesting, why do you need a US based Broker? Robin Hood is pretty good, you can check that out. Commission free trading, and good app interface.

  22. hi FH thanks for sharing.timely for a newbie now.mind to ask if SaXO provides real time update of stock info for US markets and other markets?and what US boards does it trade?thanks

    • Same as any other broker – real time data carries its own fee, unless your trading volume is high in which case the broker will give it to you free. Saxo can trade all the US boards.

      BTW – If you want real time data, I’ve been using this China app called WeBull. Free real time data for US stocks.

  23. Hi,may i find out about your opinion on TD Ameritrade since it offers commission free trading now?Would it be a better choice that Saxo or IBKR in terms of fees?Thank you.

    • For TD Ameritrade you should note the $25 withdrawal fees, and that they don’t have a Sg office so customer service is not great. From what I’ve heard, account opening process is also slow because of the backlong.

      I’m planning to do a revised post with reference to Tiger and TDA as well, but it may not be up so soon.

  24. Hi FH,

    Would be great to hear your thoughts on FSMOne’s Regular Savings Plan where investors could DCA (from $50/month) into ETFs (listed in SG, HK and US) while incurring fairly low fees (0.08% or min SGD 1, HKD 5, USD 1, whichever is higher). Are there better options for long-term investors who intend to DCA smaller amounts ($500/month)?

    Thank you!

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