npmrc and authToken 

It looks like the npmrc (usually ~/.npmrc) file needs to be chmod 0600 (owner only rw) before npm install will use any authToken contained within it. Running npm login sets this permission on the file.

Related, but obvious in hindsight: Make sure the HOME environment variable points to the directory containing .npmrc. If it's being changed, obviously npm will not be able to find the npmrc file.
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