Repo Commentary-03/12/20

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This has been an especially difficult Repo Commentary to write, as I write it, the news is happening. Because of coronavirus and the stock market meltdown, there are constant BREAKING NEWS, and I want to keep the information you read current and up to date. So, I have to keep adding to the news I have already written. During this simple one day and change of writing, the stocks fell below the 20% barrier of switching from bull market to bear market, the Hanks were diagnosed with coronavirus, the President made an unprecedented speech about coronavirus, the NCAA decided to make March Madness fanless, then the NBA decided to suspend its season, and now other professional team sports are considering doing the same, and many colleges and universities suspended in-person classes and went digital; all because of the coronavirus. Like a publisher/editor/producer, at some point I have to cut off incoming news and go to print, so you can read it, before it becomes old news, even if it means missing some late breaking news. I hope you understand.

I am still NOT retired. I am consulting on all things Repo and Securities Lending, and working on a fintech project. So, if you need my almost 38 years of Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.

It was great reconnecting and seeing many of you a few weeks ago at the IMN Securities Finance conference in Fort Lauderdale! I can’t believe, after pounding the pavement and extolling the virtues of peer-to-peer financing through my product for over 10 years, that almost every single panel at the conference discussed peer-to-peer financing. It was very heart-warming! I’m glad to see that everyone has come around!

My Repo Commentary is posted free (it’s actually always been free) on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. You will now be seeing it more frequently again.

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information. I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures!

Holidays or Events (03/12):

¥ Girl Scout Day (which reminds me that I have run out of cookies)
¥ National Alfred Hitchcock Day
¥ National Baked Scallops Day
¥ National Plant a Flower Day
¥ Popcorn Lovers Day
¥ World Day Against Cyber Censorship
¥ World Kidney Day
¥ Arbor Day in China and Taiwan
¥ Aztec New Year
¥ National Day in Mauritius
¥ Youth Day in Zambia

Some Famous People Born on 3/12 in History:

¥ 1613-Andre Le Notre, French gardener and architect
¥ 1917-Leonard Chess, American record company executive, co-founder of Chess Records
¥ 1921-Gordon MacRae, American actor and singer
¥ 1922-Jack Kerouac, American author and poet (went to Cornell)
¥ 1923-Wally Schirra, American captain, pilot, and astronaut
¥ 1927-Emmett Leith, professor of electrical engineering and co-inventor of three-dimensional holography
¥ 1932-Andrew Young, American pastor and politician, 14th US Ambassador to the UN
¥ 1933-Barbara Feldon, American actress
¥ 1938-Johnny Rutherford, American race car driver and sportscaster
¥ 1940-Al Jarreau, American singer
¥ 1946-Liza Minnelli, American actress, singer, and dancer
¥ 1947-Mitt Romney, American businessman and politician
¥ 1948-James Taylor, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
¥ 1949-Rob Cohen, American director, producer, and screenwriter
¥ 1956-Steve Harris, English bass player and songwriter
¥ 1956-Dale Murphy, American baseball player, coach, and sportscaster
¥ 1957-Marlon Jackson, American singer-songwriter and dancer
¥ 1962-Darryl Strawberry, American baseball player and minister
¥ 1963-John Andretti, American race car driver
¥ 1978-Casey Mears, American race car driver

This Day in History (03/12):

• 538-Vitiges, King of the Ostrogoths ends his siege of Rome and retreats to Ravenna, leaving the city in the hands of the victorious Byzantine general, Belisarius.
• 1622-Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier, founders of the Society of Jesus, are canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
• 1689-James II of England landed at Kinsale, starting the Williamite War in Ireland.
• 1811-Peninsular War: a day after a successful rearguard action, French Marshal Michel Ney once again successfully delays the pursuing Anglo-Portuguese force at the Battle of Redinha.
• 1912-the Girl Guides (later renamed Girl Scouts of the USA) are founded in the United States.
• 1913-the future capital of Australia is officially named Canberra.
• 1918-Moscow becomes the capital of Russia again after Saint Petersburg held this status for 215 years.
• 1928-in California, the St. Francis Dam fails, resulting in 431 deaths from the floods.
• 1930-Mahatma Ghandi begins the Salt March, a 200-mile march to the sea to protest the British monopoly on salt in India.
• 1933-Great Depression: Franklin D. Roosevelt addresses the nation for the first time as President of the United States. This is also the first of his “fireside chats.”
• 1938-Anschluss: German troops occupy and absorb Austria.
• 1940-Winter War: Finland signs the Moscow Peace Treaty with the Soviet Union, ceding almost all of Finnish Karelia.
• 1942-The Battle of Java ends with the surrender of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command to the Japanese Empire in Bandung, West Java, Dutch East Indies.
• 1947-Cold War: the Truman Doctrine is proclaimed to help stem the spread of Communism.
• 1950-the Llandow air disaster kills 80 people when the aircraft they are traveling in crashes near Sigingstone, Wales. At the time, this was the world’s deadliest air disaster.
• 1968-Mauritius achieves independence from the UK.
• 1992-Mauritius becomes a republic while remaining a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
• 1993-several bombs explode in Mumbai, India, killing about
• 1993-North Korea announces that it will withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and refuses to allow inspectors access to its nuclear sites.
• 1999-former Warsaw Pact members (the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland) join NATO.
• 2003-Zoran Dindic, PM of Serbia, is assassinated in Belgrade.
• 2003-the WHO officially releases a global warning of outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
• 2004-the President of South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun, is impeached by its National Assembly, the first such impeachment in the nation’s history.
• 2009-financier Bernard Madoff pleads guilty to one of the largest frauds in Wall Street’s history, eventually receiving a prison sentence of 157 years.
• 2011-a reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant explodes and releases radioactivity into the atmosphere a day after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
• 2014-a gas explosion in the NYC neighborhood of East Harlem kills 8 people and injures 70 others.
• 2019-in the House of Commons, the revised EU Withdrawal Bill was rejected by a margin of 149 votes.

Daily Weird Facts:

This seems an appropriate time to point this out: “Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.”—Rudyard Kipling

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Some people aren’t shaking hands because of the Coronavirus. I’m not shaking hands because everyone is out of toilet paper.”–anonymous

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5
$47.66/barrel on 12/23
$48.63 on 01/07
$52.31/barrel on 01/16
$55.26/barrel on 2/3
$55.41/barrel on 2/26
$73.77/barrel on 4/29
$63.28/barrel on 5/17
$54.07/barrel on 6/18
$55.96/barrel on 7/24
$58.31/barrel on 9/10
$53.50/barrel on 10/2
$59.10/barrel on 12/8
$58.81/barrel on 1/17
$54.39/barrel on 2/7
$35.92/barrel on 3/11

With the plummeting oil prices, the price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station only slipped in the past week by 10 cents, to $2.19/gallon. It’s not down the 28% that oil is down over the same period. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-60 cents more per gallon. I have a picture in the gallery of the tremendous disparity between gasoline at a pump in California, $4.79/gallon for regular, and one in Texas, $1.87/gallon for regular. Wow! The oil price decline is being exacerbated by a Russia and Saudi Arabia oil battle.

“Coronavirus Is Bruising America’s Oil Patch—How Badly Is the Question: Some already struggling energy companies may not be able to weather the drop in oil and gas demand.” Wall Street Journal

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24
108.60 on 01/07
109.07 on 01/16
103.18 on 02/03
104.86 on 2/25
103.86 on 5/17
102.59 on 6/18
102.43 on 7/24
101.72 on 9/10
102.16 on 10/02
102.96 on 12/06
104.30 on 01/17/20
104.80 on 02/07/20
99.23 on 03/11/20

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426
01/07 at $1.1478
01/16 at $1.1396
02/03 at $1.2047
02/25 at $1.1955
05/17 at $1.1761
06/18 at $1.1825
07/24 at $1.1740
09/10 at $1.1623
10/02 at $1.1504
12/06 at $1.1688
01/17 at $1.1721
02/07 at $1.1543
03/11 at $1.1937

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655
01/07 at $1.2770
01/16 at $1.2880
02/03 at $1.3758
02/25 at $1.3728
05/17 at $1.3427
06/18 at $1.3157
07/24 at $1.3070
09/10 at $1.2959
10/02 at $1.2882
12/06 at $1.3819
01/17 at $1.3753
02/07 at $1.3574
03/11 at $1.354

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24
1.3297 on 01/07
1.3255 on 01/16
1.2492 on 2/03
1.2492 on 2/25
1.2800 on 5/17
1.2740 on 6/18
1.2480 on 7/24
1.2520 on 9/10
1.2560 on 10/02
1.2530 on 12/06
1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07
1.3020 on 03/11

Gold closed on 9/09 at $1504.90/ounce. On 10/02, it closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 12/6, it closed at $1,464.40/ounce. On 1/17, it closed at $1557.30/ounce. On 2/07, it closed at $1,576.20/ounce. On 3/11, it closed at $1,641/ounce.

Bitcoin was trading at (Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25
$6,350 on 10/5
$3,774.97 on 12/24/18
$3,7774.97 on 01/07
$3,598.90 on 01/16
$3,421.10 on 02/06
$3,826.44 on 02/26
$8,100.00 on 05/16
$7,215.79 on 05/17
$9,088.59 on 06/18
$11,919.30 on 06/25
$9,790.37 on 07/24
$10,183.90 on 09/10
$8,235.46 on 10/02
$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20
$9,793.18 on 02/07/20
$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 highs, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer, rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020. It has now given up all of those 2020 gains with the coronavirus contagion.

Global Financial News:

Global stock markets suffered their largest single-day decline since the Great Recession, on Monday. The United Kingdom has officially left the European Union and began an 11-month Transition period. However, Brexit talks in London are in doubt because of coronavirus. Lagarde is warning of a 2008-style financial crisis, unless central banks act together against the coronavirus contagion and impacts. Goldman Sachs says coronavirus will end bull market for the stock market, which would technically be a drop of 20% from the highs. Sure enough, on Wednesday, the Dow closed down 20% from last month’s record high close, signaling a move into a bear market, from bull market. Global stocks continued to fall on Wednesday, after an initial boost from the Bank of England’s surprise emergency rate cut. Hong Kong stocks fell on doubts over stimulus efforts against coronavirus. Asian stock markets are looking to the Trump administration to produce some coronavirus fiscal support. There was a Finance-Yahoo article “Investors Dodging Market Meltdown Say They Can’t Find Liquidity”, to which my former boss/colleague, Susan Estes, had an insightful observation on LinkedIn. Modell’s Sporting Goods, a New York institution for decades, filed for bankruptcy yesterday.

US Market News:

The coronavirus pandemic and definite panic continue to put a scare into global equity markets, including the US, and sent the Dow down sharply again Wednesday, by about 1,540 points as I write this. Also not helping the Dow on Wednesday, was the news of earnings losses from both Dow Inc. and Nike. THIS MORNING, DOW FUTURES WERE DOWN 7%, ALREADY TRIGGERING CIRCUIT BREAKERS TO SLOW THE FALL. AS I FINISH WRITING THIS COMMENTARY, THE DOW IS DOWN 2,371 POINTS, OR 9.26%. The Dow’s volatility each day is alarming and based more on the market’s and public’s perception of how the disease will affect different points of the global market supply chain and consumer demand. Although the underlying US economic news has been great up to now, the disease is directly impacting certain industries (such as tourism, airlines, cruise ships, conventions/fairs/conferences, food delivery services, health providers, and schools), which may lead to a ripple effect of worsening economic news, due to lower personal income and tax revenues. The ripple effect, in an example is if less people visit a restaurant because of fear of being near many potentially infected people in a large gathering, then the revenue for the restaurant may be such that it has to lay off personnel, who then don’t have the income to buy goods and possibly to pay for coronavirus treatments, and tax revenues from the business decline, worsening the situation for schools and infrastructure, etc. The US economy is built around service to the public who then require certain manufactured goods and then als spend money discretionarily. If discretionary spending is limited physically or fiscally and needs for service industry are reduced, the economy generally will suffer. These virus concerns are countering each country’s fiscal steps to combat the contagion impact. If the virus were to be contained, sooner rather than later, this downturn of about 20% would represent a tremendous buying opportunity. Jim Paulsen said on Wednesday that the market was “oozing of panic” and that it has nearly reached the bottom. Okay, someone asked for this, here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (granted there have been times in the past where volatility was greater in terms of percentage moves):

3/12/20 21,371.19 current, not close
3/11/20 23,553.22
3/10/20 25,018.16
3/09/20 23,851.02
3/06/20 25,864.78
3/05/20 26,121.28
3/04/20 27,090.86
3/03/20 25,917.41
3/02/20 26,703.32
2/28/20 25,409.36
2/27/20 25,766.64
2/26/20 26,957.59
2/25/20 27,081.36
2/24/20 27,960.80
2/21/20 28,992.41
2/20/20 29,219.98
2/19/20 29,348.03
2/12/20 29,551.42 record high

The Dow Jones (global stocks as well), along with other stock indices, were down Wednesday, after being up sharply Tuesday and down horrendously Monday (setting off triggers that haven’t been engaged in 12 years.) In fact, Monday saw oil price crash by about 20%, currencies get whipsawed, US stock prices hitting limit down when they were down 5%, European equities down more than 6%, Asian equities down more than 4%, and even the US dollar and gold move lower. Just looking at the past 2 weeks Dow Jones’ closes to demonstrate the recently rare volatility:

The Dow Jones closed at (Repo Commentary Dates):

26,656.77 on 9/20/18
26,447.05 on 10/5/18
21,792.20 on 12/23/18
21,712.53 on 12/26/18
24,207.16 on 01/16/19
25,063.89 on 2/06/19
26,106.47 on 2/25/19
25,862.68 on 5/16/19
26,465.54 on 6/18/19
27,269.97 on 7/24/19
26,793.09 on 9/10/19
26,229.31 on 10/02/19
28,015.06 on 12/06/19
29,348.10 on 01/17/20
29,185.07 on 02/07/20
23,553.22 on 03/11/20

S&P 500 has had a long upward climb with very little volatility. It has risen 27% during the past 12 months. It has risen or fallen less than 1% since mid-October, showing one of the longest periods of low volatility. It has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58
12/26/18 at 2,467.70
01/07/19 at 2,549.69
01/16/19 at 2,616.10
02/06/19 at 2,706.53
02/25/19 at 2,799.34
05/16/19 at 2,876.32
06/18/19 at 2,917.75
07/24/19 at 3,019.56 new all-time high
09/10/19 at 2,969.04
10/02/19 at 2,906.94
12/06/19 at 3,145.91
01/17/20 at 3,329.62
02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high
03/12/20 at 2,555.82 current, not close

Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28/18 high of 8,030.04, closing on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45
12/26/18 at 6,554.36
01/07/19 at 6,823.47
01/16/19 at 7,034.70
02/06/19 at 7,263.87
02/25/19 at 7,561.87
05/16/19 at 7,898.05
06/18/19 at 7,953.68
07/24/19 at 8,321.50 new all-time high
09/10/19 at 8,043.58
10/02/19 at 7,809.22
12/06/19 at 8,656.07
01/17/20 at 9,388.95
02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high
03/12/20 at 7,459.73 current, not close

On Monday, the US corporate bond market had its worst day since 2008. US Treasury yields have been in free-fall since hitting highs in October 2018. The US Treasury announced that it will start selling a 20year bond during the first half of 2020, in an attempt to help with the budget deficit. Treasury yields were dropping as stocks fell, but that has reversed suddenly, and Treasury yields are rising, no longer an inverse relationship to stocks.

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
01/07/19 at 2.53%
01/16/19 at 2.55%
02/06/19 at 2.52%
02/22/19 at 2.48%
05/16/19 at 2.20%
06/18/19 at 1.86%
07/24/19 at 1.83%
09/09/19 at 1.58%
10/01/19 at 1.56%
12/06/19 at 1.61%
01/17/20 at 1.58%
02/06/20 at 1.44%
03/11/20 at 0.50%

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%
12/18/18 at 2.64%
01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)
01/16/19 at 2.53%
02/06/19 at 2.50%
02/22/19 at 2.46%
05/16/19 at 2.15%
06/18/19 at 1.80%
07/24/19 at 1.79%
09/09/19 at 1.52%
10/01/19 at 1.51%
12/06/19 at 1.64%
01/17/20 at 1.58%
02/06/20 at 1.43%
03/11/20 at 0.58%

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
01/07/19 at 2.49%
01/16/19 at 2.54%
02/06/19 at 2.51%
02/22/19 at 2.47%
05/16/19 at 2.18%
06/18/19 at 1.83%
07/24/19 at 1.82%
09/09/19 at 1.49%
10/01/19 at 1.51%
12/06/19 at 1.67%
01/17/20 at 1.63%
02/07/20 at 1.45%
03/11/20 at 0.66%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%
12/18/18 at 2.74%
01/07/19 at 2.60%
01/16/19 at 2.62%
02/06/19 at 2.59%
02/22/19 at 2.55%
05/16/19 at 2.28%
06/18/19 at 1.93%
07/24/19 at 1.93%
09/09/19 at 1.57%
10/01/19 at 1.59%
12/06/19 at 1.78%
01/17/20 at 1.74%
02/06/20 at 1.56%
03/11/20 at 0.78%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%
12/18/18 at 2.82%
01/07/19 at 2.70%
01/16/19 at 2.73%
02/06/19 at 2.70%
02/22/19 at 2.65%
05/16/19 at 2.40%
06/18/19 at 2.06%
07/24/19 at 2.05%
09/09/19 at 1.83%
10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!
12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!
01/17/20 at 1.84%
02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!
03/11/20 at 0.82%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%
12/18/18 at 3.07%
01/07/19 at 2.99%
01/16/19 at 3.07%
02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%
05/16/19 at 2.84%
06/18/19 at 2.55%
07/24/19 at 2.58%
09/10/19 at 2.11%
10/01/19 at 2.11%
12/06/19 at 2.29%
01/17/20 at 2.29%
02/06/20 at 2.11%
03/11/20 at 1.30%

US Treasury yields finally plummeted over the few weeks, despite the Fed’s continued intervention in the target rate not causing them to move much before that.

Housing News:

According to Freddie Mac, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in the US has reached a 3-year low. In other Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae news, acceptance of Adjustable-Rate mortgages linked to LIBOR will cease by year-end 2020 at both GSEs, and the companies will soon take mortgages based on the Secured Overnight Funding Rate (SOFR), per my former colleague/partner, Tom Wipf, who is running those Alternative Rates effort. AFX also has a Ameribor that they have offered as an index, while the BoE has come up with a Sterling-based overnight rate.

New numbers from the National Association of Realtors show that sales of previously owned homes are up by nearly 10% in January, over the same period last year. Yet, although up significantly from last year, the sales were relatively flat from the month before. In fact, most regions showed little or no change from December. Also, home prices have increased on an annual basis for 95 consecutive months. The median existing home price for all housing was $266,300 in January, which is up from $249,400 one year ago. Low mortgage rates appear to have balanced affordability levels, and new home construction is expected by industry analysts to improve this year, which may slow additional home-price increases as the year progresses. If the coronavirus pandemic continues for a lengthy period and reduces wealth significantly, it could have a negative impact on home buying demand and home construction.

Repo News:

In the Securities Financing industry, we are again facing a tsunami of acronyms in regulations and events, much like during the Financial Crisis. ESMA is delaying rules on failed trades by 2 more months. LEI rules are being postponed for emerging market securities, as nearly 50% of them still don’t have LEIs. Even 10% of European securities don’t have LEIs.

ESMA’s SFTR Level 3
Brexit
EU Crypto Regs
FCA Crypto Regs
EC Cyber-attack Guidelines
FCA Financial Services Duty of Care Bill/MiFID II
CSDR
LIBOR replacement (SOFR, SOIA, EuSTAR)
EISF
ISLA/ICSF/ESG and short selling
MUR

The Federal Reserve had pumped billions of dollars into the Repo market to keep the short-end liquid, especially through the year-end volatility. They not only did overnight repo operations, but also had an aggressive schedule for term repo operations. These not only pushed GC repo rates lower, but also narrowed the spread between GC repo and Fed Funds, below the recent trending norm of 13-15bp. In February, the Fed began letting these market operations roll off, reducing the amount of reserves it was pumping into the Repo market. So far, GC repo rates have remained stable. Of course, half of the participants think that’s because the hot money hasn’t left yet and there is still a problem and the other half of participants think the structural problem has been solved. And, of course, with the coronavirus pandemic, there is a global flight to quality, somewhat into Treasuries, but more into short-end Repo and Treasury Bills.

Well, “repo” is the lubricant of the money market system, particularly the issuance of US Treasuries and other bonds, and it only comes up in conversation among non-participants when the gears start squeaking or fail to function. And, the last time the general public heard about “repo” it was during the Financial Crisis.

I know you’ve seen many articles on the subject of current repo market illiquidity and volatility, I’ve read them too. I think I can summarize them all and add my almost 38 years of experience in the Securities Finance market to lay out the causes and possible solutions. (It looks like the Fed implemented some of my suggested solutions.)

To look at the WHY, one need look at what has happened since the Financial Crisis.

¥ The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.). They eventually unwound those many programs.
¥ They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
¥ They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship.
¥ They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
¥ They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
¥ They propped up some broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge.
¥ The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.6 trillion.
¥ Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
¥ The market began looking for alternatives to financing through broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms. (I’ll be discussing this more at the IMN Conference.)
¥ The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers.
¥ The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
¥ The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
¥ The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement. They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
¥ The Fed did an about face and began easing monetary policy. They also lowered IOER. They now raised IOER by 5bp in the last FOMC meeting.
That’s not everything that happened, but that gives you the broad strokes. And just in those bullet points, I see many of the contributing factors of the recent dislocation of the repo market. And, by the way, that actually refutes Mr. Memani’s later comment that “Nothing much has happened in the money markets since financial crisis.” A lot more happened in those 11 years than happened in the previous 26 years that I was in the money markets.

I believe the reasons we had dislocations last quarter come down to a major imbalance of bank reserves, behavior not consistent with expectation, illiquidity in the repo market (rather than the highly touted increase in liquidity), concentration risk, a corporate tax date that removed cash from the repo market, humongous new supply of US treasuries being issued, many Repo market participants out of the Federal Reserve direct loop, and a mountain of hundreds of new regulations that broker/dealers (and others) are trying to still absorb and position reserves/capital, personnel, and trading strategies for.

I’m not sure why participants and regulators didn’t foresee an imbalance (lack of) bank reserves. The piles of new regulations that regulators gave to the money markets fundamentally required banks to hold more reserves versus balance sheets (which repo is the major contributor to), the low yields may have encouraged banks to use reserves elsewhere in more profitable areas than repo (they are profit-motivated, as they should be), and the Fed lowered the IOER which may have dis-incented banks from depositing reserves at the Fed. The decrease in the Fed’s balance sheet came at the cost of the market absorbing those securities. The US Treasury issuing phenomenal amounts of securities that have to be taken by the 24 primary dealers (already full up on balance sheets they are trying to reduce) and the central banks/swfs (who already have $14 trillion of US Treasuries), should have been seen as a potential clog in the system. Plus, with the Fed lowering rates, the returns on those US Treasuries would be lower for those new owners. And the central banks ownership of US Treasuries is another complicated story, one of ripple effects. They can’t really sell US Treasuries into this market, without having some issue with the US Government, whichever branch. But, yet, many of them need to support their currency, particularly against the US Dollar. So, some of them enter the Repo market to repo the US Treasuries to receive US Dollars to then buy their own currencies with, propping up their currency by kicking the can somewhat down the road, until their GDP rises or oil prices rise (raising their specific GDP). Layer over that macroeconomic soup a topping of trade wars and tariffs, it becomes rather complex to predict. And, that brings me to my last observation, that unintended consequences arose from the hundreds of regulations foisted on the money market, mainly because market behavior is not that predictive. Regulators thought that if they made the system safer, more investors would come in, but yet the repo market didn’t grow that much, but yet supply from the Fed and from the US Treasury increased dramatically. Regulators thought that if the banks had more reserves and capital, they would pass that on to the buyside, but that didn’t take into account their profit motivations and individual bank idiosyncrasies. Lastly, the regulators didn’t expect the perfect storm of added supply, taxes withdrawn, cash out of the system, reserves lower, and tools that would work directly only on the 24 primary dealers and the 300 cash providers in RRP. I’ve been remarking for years, since the RRP, that there was not a comparable program for collateral providers/leveraged players in the Repo market. Steve Malekian went further to say, a year ago, that the newly touted liquidity of the Repo market was “only for Platinum accounts.” It was only for select buy-side clients.

So, the Fed needs to do something. And, I don’t mean just the Overnight operations with the 24 primary dealers. I can’t even predict what those dealers’ positions are or how the added liquidity would flow to the buyside clients. The extra cash could be used to fund their Swaps desk, the Repo Desk, other outright traders, Platinum accounts, or speculatively with leveraged accounts (as a few savvy broker/dealers have seen that opportunity and gone short to reverse in at higher rates from leveraged accounts and supply balance sheet). The point is that the mound of regulations and the open market operations and the tinkering with the IOER are supposed to impact banks and broker/dealers in such a way to induce certain behavior, but behavior is unique. So, the Fed needs to go back to its ample toolkit (and get people who have been there at least 10 years) to:
¥ Implement more term RPs, to give the market some faith and reduce Fed reputational risk
¥ Purchase securities, either US Treasuries or Agency MBS, increasing the Fed balance sheet (although this may be difficult because there were probably several good reasons why they decreased it.)
¥ Open the Discount Window to more participants, with NO stigma attached (it used to be how one in the market knew who was having a liquidity crisis), and other sectors represented.
¥ Create a collateral provider facility, similar to RRP, or help reduce the hurdles, like CCLF for CCPs and Sponsored Repo type ventures to increase liquidity.
¥ Tinker the IOER rate UP, rather than down, to increase the Reserves at the Fed.
¥ Support/encourage Repo done outside of the 24 primary dealers, helping collateral providers find cash providers, when certain broker/dealers are balance sheet full and capital restrained from the very regulations that the Fed was involved in. I hope that didn’t come out too angry. I think systemic risk reduction is a huge priority and I am worried about firesale risk (although I don’t think moving the sale down the road to 7 days or 30 days changes firesale risk, it just changes the date of the firesale).
¥ Have the Fed be a permanent backstop to the Repo market.
The bottom line is that the money markets, particularly the securities finance market (Repo & Securities Lending) is still trying to find its footing, particularly as the Repo market has shrunk, while Treasury supply has increased.

I still see the Repo and Securities Lending market as having changed in many permanent ways. We traditionally had a credit intermediator, the broker/dealers (originally just the primary broker/dealers) and later prime brokers, who were the pipeline through their respective repo matched books for ALL collateral providers to trade with cash providers, without the two sides ever knowing about each other or facing each other. That lack of knowledge of the other side of the dealers’ repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers, which has been volatile but certainly widened since the Financial Crisis, and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis, which not only subjected clients to dealer defaults and wider spreads, but in many cases directly impacted clients by making them suddenly the outright traders of repo collateral. Some of that collateral, on top of it, was very illiquid. Not knowing who the other clients were on the other side of the dealers’ repo matched book, and who could potentially bring down those intermediary dealers was costly for many clients. Clearly, with that pipeline of is intermediation becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets (which has recovered partially with new entrants to the market and international banks’ increases due to regulatory arbitrage) being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be explored for cash provider and collateral provider clients. My former baby, AVM’s Direct Repo™, was the first of one of such pathways, over 10 years ago. Since then, many other liquidity pathways to these markets have been created, including: the Federal Reserve’s RRP program with cash providers, peer-to-peer financing as reported on Treasury OFR’s website between MMFs and Insurance Companies, As Agented repo through seclending agents and some prime brokers to buyside clients, direct lending from beneficial owners to hedge funds who are short via their agents, indemnified As Agent repo, buyside to buyside Triparty Repo through two international clearing organizations of their custodial clients, electronic all-to-all repo on a few electronic trading platforms like (BNY DBVX, State Street’s Cash Cross), FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products for certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, dealer to dealer and some clients electronic trading platforms (like GLMX, HQLAx, LMX, BNY DBVX, DealerWeb, and Tradeweb), other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (like Eurex, LCH Clearnet, OCC, FICC, CDCC, and SCH), total return swaps platforms (like WeMatch.com), and collateralized loan exchanges (like AFX/CBOE.) There have still been other firms that have created some kind of product that mimics a repo, but yet doesn’t show up on dealers’ balance sheets (so helps them), and/or provides better credit counterparties (so helps clients), and can take many forms. I believe this overall evolution will continue and eventually we will see all of these pathways used in some part, including the traditional pathway (to probably a lesser than historical degree) through the broker/dealers and prime brokers. Some of that balance sheet has returned, as I mentioned above, but maybe for only select ‘platinum’ clients and may come at a higher bid/offer spread or in specific, more profitable products/securities, as other market observers/experts have said.

Brink published an interesting article on the State of the Financial Services Industry, saying that banks and investors say digital/electronic is important in their strategies, but its implementation is less visible. The report listed 5 reasons for lackluster performance: opposing priorities, lack of experts in C suites, no solid implementation plan, risks in a modular system, and stoppage of work after launch.

Having just moderated a panel at the IMN Securities Financing Conference 2/12-2/13/20, my panel and I were able to share with the audience the current state of ETPs, CCPs, and P2P securities financing, and painted, in no particular order, a current map below (this is based on what we have been able to ascertain, but may not be accurate or complete):

CCPs:

Europe
• Eurex/Deutsche Borse/Clearstream (CCP)-has been doing predominantly European governments repo for some time now.
• LCH-Clearnet-London (CCP)-I do not have any info yet.
• LCH-Clearnet-Paris (CCP)-split out years ago, not because of Brexit.

Asia
• Shanghai Clearing House-China (CCP). I do not have any info yet.
North America

• OCC (CCP)-has hit daily volumes of $80 billion of repo and outright trading, with futures and options as well. It also still owns AQS/Quadriserve (ETP) for US securities lending.
• FICC/DTCC (CCP)-has hit high volume of $552 billion, increases coming from the 3 participant banks in Sponsored Repo, bringing their clients into the CCP, along with their standard dealer vs dealer repo. Has been around a while now.
• CDCC-Canada (CCP)-brand new CCP involving derivatives and repo.
CCPs:

Europe

• WeMatch.com (ETP)-fairly new, trades total return swaps.
• HQLAx (ETP)-securities financing, just started, uses blockchain tokens to represent trades.
• Liquidity Marketplace-LMX (ETP), I do not have any info yet.
• Asterisk (ETP)-brand new, focused first on government securities and equities financing.
• Treasury Spring (ETP)-fairly new, focused on European asset managers.
North America
• GLMX (ETP)-a Silicon Valley solution, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
• TradeWeb (ETP)-longtime system, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
• BNY DBVX (ETP)-fairly new and has changed, for internal BNY Mellon clients now.
• DealerWeb (ETP)-primarily for dealers.
• AFX/CBOE (ETP)-trades collateralized loans and futures.
• State Street Direct Access (ETP)-fairly new, has started securities financing for internal State Street clients.
One of many developments that I thought was really cool to hear about at the IMN conference (among other things I will share with you over time in the Repo Commentary or in consultation), was the newly formed Global Peer Financing Association created by 4 of my larger pension fund clients (CALPERS, HOOPP, OHPERS, SWIB) to promote peer-to-peer financing, not only among pension funds, but potentially with other sectors too (such as SWFs, Central Banks, Insurance Companies). It is of course near-and-dear to my heart, as I had many discussions with all 4 about peer-to-peer securities financing, over the past decade. I am very happy to see this development, which includes rate negotiation, standardization of legal documents, a credit vendor’s service, and some indemnification for certain clients from a securities lending agent. I am very supportive of this effort and hope to be involved in its evolution.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (subject to coronavirus-related postponements or cancellations)
 

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
• IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year. I hope to see many of you there!
• iMoneyNet/Informa has yet to announce its annual MMExpo, after the merger. I have spoken at this one several times.
• PASLA/RMA will hold its 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
• GIOA will hold its 16th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/18-3/20/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. I may attend.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Boston, MA on 3/23-3/24/20.
• IHS Markit will hold its annual Securities Finance Forum in London, England on 3/24/20.
• Finadium will hold its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/13-5/14/20. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
• GFOA will hold its gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/17-5/20/20. I have attended this one in the past.
• IMN/AFME will hold its annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/16-6/18/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Nashville, TN on 6/8-6/10/20.
• ISLA will hold its 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Vienna, Austria on 6/23-6/25/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
• ICMA/Securities Lending Times will hold their annual AGM and conference also in Vienna, Austria, on 6/24-6/26/20.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26/20 in Minneapolis, MN. I heard there were 580 attendees in Boston last year. I have spoken at this conference before.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in San Diego, CA on 9/13-9/16/20. I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
• IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London, England on 9/15-9/16/20. I’ve attended this before.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/22-9/24/20.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 10/5-10/7/20. I’ve attended this before and might again.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain on 10/12-10/14/20.
• RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15. I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton. It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended.
• Crane Data has yet to announce its annual European Money Fund Symposium.
• Finadium has yet to announce its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its large annual conference in Las Vegas, NV on 10/18-10/21/20.
• Finadium has yet to announce its Rates & Repo conference in New York. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
• Risk.net has yet to announce its 26th annual Risk USA conference. I’ve chaired this one.
• SIFMA has yet to announce its annual Meeting.

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 1.50-1.75% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while), after the FOMC lowered it on 7/31/19 and again on 9/18/19 and again on 12/4/19. The Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR), as reported by the Federal Reserve, was 1.88% on 10/1/19.

For you youngsters, particularly the ones freaking out about the Fed doing daily RP operations, the Federal Reserve used to not telegraph what it was doing in monetary policy. It would simply come in (and not on scheduled dates like FOMC meetings) and add or drain reserves by announcing a Customer RP, System RP, or Matched Sales. We would then all scramble, as the market absorbed the news, and try to figure out how much they did and where the Fed Funds rate would settle.

The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks. That rate on 2/6/20 was 1.58%.

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities. It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website. It has been controversial and has been considered as a possible replacement for LIBOR. SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special. However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC. It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers. It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buyside clients with collateral. That all being said, the current SOFR reported by the Fed for 2/07/20 was 1.59%.

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 3/18/20, 4/29/20, 6/10/20, 7/29/20, 9/16/20, 11/5/20, and 12/16/20.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. Remember when RRP was trading at year-end for $465 billion? Well, on 5/15/19, there was only $20 million in bids submitted. MMF cash and GSE cash has moved out of the Fed’s RRP and into the Repo market. So, if RRP is not extinct, it is certainly now dormant, occasionally coming out of hibernation for year-ends and quarter-ends, when liquidity becomes very strange.

In December 2018, at the FOMC meeting, the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise the benchmark Fed Funds rate to 2.50% at the December FOMC meeting, 3.00% in 2019, and 3.50% in 2020. If you are keeping score, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds target rate on these dates so far:

12/15/15 to 0.50%
12/14/16 to 0.75%
3/5/17 to 1.00%
6/14/17 to 1.25%
12/13/17 to 1.50%
3/21/18 to 1.75%
6/13/18 to 2.00%
9/26/18 to 2.25%
12/13/18 to 2.50%

But, then the Federal Reserve paused. Suddenly, on 7/31/19, the Fed eased the Fed Funds target rate to 2.25%, and then did another rate cut by 0.25% to 2.00% on 9/17/19. Technically, that rate is the top end of a 25bp rate spread that the Fed considers its current target rate (1.75%-2.00%). The reversal in monetary policy is expected to continue, with perhaps one more rate cut by the Fed in 2019. The FOMC actually held an unscheduled meeting on 10/4/19, but did not change monetary policy at that meeting. But, on 12/11/19, the Fed, somewhat expectedly, lowered the Fed Funds target range to 1.50-1.75%, down another 25bp. They only raised the IOER by 5bp on 1/29, but didn’t change the Fed target rate. On 3/3/20, because of the global financial crisis effect from the coronavirus crisis, the Fed held an emergency FOMC meeting and cut the Fed target rate 50bp to 1.00-1.25%.

Quantitative Easing was ‘tapered off’ in 2013. The Fed still had $4 trillion of debt in 2017 on its books from that QE. In October 2017, it began allowing those holdings to gradually decline. For reference, the Fed Funds target rate was 5.25% before the Fed cut of 9/18/2007, at or near the beginning of the Financial Crisis.

Just as the Federal Reserve felt it had done enough recently to provide liquidity to the Repo market and enough to Monetary Policy, a global pandemic has hit. On 3/4/20, the FRB approved a rule to simplify its capital rules for large banks, still preserving the strong capital requirements already in place. On 3/5/20, the FRB announced the termination of enforcement actions. It also postponed its 2020 National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference because of coronavirus. On 3/6/20, the FRB published the Community Reinvestment Act. On 3/9/20, the Fed and other Governmental agencies encouraged financial institutions to meet financial needs of customers and members affected by coronavirus. The FOMC chose to have an unscheduled meeting and press conference on 3/3/20 (sort of like the old days), because of the coronavirus crisis. The FOMC set the Interest on Excess Reserves Rate (IOER) target to 1.10%, effective on 3/4/20. They also voted to authorize and direct the Open Market Desk at the FRB NY, until instructed otherwise, to execute transactions in the System Open Market Account (SOMA) as necessary to maintain the Fed Funds rate in a target of 1.00%-1.25%, down 50bp. The FOMC also instructed the Fed to continue purchasing Treasury bills at least into Q2 of 2020, to maintain over time ample reserve balances at or above the level that prevailed in early September 2019 (before the liquidity problems of year-end). The FOMC also directed the FRB to continue conducting term and O/N repo operations at least through April 2020 to ensure ample supply of reserves. The FOMC also directed the desk to conduct overnight Reverse Repo operations at an offering rate of 1.00% in amounts limited only by the value of Treasury securities in its SOMA account that are available for such operations and up to a per-counterparty limit of $30 billion per day. If that wasn’t enough, the FOMC also directed the desk to continue to reinvest P&I from MBS securities it owns in Treasury securities, up to $20 billion per month, and to engage in Dollar Rolls and Coupon Swap transactions as necessary to facilitate the market.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Here in Florida, we prepare for hurricanes and lightning, but are not used to earthquakes here. I’m looking at a global map of the teutonic plates and I see that much of the activity is down the entire west side of the Pacific plate and northwestern South American plate.

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has been the most used, forecast a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. It turned out to be the 4th year in a row of above-average damaging seasons. We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. It became the 7th year that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season.

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20.

As for the weather, Florida is cool 60s and 70s and very windy. It should begin moving back into the 80s over the weekend. We had a couple of days last week that hit record highs in the 90s!

Sports News:

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months). The World Series went 7 games, and the Washington Nationals, who were in the Postseason for the first time, beat the Houston Astros, who had won the World Series in 2017, 4 games to 3 games. The cool thing, from my perspective, is that they share the same brand new Spring Training facility right here in West Palm Beach, FL, and I sing the National Anthem for both teams several times during Spring Training, and I auditioned for both 2020 Spring Training for the Cardinals, Marlins, Astros, and Nationals. So, I’ve already had the honor to sing 3 National Anthems and “God Bless America”s this year, and I have at least 3 more to sing at. That will bring my total of MLB games, since 2003, to 156. I have noticed that the Astros’ games have had more players getting booed by the home crowd, hit by opposing pitchers, and even banging on trash cans. One amusing incident in their home park was when fans brought signs calling the Astros cheaters for their admitted sign-stealing electronically in 2017, when they won the World Series, and the Astros’ ballpark security took the signs from the fans. They just can’t help themselves from stealing signs! Lol! One clever fan got a sign through that said “Try Stealing This Sign!”

We are about halfway through Spring Training. For the third year in a row, all 30 MLB teams will be in action at the start of the season on the same day, March 26th. Hopefully, despite coronavirus, there will be fans in the seats. The Red Sox finally named a manager, Ron Roenicke. He has been their bench coach the last 2 seasons. They also survived a scare, a week after trading MVP Mookie Betts and former Cy Young David Price away to the Dodgers, as ace Chris Sale was found to have only a strained tendon and didn’t require surgery. The Astros named Dusty Baker as their manager. The Cardinals new manager is Mike Shildt. Thursday, MLB will put into effect its most controversial rule change in recent memory, the 3-batter minimum for relief pitchers, in their Spring Training games. Players and managers are not happy with the rule change. MLB’s intention with the rule is to speed up the game, with less pitching changes. It is likely to have unintended consequences as well.

The Coronavirus is now having an impact on MLB, as the Mariners announced that they won’t be playing any games in Seattle in March, because they want to keep the fans safe from the virus. All of MLB is now considering what steps to take, since the season starts 3/26. There is even a chance that my Spring Training games I am singing for wind up going fan-less or cancelled.

Golf:

Tyrell Hatton, from England, won the PGA’s Arnold Palmer Invitational this past Sunday. It was his first PGA Tour title and it was followed by major drinking. He said it could have been the copious red wine, or the vodka and tequila drunk out of the bottle, that is making him still feel poorly. He plans to play today in the Players Championship though. The PGA Tour is going forward with the Players Championship first round today, on schedule, at Ponte Vedra (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). Tiger Woods has become the first member of the 2021 Hall of Fame class. Bruce Koepka has flown to Las Vegas to see golf coach Butch Harmon, to try to fix his recent golf problems. I actually had the honor of taking a 5-day course with customers with Butch Harmon in Las Vegas. Jordan Spieth is also looking to find his form again and is in Augusta working on his swing, in anticipation of the Masters. Rory McIlroy just compared Pete Dye designed golf courses to the taste of beer. But, Rory, there’s no railroad ties in beer. The PGA Tour announced a 9-year media rights deal. Hovland working with coach to not “suck at chipping”.

The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, scheduled for next week, has been postponed due to coronavirus concerns. The European Tour schedule for 2020 season:

¥ 11/28-12/1/19 Hong Kong Open
¥ 11/28-12/1/19 Alfred Dunhill Championship
¥ 12/5-12/8/19 Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open
¥ 12/19-12/22/19 Australian PGA Championship
¥ 1/9-1/12/20 South African Open
¥ 1/16-1/19 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
¥ 1/23-1/26 Omega Dubai Desert Classic
¥ 1/30-2/2 Saudi International
¥ 2/6-2/9 ISPS Handa Vic Open
¥ 2/20-2/23 WGC-Mexico Championship
¥ 2/27-3/1 Oman Open
¥ 3/5-3/8 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters
¥ 3/12-3/15 Magical Kenya
¥ 3/19-3/22 Hero Indian Open
¥ 3/25-3/29 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
¥ 4/9-4/12 The Masters
¥ 4/16-4/19 Maybank Championship
¥ 4/23-4/26 Volvo China Open
¥ 4/30-5/3 Estrella D. Andalucia Masters
¥ 5/9-5/10 GolfSixes Cascals
¥ 5/14-5/17 US PGA Championship
¥ 5/21-5/24 Made in Denmark
¥ 5/28-5/31 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open
¥ 6/4-6/7 Trophee Hassan II
¥ 6/11-6/14 Scandinavian Invitation
¥ 6/18-6/21 US Open
¥ 6/25-6/28 BMW International Open
¥ you have to believe that I had no idea this would be so long and that I just wanted to be helpful/informational…
¥ 7/2-7/5 Open de France
¥ 7/2-7/5 WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational
¥ 7/9-7/12 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open
¥ 7/16-7/19 The 149th Open (British Open)
¥ 7/30-8/2 Betfred British Masters
¥ 7/30-8/2 Olympic Men’s Golf Competition
¥ 8/6-8/9 UK event
¥ 8/20-8/23 D+D Real Czech Masters
¥ 8/27-8/30 Omega European Masters
¥ 9/3-9/6 Porsche European Open
¥ at least I can keep this in the Commentary and just update it for the next year…
¥ 9/10-9/13 BMW PGA Championship
¥ 9/17-9/20 KLM Open
¥ 9/25-9/27 The 2020 Ryder Cup
¥ 10/1-10/4 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
¥ 10/8-10/11 Italian Open
¥ 10/15-10/18 Mutuactivos Open de Espana
¥ 10/22-10/25 Portugal Masters
¥ 10/29-11/1 WGC-HSC Champions
¥ 11/5-11/8 Turkish Airlines Open
¥ 11/12-11/15 Nedbank Golf Challenge
¥ 11/19-11/22 DP World Tour Championship

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended Sunday night, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs had not won a Super Bowl since Super Bowl IV, 52 years ago, snapping the longest drought of any NFL team. Teams are now focused on the Free Agency start date of 3/18/20 and the Draft Day after that. The Bengals have the No.1 pick in the Draft. The Patriots are in for a difficult week on both fronts, as there is endless speculation about whether star QB Tom Brady will leave the team for another team and much more money in Free Agency, and whether the Patriots will finally draft a QB to replace Brady in the future. The Super Bowl champion Chiefs face a tough week of Free Agency, as the are in salary cap hell. Quarterbacks, in fact, are the biggest dominoes in the 2020 NFL Free Agency, with Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and possibly Cam Newton hitting the market. Brees will probably be re-signed by the Saints and Prescott will probably be franchise-tagged by the Cowboys. Newton is not eligible to be a Free Agent, but he is rumored to be on the trading block. Teams expect CB Byron Jones to become the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history at $16-$18 million per year. Former Patriot TE Rob Gronkowski is reportedly close to signing with WWE to professionally wrestle. If that’s confusing, Tom Brady just launched a film production company in Hollywood. I’m having a hard time this offseason, watching Mookie Betts leave the Red Sox and maybe Tom Brady leave the Patriots.

The XFL 2020 season begins began, 12 weeks beginning in February 8th, and running through April. There will be 43 games, including playoffs which will determine the champion of the restarted 8-team football league. The XLF East includes the D.C. Defenders, New York Guardians, St. Louis Battlehawks, and Tampa Bay Vipers. The XLF West includes the Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats, and Seattle Dragons. Fox, ABC and ESPN will carry all the games. If you are missing football that much, you will recognize some former college and NFL players.

Cricket

In cricket, the Women’s T20 World Cup concluded with Australia defeating India in the Final. Player of the Match was Alyssa Healy.

NCAA Football:

After about 100 bowl games (it seems) over many weeks, the College Football Playoffs came down to 4 teams: No.1 and unbeaten LSU made easy work of No.4 Oklahoma 63-28 on 12/28, and No.3 Clemson won a close battle over No.2 Ohio State 29-23, on the same day. That left LSU to play Clemson for College Football National Championship, which they did this week on Monday. Despite LSU playing in the New Orleans Superdome (so, a home field/crowd advantage), and having the Heisman Trophy-winning QB Joe Burrow, they were down in the 2nd quarter 17-7 to Clemson star QB Trevor Lawrence, but came roaring back by halftime, and won 42-25, winning their first National Title since 2007. Seven LSU players already are entering the NFL Draft. Clemson won the National Title last year and this was their 4th time in 5 years of being in the Finals. Virginia Tech’s Fuente is out of running to coach Baylor. LSU’s coach Ed Orgeron won Bryant Award as top college coach. To pour salt in my wounds, underachieving Michigan State’s legendary coach, Dantonio, has retired. Coronavirus has caused the Ivy League to cancel all spring sports.

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll:

1. LSU 13-0
2. Clemson 14-1
3. Ohio State 13-1
4. Georgia 12-2
5. Oregon 12-2
6. Florida 11-2
7. Oklahoma 12-2
8. Alabama 11-2
9. Penn State 11-2
10. Minnesota 11-2
11. Wisconsin 10-4
12. Notre Dame 11-2
13. Baylor 11-3
14. Auburn 9-4
15. Iowa 10-3
16. Utah 11-3
17. Memphis 12-2
18. Michigan 9-4
19. Appalachian State 13-1
20. Navy 11-2
21. Cincinnati 11-3
22. Air Force 11-2
23. Boise State 12-2
24. UCF 10-3
25. Texas 8-5

NCAA Hockey

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season, analysts are seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell is currently ranked No.1 in the nation.

NCAA Basketball

The Coronavirus is having an impact on college basketball, as the Governor of Ohio has declared that there will be no fans at the Ohio NCAA tourney games. The college basketball season is rushing towards March Madness, right after this week’s conference tourneys.

THIS JUST IN: THE NCAA, ON WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, MADE THE DECISION TO HOLD ITS MARCH MADNESS TOURNAMENT FOR MEN’S AND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL WITHOUT FANS, DUE TO ADVICE ON THE CORONAVIRUS. ONLY ESSENTIAL STAFF AND LIMITED FAMILY MEMBERS WILL ATTEND THE CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENTS.

Here is the current AP Top 25 for the regular season:

1. Kansas 28-3
2. Gonzaga 29-2
3. Dayton 29-2
4. FSU 26-5
5. Baylor 26-4
6. San Diego State 30-2
7. Creighton 24-7
8. Kentucky 25-6
9. Michigan State 22-9
10. Duke 25-6
11. Villanova 24-7
12. Maryland 24-7
13. Oregon 24-7
14. Brigham Young 24-7
15. Louisville 24-7
16. Seton Hall 21-9
17. Virginia 23-7
18. Wisconsin 21-10
19. Ohio State 21-10
20. Auburn 25-6
21. Illinois 21-10
22. West Virginia 21-10
23. Houston 23-8
24. Butler 22-9
25. Iowa 20-11

NHL:

Last season ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this season on 10/2/19. The All-Star Games (it is a round-robin event now over 2 days) were held, and although the Eastern Conference-Atlantic Division lost in the finals, it’s Captain, Bruins’ Pastrnok took home the MVP trophy.

We are approaching the long postseason, after 82 games, which should end again in June, but here are the current standings. In the Eastern Conference: in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins are in first with a smoking 44-14-12 record (best in NHL with 100 points) after breaking the Flyers win streak of 9 games Tuesday night on Tuuka Rask’s birthday, with the Lightning in second (tied for 2nd best record); in the Metropolitan Division, the Capitals are in first with a 41-20-8 record ( tied for 3rd best in the NHL), followed by the Flyers in second. In the Western Conference: in the Central Division, the Stanley Cup Champion Blues are in first place at 41-19-10 (tied for 2nd best in NHL), followed by the Avalanche in second (tied for 3rd best in NHL) and the surprising Stars in third; in the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights lead with a 39-24-8 record, and the Golden Knights are just ahead of the Oilers in second place. The Canucks, who had been leading the Division through most of the season, have dropped to 4th place. The worst team in the NHL continues to be the Red Wings, boasting a dreadful 17-49-5 record.

THIS AFTERNOON, THE NHL ANNOUNCED THAT IT IS SUSPENDING ITS SEASON INDEFINITELY BECAUSE OF THE RAPID SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS, BUT HOPES TO RESUME IN THE FUTURE. THERE ARE 189 GAMES AND 3 ½ WEEKS LEFT IN THE REGULAR SEASON.

NBA:

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We are nearing the playoffs. Coronavirus is having an impact on the NBA now, with LeBron James saying that he won’t play in an empty stadium, even if officials keep fans away to keep the public safe. The Warriors will face the Nets in an empty Chase Center.

BREAKING NEWS FROM THE NBA: LATE WEDNESDAY NIGHT, A PLAYER FOR THE UTAH JAZZ, RUDY GOBERT, TESTED POSITIVE FOR THE CORONAVIRUS BEFORE TIP-OFF OF A GAME WITH OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, AND THE GAME WAS CANCELLED. FOLLOWING THAT, THE NBA ISSUED A STATEMENT THAT THE REGULAR SEASON HAS BEEN SUSPENDED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE DUE TO CORONAVIRUS CONCERNS FOR PLAYERS AND FANS. MARK CUBAN, OWNER OF THE MAVERICKS, WAS STUNNED BY THE SUSPENSION, BUT SAID HE WILL SUPPORT ALL MAVERICKS EMPLOYEES WHO CAN’T WORK.

There is only a little over a month left in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and teams are still jockeying for a playoff position. The current standings are: Eastern Conference has No.1 Bucks, No.2 Raptors, No.3 Celtics, No.4 Heat, No.5 Pacers, No.6 76ers, and the rest are well behind; Western Conference has No.1 Lakers, No.2 Clippers, No.3 Nuggets, No.4 Jazz, No.5 Thunder, No.6 Rockets, and No.7 Mavs, and the rest are well behind.

Horse Racing:

Hall of Fame rider Prado is only 10 wins away from catching Icon Cordero.

Racing:

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead. In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead. Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017. The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results:

2/16 Daytona 500
2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400
3/1 Auto Club 400
3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500
3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400
3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
4/5 Bristol, Food City 500
4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400
4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500
5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover
5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville
5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open
5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600
5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400
6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400
6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350
6/21 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400
6/28 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350
7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Vodka 400
7/11 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart
7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301
8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400
8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen
8/23 Dover, Drydene 400
8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400
playoffs:
9/6 Darlington, Southern 500
9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400
9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400
10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500
10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400
10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400
10/25 Texas, Texas 500
11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race
11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship

Formula One begins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That will be followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule. Three F1 team members have been placed in isolation over coronavirus fears. I will be posting the 2020 Formula One calendar in the next Repo Commentary:

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne-won by V. Bottas
3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir-won by Lewis Hamilton
4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000th Grand Prix)-won by Lewis Hamilton
4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku-won by V. Bottas
5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona-won by Lewis Hamilton
5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco-won by Lewis Hamilton
6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal-won by Lewis Hamilton
6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet-won by Lewis Hamilton
6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg-won by Max Verstappen
7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone-won by Lewis Hamilton
7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim-won by Max Verstappen
8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest-Lewis Hamilton
9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa-Charles Leclerc
9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza-Charles Leclerc
9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore-Sebastian Vettel
9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi-Lewis Hamilton
10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka-V. Bottas
10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City-Lewis Hamilton
11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX-V. Bottas
11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo-M. Verstappen
12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit and its 2019 calendar and results (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars). The season just ended, with Josef Newgarden coming in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. I will be posting the 2020 calendar in the next Repo Commentary:

3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-Josef Newgarden
3/24 Circuit of the Americas-Colton Herta
4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato
4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach-Alexander Rossi
5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis-Simon Pagenaud
5/26 Indianapolis 500-Simon Pagenaud
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-Josef Newgarden
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-Scott Dixon
6/8 Texas Grand Prix-Josef Newgarden
6/23 Road America-Alexander Rossi
7/14 Honda Indy Toronto-Simon Pagenaud
7/20 Iowa 300-Josef Newgarden
7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio-Scott Dixon
8/18 Pocono Grand Prix-Will Power (I love that name!)
8/24 Gateway Grand Prix-Takuma Sato
9/1 Grand Prix of Portland-Will Power (that’s all it takes)
9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca-Colton Herta

Travel News:

Boeing’s woes continue. Due to the grounded 737-MAX planes, Boeing has estimated losses of $18.7 billion, and counting. The CDC and State Department have warned travelers to avoid cruises and cruise ships. The US government has taken unprecedented steps with respect to TRAVEL in response to the increasing public health threat posed by this new coronavirus:
• Foreign nationals who have been in China or iran within the past 14 days cannot enter the US.
• US citizens, residents, and their immediate family members who have been in China or Iran within the past 14 days can enter the US, but they are subject to health monitoring and possible quarantine for up to 14 days.
Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara won the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

THIS MORNING, PRINCESS CRUISES ANNOUNCED THAT DUE TO CORONAVIRUS FEARS, THEY ARE SUSPENDING OPERATIONS OF ALL THEIR CRUISE SHIPS FOR THE NEXT 60 DAYS.

Health News:

The WHO came just shy of calling the global outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) a ‘pandemic’ last week, but emphasized its concerns about the global virus and called it a ‘public health emergency of international concern.’ On Wednesday, the WHO said COVID-19 is “pandemic”. As of 3/7/20, the WHO announced that the global number of cases of COVID-19 has surpassed 115,000. The number of deaths due to coronavirus has surpassed 1,000, outside of China. There have been more than 1,250 cases of coronavirus confirmed in the US. The UN has released $15 million to help vulnerable countries battle the spread of coronavirus. The CDC calls the respiratory disease, which is spread by droplets that are ingested from infected people or from surfaces that they transferred the virus to, a novel or new coronavirus. It was originally detected first in the city of Wuhan, in the Hubei Province of China (involving a large seafood and live animal market), but has now been detected in more than 100 locations internationally, including the US. The CDC says the virus is SARS-CoV-2 and that disease it causes is COVID-19. While the world, and especially China, deal with the Coronavirus, a new strain of bird flu has emerged in China, in two provinces near Hubei, again. Some 1,840 fowl were killed by the H5N6 virus in Sichuan, China, according to authorities on Tuesday. On February 1, officials said 4,500 chickens had died of the H5N1 virus in Hunan. The news comes as Beijing drains all of its medical resources to fight coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals. Rarely, do animal coronaviruses infect people and then spread between people (referred to as zoonotic), but those diseases have gained the most media attention and panic over the last couple of decades, including: MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, Swine Flu, H1N1 Bird Flu, and this SARS-CoV-2. The MERS and SARS viruses have their origins in bats, although the transfer of MERS was from dromedary camels and the original SARS via civet cats. The symptoms in humans are respiratory difficulty, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Authorities estimate that the fatality rate is about 3%, with patients suffering pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or kidney failure.

The Trump Administration released several pages of simple behaviors for keeping schools, homes and businesses safe during the coronavirus outbreak. I have some simpler advice (below) from a leading virologist in California, Dr. Robb of UC San Diego:

• NO HANDSHAKING (use fist bump, elbow bump, or bow)
• USE ONLY YOUR KNUCKLE TO TOUCH LIGHT SWITCHES, ELEVATOR BUTTONS, ETC. (use disposable gloves for gasoline pumps)
• OPEN DOORS WITH YOUR CLOSED FIST OR HIP
• USE DISINFECTANT WIPES PROVIDED BY STORES TO WIPE HANDLES AND GROCERY CARTS
• WASH YOUR HANDS WITH SOAP FOR 10-20 SECONDS AND/OR USE A GREATER THAN 60% ALCOHOL-BASED HAND SANITIZER (whenever you return from ANY activity that involves locations where other people gather)
• KEEP A BOTTLE OF HAND SANITIZER AT EACH OF YOUR HOME’S ENTRANCES AND IN YOUR CAR
• IF POSSIBLE, COUGH OR SNEEZE INTO A DISPOSABLE TISSUE AND DISCARD, AS YOUR HANDS OR EVEN ELBOW/GARMENT WILL CONTAIN INFECTIOUS VIRUS THAT CAN BE PASSED ON FOR UP TO A WEEK
• USE SURGICAL MASKS AROUND PEOPLE COUGHING OR SNEEZING TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF TIMES YOU TOUCH YOUR FACE (we touch our nose/mouth on average 90 times per day, without knowing it!)
• STOCK UP ON LATEX OR NITRILE GLOVES, HAND SANITIZER, SURGICAL MASKS, ZINC LOZENGES (proven effective in blocking viruses worsening when taken early)

Last night, President Trump addressed the American public from the Oval Office, for only the second time during his Presidency, to announce sweeping and unprecedented efforts by the US Government to contain the coronavirus and protect the American people. He announced that he is closing the US to any incoming foreigners from Europe (except the UK), which will impact 26 countries, as of Midnight on Friday 3/13/20 (kind of implying that the contagion in the US may have been a result of the open-border policy of the EU). He has also approved $8.3 billion in aid to hospitals and health agencies to specifically deal with coronavirus, and has met with the heads of major health insurers to get them to suspend co-payments for Americans affected by the coronavirus. He also said that the IRS will take steps to postpone the tax deadlines for specific people and business directly impacted by coronavirus. He instructed people to wash their hands, cover their coughs and sneezes, clean often handled surfaces, and to not go to work if you feel sick. He mentioned the high risk of visits to nursing homes for the elderly health, and asked to have those limited. The government is also coordinating with various local municipalities, who are most affected by coronavirus, about school closings and large public gatherings. Also, perhaps helpful to the stock market comfort, he mentioned that he is working with Congress to enact a State of Emergency which would put $50 billion in play to be used to combat the virus, has called for Congress to allow the SBA to make available another $50 billion for small business loans to companies affected by the virus, and called on Congress to suspend immediately all Payroll Taxes for Americans. In my opinion, working with Congress will not necessarily be an easy task, although I think both the Administration and Congress have the same goals. Democrats have indicated strong resistance to Payroll Tax suspension and have other plans they would like to put forth. The SBA loan number of $50 billion is huge, but the US is now more a service-based economy, not a manufacturing-based economy, so getting money paid back will rely on customers filling tables and hotel rooms, instead of future manufactured goods being sold; a taller task.

Walmart and other retailers face a coronavirus challenge, with sick workers and fearful customers. Speaking of fearful customers, I have been seeing here in Florida, empty shelves of bottled water, hand-sanitizers, handi-wipes, surgical gloves and surgical masks, toilet paper, batteries, non-perishable food, etc. as customers grab whatever they can find, either to combat the virus or to anticipate a potential 2-week quarantine. In Florida, it is similar to the frenzy we see each year during Hurricane season. I have a picture in today’s Gallery of the shelf for toilet paper on Wednesday for my local Publix. Pharmacies and retailers are forced to now limit the number of each item that people can buy. In response to the coronavirus concerns, Starbucks announced that they will, for the time being, not be refilling customers’ reusable cups with coffee. Here in Boca Raton, FL, FAU just announced Wednesday that they are making all classes online and not in-person to avoid contact between students and contain the virus. They are following suit from other universities and colleges across the country. Health expert, Michael Osterholm, who predicted the spread of the coronavirus across the world says the pandemic will last 6 months and that a mask and gloves will not stop you catching it. Actually, doctors have already said that the mask is not to prevent you from passing the virus on or from water droplets from sneezes and coughs not to enter your system. The mask primarily prevents you from touching your face and transferring virus on your hands to entry points on the face. A new study reported in the Miami Herald suggests that coronavirus patients may be contagious up to 37 days. Another study, reported by Drudge Report, says that the coronavirus can survive in the air. The NY Post pointed out on Monday that they hysteria surrounding coronavirus should be put in perspective, as more than 18,000 Americans have already died in from this season’s generic flu out of some 45 million cases. In 2018, the CDC estimated there were 80,000 generic flu deaths. The NY Post went on to say “that’s against 19 coronavirus deaths so far (in US), from about 470 cases.” I read an article regarding 2/10/20, which was one of the worst days so far for coronavirus in China. On that particular day:
• 108 people died in China of coronavirus
• 26,283 people died of Cancer that day globally
• 24,641 people died of Heart Disease that day globally
• 4,300 people died of Diabetes that day globally
• 3,024 people died of Suicide that day globally
• 2,740 people died from mosquitoes that day globally
• 1,300 people died from being killed by other humans that day
• 137 people died from snakes that day

Animal News:

Scientists have recently determined that octopuses are highly intelligent, perhaps more intelligent that dolphins, which has put them at the center of a controversy. They are a culinary delicacy that is in greater demand, pitting the conservation of wild octopuses against the ethics of mass-breeding them for human consumption. NYC has a turtle problem. People are abandoning their pets at an alarming rate in city parks, particularly Central Park, which is now overpopulating these parks. Recently, a very rare pink manta was spotted and filmed off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Scientists say that the rosy hue is not due to infection or its diet (like flamingoes). A very rare white giraffe mother and her white calf were just killed in Africa by poachers. Vital pollinators, bumblebees, are going extinct in time of temperature extremes. Did you know that earthquakes can make it harder for whales to find food? A 2016 study showed that a major earthquake wiped out in whole animal communities, causing a ripple effect up the food chain. With the WHO declaring the coronavirus a pandemic, more Chinese citizens are pushing to end their wildlife markets, where other diseases have also originated. A new study that 4 new species of colorful sharks, found in 2008, have evolved to walk on land and did it quickly. 10 new bird species have been found in a little-explored ‘lost world’ in the Indonesian islands. One of the world’s largest fish, the Chinese paddlefish, has been declared instinct, last seen in its native China Yangtze River in 2003. The fish grew to more than 22 feet in length. The Australian extreme heat has been killing flying foxes by the thousands. Bears are coming out of hibernation early this year.

Entertainment News:

With the specter of the coronavirus, organizers have decided to postpone the annual Spring Coachella festival and concerts until the Fall. Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, accused by dozens of women of years of sexual abuse, was found guilty on 2 counts in NYC, and was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison (20 for one count and 3 for the other count), the maximum sentence. Sentencing had to wait, as Weinstein underwent a heart procedure right after his trial, before being returned to Rikers Island. Now, Weinstein faces a trial with more accusers in Los Angeles. I assume that prison officials are now treating him as a ‘suicide risk’. Here is some positive celebrity news, Neil Diamond, 79, who had cancelled the third leg of his 50th Anniversary tour two years ago (right after I saw him perform here in Florida) and retired, after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, made a surprise appearance in Las Vegas and performed an entire set of his hits for the stunned crowd. He said he has been coping well with Parkinson’s and feels well enough to possibly take a singing regular residence in Las Vegas (ala Celine, Elton John, Cher, Britney Spears, etc.). Late Wednesday, actor Tom Hanks and his actress wife, Rita Wilson, announced from Australia that they both have contracted coronavirus and are now in quarantine. Some of the live late night television shows are going to take precautions and do the shows without live audiences, starting next week. The View began shooting without a live audience on Wednesday. Kate Middleton is reportedly taking Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s departure from Royal duties and England very “badly”, according to Vanity Fair magazine. Angela Bassett just spilled secrets on “amazing” BLACK PANTHER sequel. Chris Harrison officially shut down all those Peter Weber and BACHELOR producer romance rumors. Meanwhile, the latest BACHELOR just ended, with him asking one girl to marry him, then them breaking up within 30 days, and then him marrying the runnerup. Matthew Broderick’s sister, Janet, has been hospitalized with coronavirus. World-renowned chef Michel Roux has died. Chelsea Manning made a suicide attempt, according to lawyers.

This past weekend’s box-office, weekend 10 of 2020, was pretty strong, considering coronavirus fears of large gatherings. ONWARD claimed the top spot in its debut, with $39.1 million in box-office. THE INVISIBLE MAN dropped to No.2, with $15.1 million, in its second week. THE WAY BACK, debuted at No.3, with $8.2 million in box-office revenues. SONIC THE HEDGEHOG fell from No.2 to No.4, with $7.7 million, in its 4th week. Don’t be sad though, as it has earned $140.5 million total. Rounding out the Top 5, was THE CALL OF THE WILD, earning $6.8 million, in its 3rd week.

Opening this Friday, I STILL BELIEVE, BLOODSHOT, THE HUNT, HEART OF AFRICA, BIG TIME ADOLESCENCE, BLOCK Z, CORPUS CHRISTI, NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS, MISS FISHER AND THE CRYPT OF TEARS, THE POSTCARD KILLINGS, THE ROADS NOT TAKEN, MADHA, HUMAN NATURE, and TUSCALOOSA.

Technology & Space News:

Monday, we saw a Wolf Supermoon full moon (20% larger than normal). Apple is seeing China iPhone shipments drop in a ‘doomsday’ scenario due to the coronavirus. BOA warns that the production delays could lead to delayed iPhone launches. Google has told more than 100,000 North American employees to stay home. After news of Dell and Amazon pulling out of the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference & festivals (which is a convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries to be held in Austin, TX 3/13-3/22/20, the City of Austin has decided to cancel this annual event, in light of the danger of the coronavirus.

US News:

Since I last wrote on 2/07/20, many of the Democratic Presidential candidates have dropped out of the race. Notably, Elizabeth Warren and Mike Bloomberg withdrew. It was the second time that Bloomberg has quit a Presidential race. This time he didn’t throw his hat in the ring until November, missed all but one of the debates, and quite by March, while spending about $580 million on his campaign and national ads. Not only did he set a record for any Presidential campaign spending in history (eclipsing Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign spending of $320 million), but he did it in a record short period of time, less than 4 months! What that $580 million could have done for the homeless and hungry in the US; research into many deadly diseases; Flint, Michigan’s water supply; cleaning up plastic; reducing veterans’ suicides; paying our school teachers, first responders, and soldiers; even fighting coronavirus, etc. For Bloomberg, it was just a drop in the bucket versus his $64 billion fortune. It’s not necessarily him, but the fractured US political system. Joe Biden won big on Super Tuesday, knocking out most of his opponents, except Bernie Sanders. But, wins in this week’s 352 delegate primaries in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Washington, and Ohio gave him almost an insurmountable lead (more than 150 delegates) over Sanders. Coronavirus has infected the campaign too, as both candidates cancelled evening rallies in Cleveland, citing guidance from public health officials there. Joe Biden has decided that he will hold some of his rallies virtually, going forward, because of coronavirus scares. Meanwhile, in Washington State, which has been among the hardest-hit states by coronavirus, elections were all mail-in ballot form, averting the need for large gatherings of people at polling place. Officials still suggested further cautionary measure, by urging voters to use damp sponges or cloths to seal the ballot return envelopes, instead of licking them. A 61-year-old woman from Ocala, FL, on Wednesday claimed the $396.9 million Powerball drawn on 1/29/20. She had bought the Quick Pick ticket at a 7-Eleven in Bonita Springs. She chose the lump-sum payment of $276.6 million. The US is considering extending the IRS Tax deadline of 4/15/20, because of the coronavirus.

International News:

Two more US soldiers (US Marines this time) in Iraq, as they helped the Iraqi Special Forces clear ISIS tunnels. Italy has taken the extraordinary measure of putting its entire county under lockdown quarantine because of the coronavirus; no one in and no one out. Other European nations are stepping up their containment efforts. German Chancellor Merkel said on Wednesday that the coronavirus was likely to infect about two-thirds of the German population. Currently, more than 1,200 people are infected in Germany. The UK health minister Nadine Dorries has been diagnosed with coronavirus. Sweden has reported its first death from coronavirus Wednesday. More than 460 people are currently infected with coronavirus in Sweden. 36 people are infected with coronavirus in Scotland. The Ukraine has joined other European countries taking drastic measures, despite Ukraine having only one case so far, closing all educational institutions until 4/3/20 and banning all gatherings of more than 200 people. Turkey has announced its first case of coronavirus. Iran’s VP has been diagnosed with coronavirus. There are now over 10,000 coronavirus cases in Iran. Three people have died so far in the UK from coronavirus and there are 206 confirmed cases there. The EU plans to give migrants EU 2,000 to go back home from Greece, where migrant camps are squalid and overcrowded. A Brazilian man has tested positive for coronavirus, days after posing with President Trump and Vice President Pence. Canada’s Trudeau has self-quarantined at home. Russia is pushing bioweapon conspiracy theories.

Florida:

THIS JUST IN, LATE LAST NIGHT AT 11:30pm, A PASSENGER BOARDED A FLIGHT FROM NYC’S JFK AIRPORT TO WEST PALM BEACH, FL, KNOWING THAT HE HAD THE CORONAVIRUS, SO NOW THE VIRUS IS HERE. HEALTH OFFICIALS MET THE PLANE AND WHISKED HIM OFF TO THE HOSPITAL, AND TOOK HIS UNSUSPECTING PASSENGERS TO BE QUARANTINED FOR 14 DAYS. FRANKLY, I THINK HE SHOULD BE ARRESTED. IF SOMEONE WERE TO DIE, I THINK THERE IS A TYPE OF MANSLAUGHTER CHARGE THAT WOULD COVER THAT.

The snowbirds are starting to leave Florida early this year, not waiting until Easter. I don’t know if that’s because the weather has not been great the last few weeks here (60s/70s, very windy, rainy), or if it has anything to do with coronavirus fears.

I am usually singing a National Anthem, singing in my 6-part harmony group Generation Gap, and/or doing an Elvis Presley gig, each week here in Palm Beach County, FL. I had many gigs in November and December, quieted down in January, but has picked up again with private gigs and 6 MLB Spring Training games. If you were inclined to see much more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances, there were many acts which came to Florida in 2019, and these are expected to come (or have come) in 2020 (below). A public service announcement about the outdoor amphitheater in West Palm Beach (currently adjacent to the South Florida Fair), it has been very confusing with all the name changes, and it has happened again. It was originally called the Coral Sky Amphitheater, then was changed to the Cruzan Rum Amphitheater, then to Perfekt Vodka Amphitheater, then back to Coral Sky Amphitheater, and was changed again to iThink Financial Services Amphitheater. None of the names have been particularly catchy and all those changes occurred only in the last 11 years! Because of the coronavirus, some events, such as fairs and boat shows in Florida have been cancelled or postponed. So, please check ahead of time to see if the concert you are going to is still being held.

SOUTH FLORIDA 2020 SCHEDULE (next 2 months):

Celine Dion-Miami, January 17
Queensryche-Fort Lauderdale, January 17
Brian Wilson-Miami, January 17
Mary Wilson-Bonita Springs, January 19
Starship-West Palm Beach, January 22
Steve Martin & Martin Short-Hollywood, January 25
Guns N Roses-Miami, January 31
Jason Aldean,Riley Green,Morgan Wallen-Orlando, January 31
Maroon 5-Miami, February 1
Zac Brown Band-Sunrise, February 1
Styx-Port St. Lucie, February 1
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 11
Kool and the Gang & Village People-Key West, February 21
John Fogarty-Fort Lauderdale, February 22
Paul Anka-West Palm Beach, March 13
Harry Connick Jr.-Fort Lauderdale, March 18
Cher-Miami, March 24
America-Fort Lauderdale, March 24
YES and Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, March 25
Little River Band-Fort Lauderdale, March 26
The Who-Fort Lauderdale, April 21
Elton John-Miami, May 30
Def Leppard and Motley Crue, Miami Gardens, July 7
Nickelback-West Palm Beach, August 15
Foreigner, Kansas, and Europe-West Palm Beach, September 6
 

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