I hope you and your families are all safe and healthy. As the coronavirus pandemic takes its literal mortal toll on thousands of people around the world, and its increasingly damaging toll on the global economy, and a worrying toll on peoples’ livelihoods, it is also taking a toll on many peoples’ mental health. Some psychologists say that the symptoms of this latter problem are akin to PTSD, causing severe depression, mood swings, the desire not to get out of bed, the feeling of futility, mostly because our jobs, our wealth, our pastimes, and our social interactions have been taken away from us by the disease, and we don’t know why or when it will stop. It is apparently also hard on children, who don’t have any life experiences that are even similar to draw on for comfort. They need to know that everything will continue without interruption. There are pressures on family life and relationships and marriages, as we hunker down in close quarters for longer periods of time than we normally do and try to find things to do, or tackle parenting, adopting new animals, home schooling, and go on hunting/seeking necessary supplies. I’ve noticed that I am way more distracted than ever, as I drive, as I sit here and write, and I feel a little ‘off-kilter’. That latter feeling I haven’t felt since the Great Recession of 2008 and in the aftermath of 9/11. It feels like when you step outside, to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, McDonald’s, or work, you are almost in a warzone, much emptier streets than usual, and with a threat of attack in the form of a virus from one of your fellow humans, kind of like the fear of the popular TV show “Living Dead”. It’s a really weird feeling. Okay, now I’m hoping I’m not the only one feeling that (he nervously chuckles). The fear of the unknown and the unknown Divine plan in all of this, is making people ‘stir crazy.’ We are all in the same boat. Without our collective patience and caring, we won’t defeat the disease. There are ways to cope with or lessen the mental health issues: create new routines, write daily task lists, make yourself productive, tackle home projects you have put off for months, do your Spring Cleaning, work out using the items you have in the house, home school your children, adopt shelter pets, read more books, learn a new language, paint, remodel your home, learn to paly a musical instrument, listen to music or entertain online for others, take walks if you are allowed to, play golf if you are allowed to, play board games (have you seen that new young peoples’ game Cards Against Humanity??), Face Time happy hours or movie binge watching with family or friends, etc. Most importantly, you have to get out of bed and create a purpose, one day at a time. Reach out to all of your family and friends by phone or text or email and reconnect. Maybe, the Divine Plan is to put our external lives completely on hold, so we focus on our families (and pets) without distractions and focus on what’s really important in life. Meanwhile, I’m here to entertain you and give you some other insights. I am happy to see that over 3,200 of you actually read Tuesday’s Repo Commentary by Thursday, which was really uplifting for me!
I am still not retired and Francisco Franco is still dead. I am available for consulting on all things Repo and Securities Lending, while working on a Fintech solution. So, if you need my almost 38 years of Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (email@example.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.
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 are now seeing it more frequently again. With the virtual quarantine on, I’m able to write it once or twice per week.
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, to make it better! I miss all the pictures you guys used to send me, especially the State Treasurers and CIOs for Redneck Friday features. Yes, they were surprisingly one of my sources. But, I digress, on with the non-fake news.
Holidays or Events (03/27):
¥ National Spanish Paella Day
¥ National Joe Day
¥ International Scribble Day
¥ No Homework Day (well that might be suspended)
¥ Quirky Music Song Titles Day (typically country music, just sayin’)
¥ World Theatre Day
¥ Celebrate Exchange Club Day
¥ Armed Forces Day in Myanmar
¥ International Whisk(e)y Day (let’s see how you spell it after a few)
Some Famous People Born on 3/27 in History:
¥ 1746-Michael Bruce, Scottish poet and composer
¥ 1785-Louis XVII of France
¥ 1863-Henry Royce, English engineer and businessman, founder of Rolls-Royce Limited
¥ 1886-Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, German-American architect, designed IBM Plaza and Seagram Building
¥ 1899-Gloria Swanson, American actress and producer
¥ 1906-Pee Wee Russell, American musician and composer
¥ 1914-Richard Denning, American actor
¥ 1921-Phil Chess, Czech-American record producer, co-founder Chess Records
¥ 1924-Sarah Vaughan, American singer
¥ 1939-Cale Yarborough, American race car driver
¥ 1942-Michael York, English actor
¥ 1963-Randall Cunningham, American football player, coach, and pastor
¥ 1963-Quentin Tarantino, American director, producer, screenwriter, and actor
¥ 1970-Mariah Carey, American singer-songwriter, producer and actress
¥ 1975-Fergie, American singer-songwriter, dancer and actress
¥ 1987-Buster Posey, American baseball player
This Day in History (03/27):
In the interest of speeding the publishing of this edition today, I am going to skip this section.
Daily Weird Facts:
Kit Kat bars are so popular in Japan that there have been over 200 different varieties since 1973, including green tea, adzuki bean, purple yam, and lemon vinegar.
“Avoid popularity; it has many snares, and no real benefit.”—William Penn
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
$27.15/barrel on 3/18
$29.90/barrel on 3/23
$27.43/barrel on 3/27
Oil prices are still low, down almost 59% in just one month! They are now the lowest in more than 17 years. This is crushing the economies based on Oil exports and hurting our fairly young shale domestic production and new wells. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station grudgingly fell this week by another cents, to $1.85/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-60 cents more per gallon. I have heard that somewhere in Kentucky, gasoline is selling for less than $1.00/gallon.
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
101.67 on 03/18/20
104.77 on 03/24/20
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
03/18 at $1.1575
03/24 at $1.1400
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
03/18 at $1.2665
03/24 at $1.2231
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
1.3540 on 03/18
1.3690 on 03/24
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. On 3/18, it is trading at $1,487.60. On 3/24 it was trading at $1,659.80, way up. On 3/27 it is trading at $1,627.00.
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
$5,216.64 on 03/18/20
$6,728.03 on 03/24/20
$6,646.60 on 03/27/20
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:
The coronavirus pandemic has closed many industries, which has quadrupled Distressed Debt in less than a week to nearly $934 billion. This total hasn’t been seen since 2008. Loans are trading for less than 80 cents on the dollar and corporate bonds are 1000 bp above comparable US Treasuries, according to Bloomberg. Municipal Bonds saw their biggest daily price gain since 1993, on 3/24. The SEC is considering postponing enforcement of Regulation Best Interest, which was supposed to be 6/30/20. The WSJ ran an interesting story, in which some market participants were wondering whether conduction bank stress tests this year is a useful exercise or just a distraction from the crisis, not very dissimilar to the stress that’s supposed to be tested. The US is letting some importers postpone some tariff payments. The UK Financial Conduct Authority said that ending use of LIBOR in new loans by 9/30 deadline could be challenging, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Bloomberg reports that Europe’s leaders are split on “coronabond” proposal. The EU is also debating a Marshall Plan-like stimulus. Daily trading of Credit Default Swaps during the coronavirus crisis has surged by as much as 400% versus periods when the market was less stressed, according to IHS Markit. I’m not sure why I didn’t write about this in Tuesday’s Repo Commentary, since I read about it at 6:30pm on Friday on ChicagoBusiness.com, but Chicago broker-dealer/prop trading hedge fund, Ronin Capital, went out of business on Friday. The end was when the CME’s direct clearing firms was unable to meet its capital requirements. That forced the exchange to step in and invoke its emergency protocols to auction off the portfolios. Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and HSBC are among the leading global banks that have told their staffs that they will pause in plans to trim jobs amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, according to the Financial Times. According to Z/Yen’s latest biannual Global Financial Centers Index, the attractiveness of 9 of the top 10 global financial centers has dropped during the past 6 months as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Hong Kong, London and Singapore took the biggest hit, while Geneva was the only hub that improved. Stripe made a $20 million investment in fintech Fast, which is creating a universal “buy” button for digital payments. More than 20 trade organizations, including SIFMA, have signed a letter that requests a delay of IM compliance dates for Phases 5 and 6 of Initial Margin rules, to let members focus resources on ensuring access to the derivatives market, during the coronavirus crisis. The FDIC and other US regulators want banks to offer small-dollar loans to help customers short of cash because of the coronavirus pandemic. The G-20 committed to spending $5 trillion for global recovery. The IMF wants G-20 support of doubled financing capacity. EU leaders are deadlocked on funding the coronavirus fight. The Central Bank of India has cut interest rates and is freezing repayments.
US Market News:
The coronavirus pandemic and various governments’ efforts to contain it are having a dramatic effect on global equity markets. It is most apparent in the volatility of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, lately. One day, it’s down 1000 points, the next day up 1000 points, and the next day down 2000 points. These are huge, and in some cases, record movements, in terms of percentage and actual points. On 3/25, the DJIA went up 1,200 points on the news that the Senate had finally passed the $2.2 trillion emergency stimulus package, but then it closed only up about 500 points, maybe because the House of Representatives still needs to vote on the bill. It was still the first back-to-back positive closes for the Dow since February. By Thursday morning, however, in front of US Unemployment (see US News Section), global equity markets had slipped. But, by the end of trading, the Dow was up a third time in a row, up 1,351 points, back out of bear market zone. As I write this early Friday morning, I see that the Dow opened down about 800 points, although today is the day that the House of Representatives votes on the Stimulus package. I don’t know why regulators don’t reinstate the Uptick Rule, which had been around since 1929 Great Depression, and silently disappeared about 12 years ago. That would impose that no one could sell a stock unless there was an uptick first, which would slow the plummet of the stock market and reduce the aggressive shorting by certain institutions. Small cap stocks have taken a bigger hit than Dow stocks in the huge downtrade.
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):
3/27/20 21,779.56 currently, not closing
2/12/20 29,551.42 record high
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
21,237.38 on 03/17/20
18,591.93 on 03/23/20
22,552.17 on 03/26/20
S&P 500 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 2,480.64
03/17/20 at 2,529.19
03/23/20 at 2,237.40
03/26/20 at 2,630.07
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 7,201.80
03/17/20 at 7,334.78
03/23/20 at 6,860.67
03/26/20 at 7,797.54
The US Bureau of Economic Analysis released updated GDP estimated figures for Q4 2019 2.1% and Q3 2.1%. There was no change in this third estimate, from the second estimate. US With With the massive buying by the Fed of US Treasuries and Agency MBS, Treasury yields were forced down sharply across the curve, especially when compared to the uptick in yields the previous week. Price swings for US Treasuries have slowed down, pulling the CBOT Volatility Index down from an all-time high. Yields on 1-month and 3-month Treasury bills have gone into negative yield territory, joining Japan and much of Europe, who had moved into negative yields much earlier. The front-end of the curve has back up a bit in yield from the low, but the long-end of the curve has backed off more.
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%
03/17/20 at 0.47%
03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!
03/26/20 at 0.30%
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%
03/17/20 at 0.54%
03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!
03/26/20 at 0.36%
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%
03/17/20 at 0.56%
03/23/20 at 0.38% wow!
03/26/20 at 0.51%
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%
03/17/20 at 0.91%
03/23/20 at 0.63% wow!
03/26/20 at 0.72%
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%
03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again
03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again
03/26/20 at 0.83%
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%
03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!
03/23/20 at 1.33% back down
03/26/20 at 1.42%
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will let borrowers facing hardship defer 2 months of mortgage payments. Refinancing of mortgages is a hot topic right now, with consumers able to lock in some of the lowest rates in recent history. 30 year fixed rate mortgages hit a low of 3.00% late last week, but then popped about 0.50% since. With the Fed’s unlimited MBS buying pledge now, HousingWire is wondering aloud just how low can mortgage rates go? I hear from my whole loan expert that the Government is stepping in with a $43 billion package for mortgage servicing of p&I, for when mortgage payments or lease payments are being deferred, to avoid foreclosures, repossessions, and the impairment of the securities that those loans are bundled in. As you will see from my lengthy list in the Florida News section of who this local government deems “Essential Business/Workers”, realtors are one of the seemingly few groups of workers/industries that is being considered non-Essential. Somehow, they fell behind nail and hair salon workers, lawyers, accountants, builders, and liquor stores. In fact, when I look at the list, I only see retailers and realtors as obvious missing categories included as “Essential”. The coronavirus is expected to impact US home prices. Zillow is terminating closing of contracts, citing coronavirus concerns. Appraisers, notaries, and builders are forced to interpret whether their functions are “essential” in local stay-at-home orders. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin established a task force to advise on mortgage cash crunch by 3/30, as he anticipates some homeowners will not be able to make their April 1 mortgage payments, which could hinder firms’ ability to pay mortgage bond investors. I think this is related to the above P&I Servicing news.
Repo/Securities Financing News:
To make this more legible and easier to follow, I will provide a first paragraph of the newest headlines in the Repo & Securities Lending market (I and others like to refer to as Securities Financing). For those reading online, I’ll write this in RED. The subsequent paragraphs of this section will include other issues and my thoughts on the market, for those who haven’t read them before. They will be updated, but won’t change as much as the first paragraph. At some point, I will assume people have read parts of those further paragraphs and will trim them from the Repo Commentary.
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has approved a Financial Crisis-era backstop, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, which will give the 24 primary dealers access for at least 6 months to cash through repos of up to 90 days. The Fed is also actively monitoring the Repo market and committed to provide up to $6 trillion to the Repo market if necessary. They are conducting overnight and term repo operations at least through April. They are even conducting Open Market Operations in the afternoon, after conducting them in the morning, on the same days. Not only is repo cash from typical cash providers in short supply because of the ‘basis-trade’ blowout, causing GC repo rates to be well-above the Fed’s desired Fed Funds target at least until the afternoon, but also because many of those money funds may have suffered redemptions from investors. Money Funds, as my pal Scott Skyrm points out, supply $1.35 trillion in cash to the funding market each day. One thing to watch is how 3/31 quarter-end goes, particularly in light of how difficult December was before the Fed injected some $255 billion into the repo market for year-end.
The Fed was putting about $500 billion into the repo market. As recently as 3/17, the Fed hit the high-water mark of $541 billion RP operations volume. But, on Thursday 3/26, they only had to do $326 billion. Now, what’s really weird is that these RP Operations, which are CASH going to the 24 Primary Dealers, was simultaneous to the Cash Providers of the Primary Dealers submitting $138.5 billion to the Federal Reserve in the RRP program, on Thursday 3/26! So, the Primary Dealers didn’t need as much cash from the Fed and also didn’t need as much cash from their Cash Provider customers. So, the good news is that the market has enough ‘liquidity’ for the primary dealers, but the negative news is that those primary dealers probably are not supplying as much liquidity to Collateral Providers AND they didn’t have enough collateral for the Cash Providers (another type of liquidity). This is a classic example of what I’ve been harping about for the last decade: the Fed can implement programs and operations with expectations that the reduced number of Primary Dealers will ‘behave’ a certain way, such as taking the seemingly unlimited cash and lend it out to collateral providers and then have that collateral available to all the cash providers, thereby providing liquidity as market makers to both sides of the Securities Financing market, as they did in the old days. The problem is, and what Thursday demonstrated, is that the Primary Dealers’ ‘behavior’ may now be different, based on ROC and higher spreads, smaller balance sheet, or capital withholding forced by Regulations. You notice that in my description of Thursday’s Fed actions, there was nothing said about Collateral Providers. Once again, the Fed does not address collateral providers or their issues, except its 24 Primary Dealers. Furthermore, obviously, it’s not efficient to have the Fed lending out cash out one side and taking cash in on the other side. It theoretically balloons the Fed’s Balance Sheet. Scott Skyrm pointed out that the Cash Providers who are using the RRP program, which is currently at 0.00%, are willing to give their cash to the Fed and receive no interest. So, he surmises, they are more interested in “Return OF Capital”, as opposed to “Return ON Capital.”
The Fed Funds target of 0%-0.25% means that we are likely to see some negative repo rates for Treasuries that go Special. That also means we will have to watch those TPMG fails rates. On Monday, Overnight GC traded at 0.04%, at the low end of the Fed Funds target range, but that was with an injection of $449 billion from the Fed. That injection, so far, has only helped the Overnight market, and the yield curve rises dramatically for term repo, as does the bid/offer spread, similar to post 2008. Of course, this is a different market than 2008, as we only have 24 Primary Dealers, and, as Skyrm points out, $23.5 trillion in US Treasury issuance, compared to $10 trillion in 2008.
Bill Foley has begun a new Securities Finance TV, SecFinHub, featuring interviews and discussions with experts. I am looking forward to participating remotely.
I am hearing that the Federal Reserve may be working on resurrecting the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility (TALF), which was a subset of the successful TARP program, both from the 2008 Financial Crisis response in 2009/2010. I don’t have a list yet of the securities that the Fed will take in the proposed program, and am curious to see if they will take real estate loans.
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
EU Crypto Regs
FCA Crypto Regs
EC Cyber-attack Guidelines
FCA Financial Services Duty of Care Bill/MiFID II
LIBOR replacement (SOFR, SOIA, EuSTAR)
ISLA/ICSF/ESG and short selling
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.
This is broadly 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.
¥ The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their balance sheets.
¥ 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 had also lowered IOER. They now have raised IOER in the last two FOMC meetings.
¥ The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market.
¥ They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008.
I believe the reasons we had dislocations in Q4 2019 came 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 still trying to adapt to 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 $16 trillion of the outstanding $23.5 trillion in 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. It is likely that the newly touted liquidity of the Repo market was “only for Platinum accounts.” Basically, it was only for select buy-side clients, who also provided those dealers with profits in other products.
I’m looking at this section that I wrote a few months ago as suggestions for the Fed to handle issues then, even before the coronavirus outbreak. It’s interesting how many of my suggestions the Fed has actually implemented now for the coronavirus crisis.
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-THE FED HAS SINCE DONE THIS
¥ 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.)- THE FED HAS SINCE DONE THIS
¥ 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.- THE FED HAS SINCE DONE THIS
¥ 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 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 FED HAS SINCE DONE THIS
The bottom line is that the money markets, particularly the securities finance market (Repo & Securities Lending) are still trying to find their footing, particularly as the Repo market has shrunk, while Treasury supply has increased. I did notice that the Fed did publish a paper (written by, among others, my friend Antoine Martin) on 1/23/20 to the Liberty Street blog, entitled, “Monetary Policy Implementation with an Ample Supply of Reserves*”. You can view it on the federalreserve.gov website.
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,
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):
• 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.
• Shanghai Clearing House-China (CCP). I do not have any info yet.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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:
Similar to what I am doing for the Repo News section of the Repo Commentary, I will report news headlines in RED in the first paragraph of this Federal Reserve section (they used to be highlighted in the last paragraph of this section). That paragraph will be followed with other issues, timelines, and general information that will be updated, but will remain pretty constant, until I decide to trim them from the Repo Commentary.
The Fed announced on 3/23 that the amount of liquidity available for it to buy US Treasuries and Agency MBS in the outright markets is now UNLIMITED. Thursday, Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, made a rare appearance on the Today show. He said that the US “may well be in a recession” but the response by the Federal Reserve will ensure the economy recovers after the coronavirus pandemic abates. He also said that the control of the virus will dictate the timing of the economic recovery. The $2.2 trillion stimulus package will include $454 billion US Treasury backstop for Fed actions. The Fed Chairman did contradict President Trump’s optimistic Coronavirus timeline.
I applaud the Fed’s response so far, although I think there are some other things they can still do. I like to think that I have their ear occasionally, through the decades of relationship I have had with both the Fed and the US Treasury.
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 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).
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 3/20/20 was 0.20%.
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 the likely 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 buy-side clients with collateral. That all being said, the current SOFR reported by the Fed for 3/20/20 was 0.04%, same as today’s Treasury GC O/N repo rate.
The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 4/29/20, 6/10/20, 7/29/20, 9/16/20, 11/5/20, and 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the Crisis we are facing now.
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.
A little historical information on Monetary Policy:
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 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%. Since then, the Fed lowered the target rate twice more, to its current 0.00%-0.25%.
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.
The US Treasury Department is making $10 billion available to support businesses’ liquidity through outright purchases of CP issued by highly rated companies. The CP Funding Facility will be managed by the Federal Reserve Bank of NY.
The Fed is encouraging banks to use capital buffers imposed by regulations to loan to borrowers hit by the coronavirus pandemic, but the Fed needs to clarify what is permitted.
Earthquakes and Volcanoes:
A powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck Russia’s Kuril Islands, which spawned a tsunami alert as far away as Hawaii, which was later rescinded. Other earthquakes above 4.5-magnitude, in the last 2 days:
The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. I want you to know that I am constantly searching for good or uplifting news, but at the moment, the majority of news items are on the negative side and almost all dealing with Coronavirus. Here is something different, but once again, while informational, kind of to the negative. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have a more -active-than-normal season. They expect about 12 storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes. The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has historically been the most used, had 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, of which 3 were 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. There is yet to be a forecast for this Hurricane Season.
As for the weather, in West Palm Beach, we set a record high on Wednesday of 91 degrees. It has been a long stretch of temperatures in the 80s for us and solid sunshine. In fact, we are in desperate need of rain. I know I shouldn’t complain, but it is hard to look outside at the beautiful weather, but be all but confined to indoors.
Given that many sports have suspended or cancelled their events and seasons, this section of the Repo Commentary will have less, if any, changes. There are some things happening in ownership support of arena workers out of work and free agent market trades. I will update any changes in bold RED, so you can find them quickly. For those not seeing that colors, they will appear at the end of each sub-section, for example like today’s Olympic News. CDC’s latest recommendations could mean no professional sports until June.
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 were about halfway through Spring Training. For the third year in a row, all 30 MLB teams were to be in action at the start of the season on the same day, March 26th. But, the Coronavirus put an end to Spring Training and has delayed the start of the 2020 MLB regular season. It has also suspended all levels of MLB Minor League games. The 3 remaining Spring Training games that I was to sing the National Anthem at were also cancelled. All 30 MLB teams, today, each pledged $1 million to pay ballpark employees who aren’t able to work, until the season can open.
MLB is considering cancelling the 2020 Draft. MLB is also considering neutral site playoffs for 2020. I am hearing that top players’ agent Scott Boras has proposed a 162-game season beginning in July, with the World Series played on Christmas Day. Although that is all odd and hard to take in and probably will require a neutral dome stadium for playoffs in the dead of Winter, let’s not forget that nobody (except a few players) likes Boras. Thursday 3/26 was supposed to be Opening Day of the MLB regular season, with all 30 teams playing. The other day, the Pittsburgh Pirates (players organized on their own from Florida) bought pizzas and pasta for 400 Allegheny General Hospital (Pittsburgh) workers. They ordered the pies from two restaurants and one of them doesn’t deliver, so the Pirates employees delivered those 100 pizzas and 10 trays of pasta themselves. Friday morning, MLB Commissioner Manfred said that MLB will CANCEL the 2020 season, if things are not safe enough.
Tyrell Hatton, from England, won the PGA’s Arnold Palmer Invitational this last Sunday. It was his first PGA Tour title and it was followed by major drinking. He teed off in the first round, last Thursday, in the Players Championship though. The PGA Tour is going forward with this Major’s first round, on schedule, at Ponte Vedra (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). But, then it cancelled the tournament before Friday’s Round 2 and cancelled 5 other tournaments to come. It also announced that it was postponing the Masters in Augusta.
The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, scheduled for this week, has been postponed due to coronavirus concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments. 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
The 100th NFL season ended last year, 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. On Tuesday, Patriots 20-year QB and GOAT, Tom Brady, announced that his NFL journey would continue elsewhere and signed in Free Agency with the Tampa Bay Bucs for 2years/$60 million guaranteed, plus $9 million in incentives. Apparently, one of the reasons for the 42-year-old QB’s decision to leave the Patriots after 20 years is because of the souring relationship between him and coach Bill Belichick. Now, legend Joe Montana, ironically Tom Brady’s idol when he was growing up in San Mateo, CA, said in an interview that the Patriots are going to regret parting ways with QB Tom Brady. Saints QB Drew Brees, already loved by the state of Louisiana and New Orleans, in particular, has donated $5 million to the state of Louisiana, on Thursday. He has just signed a new 2year/$50 million contract with the New Orleans Saints. The state was directed by Brees to use some of the money with various organizations to deliver 10,000 meals per day. New Orleans has suffered badly from the coronavirus, perhaps, as doctors believe, because of the annual mega-bash for Mardi Gras in February, during the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak.
In a surprise move to all of the Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA), French Open officials announced Tuesday night that the French Open, the red clay Major, will be postponed from May 24th to late September, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The late change may cause the French Open’s biggest winner, with 12 French Open titles, Rafael Nadal, to boycott the tournament. Apparently, the decision from leftfield by the Federation Francaise de Tennis was made without consultation with other stakeholders. There may be a schedule ripple effect on the US Open, which is currently scheduled to finish just a week before, so the French Open may lose players, and the Laver Cup, which was supposed to be played in the same week that the French Open is moving to. The potential boycott from Nadal comes, not only because he may also choose to play in the US Open instead, but also because he and Roger Federer are the ones who champion the Laver Cup exhibition team competition, with the leading players of the world, a fan favorite. Federer is actually more likely now to skip the French Open, as he is returning from knee surgery at Wimbledon, and has been leaning away from clay tournaments. If enough top-ranked players skip the French Open, can it still be considered a ‘Major’? The WTA suspended its tour until 5/2, amid the coronavirus outbreak. The ATP suspended its matches for six weeks.
The head of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics insisted that the Games are on track, despite the Coronavirus outbreak. With the mounting pressure, on Monday afternoon, the IOC finally announced that the Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, will be postponed until 2021. A virus has done what even a war couldn’t do; postpone an Olympics. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held. The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. On Wednesday, President Trump congratulated Japanese PM Abe and the IOC. Some sports reporters are pointing out that the Olympics will likely overlap with the playoffs for the NBA and NHL, and perhaps the MLB season, in 2021.
Soccer’s 2020 European Championship, scheduled for Russia, has been postponed for a year because of the outbreak of the virus among the Norwegian and Swedish football associations, on Tuesday. Players and Directors at Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund agreed to take temporary pay cuts.
In cricket, the Women’s T20 World Cup concluded with Australia defeating India in the Final. Player of the Match was Alyssa Healy.
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 NCAA to cancel all spring men’s and women’s 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
Near the halfway point of the college hockey season, analysts were 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. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the Coronavirus.
The Coronavirus is having a huge impact on college basketball. As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to halt. One after another conference cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it every started. I know this is a little weird, but Kentucky is No.1 on the early 2020-2021 Coach’s Poll basketball rankings. Gonzaga is No.2, followed by (in order) Baylor, Creighton, FSU, Villanova, Virginia, Duke, Iowa, and Texas Tech.
Here was 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
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.
We were approaching the long postseason, after 82 games, which should have ended again in June, and here were 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 too, all came to an end, with the season at least being suspended, with no games to be played for a while.
After requesting arena availability from each team on Tuesday, the NHL general managers said it intends to resume their regular season in July. This lines up well with a popular plan among players, who wanted to compete in the postseason in August and September, take October off as the new “off-season” and then return to the next regular season in November. There will be some obstacles to this plan though, the most important one being ice conditions in the heat of the summer months. Another interesting obstacle is that a number of players’ contracts expire on June 30.
This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs. Coronavirus is having an impact on the NBA now, as the League suspended the NBA regular season indefinitely.
There was only a little over a month left in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and teams were 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.
Among several other NBA players (including 4 from the Nets), Kevin Durant tested positive for the Coronavirus, but says he feels fine. According to Pelicans’ VP Griffin, cancelling the NBA season is “not at all” on NBA’s mind. Shaq surprised some first-graders by joining their online class. Celtics’ Marcus Smart tested positive for coronavirus. The head of the NBPA said it would be “irresponsible” to not test players for COVID-19, this amid outrage by the American public over too few tests and how rich ballplayers are all getting them. In fact, the NYC major has slammed the Brooklyn Nets for all getting COVID-19 tests ahead of “the sick” public. On Monday, the Mayor of NYC blasted the Brooklyn Nets for being all tested for COVID-19, before first responders have been tested. There is a growing public outrage that if you have a lot of money, even the kits are in short supply, you can get tested for COVID-19.
Harlem Globetrotter legend, Fred “Curly” Neal, has died, at 77. Several owners of stadiums and/or professional sports teams have decided to pay idle workers of their arenas. I don’t have the list yet, but one of the first owners to do that was Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks.
For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby is being postponed.
NASCAR finally chose not to do ‘fan-less’ races and, instead, chose to postpone its race events through May 3, in accordance with safety protocols recommended by the CDC in response to Coronavirus. Of the 3 major racing circuits, the NASCAR one has the potential to lose the most races in the 2020 schedule, perhaps as many as 10.
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
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. The opening of the season has been delayed at least until 5/3, although they refuse to confirm date change for that race to later, despite the likelihood that the Dutch Grand Prix probably can’t be staged on 5/3. F1 is considering having an abbreviated 19 race season, when it begins. It was set to have a record 22-race season, when pre-season testing ended and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run. Then, Coronavirus, upset the race schedule and also took down F1’s (FWONK) share price, initially down 25%, and now down 40% from it January 2020 high of over $48.00/share. 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
IndyCar Racing also hit the brakes on the 2020 season, due to the Coronavirus. So, instead of the first race running in mid-March, the first race is now scheduled for 5/9, basically losing 4 races from the 2019 schedule. Here is the updated 2020 schedule (unless it gets changed again because of the pandemic):
5/09 GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis, IN
5/24 104th Indy 500, Indianapolis, IN
5/31 Chevrolet Duel in Detroit, MI
6/06 Genesys 600 in Texas
6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America
6/27 Indy Richmond 300
7/12 Honda Indy Toronto
7/18 Iowa 300
8/16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
8/22 Bommarito Automotive Group 500
9/06 Grand Prix of Portland
9/20 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey
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.
There has yet to be an intra-United States travel ban.
Iran is restricting travel to avert the presumed virus ‘second wave’. African countries are now facing a major challenge in curbing the spread of COVID-19, because of over-crowded trains. The US Restaurant & Bar industry has estimated the cost of the Coronavirus to their fragile, low-margin, service industry at $225 billion. Interesting travel news from my friend and former colleague, Warren Green, who sent me a schedule from an SBT Social Worker in NYC, which has a complete Virtual Tour schedule posted in Senior Planet, of a Living Room Concert from Broadway, tour of the Rubin Museum, tour of the New England Aquarium, online dance classes on Zoom, tour of NYC’s Natural History Museum, tour of the American Folk Art Museum, an Impressionists Gallery, a tour of the Brooklyn Museum, and more, AND THEY ARE ALL FREE ONLINE!!! So, these are great escapes (and educational ones) from our quarantine, without increasing our risk of contracting COVID-19. According to the CDC, the RNA from the virus that causes COVID-19 was found on the Princess Cruise ship 17 days after its passengers had left. Another cruise ship, Zaandam of Holland America, with 77 people experiencing flu-like symptoms is now headed to South Florida, expecting to dock in Fort Lauderdale on 3/30. I don’t think authorities have decided what to do with it. The ship had been a 2-week cruise to Argentina, around the tip of South America, and to Chile.
Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED.
More than 1.5 billion people around the world have been asked or ordered to stay-at-home because of the pandemic. The WHO has named COVID-19 (Coronavirus) a “Pandemic”. Scientists believe that the Coronavirus can survive on hands for only 5-10 minutes, so washing frequently is very helpful. Also helpful is drinking plenty of water, which can wash the virus out of your mouth and into your stomach, where your ample acids will kill it. According to the CDC, the virus survived on that Princess Cruise ship for 17 days, although detectable but not necessarily viable, so they are warning people about “high-touch” surfaces and the risks of handling packages and groceries. The New England Journal of Medicine just published a study that tested how long the coronavirus could live on different surfaces. On copper, it was detectable up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours, and on plastic and steel up to 72 hours. By 3/26, globally, more than 20,000 people had died from Coronavirus. More than 500,000 people have been infected with Coronavirus. The WHO says the virus has spread to over 160 countries. Given that there only about 190 countries on the Earth, that’s pretty much the entire Globe, except Antarctica. Several countries have experienced large outbreaks (including China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Spain, and France). Italy, in particular, suffered very early and the worst, with a death toll over 8,000 as of 3/23, now above the death toll of China, with total confirmed cases in Italy of 63,927 as of 3/23. Spain’s Coronavirus death toll is now the second highest in the world, behind Italy, at 3,434, as of Wednesday, surpassing China. On Tuesday, the Spanish military found dead bodies and seniors “completely abandoned” in nursing care homes. Last week, one such care facility had reported 20 deaths and 75 infections, claiming that it didn’t have adequate material to take care of the sick and the dead. The government said it will take action against those responsible, such as the staff who left the residents to fend for themselves. The Irish government has changed its Coronavirus testing criteria, requiring patients to have at least 2 major symptoms before being referred for testing. A 34-year-old Italian nurse with coronavirus, fearing that she could infect someone, killed herself. On Tuesday, a top health official in Bahrain claimed that it was having success with decades-old anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, using it to treat coronavirus. They said that it had been effective in “alleviating the symptoms of the virus and reducing its complications.” It is one of several drugs and a few anti-malaria drugs that the US is currently testing.
On Thursday, the US achieved a grim milestone in most Coronavirus cases confirmed in the world, over 82,000, even more than China. The death toll from COVID-19 in the US is over 1,200. The President said that’s because we have been getting more tested and that you can’t trust the numbers from China. The surge in cases is partly due to an acceleration of infection and also an increase in available tests. There is now a blood test to be rolled out that can confirm coronavirus infection within 5 minutes, rather than previous tests being sent to labs for up to 5 days. There is also now cartridge test that takes only 15 minutes for results, that was just confirmed by Rutgers University and already has emergency approval from the FDA and could begin shipping as early as Monday 3/30 from Cepheid, the molecular diagnostics company in California that developed it with help from Rutgers. I am hearing conflicting reports on how much it will cost, from zero to $2000 each. It is also likely to only be made available to those people showing multiple symptoms of Coronavirus or the high-risk (immune system-compromised or elderly). The cartridge test will not be available for drive-up testing facilities. They have to be given on-site at facilities that own a GeneXpert molecular testing platform to process the samples. I was thinking last night, you know who else is ‘high-risk’, or at least high risk of spreading the virus, are those Delivery Dudes, Door Dashers, Grub Hubbers and other food delivery folks! I think they all should be tested! A NYC nurse, Kious Kelly, 48, who had been treating COVID-19 patients has died, as that hospital, Mount Sinai West in Manhattan, reported 13 deaths from COVID-19 in one 24-hour period. The death of this nurse in his 40s who became hospitalized on 3/17, is heightening concerns for the safety of medical professionals, as personal protective equipment for those on the front line rapidly dwindles. He and others at this hospital were forced to wear plastic trash bags as gown supplies ran out. They have also run out of disposable masks, so are reusing them. In more NYC coronavirus news, a makeshift morgue has been built at NYC’s Bellevue Hospital ahead of the expected surge in coronavirus cases. In a 36-hour period, NYC death toll from coronavirus spiked and confirmed cases rose to 32,000. NYC Mayor de Blasio says that half of all New Yorkers will get coronavirus. Thousands of New York private and retired healthcare workers have answered the Mayor’s call and are helping in the hospitals. NYU med school students have now been thrust into the battle. An entire New Jersey nursing home, all 94 residents, is assumed to have coronavirus. 24 of the residents have already tested positive. The US Navy did an amazing job to retrofit and supply the Hospital Ship, Comfort, which is now ready to sail on Saturday from Virginia, according to President Trump, and will arrive at Pier 90 in NYC on Monday. They saved what was expected to take 3-4 weeks of preparations. It will be likely used as a ‘surge’ hospital for up to 1,000 patients. The other military hospital ship, Mercy, will take longer to ready for California. A 93-year-old WWII veteran died in quarantine for Coronavirus in Long Island, NY, unable to see his family in the end. The FDNY now has 178 confirmed cases among its first responders. New studies are indicating that the Coronavirus may wind up being seasonal and may die down in the hot summer months and return next year around the same time. I saw last night that President Trump told Fox News that he doesn’t believe that NY Governor Cuomo needs as many ventilators, 30,000-40,000, for coronavirus treatment as he is requesting from the federal government. More than 160 Boston hospital workers have tested positive for coronavirus. After Rikers Island in NY had its first prisoner test positive for coronavirus, authorities decided for the health of prisoners and prison workers, to release some 300 of the least-dangerous and ‘vulnerable’ offenders. California is also releasing some offenders from prison for the same reason.
Stem cells of a 114-year-old woman have been reprogrammed to create mesenchymal stem cells for the first time, showing that the process works for cells of such advanced age. Researchers are hoping that the information gained will help them better understand the aging process.
Rush Limbaugh said (and I haven’t corroborated any of this), “60 million Americans were infected with the Swine Flu resulting in 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths. No media panic…no travel ban. You don’t even remember it.”
Public Service Announcement:
How do you know if you have COVID-19 or the Coronavirus? The CDC says the following are symptoms which may appear 2-14 days after exposure:
• Severe sore throat that moves to the lungs.
• Severe headaches (although not everyone is presenting with headaches)
• Fever (although not everyone is presenting with a fever)
• Dr. Oz, and famous patients have confirmed, that if you don’t present a fever, you will lose the sense of smell and taste for the duration of the virus. This is a new symptom or tell-tale sign. After you have rid the virus, your senses of smell and taste returns within weeks.
• Dr. Oz also said that ‘red eyes’, that have not been caused by allergies, could also be a sign of COVID-19.
• Cough (for Asthmatics, this would be a dry cough as opposed to the damp cough they are accustomed to)
• Shortness of breath
The CDC says the following are symptoms which are EMERGENCY WARNING SIGNS REQUIRING IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION (this list is not all inclusive):
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
• New confusion or inability to arouse
• Bluish lips or face
With the WHO globally and the CDC domestically urging “social distancing” to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, they recommend the following steps (obviously certain states, cities, and countries have adopted even more severe measures):
• I actually wrote about this in the Repo Commentary on 3/18, but now have heard a lot more information about it. The French government on 3/16 and later the UK NHS, announced that people infected with coronavirus should avoid using ibuprofen (like Advil) and instead use acetaminophen (like Tylenol) during the duration to treat the fever and aches. The reason, according to both of these groups, and several doctors from Cornell, Harvard, and the virologist I mentioned on 3/18) is because ibuprofen tends to suppress the immune system somewhat, which could be disastrous during Coronavirus, and they felt it could expedite the virus to move into the lungs. There has been mixed reactions from the medical community, as there has not been enough research on whether the virus thrives more on ibuprofen or not. However, some doctors believe that it can make the results 10 times worse than using Acetaminophin. So, it is your choice. Snopes.com said it has not been proven False or True yet. The British Ministry of Health has previously issued guidelines on the use of ibuprofen with infections or viruses. I am hearing from my friends in the homeopathic community that you shouldn’t take NSAIDs generally because of their tendency to suppress the immune system. Frankly, I think if it doesn’t hurt me, I’ll switch to acetaminophen, at least until this is over, just in case it is true. I would like you all to be around too and safe. I’m sure you have all heard anecdotally through the years that more doctors recommend Tylenol than Advil in hospital stays, partly because of the immune system response and partly because of the alleged impact to the gastrointestinal area of constant use of ibuprofen.
• Stay home if you are mildly ill with COVID-19, except to get medical care. Do not visit public places.
• Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care, so that the office can protect themselves and other patients. Be sure to get emergency care if you worsen or have any of those symptoms.
• Dr. Oz says that there are signs that taking Vitamin C and Zinc at the first signs or even as preventive medicine, could be effective against Coronavirus infection and recovery.
• Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
• Stay away from others, as much as possible, including people in your home. Try to do as much ‘home isolation’ as possible, staying in a designated “sick room” with a separate bathroom, if available, and away from other people in your home.
• Limit contact with your pets and animals. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals contracting COVID-19 from humans, it is still recommended for those with the virus to limit contact with animals, until more information is known.
• When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you have COVID-19. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you have COVID-19, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
• If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
• If you are caring for others who are sick, you should wear a facemask. Visitors, other than caregivers, are not recommended.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw used tissues in a lined trash can. Wash hands immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. On average, we touch our nose and mouth about 90 times per day, without realizing it.
• Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home. After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or clean in a dishwasher.
• Daily clean disinfect high-touch surfaces (phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables) in your “sick room” and bathroom. Let someone else clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas of your home, but only you in your “sick room” and bathroom. If a caregiver must clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver should wear a mask and wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the bathroom.
• Per the CDC, people with COVID-19 may discontinue home isolation if:
o You will have a test to determine if you are still contagious
♣ You no longer have a fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.
♣ AND other symptoms have improved.
♣ AND you received 2 negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart.
o Or, if you will not have a test to determine if you are still contagious, then these 3 things must happen, before ending home isolation:
♣ You have had no fever for at least 72 hours, without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.
♣ Other symptoms have improved (cough, shortness of breath, etc.)
♣ AND at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.
You may have forgotten that we had all that news about Standing Rock Reservation, and the Water Protectors and protests over construction of a pipeline, back in 2016, well before the pandemic hit. There is news on that front now. A federal court ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to write a full environmental impact statement on the Dakota Access Pipeline. This is a major win against the pipeline and for the National Environmental Policy Act, as the judge referenced that the pipeline is “highly controversial” under that Act and found that the US Army Corps of Engineers had not “adequately” done its duties under the statute. This is a major development in the 4-year lawsuit between the governments of the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes against the US government and the oil industry. It is a major win for the environment. I figured that was closest to the Animal News category. Sometimes, I wonder if I should have a Miscellaneous News category for those items that just don’t fit in a category, but are hugely important for me to share. On Tuesday, China, finally, announced that it would ban people eating wild animals, which will now lead to the closing of those live animal markets, which is where many of these viruses, like COVID-19, have originated. Paleontologists announce the discovery of Asteriornis maastrichtensis, the oldest definitive species of modern bird, which lived at the end of the Mesozoic era.
I was very pleased to see (after I had made the appeal on Facebook and written about it here in the Repo Commentary) that the new emergency stimulus bill WILL HAVE relief for songwriters and eligible self-employed (“gig economy”) music workers (many of whom are local friends of mine), which at least is part of the entertainment industry impacted by the coronavirus crisis. Even roadies will be eligible for grants and loans under the bill. An appeals court released Mali singer, Rokia Traore, but said the extradition to Belgium can continue. She has been accused of kidnapping, after she lost her international custody battle. The first chef born and raised in India to lead a famous NYC kitchen, Tabla, Floyd Cardoz, has died at the age of 59 in NJ, from coronavirus. He previously had also cooked in the luxurious Lespinasse in Manhattan. Accomplished drummer, Bill Rieflin, who played for Ministry, R.E.M., King Crimson, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, and other groups, has died from cancer at the age of 59. On 3/29 at 9pm, on Fox, Elton John will host a “Living Room Concert for America”, teaming up with iHeartMedia and Fox, a music event to support health professionals and first responders. The show will feature performances from Alicia Keys, Backstreet Boys, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mariah Carey, Tim McGraw, and others. The Fox timeslot was originally the broadcast time for the iHeartRadio Music Awards. This show will also be simulcast on iHeartMedia radio stations. Rosie O’Donnell held a similar Broadway gathering last weekend, in which the performers will appear and perform from their own homes, through their own cellphones, cameras, and audio equipment. As you probably are aware, Broadway went dark last week, with all shows shut down, given that they are such large gatherings of people, counter to social distancing. Mark Blum, star of DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN and YOU, has died at 69, due to coronavirus. Dave Matthews had a live charity streamed concert Thursday night to support local communities. Since many of us are watching TV, for shows, series, movies, Dateline, 48 Hours, 20/20, Dateline: Secrets Untold, etc., have you noticed that on national news broadcasts (NBC Nightly News on Wednesday night) blank advertising spots are showing up, forcing them to display the logo and play the full intro music from years ago, or on local broadcasts, the blank spots are now being filled by long info-mercials? Wait, am I complaining about NOT having more ads??? I can’t keep up with all the celebrities who have tested positive for Coronavirus, but here are some recent notables: Bravo TV’s Andy Cohen, singer Jackson Browne, England’s Prince Charles (and his 93-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II, is also in that high-risk category), actor Idris Elba, rapper Scarface, rapper Slim Thug, Sen. Rand Paul, Harvey Weinstein, Miami Mayor Suarez, actor Kristofer Hivju, actress Debi Mazar, Colton Underwood, David Bryan of Bon Jovi, and President of Catalonia Quim Torra. Today Show’s Hoda Kolb broke into tears today, reporting the coronavirus news. She is the only one of her group who is currently in the studio, as all of the other anchors are reporting from home. One of them, Carson Daly and his wife, on Friday, welcomed a new baby girl into the world. Rihanna and PartyNextDoor released a new song, her first in 4 years. BTS has postponed its North American tour dates amid coronavirus pandemic. Terrence McNally, award-winning playwright, has died of coronavirus at age 81. Ray Romano, Iliza Shlesinger and other comedians have set up a Laugh Aid live stream. Stephen Colbert has set a Late Show return date. Meghan Markle has lent her voice to a Disney documentary. Speaking of the ex-Royal and her ex-Royal Prince Harry, they were living on a secluded island outside Vancouver, in a 13.5 million mansion, but have snuck off to an exclusive hideaway in Los Angeles area. Ironically, the medical adviser on CONTAGION has coronavirus. AVENGERS and AVATAR have been scheduled for China’s re-release lineup of movies. Speaking of AVATAR, I think I mentioned in 3/23 Repo Commentary that AVATAR 2 production has been halted in New Zealand, due to concerns about the coronavirus. Daniel Craig has confirmed that this next James Bond movie will be his last and that it’s time to hand over the 007 title to another Bond, and it could be a woman star next. He, like Tom Cruise in his latest MISSION IMPOSSIBLE installment, broke his ankle during the shooting of the movie. Kevin Hart’s wife is pregnant with baby No.2. Nine Inch Nails, still grieving over the loss of their former drummer, surprise-released 2 new sequel albums to their 2008 instrumental series. Bill Maher actually said he is hoping for “A crashing economy” and to “bring on the Recession”, obviously insensitive to the American public’s suffering and job losses, just to “get rid of President Trump.”
This past weekend’s box-office did not happen, as the US government finally shut down all movie theaters, along with public gyms.
Technology & Space News:
The last survivor of the transatlantic slave trade has been discovered. Over the past two years, hackers have increasingly targeted victims using ransomware. They have also increasingly targeted financial institutions. According to UK media regulator, Ofcom, people will can get faster Internet by avoiding using Wi-Fi and their microwave ovens at the same time? That kind of bothers me. The app Zoom is now being used by many professionals for video conferencing, during social distancing. But some privacy experts are warning that the app comes with some red flags. Did you know that Pluto is only half the size of our Moon? Edwin Catmull and Pat Hanrahan received the Turing Award for their work on computer-generated imagery.
Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED.
The White House declared a National Emergency to free up funds and powers, to deal with Coronavirus. The White House also resurrected the Defense Act, not used since WWII. This gives the President even greater powers to re-purpose factories and increase production of necessary health-related items (like N-95 masks, surgical gloves, gowns, ventilators, etc.), as well as other powers over industry. So far, the response from the nation’s industries has been fantastic, and voluntary.
On Wednesday, after 3 days of filibuster and blocking by Congress, the White House and Senate finally reached a historic and massive economic stimulus package of over $2.2 trillion, which would include sending direct cash payments (some $1200 to most American adults and $500 to most children), created a $500 billion lending program for businesses, states, and cities, and another $367 billion Employee Retention Fund for small businesses (which would cover roughly 50% of small business employees), $130 billion aid to hospitals, $45 billion for the Disaster Fund, and provides 4 months of unemployment insurance, among other things. This legislation also includes support for businesses, huge bailouts for different industries (including airlines, auto manufacturers, hospitality, travel, restaurants, etc.), and many other measures to try to stabilize the economy. The bill grew from $850 billion to $2.2 trillion in a matter of days, because of an onslaught of calls from lobbyists and special interest groups. After announcing the landmark emergency relief package, Senate leaders struggled with a number of last-minute snags, as they tried to write the bill’s fine print, including NY Governor Cuomo’s late request for more aid because of the sudden increase in cases, 4 Republican senators claiming a part of the bill might incentivize the public not to go back to work, etc. House Democrats, who had tried to float their own $2.5 trillion bill, finally agreed to vote on it on Friday. Ugh, we need term limits, or at least better memories come election time. So, what looks like the final bill, is the largest such emergency relief bill in American history, which began with the President pushing for an 8-month Payroll Tax cut. By the way, the Senate vote was unanimous for the stimulus package, 96-0. On Friday, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said the speed at which the stimulus package can be deployed to Main Street and the public and small businesses, all affected by the coronavirus pandemic, will be crucial to avoid repeat of 2008 Financial Crisis.
The SECURE ACT would waive rules for individuals who are 70 1/2-years-old after 12/31/19, about required minimum distributions that apply to defined-contribution retirement plans and IRAs, allowing them to wait until age 72 to begin taking RMDs from retirement accounts. This should help many people avoid tax on IRA value that has already vanished. There is also a section regarding people tapping 401-k plans during the coronavirus, up to $100,000, who are younger than 59 ½, waiving the 10% excise tax, and extending the time you can put back the $100,000 (3 years instead of 60 days), to avoid taxes. But, I recommend you check with your tax accountant/expert and not just rely on my layman’s advice.
The Administration has suspended the repayment of Student Loans for 6 months and stopped collection of Student Loan Debt from those in default, like taking from tax refunds and social security payments. Joe Biden is calling for more student loan forgiveness in the next wave of coronavirus response.
Last week, the US Treasury and IRS announced that they will delay the 4/15/20 tax payment deadline by 90 days, and have now delayed the Filing deadline by 90 days. So, you don’t have to pay taxes you owe (up to $1,000,000 for individuals and $10 million for corporations, for a total of $300 billion) for 90 days, without penalty or interest.
On the Unemployment front, California workers who filed for unemployment benefits surged to 1 million this month. Complicating the unemployment picture is that many workers have not only been laid off, but others have salary reductions, hour reductions, or furloughs. So, on Thursday, the weekly US Initial Jobless Claims data skyrocketed from 282,000 on 3/14, to a record 3,283,000 on 3/21. That moved the 4-week moving average to 998,250, from 232,500. Although everyone says that we expected a bad number, it was about twice as bad as expected. We have moved from a 50-year record low unemployment to a record high jobless claims.
President Trump is reportedly weighing easing the stay-at-home orders for the country to lessen the economic devastation. That’s a very tricky balancing act. He said that they will check to see what has happened by Easter, which is 4/12, and make a decision then on what direction they want to take. This is despite the advice he is getting from his own medical experts that the pandemic could be around longer. It is very possible that the drag on the economy could still impact the second half of 2020. Dr. Anthony Fauci has his hands full, trying to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the US and to reign in the President’s optimism.
There have been anecdotal (I know some) reports and news stories from financial experts that encourage people who are out of work and worried about paying their bills to contact their landlords directly, their mortgage companies, and their credit card companies. Many landlords, companies, and credit cards, even utilities and other creditors and service providers, are offering delays in payments or even forgiving payments for months at times. Some of the large car companies are now offering new cars with the first few car payments waived. People should at least try to reduce their financial burden themselves and hope that the Government’s Stimulus Package trickles down to them as well. I’ve heard many experts say that there will likely be more Bankruptcies than deaths from this pandemic. I actually think there may also be a lot of divorces from this pandemic, as couples unaccustomed to being together 24/7 and under huge financial strain and this traumatic stress, experience relationship stress. I should start another “Dear Abby” like column, lol! Many experts are now offering advice on how people should spend their stimulus check. Most recommend to save it, if you don’t already have enough on hand for emergencies. Then, paying off high-interest credit card debt, debt that may affect your credit score, and investing are the popular next choices. Donating it is also a nice thing to do.
Miller officials announced Wednesday that they will donate $1 million to help bartenders (through the United States Bartenders Guild’s virtual “Tip Jar”) out of work due to COVID-19. Jameson Whiskey has committed to give a 1 for 1 match for any donation made to the USBG Foundation’s COVID-19 relieve campaign from 3/16-3/31, up to a maximm of $100,000. Starbucks is giving free coffee to first responders and healthcare workers during the Coronavirus outbreak. The policy clarified that that will include police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, hospital and medical staff, and medical researchers. This promotion will last until 5/3/20. Starbucks announced that it will now be paying all employees 30 days of catastrophe pay, whether they choose to come to work or not. I like that idea, I think those that are working in essential jobs should get extra hazard pay. Jo-Ann craft stores are giving away free kits to make facemasks. Extraordinary inventor, James Dyson of the Dyson vacuums, has invented a new ventilator in just 10 days. He is now making 15,000 of them for the pandemic fight and giving them to the UK’s National Health Service. The Texas Roadhouse CEO has decided to forego his salary and his bonus, in order to pay his front-line workers. Local Florida sports-bar chain, Duffy’s, laid off 1,500 of its workers.
There have been plenty of stories of businesses that are helping their temporarily idle employees, with meals and/or pay during their layoffs. However, this one caught my attention, maybe because 2 Repo Commentaries ago, I researched and told you all about how the owner of the company, Hobby Lobby, had discovered that his Dead Sea Scroll fragments in his Museum of the Bible were fakes. I didn’t go into depth, at the time, about his company’s run-in with the law for stocking that Museum with thousands of smuggled ancient Iraqi artifacts from the Middle East and the fines and penalties it incurred. You may even remember the 2014 polarizing controversial case the company won in the Supreme Court, allowing family-owned employers to not provide employees with health insurance. Now, he is in the news because of Coronavirus. The billionaire kept his US arts-and-crafts chain, Hobby Lobby, stores open, putting workers at risk, allegedly after “God spoke to him,” according to CEO David Green. He is still keeping some stores open in states that have not ordered non-essential retailers to shut down. But, the worst part is that he has also refused sick pay for any employees who have gotten COVID-19 (“sick workers will be expected to use their personal paid leave or take an unpaid leave of absence” from his 3/23 memo to store managers), and warned employees in a letter on 3/19 that times would be tough, and that “we may all have to ‘tighten our belts’ over the near future.” Somehow, the treatment of his employees and message from the man, estimated to be worth about $6 billion, seems insensitive to me.
Not all businesses are negatively affected by the coronavirus. Some industries are actually hiring, such as online-learning (now that all universities and most public schools have gone to online-learning from home), shipping (Amazon needs 100,000 workers), warehousing, food-delivery services, hospitals, pharmacies (CVS needs 50,000 workers), Pizza Hut needs 30,000 permanent workers, Walmart is looking for 150,000 workers, Dollar Tree wants 25,000 workers, 7-Eleven plans to hire 20,000 new workers, Domino’s is hiring more than 10,000 workers, grocery chains, and Lowe’s and Home Depot.
Sabre-rattling doesn’t disappear, even during a pandemic. China has threatened electronic strikes on US Navy ships in the China Sea. The United States has indicted Venezuela President Maduro on “narco-terrorism” charges. The sweeping indictment for him and many of his staff accuses him of drug-trafficking. In New Zealand, the Christchurch gunman pleaded guilty to 51 murders and the wounding of scores more at 2 mosques last year. Igor Matovic has become PM of Slvoakia, following elections in February. A public ballot in Russia which will decide the constitutional change that could extend President Putin’s reign, has been postponed because of the Coronavirus. People in India have been panic-buying supplies ahead of their lockdown, which began on Wednesday. Militants stormed a Sikh temple in the capital of Afghanistan. Coronavirus is a ‘class issue’ in South America. A US hostage, Levinson, who was working on an unauthorized CIA mission in Iran when he was kidnapped in 2007, has died in Iran, according to his family. Canada has backed a $75 billion Coronavirus relief bill. A Scottish diplomat, Steven Dick, has died after getting Coronavirus. He served in the British Embassy in Budapest. The militants of Boko Haram killed 92 troops in the “deadliest” Chad raid ever, on an island in Lake Chad. A South African 52-year-old hair salon owner has been charged with attempted murder for defying a doctor’s order to self-quarantine. He had tested positive and, police said, he was putting the lives of others at risk. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, tested positive for coronavirus. I didn’t know where to put this, but I thought it was funny: in many countries, we have seen panic buying of toilet paper (still weird, maybe a plot by Charmin!), paper towels, Emergen-C, surgical masks, surgical gloves, handiwipes, baby-wipes, Tylenol now, pasta, meat, milk, eggs, etc. But, the Netherlands experienced panic-buying of marijuana! That was after the government announced that restaurants and bars and the famed “coffee shops” (where they reportedly sell more pot than pots of coffee) were shut until 4/6. Apparently within minutes of the announcement, lines were around the block at these coffe shops across all of the Netherlands, as people sought to stock up on enough weed to get them through the weeks of quarantine. Interestingly, pot is ‘tolerated’ in the country, but has never been fully legalized.
Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED.
The Governor of Florida, early on, closed the Florida Keys to visitors, now only open to residents. Unfortunately, on Thursday, Brightline (owned by Virgin Atlantic) trains decided to shut down due to the coronavirus. This is the new high-speed, ultra luxury train between West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. Construction is underway to extend it to Orlando. On Wednesday, Palm Beach County authorities closed down all “non-essential” businesses, urging people to stay at home. They did not define “essential” businesses, but I would assume that that means pharmacies, grocery stores, hospitals, gas stations, and the doc-in-the-boxes. I’m not sure about Target, Costco, Walmart, and other large box stores, as they have pharmacies and groceries. I am not sure about restaurants, who had been permitted to do delivery and takeout, or pizzerias, fast-food restaurants, or liquor stores. Unfortunately, it did not mean golf courses, and my round on Thursday was cancelled, as all the golf courses were closed. Of course, I checked our neighboring county to the North, Martin County, and all of their golf courses are also closed. I already knew that Broward and Miami-Dade golf courses had been closed earlier. Florida confirmed cases rose 40% in 24 hours, Wednesday to Thursday. Palm Beach County confirmed cases jumped 43% in the same period, to over 2300. On Thursday, a new rule for Palm Beach County closed all “Non-Critical Business”, except these ‘critical’ businesses (I am so glad I didn’t have to think of all of these, although I did have to type them all!):
♣ Doctors’ offices
♣ Dentists’ offices
♣ Urgent care centers
♣ Rehabilitation facilities
♣ Physical therapists
♣ Mental health professionals
♣ Research and laboratory services
♣ Blood banks
♣ Medical cannabis facilities
♣ Medical equipment facilities
♣ Healthcare manufacturers and suppliers
♣ Reproductive healthcare service providers
♣ Substance abuse providers
♣ Medical transport services
♣ Grocery stores
♣ Farmers markets
♣ Farm and produce stands
♣ Food banks
♣ Convenience stores
♣ Liquor stores*
♣ Businesses engaged in food cultivation (farming, livestock, fishing, etc.)
♣ Businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, and necessities of life for needy individuals
♣ Television stations
♣ Radio stations
♣ Media services
♣ Gas stations
♣ Automobile dealerships
♣ Auto-supply stores
♣ Auto-repair facilities
♣ Financial institutions
♣ Insurance firms
♣ Pawn shops
♣ Hardware stores
♣ Gardening stores
♣ Building material stores
♣ Contractors and other trades
♣ Building management
♣ Home Security Firms
♣ Fire and Water Damage Restoration
♣ Public adjusters
♣ Appliance repair personnel
♣ Mailing businesses
♣ Shipping services
♣ Private colleges to provide distance learning
♣ Trade schools to provide distance learning
♣ Technical colleges to provide distance learning
♣ University, College or Technical College residence halls for students who cannot return to their homes
♣ Dry cleaners
♣ Laundry service providers
♣ Restaurants for take-out only*
♣ Schools and other entities to provide free food pickup
♣ Assisted living facilities
♣ Nursing Homes
♣ Adult day care centers
♣ Businesses providing professional legal or accounting services
♣ Landscape companies
♣ Pool care businesses
♣ Childcare facilities
♣ Logistics providers
♣ Trucking consolidators
♣ Telecommunication providers
♣ Propane and natural gas services
♣ Open construction sites
♣ Architectural firms
♣ Engineering firms
♣ Land surveying firms
♣ Manufacturing facilities
♣ Bottling plants
♣ Industrial distribution
♣ Supply chain facilities
♣ Waste management services
♣ Commercial lodging establishments
♣ Temporary vacation rentals
♣ Pet boarding facilities
♣ Funeral homes
♣ Funeral product suppliers
♣ Firearm and ammunition supply stores
♣ Any businesses providing services to government
♣ Electrical production and distribution services
♣ Moving, storage, and relocation services
♣ Personal grooming services: hair salons and nail salons?
♣ Religious services
♣ Natural gas, water, electric utilities and cable service providers
The Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, announced Monday that he is not happy, as he sees a trend of New Yorkers fleeing NYC for Florida, to swap the ‘stay-at-home’ pandemic order by New York Governor Cuomo, issued Sunday night, for the lighter rule in Florida. He is not only concerned about people ‘getting around’ the NY rules, but also concerned that this influx of people will bring with it more infected people and the coronavirus. So, he is considering having all people flying in from the tri-state area ordered to “stay-at-home” for 14 days when they arrive in Florida. I’m not sure how he is going to enforce this, or if he will include that they need to be tested. I think he should have them tested at the airports, the point of entry to Florida, and then quarantine those that have the virus. That seems to me to be more enforceable. Currently, Florida officials are getting the contact information for each non-resident flying down and following up with them to make sure that they are self-quarantining. On Wednesday, DeSantis announced that he was speaking with the Governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut about keeping their residents from coming to Florida for now, since they shouldn’t visit their elderly relatives during the coronavirus crisis and aren’t allowed to visit their elderly relatives who are in nursing homes, hospitals, or assisted living centers. The order was supposed to take effect on Thursday 3/26, but several passengers from NYC got through without being asked any questions or self-quarantining. Texas has now also required a 14-day quarantine for anyone coming in from the Tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT).
Health officials here have mentioned that the coronavirus droplets that are passed on do not survive as well in heat, sunlight, and humidity. A new report here has shown that the virus does not transmit or survive in chlorinated water, such as swimming pools.
In Florida, most shopping malls in Florida have been closed, including Sawgrass Mills outlets mall. All stores, except essential ones are now closed in Palm Beach County. The March International Boat Show in West Palm Beach was postponed to 5/14-5/17. After seeing Spring-breakers defy City and State orders to not congregate in groups of more than 10 people, Saturday, the Governor closed all Florida public beaches, and is having police patrol them. Also, due to a large boat gathering, Boca Bash, in Boca Raton, the Governor, on Sunday, ordered all public boat ramps for recreational boats closed. On Thursday, Broward County issued a “Shelter-In-Place” order.
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 had picked up again with private gigs and 6 MLB Spring Training games. However, that all came to a halt when MLB CANCELLED Spring Training and Florida authorities limited gatherings to less than 50, particularly for events and restaurants, then closed the restaurants, except for Delivery and Takeout. 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), although the sooner ones have been postponed due to Coronavirus. 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