I would like to keep a Day counter as the Header, kind of like we did during the Iran Hostage Crisis, “Today is Day 15 of…”, but I can’t figure out what to use as a starting point. I doubt I will find the real starting point in the news reported by the Chinese government, and I can’t figure out when the first case appeared in the US. And, if I intended to start with the first quarantines or ‘stay-at-home’ orders (which is logical), I guess I would be missing all that time from the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras. It feels like it’s been 60 days, but I know it’s probably more like 15-30 days. Does anyone have a suggestion or an opinion on this?
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. I’ve heard from friends who are ‘stir-crazy’ to ‘bored’ to ‘suicidal’ (literally true, unfortunately). At the least, you should be reaching out to family and friends on the phone or Facetime or text, whatever, during this time that you have more time, and reconnect. Let them know that they aren’t alone going through this. There are whole segments of our country that are losing their jobs and then told to stay in, that are having a difficult time coping, which is understandable. 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 (which is actually a cool thing), 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 play 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. I like the idea that it’s also a time He set aside to heal the Earth. We have the lowest pollution and carbon emissions in decades, as cars are off the roads and some factories are shut down (particularly in metropolitan areas), and the animals and plants are thriving! Meanwhile, I’m here to entertain you and give you some other insights. I am happy to see that almost 4,000 of you actually read 3/24 Repo Commentary and over 1,000 of you have already read 3/27 Repo Commentary! I’ll see if I can keep this pace of 2 per week up.
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 for the market. 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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 (04/01):
¥ April Fool’s Day, also known as All Fool’s Day (probably not going to be celebrated during this pandemic)
¥ Boomer Bonus Day (I’m a Baby Boomer)
¥ Fossil Fools Day
¥ Assyrian New Year (Kha b-Nisan)
¥ International Tatting Day
¥ International Fun at Work Day (well maybe fun at remote work)
¥ Global Day of the Engineer
¥ International Edible Book Festival
¥ National Atheist’s Day
¥ National Day of Hope
¥ Lupus Alert Day
¥ National Jump in Muddy Puddles Day
¥ National Love for our Children Day
¥ National One Cent Day
¥ National Sourdough Bread Day
¥ Paraprofessional Appreciation Day
¥ National Trombone Players Day
¥ Poetry and the Creative Mind Day
¥ Reading is Funny Day
¥ Sorry Charlie Day
¥ St. Stupid Day
¥ US Air Force Academy Day
¥ Whole Grain Sampling Day
¥ Iranian Islamic Republic Day
¥ Veneralia in Ancient Rome
¥ Odisha Day (Odisha, India)
¥ Arbor Day in Tanzania
¥ Civil Service Day in Thailand
¥ Cyprus National Day
Some Famous People Born on 04/01 in History:
¥ 1282-Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor
¥ 1873-Sergei Rachmaninoff, Russian pianist, composer and conductor
¥ 1883-Lon Chaney, American actor, director, and screenwriter
¥ 1907-Shivakumara Swami, Indian religious leader and philanthropist
¥ 1909-Eddy Duchin, American pianist and bandleader (his son was the bandleader for my wedding)
¥ 1917-Sydney Newman, Canadian screenwriter and producer, co-created DOCTOR WHO
¥ 1924-Brendan Byrne, American lieutenant, judge, and politician (the arena at The Meadowlands used to be named for him, as he had been the Governor of NJ)
¥ 1929-Jane Powell, American actress, singer and dancer
¥ 1932-Debbie Reynolds, Scottish-Irish American actress, singer, and dancer
¥ 1939-Ali MacGraw, American model and actress
¥ 1939-Phil Niekro, American baseball player and manager
¥ 1946-Ronnie Lane, English bass player, songwriter and producer
¥ 1947-Norm Van Lier, American basketball player, coach, and sportscaster
¥ 1948-Jimmy Cliff, Jamaican singer and musician
¥ 1955-Don Hasselback, American football player and sportscaster
¥ 1961-Susan Boyle, Scottish singer
¥ 1985-Daniel Murphy, American baseball player
¥ 1986-Hillary Scott, American country singer-songwriter
This Day in History (04/01):
♣ 33-Accoriding to one historian’s account, Jesus Christ’s Last Supper is held.
♣ 286-Emperor Diocletian elevates his general Maximian to co-emperor with the rank of Augustus and gives him control over the Western regions of the Roman Empire.
♣ 325-Crown Prince Jin Chengdi, age 4, succeeds his father Jin Mingdi as emperor of the Eastern Jin dynasty.
♣ 475-Majorian is acclaimed emperor by the Roman army after defeating 900 Alemanni near Lake Maggiore in Italy.
♣ 527-Byzantine Emperor Justin I names his nephew Justinian I as co-ruler and successor to this throne.
♣ 528-the daughter of Emperor Xiaoming of Northern Wei was made the “Emperor” as a male heir of the late emperor by Empress Dowager Hu. Deposed and replaced by Yuan Zhao the next day, the first female monarch in the History of China, but is not widely recognized.
♣ 988-Robert II of France is married to Rozala of Italy. The marriage is arranged by his father, King Hugh Capet.
♣ 1318-Berwick-upon-Tweed is captured by the Scotland from England.
♣ 1545-Potosi, Bolivia, is founded after the discovery of huge silver deposits in the area.
♣ 1572-in the Eighty Years’ War, the Watergeuzen capture Brielle from the Seventeen Provinces, gaining the first foothold on land for what would become the Dutch Republic.
♣ 1625-a combined Spanish and Portuguese fleet of 52 ships commences the recapture of Bahia from the Dutch during the Dutch-Portuguese War.
♣ 1826-Samuel Morey received a patent for a compressionless “Gas or Vapor Engine”.
♣ 1865-American Civil War: Union troops led by Philip Sheridan decisively defeat Confederate troops led by George Pickett, cutting the Army of Northern Virginia’s last supply line.
♣ 1867-Singpore becomes a British crown colony.
♣ 1871-the 3rd Duke of Buckingham opened the Brill Tramway.
♣ 1873-the White Star steamer RMS Atlantic sinks off Nova Scotia, killing 547 in one of the worst marine disasters of the 19th Century.
♣ 1891-the Wrigley Company is founded in Chicago, IL.
♣ 1908-the Territorial Force (renamed Territorial Army in 1920) is formed as a volunteer reserve component of the British Army.
♣ 1918-the Royal Air Force (RAF) is created by the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.
♣ 1924-Adolf Hitler is sentenced to five years imprisonment for his participation in the “Beer Hall Putsch” but spends only 9 months in jail.
♣ 1924-the Royal Canadian Air Force is formed.
♣ 1933-English cricketer Wally Hammond set a record for the highest individual Test innings of 336 not out, during the Test match against New Zealand.
♣ 1935-India’s central banking institution, the Reserve Bank of India, is formed.
♣ 1937-Aden becomes a British crown colony.
♣ 1937-the Royal New Zealand Air Force is formed as an independent service.
♣ 1937-Spanish Civil War: Jaen, Spain is bombed by German fascist forces, supporting Francoist Nationalists.
♣ 1939-Spanish Civil War: Generalisimo Francisco Franco of the Spanish State announces the end of the Spanish Civil War, when the last of the Republican forces surrender.
♣ 1941-Fantana Alaba massacre: between 200 and 2000 Romanian civilians are killed by Soviet Border Troops.
♣ 1941-a military coup in Iraq overthrows the regime of ‘Abd al-llah and installs Rashid Ali al-Gaylani as PM.
♣ 1944-navigation errors lead to an accidental American bombing of the Swiss city of Schaffhausen.
♣ 1945-WWII: the 10th United States Army attacks the 32nd Japanese Army on Okinawa.
♣ 1946-an 8.6-magnitude earthquake hits the Aleutian Islands and shook them with a maximum intensity of VI. It spawned a destructive tsunami that reached the Hawaiian Islands, resulting in dozens of deaths, mostly in Hilo, HI.
♣ 1947-the only mutiny in the history of the Royal New Zealand Navy begins.
♣ 1948-Cold War: Communist forces respond to the introduction of the Deutsche Mark by attempting to force Western powers to withdraw from Berlin.
♣ 1948-Faroe Islands gain autonomy from Denmark.
♣ 1949-Chinese Civil War: the Chinese Communist Party holds unsuccessful peace talks with the Nationalist Party in Beijing, after 3 years of fighting.
♣ 1949-the Government of Canada repeals Japanese-Canadian internment after 7 years.
♣ 1954-US President Eisenhower authorizes the creation of the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.
♣ 1955-the EOKA rebellion against the British Empire begins in Cyprus, with the goal of unifying with Greece.
♣ 1960-the TIROS-I satellite transmits the first television picture from space.
♣ 1969-the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, the first operational fighter aircraft with Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing capabilities, enters service with the Royal Air Force.
♣ 1970-President Nixon signs the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law, requiring the Surgeon General’s warnings on tobacco products and banning cigarette advertising on television and radio in the US, effective 1/1/1971.
♣ 1970-the first of over 670,000 AMC Gremlins are released into North America to compete with foreign imported cars.
♣ 1971-Bangladesh Liberation War: the Pakistan Army massacre over 1,000 people in Keraniganj Upazila, Bangladesh.
♣ 1976-Apple Inc. is formed by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in Cupertino, CA.
♣ 1979-Iran becomes an Islamic republic by a 99% vote, officially overthrowing the Shah.
♣ 1997-Comet Hale-Bopp is seen passing at perihelion.
♣ 2001-an EP-3E US Navy surveillance aircraft collides with a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Shenyang J-8 fighter jet. The Navy crew makes an emergency landing in Hainan, China and is detained.
♣ 2001-former President of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Slobdan Milosevic surrenders to police special forces to be tried on war crimes charges.
♣ 2001-same-sex marriage becomes legal in the Netherlands, the first contemporary country to allow it.
♣ 2004-Google announces Gmail to the public.
♣ 2006-Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) of the Government of the UK is enforced, but later merged into the National Crime Agency in 2013.
Daily Weird Facts:
Muammar Gaddafi died the richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of about $200 billion. He was richer than Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Carlos Slim combined.
“TRAFFIC is gone, LONG QUEUES are gone.
GAS is affordable, BILLS extended.
KIDS are at home with their FAMILIES, PARENTS are home taking care of their CHILDREN.
FAST FOOD replaced by HOME COOKED MEALS, hectic SCHEDULES replaced by NAPS.
The AIR seems CLEANER, the WORLD QUIETER.
PEOPLE are conscious about HYGIENE and HEALTH again.
MONEY doesn’t seem to make the WORLD GO ROUND anymore.
And WE now have TIME, finally, to STOP and SMELL the ROSES.
It seems like this COVID-19 is a RESET BUTTON for HUMANITY!!!
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
$24.90/barrel on 4/01
Oil prices are still at newer historic lows. This is crushing the economies based on Oil exports and hurting our fairly young shale and new exploration domestically. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station grudgingly fell this weekend by another 3 cents, to $1.82/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-60 cents more per gallon. A station in Cleveland is now pumping out gas at 89 cents/gallon, according to their News5.
One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around 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. On 4/01, it is trading at $1,591.60.
Bitcoin was trading at (around 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
$6,443.44 on 03/31/20
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:
More about the Ronin Capital failure. There were rumors that ABN Amro Clearing’s announcement that they had taken a $200 million hit from Ronin Capital’s trading strategy turns out wasn’t true. There was another hedge fund client of ABN who had suffered the loss, Parplus Partners. IMF is warning that banking systems of countries hit hard by COVID-19 disruption might need to be recapitalized or restructured. They said that “many now expect a shock to the financial sector similar in magnitude to the 2008 crisis.” Goldman Sachs economists have further downgraded their Q2 outlook for the US economy. They expect GDP to decline at an annualized 34% and predict 15% unemployment. They do forecast a rebound in GDP of 19% in Q3. I have seen other estimates of unemployment to reach 20-30%. RBS has shut down its derivatives trading and clearing business, per Risk. The pandemic has stalled the Deutsche Bank revamp, per the FT. Some SOFR trades have transacted at negative rates, according to Risk.
US Market News:
The COVID-19 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. US equities have now endured the worst quarter since the Financial Crisis. Looking at the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq together, 2020 Q1 showed a loss of 14%, per the WSJ. 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 down trade.
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):
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
21,917.16 on 03/31/20
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
03/31/20 at 2,584.59
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
03/31/20 at 7,700.10
With the massive buying by the Fed of US Treasuries and Agency MBS, Treasury yields were forced down sharply across the curve. 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 dipped into negative yield territory, joining Japan and much of Europe, who had moved into negative yields much earlier. The front-end of the curve had backed up a bit in yield from the low, but the long-end of the curve had backed off even more. Now, the flight-to-safe haven cash has forced front-end yields down again. There are still some other factors at play, broker/dealer balance sheets, the prospect of increased supply by US Treasury, IRS tax refund season, US Treasury checks of cash, that basis trade (cash vs futures) and hedging of MBS with longer US Treasuries being unwound as MBS are sold, and the 800lb gorilla in the room: whether foreign central banks and sovereign wealth funds will need to sell US Treasuries to provide cash for COVID-19 stimulus plans.
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%
03/31/20 at 0.23%
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%
03/31/20 at 0.29%
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%
03/31/20 at 0.37%
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%
03/31/20 at 0.55%
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%
03/31/20 at 0.70%
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%
03/31/20 at 1.35%
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will let borrowers facing hardship defer 2 months of mortgage payments. On Tuesday, both agencies, the two largest sources of mortgage funding in the nation, said they would be taking additional steps to address issues that exist within the lending process and that they will begin offering several “loan processing flexibilities.” The FHA and VA have joined Fannie and Freddie in relaxing some loan standards. Not to leave Ginnie Mae out of the news, besides announcing updates to multiclass securities guide related to the possible cessation of the US dollar LIBOR index, in terms of COVID-19, GNMA announced that it plans disaster aid for virus-hit mortgage servicers. For that, GNMA intends to use a program meant to address natural disasters. Meanwhile, US pending home sales rose 2.4% in February. Case-Shiller reported that US home prices rose 3.9% in January. Refinancing of mortgages continues to be 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 0.75% since. One of the reasons why the rates popped back up was because the banks and mortgage companies were getting deluged with applications. Many consumers wanted to lower their rates, others wanted to take needed cash out, and all suddenly had free time to work on refinancing applications. So, I think the backup in mortgage rates was a ‘defensive’ one. 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. While the government is cushioning the impact of the COVID-19 virus on consumers, National Mortgage News says that independent mortgage bankers need funding to deal with the increased levels of servicing advances because of mortgage forbearances. An April wave of missed payments could upend mortgage services. Meanwhile, on the heels of the major move in the basis vs cash spread on US Treasuries that caught a lot of levered asset managers and relative value hedge funds off-guard 2 weeks ago, forcing them to unwind positions, there has been a big credit unwind in mortgages, as banks have marked the assets down, particularly private label MBS, CMBS, and commercial and residential mortgage loans. The process sort of feeds on itself, my whole loan/mortgage expert and longtime friend, James George, says, as banks lower marks, they issue margin calls on asset managers and securitization conduits, some of whom just took losses on the basis trade too, which then leads to some of the asset managers selling collateral at distressed prices to reduce their leverage and use of capital. He said that some non-QM residential mortgage sales are down 10 points with some bids down 15 points from the previous marks of 104-105. And this is on brand new high FICO score borrowers with the alternative bank statement documentation that intend to stay in their homes and are set to receive direct government checks in the next few weeks. You would think these mortgages would not drop in price like this in a 2-week period. Contrast this with commercial office property loans, backed by leases with businesses that may not be using their offices for a while. Most of their employees are working virtually and these businesses may not have enough cash flow or revenue at the moment to meet lease payments and payroll. Further on these low marks and margin calls, on Sunday, the Mortgage Bankers Association in a letter urged the SEC and the nation’s main brokerage regulator, FINRA, to address the problem by telling broker/dealers not to escalate margin calls to “destabilizing levels”, as Bloomberg reported this morning. It’s unclear how many billions of dollars of these non-QM commercial loans are out there, as have not been able to confirm any distressed sales of commercial loans as of this writing. But, the banks have probably marked the loans and securities down even further than they did the residential loans. One thing that would really help in both parts of this key the non-QM market and provide much needed liquidity would be for the Federal Reserve to include these as eligible collateral in their new resuscitated TALF program from 2008-2010. TALF was useful program to keep the plumbing functioning in vital markets during the Great Recession and the US government ultimately made money on it. The Hill reports that the $2.2 trillion stimulus package just signed will let homeowners with federally-backed mortgages seek forbearance on payments, a provision that could cause enough losses to bankrupt mortgage servicers. Industry advocates say Federal intervention is essential to ward off a chain of crises. According to Forbes, NY has suspended mortgage payments 90 days, for those facing financial hardship. The NY Governor also is temporarily postponing or suspending foreclosures, and is waiving fees for ATMs, credit cards and overdrafts.
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.
On 3/31/20, it happened, RRP volume was larger than the RP volume (Fed open market operations)! The bottom line was that the Fed wound up taking out more cash from the market than it was putting in. RP operations were $262.7 billion, while RRP volume was $284.9 billion. Scott Skrym said it’s not a bad business for the Fed (which, by the way, is a profit-center), as it currently loans the money at 0.10% and borrows it at 0.00%, a 10bp profit matched book on over $262 billion, or about $729,000 in one day’s revenue. He further points out that it is a Catch-22, because as long as the RP cash is being pumped into the Repo market at 0%, the dealers will offer buy-side cash providers negative rates for their cash, so they will take that cash to the Fed, and once they do and don’t use it to fund dealers, the Fed will have to pump more cash in the market in RP. So, it is a hamster wheel, after all!
The Federal Reserve has activated a temporary repurchase agreement facility that lets foreign central banks exchange US Treasuries for US dollars. This was an activity that many central banks and sovereign wealth funds were doing in the Repo market with broker/dealers, repoing their US Treasuries for term 1-3 months for US dollars, then taking those US dollars and buying their own currencies, propping those currencies up, until their own economies improved (or oil prices rose in some cases). But, with oil prices at historic lows, their economies struggling with the pandemic, and the apparent lack of liquidity in the term repo markets, the Fed felt it needed to step in with this Facility. Both the Facility and the term repos to broker/dealers are designed to be alternatives to them selling the US Treasuries outright in the market, something the Treasury Department and the Fed absolutely don’t want them to do.
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.
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.
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. This facility, dormant by the middle of 2019, has perked up again in the last few months, as cash providers have trouble finding enough repo collateral among their broker/dealer sources.
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.
The Federal Reserve has reportedly begun buying ETFs and Corporate Bonds, although some question its legal authority to do so. I think if it is considered to be on behalf of the US Treasury, it is probably allowed.
Earthquakes and Volcanoes:
A 6.5 earthquake hit Tuesday night near Boise, Idaho. It was felt in neighboring states of Utah, Nevada, Washington State, and Canada. Other earthquakes above 4.5-magnitude, in the last 2 days:
04/01 5.3 Qumong, China
04/01 4.9 Amatignak Island
04/01 4.5 Aitape, Papua New Guinea
04/01 5.4 Pacific-Antarctic Ridge
04/01 5.2 Visokoi Island
04/01 4.9 Aisen, Chile
04/01 5.2 Puerto Chacabuco
04/01 4.6 Cascade, Idaho
03/31 6.5 Challis, Idaho
03/31 4.8 Hihifo, Tonga
03/31 4.8 Itoman, Japan
03/31 4.9 Oarai, Japan
03/31 4.8 Dili, East Timor
03/31 4.6 Sarangani, Philippines
A tornado reportedly hit Benevolence, heading northeast in Georgia, as I write this Repo Commentary. I’m sure that many of you have seen that footage taken by a traffic camera of the tornado that grew in seconds and ravaged that Arkansas over the weekend.
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 another record high over the weekend and our rain total for Palm Beach County was 0.17” for March, making it the 3rd lowest March rainfall in about 150 years. Vero Beach, in Martin County, set an all-time record of 0.02” of rain for all of March. So, not only have we been cooped up in our houses and apartments, but the weather has been nothing but sunny and about 5-6 degrees warmer than normal for the entire month of March! As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, it is 91 degrees in West Palm Beach and very humid.
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. CDC’s latest recommendations could mean no professional sports until June or July now.
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. The Bengals have the No.1 pick in the NFL Draft, unless they trade it away. The Patriots currently have 12 picks in the Draft and only a backup as a QB.
On 3/30 (Monday), Florida Governor DeSantis and his medical team said that they believe that the Coronavirus actually may have been around here in Florida as early as the Super Bowl weekend, early February, and people may have become infected in Miami at that time. That is consistent with the feeling from the CDC that the Coronavirus was likely around in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, also in February. That in turn has led Florida’s Governor DeSantis to put up an armed patrol at the Florida/Louisiana border to restrict the entry of potential infected Louisiana residents. NFL teams approved the expansion of the post-season, which was set in motion by the league’s recent bargaining agreement with the players. Under these new terms, the NFL would add 2 Wild Card teams, one from the AFC and one from the NFC, to the Playoffs, raising the number of teams involved in postseason to 14 from 12. Both CBS and NBC each picked up the extra Wild Card game to be aired on 1/10/21. CBS is producing a separate telecast for young viewers on the Nickelodeon channel, while NBC will also make its game available via streaming-video service Peacock and Telemundo. The last time the NFL expanded the playoffs was for the 1990 season, going from 10 postseason teams to 12 teams.
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. The Tokyo Olympics will begin in July 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.
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.
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.
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 due to Coronavirus. One after another conference cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever 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 last Tuesday, the NHL general managers said they intend 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. The NHL itself has not decided what to do.
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 had No.1 Bucks, No.2 Raptors, No.3 Celtics, No.4 Heat, No.5 Pacers, No.6 76ers, and the rest were 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 were well behind.
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. There is no word yet from the League on when or if it will resume the regular season or hold the Playoffs.
For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed. The Florida Derby was run this weekend, but without fans in attendance. I did not see masks on the horses. It’s interesting, NBC reported that without casinos or horse tracks (or poker rooms at horse tracks) open, people are willing to wager on almost anything online.
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 when they post the updated one:
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 COVID-19. 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 COVID-19:
• 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. However, the State Department did put out a warning for people travelling to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Ironically, at the same time, Rhode Island, after a plea by New York Governor Cuomo, backed down on banning people from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut from entering the state of Rhode Island. However, Florida Governor DeSantis is still putting up checkpoints on I-95 and the Florida Turnpike to check on anyone from the tri-state area and force them to quarantine for 14-days, in many cases. Public transportation in many municipalities is still running. The NY Subway, for example, is packed with NO ‘social distancing’, which is pretty scary. Somebody needs to do something about that. As you can imagine, Carnival, Norwegian, and Princess cruise lines are in a world of hurt, and that’s even before any civil litigation. Here in West Palm Beach, FL, COVID-19 arrived before 3/26, which was the night that the Canopy Hotel was going to open across from Rosemary Square (formerly City Place). Needless to say, it had to give away all of the opening night party food and drinks and laid off all but 6 of the new employees, and did not open. Spirit Airlines has suspended flights from New York metro area, starting this week. The Governor of Virginia has ordered residents to stay home until 06/10.
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.
That cruise ship, Zaandam of Holland America, with now 140 people experiencing flu-like symptoms and 4 dead, which was heading to dock at Ford Lauderdale on 3/30, was ordered to stop 3 miles out to sea and NOT dock. It is actually lined up with 3 other cruise ships out at sea. Officials have off-loaded the passengers who are the most afflicted and whisked them to hospitals in Florida to effectively treat them. The rest of the passengers are still kind of held hostage. Those passengers are now pleading with Florida to allow them in, according to NBC News.
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”.
The New England Journal of Medicine just published a study that tested how long COVID-19 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. On shoes, up to 72 hours (although another study claimed up to 5 days). On hands, 5-10 minutes. It can live on currency 8-10 hours. It does not survive in chlorine or water.
As of this morning (4/1), globally, more than 44,155 people have died from COVID-19. More than 883,225 people have been infected with COVID-19. On the positive side, 176,644 people have totally recovered. The WHO says the virus has spread to over 166 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 so far, with a death toll over 12,428, as of 3/31, well above the death toll of China, with total confirmed cases in Italy of 105,792 as of 3/31, second only to the US. Italy has now suffered more than one-quarter of global fatalities and has extended the country-wide lockdown to 4/12 (Easter), so far. Spain’s COVID-19 confirmed cases total of 94,417 as of 3/31, makes it the third-most infected country in the world, now ahead of China (82,278). Spain has had at least 8,269 deaths from COVID-19. Spain’s outbreak is reportedly “slowing”, as it enters its 3rd week of lockdown. This weekend, Spanish PM Sanchez announced stricter measures, closing down all non-essential business until 4/9. Spain has entered a period of mourning Sunday, with the government ordering all flags to be flown at half-staff and a minute of silence observed every day to pay respects for the dead. Field hospitals have been set up around the world (one is being set up right now in Central Park in Manhattan, and another has been set up in NYC’s Javits Convention Center) I applaud the use of field hospitals, because, as I reported a week ago, doctors had more success with the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic when they treated patients in field hospitals, outdoors, and exposed to sunlight. The US Army is calling on retired Army medical personnel to staff field hospitals.
Last Tuesday, a top health official in Bahrain claimed that it was having success with decades-old anti-malaria drug, Hydroxychloroquine, using it to treat COVID-19. They said that it had been effective in “alleviating the symptoms of the virus and reducing its complications.” However, he didn’t have any data to show and it wasn’t in a study. It is one of several drugs and a couple anti-malaria drugs that the US is currently testing in Washington and NYC. If you recall, I wrote about Chloroquine weeks ago in my Repo Commentary, as one of my best friends had been on the medicine to treat malaria and he thought it could be successful against COVID-19. On 3/30, President Trump spoke about a French study in his daily press conference that involved 2 drugs which have shown amazing effectiveness against COVID-19, when taken together. In the small French study, the control group, not given the 2 medicines, had the COVID-19 in their blood still by Day 6. The second group took Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate (200mg, 3 times per day, up to 10 days) and the amount of COVID-19 dropped by 50% by Day 6. The third group took Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate (same dosage as above) AND z-pak of antibiotic Azithromycin (500mg once on Day 1, then 250mg on Days 2, 3, 4, and 5), and by Day 6, this group had NO COVID-19 left by Day 6. Although the FDA has not approved the combination of these 2 drugs, NYC has already been treating some of the worst COVID-19 patients and seeing great results. NYC, the US, several labs, and the FDA are studying the proper dosages now. There are risks to the drugs, but far less risk than the reward of not being among the 2-3% of infected patients dying from this disease. The main risk is in using the wrong dosage of Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate. As I mentioned in previous Repo Commentaries, it can damage the retina in certain dosages, but that damage sometimes is reversible. I know a lot about retinas, having detached both of mine on different occasions over the last 4 years. Also, since Hydroxychoroquine is derived from Quinine, and Quinine is a poison, overdosing on it could cause death, which happened to a couple who decided to dose themselves a week ago. LET ME BE CLEAR, THIS TREATMENT, WHILE SHOWING PROMISE IN FLATTENING THE CURVE DRAMATICALLY, IS STILL BEING TESTED FOR EFFECTIVE DOSAGE AND SIDE EFFECTS AND SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN BY ANY OF YOU WITHOUT YOU HAVING COVID-19 (AS THE RISKS ARE HIGH FOR NOT BEING IN DANGER WITH THE VIRUS, AND IT HAS NOT BEEN PROVEN TO BE A PREVENTATIVE MEASURE) AND WITHOUT A DOCTOR’S PRESCRIPTION AND MONITORING (WHICH PROBABLY WON’T HAPPEN UNLESS YOU ARE IN A CONTROLLED STUDY, IN A HOSPITAL, OR UNTIL THE FDA APPROVES IT).
I addressed this subject a couple of weeks ago, but it keeps getting virally circulated on social media, so I wanted to address it again and see if there is any further info or explanation. A video shows a guy who looks like a doctor, although in black scrubs, who is purportedly showing that “Coronavirus” received a US Patent in 2006 for one of the big Pharmas (of course, feeding into the public’s bias against Big Pharma and the conspiracy theory that Big Pharma must be involved and making a huge profit on the pandemic or in cahoots with some government in research on humans of a new weapon in Biowarfare, as if we are simply lab rats) and then, purportedly, showing a European Patent for a “Coronavirus cure” in 2019 (implying that someone or some group has been withholding the cure and letting tens of thousands of people die). I, and others, have not been able to verify this information and I have seen some doctors’ interviews where they debunked the entire conspiracy theory. I personally think that the whole thing is confused up puzzle of non-related facts, and whatever was allegedly patented has been confused with the current Coronavirus, COVID-19. As the alleged doctor in the video says, there is a patent for Coronavirus from 2006. He does not say that there is a patent for COVID-19, which is the particular virus from the ‘family’ of Coronaviruses. You recall that when I first reported on COVID-19 weeks ago (see at the bottom of this Health News section from my 3/18 Repo Commentary), many of the previous outbreaks that crossed over from animals to humans in China were Coronaviruses, which then had viruses named MERS, SARS, Swine Flu, and Bird Flu H1N1, etc. It is possible that the Coronavirus that he found in his Internet search that he believes is patented was one of the other Coronaviruses. It is more likely that his information is false because why would someone use a generic name like Coronavirus for a Patent and not the specific virus name, COVID-19? That would be like getting a patent on a generic 4-wheel driving machine, but not the specific Cadillac. It’s unlikely, if you were trying to protect a formula, that the US Patent Office would grant you a patent for a general subject and not the specific formula. Because of this potential confusion to other Coronaviruses that have come before (a new strain of Bird Flu has just broken out again in China, in fact), I have removed all the instances that I am using the word “Coronavirus” in the Repo Commentary (except and swapping in the word “COVID-19”. Let the rest of the media use the word “Coronavirus” to continue to incite panic and also confuse people, but I will not add to that. Plus, I want to help that small percentage of rednecks that still think this virus has something to do with Corona beer and are boycotting the brewery. There is another video making its way virally through social media, accusing the CDC of knowing about COVID-19 as early as mid-November, when it posted job postings on its website to hire quarantine specialists, well ahead of February, which is when the media has reported the CDC knew. The video goes on to say that the CDC was in cahoots with Big Pharma to get them bailout money and the CDC funding, positioning both to save the country from the pandemic.
Last Thursday, the US achieved a grim milestone in most COVID-19 cases confirmed in the world, over 82,000, even more than China. As of 3/31, the US has 181,099 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The death toll from COVID-19 in the US, on Tuesday, also reached a grim milestone, according to Reuters, surpassing the death toll of 3,305 reported in China. As of 3/31, the US death toll has climbed to 3,606, but 6,038 have recovered. On 3/31, the US experienced the most deaths yet in one day from COVID-19, with 811. One of the reasons that the numbers keep rising is because the US has now tested over 1.1 million people, after a delay for 2 weeks in February when test kits were defective. 1.1 million is a lot of people, but it is a small percentage of the more than 327 million people in America, per the 2018 Census. The New York Times reports that the Chinese figures are under scrutiny, as Hubei, China alone had 3,187 deaths, and France, Italy, and Spain have also exceeded 3,500 COVID-19 deaths each. The President has now extended the US guidelines from 4/12 (Easter) to 4/30. There is now a blood test to be rolled out, developed by Abbott Labs, that can confirm COVID-19 infection within 5 minutes, rather than previous tests being sent to labs for up to 5 days. This will be huge for drive-up testing sites, first responders, and hospitals. There is also a cartridge test that takes only 15 minutes for results, that was recently confirmed by Rutgers University and already has emergency approval from the FDA and began shipping Monday 3/30 from Cepheid, the molecular diagnostics company in California that developed it with help from Rutgers. Like the 5-minute blood test from Abbott Labs, the cartridge test will likely be made available only to those people showing multiple symptoms of COVID-19 or in the highest risk category (immune system-compromised or elderly) or prisoners (so they can isolate infected from the rest of the population and stop releasing hundreds of prisoners). The cartridge test will not be available for drive-up testing facilities, because they have to be tested on-site at facilities that own a GeneXpert molecular testing platform to process the samples. I still think those Delivery Dudes, Door Dashers, Grub Hubbers and other food delivery folks, who are potential spreaders of the virus, should be tested!
There continues to be is heightened concerns for the safety of medical professionals, as personal protective equipment for those on the front line rapidly dwindles. Some caregivers in hospitals were forced to wear plastic trash bags as gown supplies ran out. Others have been reusing their disposable masks. Some other hospitals have taken to putting 2 patients on one ventilator as they are running out of ventilators. The ventilator manufacturers strongly advise against this, as there can be complications to the machines and to the patients, especially if the two have different needs and different other conditions. Governor Cuomo announced that he needed 30,000-40,000 ventilators for New York, and President Trump challenged that number. Later, it was discovered that New York already had a stock pile of some 10,000 ventilators. New York is the worst-hit state by COVID-19. NYC Mayor de Blasio says that half of all New Yorkers will get COVID-19. He said on Sunday that, “April will be worse than March, and I fear that May could even be worse than April.” He extended mandatory business closures until at least 4/15 to handle the pandemic. According to the NY Post, in a 7-hour period on Sunday, 98 people died from COVID-19 in NYC, at the rate of one person every 2 ½ minutes! That raised the city’s death toll to 776. By Sunday night, 3/29, 33,474 people had been infected with COVID-19 in NYC. Queens remains the hardest hit borough, with 10,737 cases by Sunday night. Brooklyn has the second most, with 8,887. Bronx is third, Manhattan fourth, and Staten Island fifth. Thousands of New York private and retired healthcare workers have answered the Mayor’s call and are helping in the hospitals.
The US Navy did an amazing job to retrofit and supply the Hospital Ship, Comfort, which set sail on Saturday from Virginia, according to President Trump, and arrived 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. Of course, hundreds of New Yorkers missed the point entirely of why it is there, and showed up in a huge crowd to see it come in, practicing zero ‘social distancing.’ The other military hospital ship, Mercy, a sister ship to Comfort, has already docked in Los Angles. Also, in NYC, the Jacob Javits Convention Center has been repurposed by the National Guard and NYC officials into a 1,000 bed Field Hospital. It’s good that the hospital ship and convention center are now available, as the latest reports show that NYC hospitals are at full capacity now, with COVID-19 patients and other patients. New studies are indicating that COVID-19 may wind up being seasonal and may die down in the hot summer months and return next year around the same time.
President Trump spoke about a French study on 3/30 in his daily press conference that involved 2 antibiotics which are showed amazing effectiveness against COVID-19. In the French study, the control group had the virus in their blood still by Day 6. The second group took Chloroquine and the amount of COVID-19 dropped by 50% in Day 6. The third group took Hydroxychloroquine AND z-pak of antibiotic, and by Day 6, this group had NO COVID-19 left by Day 6. Although the FDA has not approved the combination of these 2 drugs, NYC has already been treating some of the worst COVID-19 patients and seeing great results. NYC, the US, and the FDA are studying the proper dosages now. There are risks to the drugs, but far less risk than reward of not being among the 2-3% of infected patients dying from this disease. The main risk is in the use of Hydroxychloroquine, as I mentioned in previous Repo Commentaries, in that it can damage the retina in certain dosages, but that damage sometimes is reversible. I know a lot about retinas, having detached both of mine on different occasions over the last 4 years. Also, since Hydroxychoroquine is derived from Quinine, and Quinine is a poison, overdosing on it could cause death. The media is also talking about 2 HIV drugs as possible cures for COVID-19 and which are being tested. In addition, I have heard reports about using plasma from COVID-19 survivors as an infusion. Johnson & Johnson reports promising news on a vaccine, which normally takes 5-7 years to develop, but this one will be only 5-7 months.
Did you happen to notice that now that we humans are all ‘social distancing’, not touching each other or high-touch surfaces, and actually washing our hands like we were supposed to, oh and not travelling on airplanes, that the incidences of flu and common colds have plummeted? By the way, many of our brave doctors, nurses, and first responders have taken to referring to COVID-19 as “The Beast”. I’m sure by now you have heard about the global phenomenon, which has just come to West Palm Beach, FL, called “clapping hands of thanks”, in which neighbors of doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers are lining up in their driveways at 8am or 8pm (shift changes) to applaud their healthcare neighbors when they leave or return to their houses to go to battle on the frontlines and show their appreciation for their brave efforts. Some communities are showing up at hospitals and staying in their cars and flashing their lights, applauding, and honking their horns to show their appreciation. We also appreciate the hard-working truck drivers, warehouse workers, pharmacists, pharmacy workers, grocery store workers, police, fire, EMTs, and others who are on the frontline for us against “The Beast” and protect our lives!
Public Service Announcement:
How do you know if you have COVID-19? 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 celebrities 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 return 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 (another French study) on 3/16 and later the UK NHS, announced that people infected with COVID-19 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 COVID-19, 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 kidneys of constant use of ibuprofen. However, what is not spoken about much is that constant use of Tylenol can also lead to bad results for the Liver. In fact, the study that the French Government relied on for its guidelines was based on their own previous study about a woman who had died allegedly taking ibuprofen and how ibuprofen compares to acetaminophen. But, the study was flawed, since the original woman was actually on acetaminophen, not ibuprofen, according to the latest reports. So, I really don’t know. All I know is, after someone mentions it in the media or in a press conference, Tylenol is suddenly gone from all the shelves at the pharmacies, grocery stores, and Target. But, there is plenty of Advil! So, another one to add to the Endangered Species of rarely spotted home goods, along with Emergen-C, Vitamin C, Zinc, paper towels, pasta sauce, pasta, latex or nitrile gloves, n95 masks (or any face masks of any kind), Handiwipes/Wet Ones or any type of antibiotic soap, spray, or towel, Purell, and the odd one, toilet paper.
• 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 COVID-19 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.
I wrote in the 3/18 Repo Commentary:
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals. Rarely, do animal coronaviruses infect people and then spread between people (referred to as zoonotic), but those diseases have gained the most media attention and panic over the last couple of decades, including: MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, Swine Flu, H1N1 Bird Flu, and this SARS-CoV-2. The MERS and SARS viruses have their origins in bats, although the transfer of MERS was from dromedary camels and the original SARS via civet cats. The symptoms in humans are respiratory difficulty, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Authorities estimate that the fatality rate is about 3%, with patients suffering pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or kidney failure.
Another positive from quarantining, besides saving money, is that a 2,000-pound/15.5-foot-long great white shark pinged off Palm Beach, FL on Sunday. Luckily, no one was in the water, since the beaches are currently closed because of the pandemic. The shark was tagged in Nova Scotia. I actually thought this was the same report, so overlooked it, but on Friday, another great white shark pinged off of Cape Canaveral, FL. This one was only 10-feet-9-inches long. They must have gotten through one of Governor DeSantis’ checkpoints. Researchers have discovered that penguins talk to each other underwater. The vocalize while they are on the hunt. The Belgium Zoo has been sharing online adorable pictures of orangutans with their cute otter friends.
For those of my friends in the entertainment industry, particularly local musicians and ‘gig’ musicians, I have a lot of information directly from IATSE (which apparently I am now part of, after joining their petition and letter-writing to Congress to include entertainers in the CARES Act) about the CARES Act and what you need to do to receive your share of the $260 billion “enhanced and expanded unemployment insurance” available to thousands of entertainment workers throughout the country, who have been furloughed, laid off, or finding themselves without work through no fault of their own, and who typically aren’t well-positioned for normal Unemployment Insurance (which by the way, has been extended to 4 months now by the US Government for this pandemic) because of their ‘gig-related’ or ‘transient’ income. Please contact me and I will share it with you.
There is talk that this pandemic may actually bring back the drive-in theaters, which were very popular when I grew up (before your time) and could be used for ‘social distancing’. Last night, I watched the Elton John Living Room Concert for America, which was hosted by Sir Elton John and featured several musicians entertaining and celebrities speaking from their living rooms for two US charities. It was a great show and highly recommend pulling it up on On Demand (it was carried by Fox live on 3/29 and put together by iHeart Media. I also highly recommend both charities. It opened with Procter & Gamble making a $500,000 donation, which was then matched by Fox, which was really cool. The show included Alicia Keys (one of the best of the night), Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey (I don’t know how she sings those high notes), Tim McGraw, Green Day’s lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong, Lady Gaga, Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson (who donated himself a week ago 1 million meals for Seattle’s homeless!), The Backstreet Boys (in a really cool 5-part split screen harmony, one of the best of the night), Melissa McCarthy, Lizzo, and others. John Krasinski and Steve Carell virtually reunited for a mini Office reunion as part of the first episode of Krasinski’s new YouTube series, Some Good News. Late Night With Seth Meyers returns Monday with a Bernie Sanders interview. CNN’s Chris Cuomo announced on Tuesday that he has COVID-19 symptoms. Don’t get me wrong, I like the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, and I like the awards they bestow in their gala and the grants they give out, and I know it is a favorite project of every President and Congress since it opened, but why did they get a $25 million bailout from the new $2.2 trillion Emergency Stimulus Act? What was even odder is that President Trump wanted to zero out money for the National Endowment for the Arts, but a Governor Huckabee pushed for federal arts funding. And, in unrelated news about the Kennedy Center, President Trump chose actor Jon Voigt, Broadway producer Daryl Roth, and former AK Gov. Mike Huckabee for the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees, according to Variety. He also picked AFG co-CEO Carl Lindner III, TCW Group chairman Marc I. Stern (not the guy years ago on the airplane), Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren, AG Hill Partners’ Heather Washburne, arts philanthropist Adrienne Arsh, author Karen Tucker LeFrak, and hotelier Kelly Roberts. Their terms will run through 9/1/24. Typically, appointments to this Board are made by each President, no matter what party, and often are donors, fundraisers, and other high profile figures who are loyal supporters that President. Hmm, maybe they were ‘related’ news items, after all. There are 36 members of the Board appointed by the President, along with 21 ex-officio members designated by Congress. President Trump actually declined to attend the venue’s signature event, the Kennedy Center Honors, in the first 2 years of his term. This was partly due to some of the honorees (like Norman Lear) saying they would not attend a traditional White House ceremony before the event in protest of Trump’s proposed cuts to the arts. The following year, the honorees included some of the President’s highest-profile critics (like Cher). The President does not select honorees, but, rather they are selected by a special advisory committee and online from members of the public, and then approved by the executive committee of the Board. The UK government is under pressure from the creative industries on economic measures for freelancers, after it emerged that economic measures set out for the self-employed last week by Chancellor for the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have significant gaps in them. It apparently doesn’t cover those people working through their own limited companies, those with less than 3 years of tax history, and those earning more than $61,000/year. HBO is moving Mark Ruffalo limited series I Know This Much Is True to May. Nielsen reports that video-streaming to TVs soared 85% in US in just the first 3 weeks of March, no doubt due to the quarantining. The Nanny original cast will reunite for a virtual table read. Did you notice that reality TV shows are becoming more niche, personal, and extreme? Arte France has moved to open up the French series to international. The Witches star Vincent Marzello has died at age 68. Hulu renewed Shrill for Season 3. Fox Corp. has joined other media companies in suggesting the pandemic may affect results. Well, I would expect so, since the movie ticket sales are zero, and many of the advertisers who are shut down are not going to waste money on advertising. Adam Schlesinger, Fountains of Wayne co-founder has been hospitalized with COVID-19. ESPN has unveiled an earlier-than-expected launch for its highly anticipated Michael Jordan documentary. San Sebastian, Zurich has vowed to take up SXSW and Tribeca (both cancelled) titles at newly created film markets. James Corden, confessed how COVID-19 has spiked his anxiety and sadness at times, and was visibly overwhelmed and upset, in the final minutes of his own virtual reality show, Homefest, that he hosted on Monday night. The live show featured a number of guests, including Billie Eilish, BTS, Dua Lipa, John Legend, David Blaine, and Will Ferrell. The show raised money for charity organizations CDC Foundation and Feeding America. Meghan Markle narrates an emotional, educational Disneynature documentary, Elephant. The movie BLACK WIDOW may debut online, instead of in theaters. STAR WARS actor, Andrew Jack, who played Resistance Major Caluan Ematt in the franchise, died at age 76, due to COVID-19. Kim Kardashian joked that having another baby is “out the door” after being quarantined with 4 kids. This year’s CMA Fest has been cancelled and the next one will be in June 2021. 2020 Billboard Music Awards has been postponed. Cannes Film Festival, despite assurances all along that it would be on time, finally has decided not to open on 5/12-5/23, and is looking at options to postpone or to cancel. The 46th Daytime Emmy Awards will not be held on 6/12. Kids’ Choice Awards will be postponed. The Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony is being rescheduled. Kesha, Adam Lambert and Queen, Bon Iver, Billie Eilish, Blake Shelton, Boyz II Men, Bret Michaels, Brooks & Dunn, Carlos Santana, Celine Dion, Cher, Cole Swindell, Dan + Shay, Elton John, Foo Fighters, BTS, Alicia Keys, Avril Lavigne, Camila Cabello, Foo Fighters, Garth Brooks, Green Day, Haim, Jerry Seinfeld, Jonas Brothers, Josh Groban, Kelly Clarkson, Lionel Richie, Louis Tomlinson, Maluma, Mandy Moore, Mariah Carey, Michael Buble, Miranda Lambert, NCT, Niali Horan, The National, Old Dominion, Ozzy Osbourne, Pentatonix, Reba McEntire, the Rolling Stones, Stormyz, Taeyeon, Tanya Tucker, STYX, Taylor Swift, Trevor Noah, Vanessa Carlton, Zac Brown Band, and more have had to postpone concerts or shows scheduled for March-May. A slew of TV shows and movies have halted production due to the outbreak, including AVATAR sequel and THE MATRIX 4. Spring and summer movie releases are being postponed. July releases of GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE and MORBIUS movies will not be released some time in 2021. Val Kilmer has opened up for the first time about his battle with throat cancer. Chef Guy Fieri has launched a relief fund to give 500 checks to restaurant workers impacted by COVID-19.
Technology & Space News:
3M is maxing out its production of n95 masks at 100 million per month and will double production by next year. 35 million of those per month are in the US. It is also shipping 500,000 of the masks from a South Dakota plant to Seattle and New York City hospitals. Carhartt, the outerwear company famous for its unique jackets and boots, is retooling to produce 2.5 million facemasks and 50,000 medical gowns to help fight COVID-19. MLB’s Fanatics.com, the major manufacturer of MLB uniforms and sports fan clothing, has retooled its factory to make hospital gowns and facemasks as well, from uniform material. I reported previously that many companies are now using Zoom (or Microsoft’s ‘Teams’) to do virtual conferencing. Now, some employees are being laid off by Zoom conference calls. Visa and Mastercard are busy now working to develop technology that would allow consumers to pay for gas and other items from inside a car, without handling cash or credit cards. Mastercard has partnerships with self-service kiosk provider Zivelo and Sonic Drive, while Visa has been working with Honda since 2015 on an in-car payment system. I have something similar with Cumberland Farms, to buy gas. All I have to do is call up the App on my cellphone and type in the gas pump location. Plus, Cumberland is 10 cents cheaper than neighboring gas stations. It was a historic day on Friday at Cape Canaveral, FL, as an Atlas 5 rocket launched the first official Space Force satellite. Researchers at MIT have developed a device that harvests energy from terahertz radiation, such as Wi-Fi transmissions. This may be used in the future to enable phones and other mobile devices to be charged while they are in use. A machine algorithm has been trained to decode brain patters and translate them into sentences with error rates as little as 3%!. The crust layers contained within meteorites originating from Mars hold some clues about where the red planet’s water originated, and researchers now believe that water may have come from at least 2 different sources. The Moon, Venus, and Jupiter will align to form a smiley face this May. It is a rare celestial phenomenon called an occultation. The last one visibile in North America was in 2012. This next one will be visible only to certain areas and for a short time after sunset on 5/16/20.
Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED.
On Friday, finally, the House voted and passed the historic and massive economic stimulus package of over $2.2 trillion. Also 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 COVID-19 pandemic, will be crucial to avoid repeat of 2008 Financial Crisis. The President had said that many large companies (and some small ones) had readily volunteered to re-tool their factories to make necessary medical supplies for the nation, something that he said he could FORCE them to do under the Defense Act. Apparently, he reevaluated that and decided that the automobile manufacturers, in particular, were NOT doing enough and he sent them a stern message. It is not lost on all of us that those automobile manufacturers received massive bailouts in 2008 and were some of the first in line for the $100 billion bailout from this latest $2.2 trillion stimulus package. I think there is a mistaken public perception of these industry bailouts and what they are for. I spoke at length with some local restaurant owners about their particular bailout, and it generally applies to the other large industry bailouts. It is not given to the owners of those companies to directly then pay their workers who have been either furloughed, temporarily idled, or laid off and out of work. In some cases, those companies or restaurants are paying those people out of work with ‘paid leaves of absence’, ‘sick pay’, or regular pay (like some of the sports arenas). However, in the majority of the companies, the employees who are out of work will rely only on the $1200 per adult/$500 per child from the Government (except for people who owe child support, who will not get a check), up to 4 months of Unemployment Insurance, and whatever deferrals they can get from bill collectors, landlords, mortgage companies, and the 3 months’ deferral from the IRS. Some self-owned businesses will be able to apply for state grants, or apply for the new Small Business loans from the SBA. The larger bailouts are generally not to pay employees out of work, but to prop up the companies, replacing the revenue they lost to some degree, keeping them in business and able to pay their suppliers, facilities, and bills. The companies are specifically NOT ALLOWED to use the bailout money to Buy Back Stock (which some did in 2008-2010) to prop up their stock prices, or use the bailout money for Executive Compensation. President Trump says infrastructure legislation, worth another $2 trillion to bolster the economy and to blunt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic should be part of a 4th relief package.
I just received the details and application forms for the $350 billion SBA Paycheck Protection Program on Tuesday night. This program will provide small businesses with funds to pay payroll costs including benefits up to 8 weeks. Funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, for rent, and for utilities. Eligible small businesses are ones that have 500 or fewer employees, including nonprofits, veterans’ organizations, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors. In certain industries, businesses with more than 500 employees are eligible as well. The loans will be fully forgiven if at least 75% of the amount taken is used for Payroll. Otherwise, loan payments will be deferred for 6 months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge any fees. The important part of this is that forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining their salary levels. The government is very earnest about this. Forgiveness of the loan will be reduced if full-time headcount goes down, or if salaries and wages decrease. Application period starts 4/3 for small businesses and sole proprietorships. The application period for independent contractors and self-employed individuals begins 4/10. There is a cap to all of this funding (I think that’s the $260 billion), so they encourage you to apply ASAP. You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally-insured depository institution, federally insurance credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that are participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are enrolled in the program. More info and the application forms are at http://www.sba.gov. Banks and credit unions are in position to earn $billions in fees on the $350 billion in these loans offered by the SBA as part of the COVID-19 relief package approved by Congress and the President. The fees that they will collect from SBA will be on sliding scale based on the size of each loan.
One positive that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic is that apparently it has crippled the New York Mafia, if there is even such an organization, per the NY Post.
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 COVID-19, 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 COVID-19 response.
The US Treasury and IRS announced two weeks ago 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. However, if you are owed a Refund, it behooves you to file your taxes now, so you can get that much needed money sooner, and not just give the Government and interest-free loan.
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 was weighing easing the stay-at-home orders for the country to lessen the economic devastation. He had said that they would check to see what has happened by Easter, which is 4/12, and make a decision then on what direction they want to take. However, he has had a change of heart, listening to the advice he is getting from his own medical experts that the pandemic could be around longer, and extended that date for Federal guidelines (including social distancing) to at least 4/30, on Saturday. He also now says that the disease could be around until 6/01. Dr. Anthony Fauci, in an interview Sunday, said that he believes that the we could see a death toll from COVID-19 of 100,000-240,000 people. This was a shocking number and was all over the news on Sunday. The CDC is now weighing advising everyone to wear a mask, according to the NY Times.
A Louisiana megachurch, The River Church, decided to defy the Governor’s orders and held in-person service for a massive audience on Sunday, putting all parishioners at risk of the COVID-19 (and anyone they come in contact with). The arrogant pastor said that he would ‘cure coronavirus just the way he did with Zika.’ He has always vowed to ‘never’ close the church. I hope this isn’t like that Reverend Jones massacre many years ago. Sure enough, the minute I wrote that sentence, I read a headline that the pastor was arrested and charged. Most mega churches, like Christ Fellowship here, and Joel Osteen’s church in Houston, are doing virtual services over the Internet or on their TV stations. Other churches, in Palm Beach County, have actually gotten creative and are doing services in their parking lots, using a podium and a local radio station to broadcast to families in their cars in the parking lot. A Catholic church has brought back confessionals, but in the drive-up style, with a priest sitting in the parking lot and a line of cars driving up and the priest talking from a chair through the driver’s open window. That does remove the historical anonymity of the practice though.
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. Other car companies are offering forbearance on existing car leases. As for mortgages, some mortgage companies and banks are coming up with forbearance programs up to 12 months, with a plan to repay at least part of the payments in the future. Some renters may be able to ask their landlords for some forbearance, especially if those landlords qualify for some of the Stimulus Package or for the $10,000 loans offered to small businesses. If the business uses the money solely for expenses and costs of running the business, the loan will be forgiven by the government. 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. The US Government has streamlined the information on what relief is available for those impacted by COVID-19 on a website, benefits.gov.
In other US News (as a category, not the magazine/news service), scrutiny is now falling on the Republican Intelligence Committee Chair for selling shares of stock before the stock market crash. There have been other members of Congress and the Senate who have previously been rumored to have sold stock just before, which may fall under ‘insider trading.’ Democrats are seeing the pandemic as a chance to accomplish a long-time vote-by-mail referendum for the 2020 Election.
There seems to be a theme to this edition of the Repo Commentary, ‘debunking conspiracy theories’ or at least getting them out there in the open. The latest that has come to my attention, started on 3/16/20, and has taken many official-looking forms. It is falsely presented as a news item, a text from the US Government, or a clever memo on National Guard stationary, which purports that the US Government or State governments, or Homeland Security, will be calling out the National Guard in the next 48-72 hours to enforce a mandatory lockdown of the entire nation for 14 days, with EVERY business closed. I received the National Guard memo this morning (Thursday). Snopes.com is right on this and says it is totally false. They have checked with government officials. Also, Homeland Security said they would never communicate with the public in this manner. They would communicate through an official ALERT and be broadcast on all media. So, do not do as the memo says and panic-buy supplies for the next 2 weeks to survive on.
I have more negative news about Hobby Lobby. I’m not picking on them; they just can’t stay out of the news. The owner has been arguing that they should be considered an “essential” business and allowed to be open. It’s kind of ludicrous for a hobby and crafts retail store. And, they just announced to employees that they will be laying of the majority and slashing wages of those that remain.
A 98-year-old US ombat airman, Bob Otto, who played “Taps” for over 5,000 veteran funerals has died. A woman pulled a “twisted prank” at a PA grocery store, where she purposely coughed all over about $35,000 worth of fresh produce, bakery goods and meat case, and made terrorist threats. The store had to throw the produce out, out of fear of virus contagion. The woman was arrested and charged with 4 felonies. A California teenager died of COVID-19 in an emergency room, after being refused care because of lack of health insurance.
North Macedonia has become a member of NATO. Italy has extended its full lockdown to 4/12, at least. A Singapore court has upheld a gay sex ban. This is the same judicial system that still subjects people who litter chewing gum to ‘caning’. New issue with COVID-19, as a Van Gogh painting was stolen from a Dutch museum, the Singer Laren Museum, that is shut because of the pandemic. The painting was ‘The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen’. Syria has reported first COVID-19 death. The Hungarian Parliament has voted by 137 to 53 to accept the government’s request for the power to rule by decree during the COVID-19 emergency. Sierra Leone has overturned its 2015 ban on pregnant schoolgirls that had been introduced when schools reopened after the Ebola crisis. A virus-fighting scientist in Australia, trying to create a necklace to stop people from touching their faces, wound up getting magnets stuck up his nose. Taiwan is reportedly becoming a problem for WHO, according to BBC. Brazil’s president Bolsonaro is reportedly in denial over COVID-19, according to BBC. India’s pandemic lockdown is for 21 days and was ordered with just 4 hours’ notice to its people on 3/24, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Not only did all work and wages immediately stop, but so did all transportation. All over India, and estimated 100 million of migrant workers have been forced to walk from cities home to their villages. They basically became refugees overnight, walking hundreds of miles home. The Indian Express newspaper ran a headline, “India is walking home.” The humongous exodus is reminiscent of the flight of refugees during the bloody partition there in 1947, when 15 million people fled to east and west Pakistan. So, the lockdown to help stem a pandemic crisis is now turning into a humanitarian crisis. Some of the people taking these huge treks are dying of the heat, starvation, and lack of water, long before being infected with COVID-19. India has announced a $22 billion relief package for those affected by the lockdown and the states are trying to determine how or if they can transport the workers home or keep them in the cities and provide them with food and money. Apparently happy with the results of its efforts and celebrating its ‘victory’ against COVID-19, China reopened the wild animal food markets for food and traditional medicine, including bats, cats and dogs, per the DailyMail. A 101-year-old man in Spain has survived COVID-19. He also survived the Spanish Flu of 1918. That’s remarkable!
Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED.
Florida has just surpassed 4,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, continues to try to protect Florida from the influx of visitors from states that are more impacted by COVID-19. Late last week, he set up roadblocks with Border Patrol agents, National Guardsmen, and State Police on I-10, to prevent infected people from Louisiana from entering the state of Florida. He also set up checkpoints on the Florida Turnpike and I-95 to stop New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents and have many self-quarantining for 14-days and keep track of them so that they do. I didn’t see the news item, but a Congressman friend of mine pointed out that Monday there was a huge backup on I-95 on the Georgia/Florida border, as the Governor has now set up a checkpoint there. But, oddly they aren’t testing any people for COVID-19. Some localities in Martin County have actually sent National Guardsmen and Police to houses with automobiles parked from those 3 states, to enforce self-quarantining. Florida public schools will be closed until at least 05/01. Up until now, the State of Florida has had only 2 COVID-19 testing sites, one in Tallahassee and one in Tampa. They just set up a new one at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach. But, you have to call ahead and get an appointment for a test, probably have to have at least 2 symptoms. This is disturbing news: mapping cellphone data, officials now determined that over 5,000 young Spring Breakers gathered on one Florida beach, Fort Lauderdale, the week of 3/23 (a week AFTER President Trump’s 3/16 guidelines for social distancing), before traveling back to their homes or schools, where they may have multiplied the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Palm Beach County authorities closed down all “non-essential” businesses, urging people to stay at home. It probably would have been easier and shorter to just list the “non-essential” (also known as ‘fun’) businesses that they were closing (realtors, bars, churches, retail stores, clothing stores, golf courses, gyms and fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, beaches, parks, amusement parks, and strip clubs.) They specifically designated “essential” businesses (allowed to be Open) as the following:
♣ 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
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 COVID-19. 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 pandemic, 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