It is Day 49 (on 4/28) since the start of the COVID-19 American shelter-in-place/quarantine response (7 states did not issue a shelter-in-place order), and the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). Of course, as some states start opening up, they are going to mess up my brand-new day counter.
I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world.
I mentioned that the book I ghostwrote last year, was finally published last week. I have just been commissioned to write some chapters for a second book, as a ghostwriter.
I am still not retired from the Securities Finance industry. I am working with an electronic trading platform, to provide a large electronic solution for several markets. I am also available for hire as a consultant, with almost 38 years of experience in the Repo & Securities Lending industry. So, if you need my 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, however, is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website: www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. I intend to publish a Repo Commentary every week on Monday or Tuesday.
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! But, I digress, on with the non-fake news.
Holidays or Events (04/27):
- Babe Ruth Day
- Marine Mammal Rescue Day
- Matanzas Mule Day
- Morse Code Day
- National Tell a Story Day
- National Prime Rib Day
- World Design Day
- National Devil Dog Day
- World Tapir Day
- Lawyers’ Day (Odisha, India)
- National Heroes Day in Barbados
- Restoration of Sovereignty Day in Japan
- Sardinia Day in Sardinia
- Workers’ Memorial Day for Safety and Health at Work (International)
- National Day of Mourning in Canada
Some Famous People Born on 04/27 in History:
- AD 32-Otho, Roman emperor
- 1442-Edward IV-King of England
- 1758-James Monroe, American soldier, lawyer, politician and 5thPresident of the United States
- 1878-Lionel Barrymore, American actor and director
- 1908-Oskar Schindler, Czech-German businessman
- 1916-Ferruccio Lamborghini, Italian businessman, created Lamborghini
- 1924-Kenneth Kaunda, Zambian educator and politician, 1stPresident of Zambia
- 1926-Harper Lee, American novelist
- 1937-Saddam Hussein, Iraqi general and 5thPresident of Iraq
- 1941-Ann-Margret, Swedish-American actress, singer and dancer
- 1950-Jay Leno, American comedian, talk show host, and producer
- 1952-Mary McDonnell, American actress
- 1958-Hal Sutton, American golfer
- 1964-Barry Larkin, American baseball player, manager and sportscaster
- 1966-John Daly, American golfer
- 1970-Nicklas Lidstrom, Swedish ice hockey player and scout
- 1974-Penelope Cruz, Spanish actress and producer
- 1981-Jessica Alba, American model and actress
Daily Weird Facts:
Since 2006, US pennies and nickels have had a production cost greater than their face value, which has resulted in a net loss to taxpayers of $436 million.
“If poison is past its expiry date, is it more poisonous or is it no longer poisonous?” –anonymous
Currency and Commodity Markets:
Oil prices closed at:
$74.34/barrel on 10/5
$47.66/barrel on 12/23
$48.63 on 01/07
$52.31/barrel on 01/16
$55.26/barrel on 2/3
$55.41/barrel on 2/26
$73.77/barrel on 4/29
$63.28/barrel on 5/17
$54.07/barrel on 6/18
$55.96/barrel on 7/24
$58.31/barrel on 9/10
$53.50/barrel on 10/2
$59.10/barrel on 12/8
$58.81/barrel on 1/17
$54.39/barrel on 2/7
$35.92/barrel on 3/11
$27.15/barrel on 3/18
$29.90/barrel on 3/23
$27.43/barrel on 3/27
$24.90/barrel on 4/01
$31.80/barrel on 4/12
$28.31/barrel on 4/17
$20.03/barrel on 4/27
Oil prices are a mess. Short-sellers last week drove US oil prices (Light Crude May 2020 futures contract on the NYMEX) through the floor, to trade at -$16.18/barrel. Isn’t there and Uptick Rule in Oil markets, like there used to be in the US stock market? Heating Oil was trading this morning nearly at zero, $0.90. Unleaded Gas (Futures) were trading at $0.73/gallon. This is crushing the economies based on Oil exports and hurting our fairly young shale and new exploration domestically. OPEC and Russia had just agreed to a 10 million barrel per day production cut, according to the FT. It used to be that when oil prices rose, that was bad for the US. Now, that we are less dependent on foreigners and had a nascent shale and fracking exploration going of our own, oil prices needed to stay at a certain level to make it affordable for us to continue exploration. Now, prices aren’t even high enough to pay the trucks to haul away the oil. That has a ripple effect on American jobs (maybe 3 million), other markets, commodity markets, shipping companies, airlines, commuters, truckers, and some taxpayers’ 401-Ks. It also increases the US deficit when we backstop the disruption and balloons the Fed’s balance sheet. Needless to say, there goes our recently highly-touted “independence” in terms of oil (that even President Trump lauded a couple of months ago). Worse, it helps our competition in fracking overseas, Saudi Arabia and Russia, who can let prices fall until the US is out of their market, and then manipulate prices higher again, when the US is once again dependent. And here is yet another ripple effect from the plummet in oil prices. All eyes are on Cushing, Oklahoma, where America’s largest oil storage facility is quickly filling up amid a massive glut. FT reports that experts say Cushing and other key oil tank farms could reach their maximum capacity within a month. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has stopped falling, at $1.71/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-60 cents more per gallon.
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
102.22 on 04/13/20
102.14 on 04/19/20
101.57 on 04/27/20
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
04/13 at $1.1523
04/19 at $1.1394
04/27 at $1.1407
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
04/13 at $1.3143
04/19 at $1.3058
04/27 at $1.3052
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
1.3250 on 04/13
1.3390 on 04/19
1.3350 on 04/27
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. On 4/12, it skyrocketed to $1,738.00. Yet, on the eve of 4/20, it has backed off a little to $1,694.50. Today (4/27), it traded at $1,724.20/ounce.
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
$6,908.13 on 04/12/20
$7,128.45 on 04/19/20
$7,748.29 on 04/27/20
After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, 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 COVID-19 contagion.
Global Financial News:
As you recall, SFTR was supposed to come online on 4/11/20. However, ESMA requested and convinced market regulators to turn a blind-eye until 7/13/20. The EU markets watchdog was forced to act to calm the concerns of participants who have had major disruptions from COVID-19 pandemic. You may also recall that at the time, DTCC began pre-production testing of code, testing of production connectivity, and submission of messages, in March. That continues today with users submitting real live data, so they can start their daily operations routines for when it goes live. The public statement of SEC Chairman Jay Clayton at the FSOC Open Meeting mentioned that the SEC is focused on 2 overriding issues: (1) the national challenge of an unprecedented health and safety crisis that requires all Americans to significantly change our daily behavior, including the behavior of our banks, broker-dealers, investment advisers, and other market participants; and (2) the reality that the continuing orderly operation of our credit and other capital markets is an essential factor in driving an effective health and safety response to COVID-19, since our healthcare, manufacturing, food services, and many other industries all depend upon the continuing provision and receipt of capital and credit and the flow of capital more generally. Central Banks are under increasing pressure to find further ways to relieve the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with key meeting this week for the ECB, Federal Reserve, and BOJ. BOJ, in particular, has preceded its meeting by suspending government bond buying limits and by raising corporate debt purchases. JPMorgan Chase and working capital platform Taulia have partnered to deliver liquidity to small suppliers of corporations. This will boost supply chain finance and could free up as much as $20 trillion in capital currently tied up in the supply chain waiting to be paid. The use of digital banking apps has surged in the US, amid widespread stay-at-home requirements and fear. App downloads and installations increased by 60% since March, resulting in a 17% revenue increase, according to analytics firm AppsFlyer. Reuters reports that the leading US investment banks are reducing their corporate lending in Europe, to focus more on the unprecedented domestic demand. However, Refinitiv suggests that local lenders, including BNP Paribas and Santander are moving promptly to fill the gap. Europe’s regulators are set to lighten the load on EU bank balance sheets with proposals to ease requirements on accounting for bonds, derivatives, and other instruments. Deutsche Bank beat analysts’ expectations with Q1 earnings, but is braced for Q2 defaults. Success in banks’ work-from-home arrangements has reduced pressure for workers to return to the office and be at risk of COVID-19 infection or infecting, but firms are now planning for a phased reopening. That reopening will still prioritize health and safety. Executives at banks and exchanges are reportedly gathering further data before finalizing decisions and timelines. The former head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, outlined a plan to end the global pandemic, that focused on a massive contact-tracing system, rather than putting trillions of dollars into economic stimulus packages. He had also championed World Bank catastrophe (pandemic) bonds that critics say have been too slow in delivering relief funds to countries in need. Lloyd’s of London CEO John Neal says the COVID-19 pandemic could be the most costly blow to the insurance industry in history, dwarfing previous crises such as Hurricane Katrina or the 9/11 terror attacks. The pandemic is leading some lenders to reduce credit card limits and reduce the number of new applicants, to offset potential losses. Reuters is reporting that investors are calling for a review of executives’ pay at Goldman Sachs.
US Market News:
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global economies and equity markets. A forecast just published by the Congressional Budget Office shows the economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic will continue for months, the US unemployment rate will hit 16%, and the budget deficit will climb to $3.7 trillion. The sharp economic contraction is expected to continue through June, but a recovery will begin in Q3. The CBO expects, “state and local governments (at that time) will ease stay-at-home orders, bans on public gatherings, and other measures restraining economic activity.” Reuters reports that markets are increasingly hinging on COVID-19 vaccine expectations. Investors say that there is little chance of sustained economic progress without it. The markets are bobbing up and down with the daily headlines concerning vaccine tests.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to experience enormous volatility recently, as regulators continue to resist reinstating the Uptick Rule, which disappeared after the Great Recession. Here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month or so, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (I’m starting to think I missed the bottom to buy in):
4/10/20 market closed
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
29,551.42 on 02/12/20 record high
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
23,719.37 on 04/09/20
24,242.49 on 04/17/20
24,133.78 on 04/27/20
A 27% rebound on the S&P 500 since 3/23/20 has underscored the ways in which different markets appraise the outlook for the economy, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The S&P 500’s forward price-to-earnings ratio has reached 21, the highest point since 2001 (during the Dot.com bubble), despite disappointing corporate earnings.
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
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
04/09/20 at 2,789.82
04/17/20 at 2,830.88
04/24/20 at 2,854.65
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
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
04/09/20 at 8,153.58
04/17/20 at 8,650.14
04/27/20 at 8,730.16
I mentioned in the last Repo Commentary, something J.P. Morgan said in 1912, “Gold is money. Everything else is credit.” It’s interesting that this has come up again. It isn’t unusual in a world-catastrophic event that everyone buys gold and US Treasuries. Ironically, up until the mid-20thCentury change (1931 for Great Britain and 1933 for the US, and finally 1973), the US Dollar was backed by Gold, which was physically held at Fort Knox. It was considered the Gold Standard. We moved to “fiat money”. Gold is still being mined in various countries, even pan-handled in creeks in the US. There are now Gold ETFs, Gold futures, and rarely movement of physical Gold. It has been an interesting debate for more than 50 years, whether the US should go back to the Gold Standard. The Gold Standard was a monetary system where a country’s (once the US) currency or paper money has a value directly linked to Gold that is held as collateral to back it. So, back then, if the US set the price of Gold at $500, then the value of one US dollar would be 1/500thof an ounce of Gold. Theoretically, it would allow anyone who has paper currency from any country, using the Gold Standard, to turn in the currency for actual Gold. There are arguments for both sides. Obviously, the physical quantity of Gold available would act as a limit to currency issuance and inflation. But, strict adherence to such a policy could be a hindrance to economic growth, leverage, and political unrest. The Gold Standard, or obsession with Gold, has been going on for at least 5,000 years. Did you know that Gold is so dense that one ton of it can be packed into a cubic foot? It’s interesting that since I wrote about it, President Trump even mentioned it, sounding like he may be in favor of reinstating the Gold Standard. I’m not an expert (on this) but with dilution of the US dollar in the last few decades, do we still have Gold to ‘back’ it? The short answer is “no”, according to the smarter people than me I checked with. If the people who are long Gold futures decided to take physical delivery, instead of have their contract expire and be paid for it, there would not be enough physical Gold to cover the expiration of the contracts. I assume that would lead to a very serious problem. Apparently, the same holds true for the metals ETFs. Given that, how would we have enough physical Gold to back all those US Dollars out there? Unfortunately, that leads to the awful question of what is that US Dollar piece of paper worth, besides the ‘backing’ of the US Government? Remember, the credit rating agencies, who were probably already on a tightrope with the public, chose to downgrade the credit rating of the US Government? As President Hoover famously said in 1933, in his argument to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “We have gold because we cannot trust governments.” Wow, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, Gold has recently risen in price.
The mega-purchasing of US Treasuries, Agency MBS, municipalities, corporate bonds, and ETFs (up to $2.2 trillion) by the Fed has shouldered out the buyers for the OTHER flight-to-safe haven/flight-to-quality, US Treasuries, as a favored investment, so investors have turned to Gold. Obviously, it was huge when the Federal Reserve announced on 4/13 that they would lend as much as $500 billion to state and local governments, which led to an increase is state and local debt issues. That was after a 56% year/year decrease since early March. The key to supporting the municipal market, however, was the follow-on huge secondary-market purchases by the Fed.
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%
04/09/20 at 0.23%
04/17/20 at 0.20%
04/27/20 at 0.24%
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%
04/09/20 at 0.29%
04/17/20 at 0.26%
04/27/20 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%
03/26/20 at 0.51%
03/31/20 at 0.37%
04/09/20 at 0.41%
04/17/20 at 0.36%
04/27/20 at 0.41%
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%
03/26/20 at 0.72%
03/31/20 at 0.55%
04/09/20 at 0.60%
04/17/20 at 0.53%
04/27/20 at 0.56%
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%
04/09/20 at 0.73%
04/17/20 at 0.65%
04/27/20 at 0.67%
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%
04/09/20 at 1.35%
04/17/20 at 1.27%
04/27/20 at 1.29%
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will let borrowers facing hardship defer 2 months of mortgage payments. The FHA and VA have joined Fannie and Freddie in relaxing some loan standards. Banks have been deluged by applications for refinancings, as MBA survey of mortgage rates hit an all-time survey low of 3.45% (since 1990). Mortgage applications were up 7.3% from one week ago. 76.2% of total applications were for refinancings. However, home purchases were down in the first week of March over the first week of last March by 35%. According to the most recent monthly Mortgage Credit Availability Index, availability standards tightened in March. Lenders have become more conservative and less willing to take on more risks. GNMA announced that it plans disaster aid for virus-hit mortgage servicers, utilizing its contingency funds for natural disasters, but that only covers federally-regulated mortgage servicers, mostly banks.
My friends, Susan Estes and James George, separately (which is ironic since they actually worked twice for the same firms), brought to my attention on Friday the WSJ article “The Bonds the Fed Left Behind in Coronavirus Bailout Are Struggling”. This actually is about the topic I have been harping about in this segment of the Repo Commentary for the past few issues: commercial bonds, CMBS, and commercial loans. As the article says, more eloquently than I could probably say or paraphrase, while the Fed has swiftly mobilized most its emergency lending powers, “by law it must also protect taxpayers against losses.” As I detail below in the Federal Reserve News section, the Fed has deployed many of its tools, to almost unlimited extent, to shore up various parts of the markets. Yet, even so, the Fed is reticent to touch some formerly hot areas of the markets that really need help, despite having helped them during the Great Recession. The Fed has specifically excluded some securities tied to corporate loans and commercial mortgages that were the newest and fastest growing segments of the Fixed Income markets. And, this reticence is in the face of the recent big credit unwind in mortgages, as banks have marked the assets down, particularly private label MBS, CMBS, and commercial and residential mortgage loans. They have subsequently issued margin calls on asset managers and securitization conduits, many of whom are using leverage to purchase the securities. This has forced some to sell the securities at distressed prices. It’s unclear how many billions of dollars of these non-QM commercial loans are out there. Forbesreported on Friday that credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings, said that commercial mortgage delinquencies may reach the Great Recession level. It predicted that CMBS loan delinquencies could spike between 8.25% and 8.75% by the end of Q3, coming close to the peak of 9.01% in July 2011. Just as a reality check, that delinquency rate stood at 1.31% in March 2020. The most vulnerable businesses are hospitality, retail and student housing. Another area that could suffer is shopping malls. 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 a 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 $2.3 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. I apologize to those that think I am beating this subject like a dead horse, but you don’t know who all the people are that actually read this Repo Commentary. It’s hard to see all of these liquidity facilities and the resurrected alphabet programs of the Financial Crisis, without noticing the glaring absence of support for the mortgage originators and servicers. Some 40% of GSE and 70% of GNMA loans, for example, are being serviced by non-banks, who are already beginning to deal with forbearances, which all told could total as much as $80 billion over the next 6 months, per JPMorgan. 15 different associations have come together to call for additional liquidity to mortgage originators and servicers, with a letter to the Federal Reserve about a much needed advancing facility, similar to what liquidity is now being provided to regulated depository institutions. This is already being manifested in the loan market, as concerned lenders of existing loans are now starting to reduce the amount of Jumbo lending they are doing.
Here is a different perspective on the same issue (again, sorry if it seems like I am beating a dead horse), Bloomberg reports that the nascent market for US private mortgages is teetering on the brink of collapse, due to the pandemic, basically undoing the government’s hard work to remove its role in home lending. Several firms that issue mortgage bonds without Federal guarantees have now laid off most of their workers and stopped doing business, as the economy has cratered. And, the once hopeful market for securities that shifted the credit risk from government-backed agencies (FNMA, FHLMC, GNMA) to private investors, has now stalled. Some traders are having trouble even finding prices for the securities. What is interesting to me, in contrast to mortgages being main cause of the 2008 Housing Crisis/Great Recession, now mortgages are kind of a collateral damage from the pandemic. And, the concern is that that collateral damage could cause a major downturn in taxpayers housing, just as their 401-K portfolios have taken a major hit due to the equity market freefall. So, just as the Government was pulling out of this market, is when they are now needed most to support it. In 2019, private-label securities only represented $46 billion of the $2.38 trillion in mortgages issued, according to the Urban Institute. Portfolio loans that aren’t securitized and also don’t have government-backing, however, represented $853 billion. FNMA and FHLMC issued securities represented about 40% of the MBS market in 2006, but have been slowly removed over the following years. They both even issued credit-risk transfer securities, which were sold to private investors. That shifted housing market risk from taxpayers to investors. But, now that there are less lenders of private mortgages, less servicers, and less investors, the private label market needs Federal help.
Repo/Securities Financing News:
To make this more legible and easier to follow, I will provide the newest headlines in the Repo & Securities Lending market at the top 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.
Securities Lending Times reported that FIS appointed a new senior sales executive, Alexandra Bocking, who will focus on post-trade solutions to the DACH region of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
GC repo rates continue to confound, trading with Fed Funds at the low end of the target range. Some of that is due to the massive RP operations and the massive QE buying. Right now, broker-dealers are giving $156.5 billion of their collateral to the Fed at the stop-out rate of 0.10%. The repo market is awash with cash. GC repo rates should move higher, maybe to the middle of the Fed Funds range, as the impact of this month’s issuance of $647 billion in cash management bills should sop up some of that extra cash. That’s only part of the $1 trillion that US Treasury is going to issue.
Scott Skyrm reports that after a tumultuous (my word, not his) March, the Agency MBS Repo market is almost back to normal, at least part of it. In March, repo rate spreads moved much wider between Agency MBS and US Treasuries, as did prices on the securities, generating margin calls for leveraged participants (asset managers, hedge funds, mREITs, etc.) Some of those leveraged participants were unable to meet their margin calls and their securities were liquidated, prompting some of the broker-dealers to reduce their Agency MBS repo books (balance sheets). Recently, those Agency MBS repo and US Treasury repo rates spreads have returned to near-normal 2-5bp. However, that is only dealer-to-dealer. Broker-dealers are still maintaining a wider collateral spread to customers and a wider bid-offer spread to cash providers versus collateral providers. Coupled with some of those still lowered Agency MBS repo balance sheets at some broker-dealers, leveraged collateral providers are actively looking for additional agency MBS funding counterparties. It seems like a really good opportunity for a consultant like me, with many contacts, who is an expert in peer-to-peer financing counterparties. Ironically, I have seen a lot more interest today for my proposed electronic solution or such!
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.
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.
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.
- 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 COVID-19-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 26thBeneficial 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 17thannual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
- GIOA will hold its 16thannual 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 29thAnnual 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 38thannual 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 37thRMA 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.
- net has yet to announce its 26thannual 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 last paragraph of this Federal Reserve section. That paragraph will be preceded 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.
I’m always looking back to make sure I didn’t miss any major news. I noticed that in March, Pierpont Financial Consulting expanded its learning and development capabilities for the securities finance sector by hiring Zafirah Jeeto to lead that training arm. Northern Trust had a Q1 revenue boost from securities lending. Canadian pension funds had record returns in 2019.
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.
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).
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 seen a lot of action in the last few weeks, as cash providers have trouble finding enough repo collateral among their broker/dealer sources.
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 COVID-19. 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 COVID-19. The FOMC chose to have an unscheduled meeting and press conference on 3/3/20 (sort of like the old days), because of the COVID-19 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 COVID-19 pandemic, but the Fed needs to clarify what is permitted.
The Federal Reserve has begun buying ETFs and Corporate Bonds, as well as Municipal debt. Fed Chairman Powell explained the Fed’s new round of $2.2 trillion in lending programs, which will include Corporate Debt backstops for states, cities, and small businesses. This will include riskier bonds issued by corporations that had recently lost their investment-grade status. This brings me back to my earlier point about CMBS and mortgage loans needing a Fed backup program like TALF. Even I am losing count of how many trillions of dollars the Fed has hosed this economic fire with. However, the Fed wants the market to know, according to Bloomberg, that it still has plenty of ammunition available beyond the latest $2.3 trillion effort. For instance, the Fed has so far only used about 40% of the $454 billion in seed capital allocated by Congress for such efforts, which leaves it at least $250 billion, which used through the Repo market could be levered as much as 10-times that, to provide up to another $2.5 trillion of further relief. Now here’s a topic that I have harped on a few times before. A big difference from 2008 to 2020 in resurrecting the bailout programs and implementing the Fed tools from 2008, is that there are only 24 Primary Dealers now, down from 48 Primary Dealers. The pipeline has been constricted for all of those Fed programs to go through, particularly the liquidity programs of adding cash through monetary policy. Apparently, the WSJ this morning brought this up too, in one of their articles. They said that while hundreds of regulatory changes made after the 2008 Financial Crisis have made banks safer, it also constrained (those that did not go out of business or consolidate) their ability to serve as a “conduit” for the Fed’s rescue programs. “It seeps through the system more slowly.” As I have mentioned, it’s a combination of the reduction in number and size of those banks and their balance sheets, and their behavior and response. The Federal Reserve is eliminating a requirement that banks limit customers with savings accounts and money market accounts to 6 withdrawals a month without a fee. So, we have the FOMC 2-day meeting this week and I’m sure they will take the temperature on all of their emergency programs to stem the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, take inventory of their toolbox to see what tools they have left, and probably look at the IOER rate and Fed Funds target rate. They may decide to increase IOER from .10% to .15%, as Fed Funds have been trading on the low end of the 0.00%-0.25% target range.
Earthquakes and Volcanoes:
Did you know that the earthquakes that hit Idaho on 3/31/20 have left its iconic Sawtooth Mountain Range forever altered?
Earthquakes above 4.5-magnitude, in the last 2 days:
04/28 5.2 Hihifo, Tonga
04/27 4.5 Sinabang, Indonesia
04/27 4.6 Khorugh, Tajikistan
04/27 5.4 Namatanai, Papua New Guinea
04/27 4.8 Adak, Alaska
04/27 4.7 Rabaul, Papua New Guinea
The Northeast and Midwest continue to deal with unseasonably cold temperatures and very late snowfalls. Florida is experiencing extremely warm temperatures and humidity, breaking records with heat indices of 105 degrees. We finally had our first complete day of rain, the first in 40 days. California has been in a remarkable heat wave, which is not making the forced stay-at-home order any better, as the locals want to go to the beaches.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1stand 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 COVID-19. 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 4thmost-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 4thyear in a row of above-average damaging seasons. We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, of which 3 were major hurricanes. It became the 7thyear that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season. Did you know that commercial airplanes equipped with special air-sampling equipment provide an estimated 250 million observations annually, and now that many are grounded (some 64%), the National Centers for Environmental Protection and NOAA are not getting enough data, during one of the most active times of the year? And, despite plenty of bad news about COVID-19, on Friday, the official hurricane forecast for the Atlantic Hurricane Season came from CSU, giving us Floridians something else to worry about: CSU is predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Also, for the Pacific Hurricane Season, they have warm ENSO conditions, with waters slightly warmer than normal in the eastern and central tropical Pacific, but will likely cool and dissipate El Nino. Consequently, CSU predicts 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.
The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20. There is yet to be a forecast for this Hurricane Season. Cyclone Harold, not following the calendar, struck the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga (while the are was also struck by earthquakes over the last 2 days), killing at least 29 people.
Given that many sports have suspended or cancelled their events and seasons, this section of the Repo Commentary will still have less, changes. There are some things happening in ownership support of arena workers out of work, free agent market trades, Drafts, and rescheduled events. I will update any changes in bold RED, so you can find them quickly. For those not seeing different 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.
On 4/16, the major professional sports in the US began conversations with the White House about when and how they might open. Each has different timelines and different agendas, mostly to protect fans and protect players. I will highlight the latest news on each in the sub-sections below, as I hear them.
The 2019 MLB regular season began on 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. 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 had at least 3 more to sing at. That would have broght my total of MLB games that I sang at, since 2003, to 156. 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 COVID-19 put an end to Spring Training and 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.
Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner has died at age 63. In other Yankees news, well NYC news, Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez have taken the first step to buying the NY Mets. MLB is still in discussions among team management, players, and the White House about how they will re-open and when they will re-open. President Trump even commented that he wants sports to return, because he is tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old. There are a few proposals out there:
- Scott Boras has proposed a 162-game season beginning in July, with the World Series played on Christmas Day.
- Playing baseball in the usual MLB stadiums, but without fans, adjusting for weather, and hold playoffs in neutral warmer sites.
- The Palm Beach Post reported two Fridays ago, that another proposal calls for baseball to be divided into two 15-team Leagues, the Grapefruit and the Cactus, with each consisting of three 5-team divisions, aligned based on the geography of their Spring Training sites. For example, the East Coast of Florida has the Mets, Nationals, Astros, Marlins, Cardinals, etc., and the West Coast of Florida has the Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, and Orioles. So, those teams that are near each other, would play some 19-20 games against each other, as they do now. Basically, the West Coast of Florida is made up mostly of teams from the AL East and AL Central (the I-75 route), and the East Coast of Florida is made up mostly of teams from the NL East, and NL Central. Arizona has many teams from the NL West, AL West, and NL Central. Of course, not only because I had already been discussing this proposal with Mark, but also because I have 2 awesome stadiums with 4 MLB teams right in my backyard. And, there is a chance, if they have fans in the stadiums, they will need a National Anthem singer!
- MLBPA is pushing for playing ALL MLB games in Arizona, utilizing all types of stadiums there, without fans, and housing each team in their own hotels. As of 4/16, this plan apparently is leading the pack of proposals. The Palm Beach Post reported on Friday that a plan calls for baseball to be divided into two 15-team Leagues, the Grapefruit and the Cactus, with each consisting of three 5-team divisions, aligned based on the geography of their Spring Training sites. For example, the East Coast of Florida has the Mets, Nationals, Astros, Marlins, Cardinals, etc., and the West Coast of Florida has the Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, and Orioles. So, those teams that are near each other, would play some 19-20 games against each other, as they do now. Basically, the West Coast of Florida is made up mostly of teams from the AL East and AL Central (the I-75 route), and the East Coast of Florida is made up mostly of teams from the NL East, and NL Central. Arizona has many teams from the NL West, AL West, and NL Central. Of course, not only because I had already been discussing this proposal with Mark, but also because I have 2 awesome stadiums with 4 MLB teams right in my backyard. And, there is a chance, if they have fans in the stadiums, they will need a National Anthem singer!
Tyrell Hatton, from England, won the PGA’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. The PGA Tour started the Players Championship is went forward with the “fifth 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, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments. The European Tour schedule for 2020 season was:
- 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
- 6/11-6/14Scandinavian 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 149thOpen (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
- 10/15-10/18Mutuactivos 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
Fred Ridley, the Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, made a statement on Monday 4/6 that the Club has identified, with leading organizations in golf, November 9-15 as the intended dates to host the postponed 2020 Masters Tournament. I’m glad to see that. The PGA announced last week that it will begin playing tournaments again in June. The PGA Championship is still on for August, with or without fans. Ironically, this was the first year that this major was moved from August to May, and now they had to move it back to August. They also just announced their future sites through 2031.
The 100thNFL 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.
FINALLY! Live Action Sports! Well, the NFL Draft anyways. It began Thursday night, with the first round, and should finish by Monday or Tuesday. The second and third rounds were Friday and Saturday. Patriots fans, like me, are groaning even more now, as TE Rob Gronkowski, who would not come out of retirement last year, despite rumors, and save the Patriots’ season, has decided to come out of retirement to play with QB Tom Brady and his new team, the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Patriots still had rights to Gronk, so they had to trade him to the Bucs for a 4thround pick in the Draft. That actually gives the Patriots 13 picks in this Draft, which is very unusual (only the Dolphins, with 14 picks, had more). They were still expected to Draft the Utah QB or Georgia QB in the first round to replace Tom Brady. But, the Patriots didn’t. In fact, they traded away their first round pick to get a 2ndand 3rdround pick, increasing their number of picks to 14. They then drafted a kicker (which they needed, since they booted Gostkowski), 2 guards, 2 tight-ends, and 3 linebackers, but no QB. The Dolphins, on the other hand, drafted Heisman Trophy winner QB Tua out of Alabama and some WR help for him. Speaking of Tom Brady, he got cited for throwing around the football in a Tampa park by his new hometown police. Then, he walks into the wrong house with his gym bags and surprised the owner sitting at the kitchen table. Apparently, his new offensive coordinator lives in the house next door. Brady also joined the Seminole CC in Juno Beach, FL, right up the road from me, where Ben Hogan hailed from. It is ranked No.12 on Golf Magazine’s America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses for 2019-2020. The development was started by investment banker, Edward Francis Hutton (EF Hutton) back in 1929. I actually got a job offer there in 1981. The Packers surprisingly picked a QB in the first round, who likely won’t play soon, since Aaron Rodgers is only 36.
In a surprise move to all of the Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA), French Open officials announced that the French Open, the red clay Major, will be postponed from May 24thto late September 24-October 4, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The controversial 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 COVID-19 outbreak. The ATP suspended its matches for six weeks.
Speaking of Wimbledon, the 134th June 29-July 12 tournament was cancelled. It was the first time that this Major was cancelled since WWII. It will instead be played next year at its normal time, 6/28/21-7/11/21. Following the Wimbledon announcement, the WTA, ATP, and ITF postponed its matches another 5 weeks until 7/13. The US Open is still planning to play at its normal time in September, a week before the now rescheduled French Open.
The head of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics insisted that the Games are on track, despite the COVID-19 outbreak. With the mounting pressure, 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. The Premier League suspended their season, as did most of the top European leagues.
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 2ndquarter 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.
COVID-19 has caused the NCAA to cancel all spring men’s and women’s sports. The NCAA then announced that seniors would have another year of eligibility to play in their sports. However, they then changed that to include ALL players, not just seniors, would have an extra year of eligibility. I’m not sure how that works…if the player was good enough to make it to the Pros, then they’re probably going to go to the Pros and forego their 5thyear, or they are already foregoing their senior or junior year to go to the Pros. If they weren’t good enough for the Pros, a 5thyear of eligibility isn’t going to make a difference and just cost them or their family another year of college tuition and room and board. I guess it really helps the athletes who were borderline good enough for the Pros or were coming off of injuries. They might need the 5thyear to prove to Pro scouts that they are worthy.
Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll:
- LSU 13-0
- Clemson 14-1
- Ohio State 13-1
- Georgia 12-2
- Oregon 12-2
- Florida 11-2
- Oklahoma 12-2
- Alabama 11-2
- Penn State 11-2
- Minnesota 11-2
- Wisconsin 10-4
- Notre Dame 11-2
- Baylor 11-3
- Auburn 9-4
- Iowa 10-3
- Utah 11-3
- Memphis 12-2
- Michigan 9-4
- Appalachian State 13-1
- Navy 11-2
- Cincinnati 11-3
- Air Force 11-2
- Boise State 12-2
- UCF 10-3
- 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 COVID-19.
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 COVID-19. 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:
- Kansas 28-3
- Gonzaga 29-2
- Dayton 29-2
- FSU 26-5
- Baylor 26-4
- San Diego State 30-2
- Creighton 24-7
- Kentucky 25-6
- Michigan State 22-9
- Duke 25-6
- Villanova 24-7
- Maryland 24-7
- Oregon 24-7
- Brigham Young 24-7
- Louisville 24-7
- Seton Hall 21-9
- Virginia 23-7
- Wisconsin 21-10
- Ohio State 21-10
- Auburn 25-6
- Illinois 21-10
- West Virginia 21-10
- Houston 23-8
- Butler 22-9
- 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 2ndbest 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 2ndbest in NHL), followed by the Avalanche in second (tied for 3rdbest 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 4thplace. 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. The NHL also said that if it plays the games without fans in the ice rinks, they will have to pump in artificial fan noise, because this sport, according to them, is impossible to play without crowd noise. I don’t know, the Florida Panthers have been doing that for years.
This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs. COVID-19 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.
ESPN’s documentary series on Michael Jordan, called The Last Dance,is getting high praise for its first two episodes. The NBA says it may resume its regular season without fans in the stadiums.
For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed.It will be run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend.
NASCARfinally 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 COVID-19. 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. The Governor of Florida wants NASCAR to open up racing as soon as possible.
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 Onebegins 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 COVID-19 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, COVID-19, 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 1000thGrand 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 Racingcircuit 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 8thin 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 104thIndy 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
Due to the pandemic, Germany has cancelled OktoberFest. Macy’s 4thof July fireworks are still on, but they will be without fans. I’m not sure how that is going to work, are they preventing us from looking up? Struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, Datz restaurant owners, Suzanne and Roger Perry, in Tampa, FL decided they needed to do something before they ran out of money to pay their skeleton staff of 27 (from 400). So, they decided to auction off a 25-year-old bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon, which was valued between $17,000-$26,000 online. So, they listed it at $20,000 with a 15% discount from that. One of the many bidders, a veteran, who wanted to add it to his collection and to help out one of his favorite restaurants, called to say he would buy it for the full price, but insisted to buy it in-person with a cashier’s check. So, the bottle would have been $17,000 with the discount. The veteran showed up and happily handed them a check for $40,000! With the $20,000, the Perry’s were able to keep their remaining employees paid for another few weeks an even bring some employees back. They decided to use the other $20,000 to provide hundreds of meals for healthcare workers and first responders who are on our front-lines. According to industry analysts, Disney’s theme parks are unlikely to re-open until 2021. Social distancing, travel restrictions, and Global recession, make theme parks “less profitable.” Disney announced in April that it had ceased paying over 100,000 staff to save $500 million per month. That was more than 50% of its workforce. To make guests feel safer in the future, Disney is considering the use of temperature checks. On 4/23, President Trump confirmed and announced that the US Air Force acrobatic group Thunderbirds and US Navy Blue Angels acrobatic group would be performing joint flyovers and maneuvers across the country to about 30 locations to honor medical workers, in Operation America Strong. This is a very rare treat, as the two famous acrobatic military squadrons have never performed together and have been practicing together in secret. The military came up with the idea, as they wanted to salute our nation’s healthcare heroes, and the tributes will be conducted soon after the Pentagon receives official approval from the White House. Flyovers are planned, according to the Washington Post, for NYC, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Houston, Austin, Dallas, and others. Although reports by the media say that each squadron would cost at least $60,000 per hour to fly, a Department of Defense official told CBS News that there would be NO additional cost to taxpayers since flyovers are already included in the teams’ annual operational budgets. The Thunderbirds did a flyover last weekend, following the Air Force Academy’s graduation, over parts of Colorado as a sign of gratitude to healthcare workers. President Trump also announced that he is moving forward with plans for the annual July 4thcelebration on the National Mall in Washington, but with a smaller crowd to protect spectators. MOMA is offering free online classes. Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, and GM have agreed with their unions to reopen for some vehicle production assembly on 5/18/20.
Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED. I am continuing to reduce the old news in this section, now mostly to just the Public Service Announcement, because I assume you have already read that news and I would like to reduce the overall size of the Repo Commentary (making it easier to read for you and easier to type for me).
More than 1.5 billion people around the world are still ordered to stay-at-home because of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. As of this morning (4/28), globally, more than 211,894 people have died from COVID-19. More than 3.057 million people have been infected with COVID-19. On the positive side, more than 902,129 people have totally recovered. The reason that is important is for “herd immunity”. The WHO says the virus has spread to at least 175 out of 190 countries. Several countries have experienced large outbreaks (including China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Spain, US, and France). Spain’s COVID-19 confirmed cases total of 229,422 as of 4/28, makes it 2ndonly to the US. Spain has had at least 23,822 deaths from COVID-19. Italy, suffered very early in Europe, with total confirmed cases in Italy of 199,414 as of 4/28, leaving it behind US and Spain, but ahead of France, Germany, UK, Turkey, Russia, Iran, and China (83,938), in that order of Confirmed Cases. Italy has had 26,977 deaths as of 4/28 from COVID-19, the second most behind the US.
The US is the country with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, at 988,469 (as of 4/28), almost one-third of the world’s total. The death toll from COVID-19 in the US, as of 4/28, is now 56,253, and highest in the world. One of the reasons that the number of confirmed cases keep rising is because the US has now tested nearly 5.6 million people. The United States has about 4.3% of the world’s population at about 380,000,000 and more than 32% of the world’s COVID-19 cases.
New York is the worst-hit state by COVID-19. As of 4/28, there have been more confirmed cases (291,996) in the state than in any other country, let alone state. Of those cases, NYC has seen 17,515 deaths. On 4/16, while discussing the effects of COVID-19 on NY state, including a plateauing of total hospital admissions and a decline in ICU admissions, Gov. Cuomo said “the number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that, fate did not do that, destiny did not do that, a lot of pain and suffering did that.” The 500-bed USNS Comfort hospital ship is leaving NYC, after 3 weeks, as it only treated 179 patients and wasn’t needed as much as expected.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have certainly heard a lot about ‘social distancing’, as it is the top guideline. However, we haven’t heard much about ‘mental distancing’. There have been articles in the news (and I’ve written here) about the mental toll on all of us that is akin to PTSD for soldiers and for healthcare workers. There is also something similar to the worry we felt after 9/11 that it could happen again without warning. The virus can attack without warning and many people who have it are contagious for weeks and may not even develop any symptoms. Plus, it stays alive on different surfaces for different lengths of time. At you may be immune to it for a year after recovering from it, or you may just get it again, which has been happening in Singapore and China. So, that stress is brutal. It makes us edgy, moody, sometimes forgetful, sometimes in a fog or a haze, and with no sense of time or the days of the week. Forbes ran an article in which several mental health doctors said that ‘mental distancing’ from the onslaught of media attention to the virus, is just as important as ‘social distancing’. Otherwise, the constant hammering can lead to depression or despair. They suggest going outdoors for a walk, getting sunshine, reading a book, playing board games, working on a puzzle, getting some exercise, or “writing a newsletter.” Seriously, that’s in there. So, who knew that this was actually therapeutic for me? The Association For Entrepreneurship USA made 10 suggestions for remaining sane and productive during the Quarantine:
- Establish and maintain a regular sleep schedule, including have breakfast, shower, shave and get dressed in daytime clothes (don’t stay in pajamas.)
- Set time aside each day or certain days for regular exercise. With public gyms closed, you will need to utilize bikes, rowers, hiking, resistance bands, dumbbells, chairs, and online exercise programs.
- Prepare healthy meals and avoid between-meal snacks.
- Identify time with family, spouse (or equivalent), friends, and for self.
- Avoid watching non-educational TV during the day.
- Limit time watching news on TV.
- Avoid impulse purchases.
- Use time to rearrange your closet, garage, or workplace.
- Consider learning a hobby or expand on a lost interest.
- Communicate with others via phone, text, Facetime, or even from a short distance, to get rid of the feeling of being ISOLATED.
In a rare but growing number of cases in Massachusetts, children are becoming increasingly hospitalized due to COVID-19, even requiring ventilators in some cases. This is counter to the general global numbers, which show the pandemic as largely sparing the very young from serious complications. The Boston Globe set one of those records we don’t want to set, running 16 pages of death notices, the most in the history of the newspaper. France is reporting having 82 heart incidents linked to using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.
I just had my first FaceTime virtual checkup with my GP doctor. Well, at least, I didn’t have to do the “okay, cough” thing! Last week’s news was consumed by President Trump’s 4/23 suggestion during his daily COVID-19 update that doctors should look into the value of disinfectants or sunlight taken internally to kill the COVID-19 virus. He has been under attack from both medical professionals and social media. Even the makers of Lysol felt they needed to release as statement, warning people that “under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body.” The CDC felt it had to put out a warning as well. NYC poison hotline had thousands more calls, asking whether it would work. Since the comment, the President has said that he was asking a question sarcastically to reporters.
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)
- 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. This ‘anosmia’ is occurring in about 30% of the cases, those that are mild or moderate.
- Cough (for Asthmatics, this would be a dry cough as opposed to the damp cough they are accustomed to). This dry cough is affecting at least 1/3 of all patients and feels like it is coming from the breastbone or sternum and feels like the bronchial tubes are inflamed, and may include coughing up sputum from the lungs.
- Shortness of breath
- Digestive or stomach issues, which have been in about half of the patients.
- Chills and body aches
- Pink eye, about 3% of patients are experiencing conjunctivitis
- Major fatigue
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
- Sudden confusion or inability to wake up
- 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.
- 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. Of course, some other doctors have come out and said that there was never verifiable proof that Vitamin C or Zinc helped with other viruses or the common cold. And, I still don’t know if eggs are good for you or bad for you, but I still eat them.
- 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.
- The CDC says that people with the following underlying health conditions BEFORE contracting COVID-19 are at higher risk (this is not a complete list):
- Chronic lung disease or asthma
- Heart failure or heart disease
- Sickle cell anemia
- Cancer or undergoing chemotherapy
- Kidney disease and dialysis
- Body Mass Index over 40
- Autoimmune disorder
- Recent transplant patients
- Per the CDC, people with COVID-19 may discontinue home isolation if:
- 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.
- Or, if you will not have a test to determineif you are still contagious, then these 3 things must happen, before ending home isolation:
- You have had no fever for at least 72 hours, without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.
- Other symptoms have improved (cough, shortness of breath, etc.)
- AND at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.
- You will have a test to determine if you are still contagious
The first dog has tested positive for COVID-19. For the first time ever, Florida shelters are empty of animals to adopt, as people in stay-at-home orders want a pet to keep them company. You need to be careful about transferring the virus to your pets. Many stories continue popping up about the silver lining of COVID-19, with Mother Nature reclaiming the Earth and the Earth healing from pollution, smog, noise, traffic, ozone layer, etc. Flowers are blooming, rivers are cleaning up, vegetation is claiming back the jungles, and humans are committing less crime (theft and murder). Scientists confirmed that the 1-million-square kilometer wide hole in the Ozone layer over the Arctic has now closed. It had been discovered earlier this month by scientists. I didn’t know where exactly to put this news, but maybe since the practice is pretty barbaric, this is the best place: for the first time ever, the Pamplona, Spain’s Running of the Bulls has been cancelled.
Back to Mother Nature:
- Traffic is gone
- Gas is affordable
- Bill paying has been extended
- Kids are at home with their families
- Parents are home taking care of their children
- Fast food has been replaced by home-cooked meals
- Hectic schedules have been replaced by naps, rest, and relaxation
- Air is cleaner
- The World is quieter
- People are conscious about hygience and health
- Money doesn’t seem to make the world go around anymore
- Doctors and nurses are being praised instead of athletes and celebrities
- And, we have time to finally stop and smell the roses!
Before the COVID-19 crisis, all of my social media friends seemed to be political analysts. Then, they suddenly became epidemiologists. Now, apparently, they are all singers and have their own shows on Facebook and Instagram. It only took me about 6 weeks to finally figure out that I had Netflix and how to sign on and, of course, the first movie I watched was the 1995 hit CONTAGION with Renee Russou, Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Patrick Dempsey. Wow, what a great movie! Even though this was my 3rdtime, it really hit home with what we are going through with the pandemic. I also figured out that my YouTube Premium account for my tracks for singing also gave me access to the YouTube channel, so now I HAVE watched Tiger King (below). I also watched the entire series of WACO, and several movies. Sofia Vergara is the new face of Dolce & Gabbana. Netflix’s Tiger King ranks as TV’s top show currently, according Rotten Tomatoes. The true-crime docu-series explores the world of big cat (tigers and lions) owners, like Joe Exotic, owner of an Oklahoma roadside zoo. The show features several dark twists and turns, leading to Exotic’s arrest in connection with a murder-for-hire plot involving and rival big-cat enthusiast. Joe Exotic remains in prison, serving a 22-year sentence. He has filed a lawsuit against two Federal agencies, seeking $94 million in damages. Carol Baskin remains the head of Tampa, FL Big Cat Rescue, refuting the allegations of the disappearance of her first husband. Baskin-Robbins even changed one of their franchise signs to say, “no, not that Baskins”. Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle’s exotic zoo in South Carolina remains open. Jeff Lowe continues to run the G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma. Rick Kirkham, a former primetime journalist, has now cut ties with Joe Exotic and moved to Norway. I have not seen a single episode, although I happen to be a big-cat enthusiast myself. Rita Wilson is discussing her and husband, Tom Hanks’, COVID-19 symptoms in detail, saying, “I was very tired, I felt extremely achy. Uncomfortable, didn’t want to be touched. And then the fever started. Chills like I’ve never had before.” Her fever kept climbing and the doctors in Australia chose to give her the malaria medicine, hydroxychloroquine. Stanley Tucci made himself an Internet sensation when he calmly taught people how to make a Negroni cocktail, which will now forever be known as the QuaranTucci. Blue Ivy Carter (Beyonce and Jay-Z’s 8-year-old daughter) is showing the public how to fight COVID-19 in a hand-washing PSA. Larry David told “Idiots” still going out to stay at home. His Twitter post, which was directed at fellow Californians, was added to the Twitter account of the state’s governor’s office. I understand that 79-year-old tenor Placido Domingo is still recovering from COVID-19 in Mexico. Am I the only one who is surprised by this news, that Kanye West has become officially a ‘billionaire’? I thought he filed for bankruptcy just a couple of years ago? I spoke about that one Drive-In movie theater in Ocala that is the only one in the US that is showing first-run movies (currently showing TROLLS: WORLD TOUR), and that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are interested in Drive-Ins. The total US box office for 4/15 (not including movies being streamed on TV) was a whopping $1,710 from this one theater. Now restaurants across the US are turning their parking lots into impromptu Drive-In movie theaters, and having great success. On 4/18, Peoples Restaurant and Lounge in Corpus Christi, TX had its first screening in the parking lot of TOY STORY 4, and it was sold out. They sold out again the following week for all movies. In Mingus, TX, BJ’s Restaurant and Bar did the same in its parking lot, starting with the classic THE SANDLOT. In Arizona, Food & Wine reports that the Ajo Al’s group of Mexican restaurants set up inflatable screens in the parking lots to show Pixar film’s COCO to guests while they park their cars six feet apart and enjoy takeout food. In Omaha, NE, Tex-Mex cantina The Corner Kick brought about 35 vehicles to their parking lot when they screened THE THREE AMIGOS (this movie actually streams in the Men’s Rooms at the Rocco’s Tacos restaurants here in Florida. It has not worked everywhere, as some jurisdictions have been stricter on their guidelines, like for V Pizza in North Carolina, who were shut down for violating stay-at-home orders, while others have faced legal problems from movie studios due to licensing rights. I’m sure there should be a solution to these issues and production companies would want to work out contracts to get their films distributed.
Technology & Space News:
Here is an odd news item that I missed, that came out on 3/14, 3 days after the quarantine order. Right before the COVID-19 arrival:
- CEO of Disney stepped down
- CEO of Tinder stepped down
- CEO of Hinge stepped down
- CEO of OKcupid stepped down
- CEO of Match stepped down
- CEO of Hulu stepped down
- CEO of MedMen stepped down
- CEO of L Brands (like Victoria Secret, Bath & Body Works) stepped down
- CEO of Salesforce.com stepped down
- CEO of Harley Davidson stepped down
- CEO of IBM stepped down
- CEO of T-Mobile stepped down
- CEO of LinkedIn stepped down
- CEO of MasterCard stepped down
I know that I need to take this seriously, as this is the 6thbranch of our military, but every time I hear “Space Force”, I think of Mel Brooks. Anyway, on a serious note, the US Space Force has unveiled its first weapon, a major satellite jammer, or Counter Communication System. This would render orbiting satellites temporarily useless. Russia’s military has had similar weapons in place since 2019. In fact, there have been at least 13 similar systems up and running around the Earth since 2017. Although language sometimes takes a long time to adapt to technology and changes in culture, emojis have been adapting much quicker. Sure enough, design agency &Walsh has come out with a host of new emojis to help you capture the 2020 events. One of them is a pajama-wearing, couch-sitting superhero. Online payments leader, Stripe, is taking advantage of a reported surge in the use of its services by announcing 3 new facilities. The company will offer card-issuing services directly to businesses so they can create bespoke versions, increase its accepted large card networks, and introduce new algorithms that will reassess and potentially approve more flagged transactions.
Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED. I am phasing out the old news, now down to just one paragraph at the end.
Despite President Trump’s softer approach with the Governors and saying they are “going to call their own shots,” many of the states are rejecting his suggestions about The Plan reopen, and going with their own plans to either reopen their states earlier or reopen their states later. The willingness for each Governor to follow the President’s Plan’s suggestions has fallen on political party lines and internal pressure from that state’s industries.
The Plan outlines “Proposed State or Regional Gating Criteria” that includes 14-day downward trajectory of influenza-like and COVID-19 Symptoms, 14-day downward trajectory of documented COVID-19 Casesor downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests, and Hospitalstreating all patients without crisis care and robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers (including emerging antibody testing) thresholds that have to be met, prior to proceeding to Phased Opening. The plan also has ‘recommendations’ for state preparedness and Federal help on sourcing testing and medical supplies for States. In the Phased Opening, where general terms will be interpreted specifically for each State or Region, PHASE 1, with continued sanitation protocols and strict physical distancing, would allow elective surgeries to begin, gyms to open, restaurants to open (but not bars), movie theaters to open, sporting venues to open, and places of worship to open. It would still encourage telework and return to work in phases and minimize non-essential travel. PHASE 2, with continued sanitation and distancing protocols, would still have all vulnerable individuals sheltering-in-place, but would allow non-essential travel, still encourage telework, reopen schools, still prohibit visits to senior care facilities and hospitals, and allow bars to open. PHASE 3, would lift all restrictions, as long as sanitation protocols and certain limits are followed.
Several states, on Friday (4/24), made moves, not complying with Federal guidelines, and began reopening sectors or completely. About a dozen other states, made moves the other way, extending their stay-at-home orders. With the disparity between state Governors and party affiliations, this section may prove to be valuable as a roadmap for the near future. There have been “protests” in several states of those governors’ stay-at-home orders and mandatory business closings to try to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Protests began last week in Lansing, MI on 4/15, then continued in Minnesota, Virginia, all states with Democratic governors. President Trump probably didn’t help by tweeting that people needed to “LIBERATE” those states. This was followed by more protests in Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Washington. Here are the latest updates on how each state is handling re-opening (or not):
ALABAMA-Gov. Ivey issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. They have announced a task force to reopen the state’s economy, with a plan by 4/17 for the Governor. That plan is being reviewed by the Governor now.
ALASKA-Gov. Dunleavy issued a stay-at-home (unless absolutely necessary) order until it is rescinded. The Governor planned on reopening the state early. On Friday, he did just that, allowing the re-opening of restaurants and retail stores.
ARIZONA-Gov. Ducey issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30.
*ARKANSAS-Gov. Hutchinson has yet to issue a stay-at-home order, but schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic term. Fitness centers, bars, restaurants and other public places are closed until further notice. One of only 7 states to not issue a stay-at-home order.
CALIFORNIA-Gov. Newsom issued a stay-at-home order that has no end date. He just extended social distancing into June. He also made a pact with Oregon Gov. Brown and Washington Gov. Inslee on 4/13. Gov. Newsom issued on Tuesday, HIS guidelines on reopening the economy in the 3 states based on six criteria, saying “we can’t get ahead of ourselves and dream of regretting.” The State is now being sued by pastors for not allowing services to continue in-person. The State also reportedly is now giving aid to non-US citizens harmed by COVID-19.
COLORADO-Gov. Polis extended the state’s stay-at-home order until 4/26. He said that he hoped the state would be able to open up on 4/26, but that does not mean “things are going to go back to how they were in terms of 60,000 people at a stadium (or) a busy nightclub.”
CONNECTICUT-Gov. Lamont extended the mandatory shutdown in the state until 5/20. CT has joined a coalition with the Northeast states of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts to coordinate reopening their economies. Gov. Lamont feels it would take at least another month before they could make a decision on reopening.
DELAWARE-Gov. Carney extended a stay-at-home order until 5/15. He also joined the above Northeastern state coalition.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA-DC Mayor Bowser extended a stay-at-home order until 5/15.
FLORIDA-Gov. DeSantis (one of only two current Governors that I have met) issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He has been a bit rogue, allowing disparity of orders among counties, not approving retroactive unemployment benefits, and pushing unproven drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. He has closed schools until the end of the school year and cancelled graduation ceremonies. He has probably been the most active Governor in the US in defending his state borders from non-residents, from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Georgia, and Louisiana. The Governor began slowly reopening public beaches, starting in the northern part of the state and moving southward. He promised in a briefing on Sunday to detail a slow reopening “pretty soon”.
GEORGIA-Gov. Kemp issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He has closed schools until the end of the school year. He feels that his state is behind the curve, more so than other states, because of lack of testing. He has made it clear that churches will remain closed, but just opened up the beaches. Despite his admission that his state has one of the lowest rates of testing, Gov. Kemp is made a splash by opening gyms, tattoo shops, barbershops, nail and hair salons, massage studios, and bowling alleys to open up on Friday 4/24, to join the beaches that he already opened up. He wasn’t done though, as he also announced that theaters and restaurants could reopen on 4/27.
HAWAII-Gov. Ige issued a stay-at-home order through 4/30. He has been extremely quiet since.
IDAHO-Gov. Little issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. His goal is for most businesses to open after that.
ILLINOIS-Gov. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order through at least 4/30. He hopes that restarting production will go “industry by industry, and maybe company by company.” On Friday, the Governor announced that the stay-at-home order was extended until 5/31, despite pressure from Chicago businesses. But, he will reopen golf courses and some public parks on 5/1.
INDIANA-Gov. Holcomb issued a stay-at-home order through 4/20, but it may be extended. He is encouraged, but mentioned that the “new normal” after restrictions are lifted may include new measures such as taking employees temperatures at work, wearing masks, and physical distancing.
*IOWA-Gov. Reynolds has not declared ANY stay-at-home order. However, he did issue an Emergency statement that closed all nonessential businesses until 4/30. This one of the states with probably the least restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic, and one of only 7 states that technically didn’t issue a stay-at-home order.
KANSAS-Gov. Kelly issued a stay-at-home order, which has been extended to 5/3. She expects to see the state’s peak to be 4/19-4/29.
KENTUCKY-Gov. Beshear issued a “Healthy at Home” order that will be in effect indefinitely. He has closed schools until at least 5/1.
LOUISIANA-Gov. Edwards extended the stay-at-home order through 4/30.
MAINE-Gov. Mills issued a “Stay Healthy at Home” order through at least 4/30.
MARYLAND-Gov. Hogan issued a stay-at-home order with no end date.
MASSACHUSETTS-Gov. Baker issued an emergency order closing all nonessential businesses until 5/4. MA has joined the Northeastern states coalition.
MICHIGAN-Gov. Whitmer extended the stay-at-home order through 5/15.She outlined the 4 factors she will take into consideration before reopening the state. She, along with Governors from New York and Florida, has been particularly vocal during the pandemic, particularly in criticizing the President. Her plan of action has been met with daily protests in Lansing at her doorstep, with mobs of people waving guns and some with Trump signs. Although the Governor extended the stay-at-home order to 5/15 on Friday, perhaps, because of the recent protests, she has relaxed some restrictions, like some outdoor activities and purchasing garden supplies. She also reopened golf courses and motorized boating (but only for people from the same household.)
MINNESOTA-Gov. Walz extended the stay-at-home order through 5/3. Minnesota did just open golf courses on 4/18.
MISSISSIPPI-Gov. Reeves (I think he is one of only two current Governors I have met personally) issued a shelter-in-place order which expires on 4/20. He announced this week that schools will remain closed for the rest of the semester. He also said that “There are still more sacrifices to be made.”
MISSOURI-Gov. Parson issued a “Stay Home Missouri” order through 4/24 and has made no plans to reopen the state.
MONTANA-Gov. Bullock extended the stay-at-home order through 4/24. He said last Monday that he will allow the state to reopen sooner rather than later. The Governor decided on Friday to lift its stay-at-home order on Sunday 4/26.
*NEBRASKA-Gov. Ricketts issued the “21 Days to Stay Home and Stay Healthy” order on 4/10, which ordered all hair salons, tattoo parlors, and strip clubs closed through 4/30, and all organized group sports cancelled until 5/31. Nebraska is one of only 7 states that did not issue a stay-at-home order.
NEVADA-Gov. Sisolak issued a stay-at-home order until 4/30. He is monitoring several parameters in his decision to reopen the economy. On Friday, the Las Vegas Mayor, already somewhat controversial, said she wants to open up the casinos and the Strip as soon as possible, “even if it risks some lives.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE-Gov. Sununu extended a stay-at-home order until 5/4. Public and private schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.
NEW JERSEY-Gov. Murphy issued a stay-at-home order with no specific end date. NJ is part of the coalition of Northeastern states. He said “that no one is more eager to restart our economy than I am.”
NEW MEXICO-Gov. Grisham extended the state’s emergency order to 4/30. She is waiting for the peak to occur, before taking any actions.
NEW YORK-Gov. Cuomo issued a “New York State on PAUSE” executive order until 5/15. NY has joined the coalition of Northeastern states. He has been the most vocal Governor in the country during the pandemic and the one who has challenged the President the most (and vice versa). This past Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo flew down to Washington to meet in-person with the President, and they aired out some issues. Following the meeting, the President pledged to support NY and get the the medical supplies that they need.
NORTH CAROLINA-Gov. Cooper issued a stay-at-home order until 4/29.
*NORTH DAKOTA-Gov. Burgum has only shut down schools, restaurants, fitness centers, movie theaters and salons. ND is one of only 7 states that did not issue a stay-at-home order.
OHIO-Gov. DeWine issued a stay-at-home order in place until 5/1.
OKLAHOMA-Gov. Stitt extended a “Safer at Home” order for adults over age 65 and other vulnerable residents until 5/6. He is working on a plan to possibly open the state’s economy on 4/30. He is also allowing elective surgeries to resume on 4/24. On Friday, the Governor allowed hair salons and pet-grooming services to reopen.
OREGON-Gov. Brown issued a stay-at-home order with no expiration date, until she sees a declining rate of active cases of COVID-19 and a return to normalcy.
PENNSYLVANIA-Gov. Wolf extended a stay-at-home order until 5/8. PA joined the coalition of Northeastern states. He has seemed, like NY Gov. Cuomo, to be on the reluctant side to reopening his state’s economy. He said, “If it’s not in the best interest of keeping people safe, I’m not going to go along with it.” I could see this potentially becoming a moral, political, and revenue issue, as other states (Florida and Texas, for example) may be willing to reopen earlier, possibly to attract business away from the northeastern states coalition (which has happened to some degree previously due to state tax differences).
RHODE ISLAND-Gov. Raimondo issued an extension to the state’s stay-at-home order to until at least 5/8. RI has joined that Northeastern coalition of states.
SOUTH CAROLINA-Gov. McMaster extended his previous “State of Emergency” executive order through at least 4/27. He has said that, “We want to get all of these businesses going back as soon as we can.” The Governor has been opening up beaches slowly.
*SOUTH DAKOTA-Gov. Noem has refused to issue a stay-at-home order, despite the state’s COVID-19 cases spiking. SD is one of only 7 states without such an order. South Dakota’s Governor has been praised for her Sweden-like approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, relying on herd immunity and sheltering only the at-risk population, while not cratering the local economy. However, on Monday, the NY Post reported that the confirmed cases in the state jumped from 129 to 988 since 4/1, when the Governor criticized other states’ “Draconian measures” of social distancing to stop the spread of the virus. She even went on to say “South Dakota is not New York.” South Dakota is now home to one of the largest single clusters of COVID-19, with 300 workers at one pork processing plant of Smithfield Foods infected, according to the Washington Post.
TENNESSEE-Gov. Lee extended the state’s stay-at-home order until 4/30. He said that the state would be reopening the economy in May.
TEXAS-Gov. Abbott issued a stay-at-home order through 4/30. He said last Monday that only businesses “that will have minimal or zero impact on the spread of coronavirus will be the first to open up.” He intends to open some businesses on 5/1.
*UTAH-Gov. Herbert extended the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive through 5/1. Schools will remain closed for the remainder of the year. Technically, UT is one of the 7 states to not issue a stay-at-home order.
VERMONT-Gov. Scott issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order which has been extended until 5/15.
VIRGINIA-Gov. Northam extended a stay-at-home order until 6/10. This is the longest such order among the 50 states, by more than a month.
WASHINGTON-Gov. Inslee extended a stay-at-home order until 5/4. But he says he may soon loosen some restrictions.
WEST VIRGINIA-Gov. Justice issued a stay-at-home order with no expiration date.
WISCONSIN-Gov. Evers issued a “Safer at Home” order that prohibits all nonessential travel until 4/24. Wisconsin just joined neighbor Minnesota in opening up golf courses on 4/18.
*WYOMING-Gov. Gordon did not issue a stay-at-home order, one of only 7 states that didn’t.
On the Unemployment front, the weekly US Initial Jobless Claims data skyrocketed from 282,000 on 3/14, to a record (and twice as high as expected) 3,283,000 on 3/21. Then, on 3/28, the number skyrocketed again by 6,648,000, making it almost a 10 million increase in 2 weeks (way more than expected). The 6,648,000 reading was also “the highest level of seasonally adjusted claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series,” per the Department of Labor. On 4/9, Initial Claims jumped by 6,606,000. Then, on 4/15, Initial Claims were up another 5,000,000, taking the four week total of new Unemployment Claims to 22,000,000. Many officials and economists had forecasted a total COVID-19 impact on new Unemployment Claims reaching 20-30 million people, and that looks like a spot-on forecast. On 4/23, weekly Initial Jobless Claims were reported up another 4,427,000, taking the grand total to over 26 million.
The US Government has streamlined the information on what relief is available for those impacted by COVID-19 on a website, benefits.gov. Okay, the first $349 billion of the SBA’s PPP program, a subset of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, was gobbled up in just 14 days! Ostensibly, of the 1.3 million applicants, small businesses were supposed to be allocated these forgiveable loans to keep themselves afloat and pay their employees. But, some loopholes, greed, and bad behavior led to large Banks prioritizing their own customers (and I misspoke, it was not SBA that confirmed the banks could do that, but instead a Maryland judge ruled on 4/13, rejecting a lawsuit brought by 6 businesses against Bank of America), in some cases discarding or at least moving to the bottom applications from non-customers, and then prioritizing those customers by size (not first-come/first-serve). In the end, at least 78 corporations with revenues in excess of $100 million/year, received the bulk of the entire PPP, and many of the small businesses (particularly restaurants) were shouldered out of the way and received nothing. Luckily, the Senate and House have just approved a PPP 2, with $510 billion (only $450 billion of which is allocated to PPP 2 and the other $60 billion to Economic Injury Disaster Loan program), to be administered by the SBA again. By the way, back to the banks choosing large clients first, they were also favoring customers with existing loans at the bank for the PPP 1, which is a great idea from a business perspective and a terrible idea from a public relations perspective. It potentially replaces defaults in a bank’s small-business loan portfolio with government-guaranteed business loans. I know that the application forms were already being submitted, even though the House of Representatives hadn’t voted on it until Thursday, and the President then has to sign it. I do not see any significant changes in how the Government is going to police this round of PPP, so I am worried that they may miss the small businesses again. Along with Ruths’ Chris Steakhouse (who kept the $20 million), Shake Shack (who is now returning the $10 million), according to Newsweek, Harvard University Endowment, worth $40 billion, received $8.7 million in Federal Aid for pandemic relief. President Trump asked them publicly to return it, and Harvard said ‘no’. After public outcry and more pressure from the Government, Harvard reluctantly agreed to return the money. Since I wrote this on Thursday, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin addressed the abuse of PPP 1 and said that all public companies that received PPP loans must return them over the next 2 weeks or face severe consequences. So, maybe PPP 2 will go better than I thought. Also, since I wrote this, the House voted to pass the bill 388-5 and the President signed the new COVID-19 relief bill, which became only $484 billion, of which $381 billion is for PPP 2. I don’t know why the numbers kept changing, probably because of politics and maybe because of the money that Treasury is going to force the corporations to give back from PPP 1. Banks, however, have pocketed a tidy $10 billion in fees (so far) for processing applications, from the SBA. For PPP 2, which launched today (4/27), the SBA has limited each bank to 10% of the funds available, $60 billion per bank, attempting to more evenly distribute the loans. Still, there are probably other tweaks that Treasury and SBA could make, to make sure the loans reach small business owners. I think they should reduce the maximum loan size and change the way the banks are paid, rather than a sliding scale based on principal amount of loans.
This is an odd piece of news, those hoarders who grabbed up tons of toilet paper, thinking (I guess) that there was not going to be anymore, and they could sell it to neighbors at an inflated price, now want their money back. Costco has said ‘no’ to returns. I am hearing from my friends with Internet businesses that they are having phenomenal results during the quarantine, in some cases tripling or quadrupling their normal volumes. However, they all express frustration right now with Amazon, who wouldn’t take stockpiles in, because they were focused only on PPE, and so now that they are taking orders for non-PPE, they don’t have supplies to ship out, so there are significant delays. I know that I ordered 2 sets of masks about 5 weeks ago on Amazon, and they still haven’t arrived. I’m guessing that they will arrive, right when the quarantine order is lifted. Ironically, this world reset may have cured me cold-turkey, without a 12-step process, of my Amazon Prime addiction. I can’t say enough about Publix grocery stores down here in Florida. First off, they are not only the anchor store to many shopping plazas here, but they are usually also the landlord to the other shops in the plazas, owning the entire plaza. Early on in the quarantine, they told those shops that their rents were suspended. They have continued to work hard with customers on increasing levels of cleanliness and use of PPE and social distancing. Now, since they heard farmers were having trouble, due to restaurants being closed and distributors not ordering as much, Publix announced on Thursday that they will buy all of the excess food that the farmers have and donate it to the food banks.
Which brings up another interesting topic, one you have heard me speak about for over 12 years, disintermediation. We have discussed the Fed disintermediating the primary dealers with its RPP program, the international corporations disintermediating the money funds in Europe to go to the international banks directly, the P2P happening between insurance companies and money funds in the US, which was a subset of the P2P that I continue to work on. But, I had this fascinating discussion with this Editor of a Food & Wine magazine, who said disintermediation has come to the food industry. With yachting and restaurants being crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic, wholesalers of high-end food products have lost their natural customers. Some restaurants are still purchasing for their Take-Out Order business or delivery business, but the numbers are down substantially. The worry for the farmers and wholesalers is that many of the restaurants that are closed may not re-open in the future, permanently changing their revenue landscape. The savvy ones though had begun doing Internet ordering for retail customers at wholesale prices. This is the basic tenet for P2P in our business, mid-market rates because there are less middlemen or pieces of the pie to be shared. In this case, it’s the restaurants who are the middlemen, who work a kind of bid/offer spread of prices between the wholesalers/farmers and the retail public. The wineries have been doing direct customer business for years, bypassing the 100-300% markup of liquor distributors and then of liquor stores. I think it’s interesting, confirms my belief in what I was pioneering in our industry, and may be the future of other industries. I’m not sure how the surviving restaurants will feel about it, but much of the cache of restaurants is how well they PREPARE or COOK food, the ambience of the establishments, the friendliness and service of staff, and the crowd. For that, the public will likely still pay a price.
Ripple effect seems to be the theme of this Repo Commentary. Here is another one, as almost all retail stores and restaurants are closed, or restricted, they are not swiping credit cards for customer purchases, and in turn, are not paying credit card fees to issuers. Consequently, American Express posted a 76% drop in profits in Q1. Another ripple effect to less retail sales will be declining sales tax revenues in those states that have sales tax.
I had mentioned a couple of Repo Commentaries ago that I had heard a rumor that the only way Joe Biden could get the reluctant endorsement of his President, Barack Obama, was to promise some cooperation on whom he picked as his running mate. I actually heard that it might be a friend of Michelle Obama. On Friday, the rumor was that, in fact, it could be Michelle Obama herself! However, what Biden actually said was that he’s pick Michelle Obama for Vice President “in a heartbeat.” Biden said, however, that he doesn’t think she would agree. Michelle Obama was voted the ‘most admired woman’ in 2018 and 2019, according to a Gallup poll. Her book “Becoming” became the best-selling memoir last year, selling more than 10 million copies.
Did I mention that President Trump is suspending immigration to the US for 60 days, citing to control the COVID-19 crisis and jobs shortage, but will allow some workers, per the Washington Post? In separate news, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is calling for COVID-19 relief package to include undocumented immigrants.
Researchers now believe that ‘distance learning’ is changing students’ behaviors, and leading to richer, deeper learning. Those who are quiet normally, now speak up during video chats. Students appear more observant and connected to their experiences, and it is showing in their writing. The erosion of the formal classroom has allowed relationships to blossom as people peered into each other’s lives. Students say they are distanced but strangely intimate.
Okay, out with the COVID-19 Conspiracy News and in with the Bankruptcy News. Apparently, although I wrote this section on Friday, mainstream media has caught up to me on Monday, so it is really current. AP reported this morning that the number of US businesses filing for Chapter 11 increased in March, despite the creation of relief programs. Lawyers who work with distressed businesses say there are signs many owners are considering bankruptcy. In fact, many experts say that the PPP 1 and PPP 2 will help space out the timing of all the small business bankruptcies that are expected to hurt bank portfolios and the economy. During the Financial Crisis, rescue programs were used to kind of “foam the runway” for mortgage defaults. This time, rescue programs could be seen as “flattening the curve” for business bankruptcies. If you recall, early in April, Dairy milk producer and owner of Friendly’s, Dean Foods, filed bankruptcy. In the court-supervised auction, it found bid for ‘substantially all’ of its milk-processing facilities, for more than $530 million. Bidders included Dairy Farmers of America and Prairie Farms Dairy. I mentioned that 24Hour Fitness was contemplating bankruptcy and I discussed it with you here in the Repo Commentary, posing the question of “how can a nationwide gym that is not open, so not paying employees or having overhead, yet still collecting from members (unfairly), not turn a profit?” Well, now for the rest of the story. It turns out that many of the credit card processors chose not to process those credit card monthly payments from the members, worrying that they would have the payments clawed back at some point by regulators or lawsuits from members. It’s strange that they would take on the role of the judicial system. On top of it, it turns out that usually the corporate office decides which credit card processors to go with, so franchise owners have no ability to move to other credit card processors of their choice. So, there may be bankruptcies and probably lawsuits to come. Neiman Marcus is expected to file for bankruptcy this week. Somehow, I thought they had already filed for bankruptcy years ago. But, that isn’t unusual. Sometimes, corporate bankruptcy is used as part of a business plan, to rid debt to be purchased or to create a poison pill. There have been a number of large retail chains that have filed bankruptcy in recent years. Just in 2019, Destination Maternity filed in October, Sugarfina filed in September, Forever 21 filed in September, Fred’s filed in September, Barneys New York filed (for the second time) in August, Avenue filed in August, A’Gaci filed (for the second time) in August, Charming Charlie (for the second time) in July, FTD Florists in June, Sonia Rykiel in April, Roberto Cavalli in April, Z Gallerie (for the second time) in March, Diesel in March, Charlotte Russe in February, FullBeauty Brands in February, Payless in February, Gymboree (for the second time) in January, and SHOPKO in January. And, that was just in 2019. In 2018, we saw some major retail bankruptcies in David’s Bridal, Sears, Mattress Firm, Gump’s, Brookstone, National Stores Inc., Rockport, Nine West, Remington Outdoors (a gun manufacturer during the height of that industry because of the lawsuits stemming from 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre), Claire’s, The Walking Company, Bon-Ton, among others.
It looks like our US ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison (a former journalist and politician, with no diplomatic experience) may have slipped with a remark she made last Tuesday, before a meeting of NATO defense ministers, in which she said something that sounded like a preemptive strike on Russian medium and short range missiles. She had to post on her Twitter page a clarifying record that she did not mean a preemptive strike. However, NATO is extremely concerned about Russia’s new missile system called 9M729, a new cruise missile, which appears to violate the INF Treaty. Russia has responded by saying that the US, itself, has already had 3 violations of the same treaty. Sweden’s decision to not lock down its economy, allowing the COVID-19 virus to run its course while the population reaches herd immunity, shielding just the elderly and at-risk citizens, appears to be working, according to the nation’s chief epidemiologist. He has predicted that herd immunity, when about 60% of the population is immune, will be reached in the capital of Stockholm within 2-3 weeks. The country has encouraged social distancing and banned gatherings of more than 50, while urging people over 70-years-old or in a high-risk group to stay at home. But, they kept businesses, restaurants, and schools open. However, Sweden’s number of deaths is higher than in other Nordic countries, however, with 16,700 cases and more than 2,000 deaths in a population of about 10 million. If they were to build up herd immunity, it may be possible that they wouldn’t be as susceptible to a second wave. NATO issued a warning on 4/18 to watch out for Chinese companies swooping in with cash to buy strategic stakes or majority control in US and European companies, as those asset prices fall due to the pandemic, according to Forbes. Yet, Forbes also ran an article 3/1/20 about how “Coronavirus Could Be The End of China As a Global Manufacturing Hub.” So, I don’t really know which way to feel. I read an article written by an ex-pat in Thailand, which said that Thailand has become unattractive to expats, leading to an exodus of some 15% so far, to the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in the last 2 years. There are several reasons for this exodus, including the rise of Thai baht, increased pension and immigration requirements, higher-than-reported inflation, stricter travel restrictions out fo country and between provinces, and recent Thai government health minister’s remark to watch out for expats (he used a negative racist term) spreading the virus in Thailand. There were several reports last week and this weekend, that North Korean President Kim, who has not been seen in public since 4/1/20, died from a heart procedure he had. North Korea says the surgery was successful and that the leader is not dead. A special report on the impact COVID-19 lockdowns are having on drug traffickers is interesting. Reuters actually spoke to two Sinaloa Cartel members who complained about how the shutdown of the US-Mexico border, to slow the spread of the virus, has complicated their distribution lines. I don’t think anyone is going to give them a bailout. US warships entered the disputed waters of South China Sea, as tensions with China have escalated. The USS America, an amphibious assault ship, the USS Bunker Hill, a guided missile cruiser, entered the contested waters off Malaysia. At the same time, a Chinese government ship in the area has for days been tailing a Malaysian state oil company ship carrying out exploratory drilling. Chinese and Australian military ships have also been in nearby waters, according to Pentagon reports. Last month, China opened two new research stations on artificial reefs it has built on maritime turf claimed by the Philippines and other countries. The reefs are also equipped with defense silos and military-grade runways.
Here again, in this section, the most recent news is highlighted in RED.
On Sunday, Florida surpassed 31,520 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths of 1,074. Although, Palm Beach County’s City Council met last Tuesday, 4/21, to decide whether to open up PB County beaches, parks, and private golf courses, and left them all closed, they met again today (4/27) and decided on Wednesday 4/29, parks, golf courses (yay!), marinas, boat ramps, community pools (yay), and other recreational activities will be allowed to reopen in Palm Beach County. I actually had a tee-time the Thursday morning after they were ordered closed and just called the same golf course to get one for Wednesday, and they told me they were caught by surprise, so won’t be open until this Thursday. I saw on tonight’s local news that PB County will require each golfer to have their own golf cart and continue to use social distancing and to not touch the flags/pins. Ironically, the USGA had just changed that rule a year ago, no longer requiring that golfers on the green remove the pin or receive a penalty. I guess, now you’ll receive a penalty from the county, for NOT removing the pin. Florida is dealing with their woeful DEO unemployment system, which keeps freezing up and all the payments that have not gone out yet. The State is bringing the unemployment system down for 3 days, to work on it and try to make payments faster. The unemployment application part of it became so disabled, that the state gave out paper applications at its sites and at Kinko’s FedEx offices. Florida nursing homes are now pushing to be protected from liability for harm to residents during the COVID-19 public health emergency, as those people would have had a higher mortality rate due to their higher risk. But the industry’s failure to fully comply with a 2018 law requiring nursing homes to have backup electric generators, coupled with some nursing home staff abandoning patients in other states, may impede those efforts. Governor DeSantis announced that he believes that Central Florida has passed its COVID-19 peak. So, this is moving along, as I reported it previously, with reopening of northern Florida, then central Florida, then Western Florida, and last finally Southern Florida (where there is a much higher concentration of population). Well, Mother Nature has not been the only silver lining in this pandemic. Miami just went 7 weeks without a homicide, for the first time since 1957. Crime rates in cities nationwide have dropped dramatically during the pandemic stay-at-home orders. Our COVID-19 testing site in FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, here is West Palm Beach, was ripped apart yesterday, during an early afternoon severe storm we had, with major rain and hail and wind gusts up to 80mph! It dropped the temperature by 22 degrees in 30 minutes and caused a lot of tree damage and downed power lines. I watched from my balcony as at least 25 transformers blew in the distance. That was the most violent non-hurricane storm I have ever been in.
My 6-part Harmony Group, Generation Gap, and I actually performed a charity concert this Saturday, 4/25, at Double Roads Tavern in Jupiter, FL while practicing social distancing for people from the hospitality and entertainment industries in the parking lot, who received free food from the restaurant’s owner, Vince Flora, in return for donations to help hospitatility and entertainment workers in the county. To avoid breaching the county and state pandemic rules, we stayed 6 feet apart and sang on an outdoor stage to the line of about 100 cars in the drive-up. I guess this is what it would be like to sing for a McDonald’s Drive-Thru. “Would you like a song or fries with that hamburger?” We did have about 20 cars wind up parking in the lot for the last hour with their windows open to enjoy the concert.
Palm Beach County authorities closed down all “non-essential” businesses 5 weeks ago, 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 (by the way, the Governor oddly made WWE wrestling an ‘essential’ business:
- 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. We are actually in constant touch with party planners, hotels, and restaurant owners, who are planning to hire us as soon as they reopen, some guessing that that will be in June or July. 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 were scheduled for for 2020 (below), although that all changed with 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
Jokes and Such:
The Language Nerds put together 30 English words that are rarely known to most people (I have used 5 of these words on occasion) for you to insert in your normal conversation:
- Nillionaire-someone having little to no money.
- Minimus-your tiny toe or finger.
- Serendipity-finding something good without looking for it.
- Quixotic-unrealistically optimistic.
- Caruncle-The triangular pink areas at the corner of your eyes.
- Agelast-a person who never laughs.
- Osculator-one who loves or one who is loved.
- Callipygian-having large, round, succulent buttocks.
- Limerance-the state of being infatuated with someone.
- Atrate-dressed in black.
- Applepick-steal someone’s iPhone.
- Axicolous-something that lives on rocks.
- Metanoia-spriitual transformation.
- Jamais-vu-the feeling familiar is being encountered for the first time.
- Cacoethes-bad idea.
- Dysania-the state of finding it extremely difficult to get out of bed in the morning.
- Tittle-the dot over an ‘I’ or a ‘j’.
- Gigil-the irresistible urge to pinch of squeeze something cute.
- Malarkey-nonsense or balderdash.
- Bravado-someone who is full of a false sense of courage that masks a hidden fear.