It is Day 140 (on 7/28) 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).
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 now have friends whose family members have died of COVID-19. In fact, one friend lost her brother and mother to COVID-19, but she herself survived.
I am still NOT retired from the Securities Finance industry. I have been contracted as a consultant to write about the Repo industry for an educational platform (see Repo section). I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making great headway on providing 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 is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. I have not written one for more than a month, as I have been very busy leading up to my full knee replacement surgery on 6/30. I am healing very fast though (already on the stationary bike), so hopefully that will only be a couple more weeks of recovery. Still, with the new consulting work taking top priority, you may not see a new Repo Commentary for a while.
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!
Holidays or Events (07/28):
• Bagpipe Appreciation Day
• Cross Atlantic Communication Day
• Gary Gygax Day
• National Chicken Finger Day
• National Scotch Day
• National Crème Brulee Day
• National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day
• Take Your Pants For a Walk Day
• Take Your Houseplants for a Walk Day
• Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval (Canada)
• Fiestas Patrias (Peru)
• Liberation Day (San Marino)
• Olavsoka Eve (Faroe Islands)
• World Hepatitis Day
Some Famous People Born on 07/28 in History:
• 1783-Friedrich Wilhelm von Bismarck, German army officer and writer
• 1887-Marcel Duchamp, French-American journalist and author
• 1901-Rudy Vallee, American actor, singer, and saxophonist
• 1907-Earl Tupper, American inventor and businessman, founded Tupperware Brands
• 1929-Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, American journalist and socialite, wife of President John F. Kennedy
• 1943-Bill Bradley, American basketball player and politician
• 1946-Jim Davis, American cartoonist, created Garfield
• 1947-Sally Struthers, American actress
• 1949-Vida Blue, American baseball player and sportscaster
• 1951-Doug Collins, American basketball player and coach
• 1954-President of Venezuela
• 1974=Elizabeth Berkley, American actress
Daily Weird Facts:
Morocco was the first country to recognize the US as an independent country and during the Revolutionary War, the Sultan of Morocco promised safe passage from Barbary Pirates for all merchant American ships traveling across the Atlantic Ocean.
“100 years ago everyone owned a horse and only the rich had cars. Today, everyone has cars and only the rich own horses.”–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
$26.78/barrel on 5/04
$30.39/barrel on 5/09
$35.69/barrel on 5/20
$39.78/barrel on 6/04
$43.37/barrel on 7/27
Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has slipped 4 cents in the last week, at $1.82/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
106.82 on 05/04/20
100.80 on 05/10/20
102.04 on 05/20/20
103.32 on 06/04/20
100.05 on 07/27/20
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
05/04 at $1.0903
05/10 at $1.1402
05/20 at $1.1522
06/04 at $1.1795
07/27 at $1.2314
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
05/04 at $1.2435
05/10 at $1.3005
05/20 at $1.2844
06/04 at $1.3136
07/27 at $1.3458
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
1.4090 on 05/04
1.3250 on 05/10
1.3250 on 05/20
1.2850 on 06/04
1.2730 on 07/27
The USD has weakened against the Yen and Canadian dollar, but rallied against the British Pound and the Euro.
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. On 4/27, it traded at $1,724.20/ounce. On 5/04, it was trading $1,712.70. On 5/10, it was trading at $,1,708.90/ounce. On 5/20, it was trading at $1,753.80/ounce. On 6/04, it was trading at $1,726.80/ounce. Monday morning, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. The combination of no end in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic fear, escalating US-China tensions, low-interest rate policies, negative real rates, extremely accommodative monetary policy, enormous amounts of global fiscal spending, and a weak US Dollar, have created the ‘perfect storm’ for Gold. Goldman Sachs says that gold could hit $2000/ounce during the next 12 months, Citgroup is giving it a 30% chance that gold will exceed $2000 by year-end, and Bank of America is predicting gold will reach $3,000 over the next 18 months.
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
$8,775.36 on 05/04/20
$8,771.73 on 05/10/20
$9,525.54 on 05/20/20
$9,794.46 on 06/04/20
$10,849.00 on 07/27/20
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 of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020. It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event. In fact, this 15% rally in the past week is probably because of the allure of having twice as many bitcoins for owners, similar to a stock-split. Last week’s gain was part of the first seven-week rally streak in Bitcoin in a year. In fact, Bitcoin is up over 130% since 3/13/20, when it hit $3,867. This will be the 3rd ‘halving event’ for Bitcoin, since its inception, and will occur on 5/12/20. Since the halving, Bitcoin has rallied strongly, near the highs at the beginning of the Summer of 2019.
Global Financial News:
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) reminds that comments are due regarding the time and cost of filing Bank Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) by financial institutions of Suspicious Transactions. The Metropolitan Government of Tokyo listed its new 5-year USD benchmark bond on the London Stock Exchange’s Main Market. ISDA and ISLA have agreed to collaborate on two key initiatives to deliver digital solutions to their respective memberships on CDM framework.
US Market News:
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global economies, corporate profits, and the DJIA.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to experience enormous volatility recently, however, it appears to have been range-bound between 25,000 and 27,500. Originally, it was due to the shutdowns of COVID-19, then it was due to central banks’ efforts to calm the markets, and now it may be because of political and racial unrest. However, over the last almost 3 months, the DJIA has recovered everything that it lost. Here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month or so, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:
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
24,331.32 on 05/08/20
24,206.86 on 05/19/20
26,281.82 on 06/04/20
26,469.99 on 07/24/20
S&P 500 has closed on:
10/5/18 at 2,885.58
12/26/18 at 2,467.70
01/07/19 at 2,549.69
01/16/19 at 2,616.10
02/06/19 at 2,706.53
02/25/19 at 2,799.34
05/16/19 at 2,876.32
06/18/19 at 2,917.75
07/24/19 at 3,019.56
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
05/08/20 at 2,929.80
05/19/20 at 2,922.35
06/03/20 at 3,130.94
07/24/20 at 3,215.63
S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, and is approaching the 2/07/20 all-time high.
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
05/08/20 at 9,121.32
05/19/20 at 9,185.10
06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!
07/24/20 at 10,363.18 we continue in uncharted territory
The US Treasury curve is about as flat as it gets and yields are at historic lows.
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%
05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low
05/19/20 at 0.17%
06/03/20 at 0.19%
07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low
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%
05/10/20 at 0.21%
05/19/20 at 0.22%
06/03/20 at 0.26%
07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!
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%
05/10/20 at 0.33%
05/19/20 at 0.35%
06/03/20 at 0.38%
07/24/20 at 0.27%
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%
05/10/20 at 0.53%
05/19/20 at 0.54%
06/03/20 at 0.59%
07/24/20 at 0.44%
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%
05/10/20 at 0.69%
05/19/20 at 0.70%
06/03/20 at 0.77%
07/24/20 at 0.59%
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%
05/10/20 at 1.39%
05/19/20 at 1.43%
06/03/20 at 1.56%
07/24/20 at 1.23%
A report from the Mortgage Bankers Association reveals that the share of mortgage loans in forbearance has fallen for a fourth consecutive week, to 8.18%. The MBA estimates that 4.2 million homeowners are now in forbearance, with 43% of loans in forbearance in an extension following their initial term. Prior to COVID-19 pandemic impacting the US economy, the MBA reported the overall forbearance rate was 0.25%. HUD is abolishing an Obama-era rule related to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). The MBA reports that the Purchase Application of new homes was up 54% year/year, right before this new uptick in COVID-19 cases. Also, recent Pending Home Sales were up 44% month/month. Black Knight is acquiring Optimal Blue in $1.8 billion deal, boosting origination offerings. Realtor.com just launched a new iBuying partnership site to show home sellers all of their options. Low mortgage rates and pent-up demand from buyers pushed Sales of New Homes to a 13-year high in June, according to the Commerce Department. Houses sold at the fastest pac since July 2007. Average US rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell below 3.00% for the first time since collection of the data in 1971. I just saw a 15-year fixed rate mortgage at 2.375%! The months’ supply number, which measures how long it would take to sell off the current inventory, fell to 4.7 months, the lowest in nearly 4 years. The Federal eviction moratorium extension ended this past Saturday.
Repo/Securities Financing News:
For those of you who thought I was semi-retired and those of you that knew I had ghost-written a book, worked on several conferences, and continued consulting in Repo & Securities Lending, I am really not retired. Last week, I agreed to partner with Roy Zimmerhansl and his Pierpoint Financial Consulting, to develop and teach the curriculum for the Securities Finance Academy Repo courses. I will be putting my decades of knowledge to good use and doing something I am passionate about, teaching and speaking about Repo. There was an article about it in yesterday’s ISF/Global Investor online and an article about it in today’s Securities Lending Times.
Securities Lending Times also reports that Broadridge Securities Finance and Collateral Management appointed Pierpoint Financial Consulting as its training provider. Broadridge intends to invest in its associates to enhance their business skills, industry knowledge, and understanding.
I am personally thrilled to see that the 4 huge pension plans (who are all clients of mine—CalPERS, HOOPP, OPERS, and SWIB, alongside sponsorship from eSecLending, Osler,Hoskin&Harcourt LLP, and Credit Benchmark) officially announced their new non-profit trading alliance, Global Peer Financing Association (GPFA), to conduct peer-to-peer trading in securities lending and repo markets. I had been speaking to all of them for years about P2P and had been reporting since the IMN Repo & Beneficial Owners Conference at the beginning of 2020, here in the Repo Commentary, that they were forming this alliance and had held a panel for dozens of other pension funds and some insurance companies at the conference to that end. I am delighted that it is now off the ground and running officially. Obviously, P2P Repo & Lending is a subject near and dear to my heart since 2008, when I created Direct Repo for AVM, LP, and I hope that I will be able to help this organization, in some capacity in the future, gain more acceptance and volume. I believe their first targets for new members are not only other Global Pension Funds, but also Asset Managers, Insurance Companies, Sovereign Wealth Funds, and Central Banks.
I’m sure that you all saw that the RMA has decided to cancel its mid-October 37th annual securities finance and collateral management conference, one of the most attended conferences in our industry, and one that I had attended every single year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference will be held virtually in some form. For those who are fellow Repo dinosaurs, you may remember that it was cancelled once before, shortly after the 9-11 tragedy.
SF reports that Sri Lanka’s Central Bank has entered a $1 billion repo with the US. LCH is reportedly ‘all set’ for Monday’s EU 5 trillion switch. Remember, Tesla’s Elon Musk’s rant about the securities lending market helping people unfairly short Tesla’s stock and ‘causing’ (rather than ‘reflecting’) the company’s financial struggle? That stirred old debates and led to new ESG initiatives. Meanwhile, those who were vilified for shorting the stock have gotten crushed in a ‘short squeeze’. The Hong Kong Exchange has added leveraged products to the exchange.
Bank of Canada has announced new securities repo operations (SROs). It will suspend the current securities lending program to primary dealers. The move is intended to support core funding markets. The SROs will supply a temporary source of Government of Canada bonds and treasury bills to primary dealers, which can then be supplied to cash providers in the repo market. Meanwhile, Bank of Canada has begun winding down its enhanced liquidity provisions (term repo operations and purchasing of bankers acceptances), citing that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial markets “appears to have peaked.”
BlackRock said that it saw record-breaking securities lending revenue, as earnings hit $210 million in Q2, up $52 million from Q1. Northern Trust also reported another increase in securities lending revenue for Q2. Cowen has partnered with n-Tier to complete a successful go-live of its Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) reporting using their Compliance Workbench Platform.
GC Repo rates continue to remain low, despite (as Scott Skyrm points out) US Treasury raising national debt outstanding from $23.5 trillion 4 months ago, to $26.485 trillion now. The spread over this period between Fed Funds and US Treasury GC repo actually ‘contracted’ to 3.8bp. One reason that the huge Treasury issuance didn’t make a dent in the GC repo rates, is because the Fed restarted QE purchases last September, increasing the SOMA portfolio from $3.98 trillion to $6.2 trillion. The second reason is that, as the Money Funds found less US Treasury Repo available from broker/dealers (for a number of reasons), they bought US Treasuries, particularly Treasury Bills outright as their Repo alternative.
The current state of Central Clearing Counterparties (CCPs) and Electronic Trading Platforms (ETPs):
• 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 bilion of repo and outright trading, with futures and options as well. It also still owns AQS/Quadriserve (ETP) for US securities lending.
• FICC/DTCC (CCP)-has hit high volume of $552 billion, increases coming from the 3 participant banks in Sponsored Repo, bringing their clients into the CCP, along with their standard dealer vs dealer repo. Has been around a while now.
• CDCC-Canada (CCP)-brand new CCP involving derivatives and repo.
• WeMatch.com (ETP)-fairly new, trades total return swaps.
• HQLAx (ETP)-securities financing, just started, uses blockchain tokens to represent trades.
• Liquidity Marketplace-LMX (ETP), I do not have any info yet.
• Asterisk (ETP)-brand new, focused first on government securities and equities financing.
• Treasury Spring (ETP)-fairly new, focused on European asset managers.
• GLMX (ETP)-a Silicon Valley solution, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
• TradeWeb (ETP)-longtime system, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
• BNY DBVX (ETP)-fairly new and has changed, for internal BNY Mellon clients now.
• DealerWeb (ETP)-primarily for dealers.
• AFX/CBOE (ETP)-trades collateralized loans and futures.
• State Street Direct Access (ETP)-fairly new, has started securities financing for internal State Street clients.
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 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year. I hope to see many of you there!
• iMoneyNet/Informa has yet to announce its annual MMExpo, after the merger. I have spoken at this one several times.
• PASLA/RMA will hold its 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
• GIOA will hold its 16th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/18-3/20/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. I may attend.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Boston, MA on 3/23-3/24/20.
• IHS Markit will hold its annual Securities Finance Forum in London, England on 3/24/20.
• Finadium will hold its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/13-5/14/20. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
• GFOA will hold its gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/17-5/20/20. I have attended this one in the past.
• IMN/AFME will hold its annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/16-6/18/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Nashville, TN on 6/8-6/10/20.
• ISLA will hold its 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Vienna, Austria on 6/23-6/25/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
• ICMA/Securities Lending Times will hold their annual AGM and conference also in Vienna, Austria, on 6/24-6/26/20.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26/20 in Minneapolis, MN. I heard there were 580 attendees in Boston last year. I have spoken at this conference before.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in San Diego, CA on 9/13-9/16/20. I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
• IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London, England on 9/15-9/16/20. I’ve attended this before.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/22-9/24/20.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 10/5-10/7/20. I’ve attended this before and might again.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain on 10/12-10/14/20.
• RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15. I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton. It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended. JUST CANCELLED
• Crane Data has yet to announce its annual European Money Fund Symposium.
• Finadium has yet to announce its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its large annual conference in Las Vegas, NV on 10/18-10/21/20.
• Finadium has yet to announce its Rates & Repo conference in New York. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
• Risk.net has yet to announce its 26th annual Risk USA conference. I’ve chaired this one.
• SIFMA has yet to announce its annual Meeting.
Federal Reserve News:
I was asked by Global Investor Group/ISF Magazine about a month ago to write an article about the Federal Reserve policies and exit strategy for its Americas Securities Finance Guide. That should be coming out soon.
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. My friend Scott Skyrm addressed this recently in his Repo Market Commentary, pointing out that since the beginning of April, GC Repo averaged 4.2bp above SOFR, and that the difference is even greater in the futures contracts (where it increases to 7.2-14.9bp spread, depending on the term.) He agrees with me that SOFR will always be lower than GC Repo, because it is skewed to the offer-side of the market, particularly with the inclusion of the tri-party repo rates. Of course, with Fed Funds, repo rates, and outright US Treasury yields trading near 0%, the actual bp differences have decreased, as there are so few bp to play with. My former colleague/partner/boss, Tom Wipf, pointed out today on LinkedIn that Bloomberg now posts a spread adjustment for every LIBOR that is replaced by SOFR, which would be worthwhile following.
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 next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 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.
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. For the Fed’s $500 billion municipal lending facility, the Fed has told US states, cities and counties that they must show written proof that they have applied for a municipal loan from a bank, BEFORE they will be considered for the lending facility. This positions the Fed facility more as a ‘last resort’ for applicants. The Fed has since broadened the eligibility for the MLF, lowering the population requirement to 250,000 from 1 million for cities and to 500,000 from 2 million for counties. Also, the Fed has expanded the duration of the debt it will purchase to 3 years from 2 years. More than 200 municipalities are already eligible to participate.
Earthquakes and Volcanoes:
The Earth remains seismically active, as the atmosphere becomes active for hurricane season.
Earthquakes above 5.0-magnitude, in the last few weeks:
07/26 6.3 South Sandwich Islands
07/22 6.3 Western Xizang
07/22 7.8 Perryville, Alabama
07/17 5.9 iquique, Chile
07/17 7.0 Popondetta, Papua New Guinea
07/06 6.7 Batang, Indonesia
07/03 5.3 la Parguera, Puerto Rico
Florida finally broke its pattern of the last 2 weeks of mounting heat and humidity during the day, into the 90s and 80%, leading to massive thunderstorms in the late afternoon. This week, although humidity remains high and heat is still near 90 degrees (so Heat Index is 100 or more), there has been significantly less rain. The rest of the East Coast, even the MidAtlantic to New England, have had hot and very humid conditions. Heat advisories extend from Maine to South Carolina. Critical fire weather conditions exist now in the Interior Northwest and Great Basin.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ends November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expect about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes. The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has historically been the most used, had forecast a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. It turned out to be the 4th year in a row of above-average damaging seasons. We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, of which 3 were major hurricanes. It became the 7th year that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season. 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. Consequently, CSU predicts 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength. Okay, potential Tropical Cyclone 9 has formed in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Leeward islands. Although it is very early and there are sheering winds to come, Florida is currently in the cone for this one. On Saturday, Hurricane Hanna slammed into South Texas, actually making landfall TWICE as a Category 1 storm. It also brought with it relentless rainfall and tornadoes.
The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20. There is yet to be a forecast for this Hurricane Season. CSU says, 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. In the Central North Pacific, Tropical Storm Douglas is weakening. As Hurricane Douglas, the first storm in the Pacific this year to become a full-fledged hurricane, it barely missed Hawaii on Monday. There are no tropical cyclones in the Eastern North Pacific at this time.
The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months). The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. Then, MLB cancelled its Baseball Hall of Fame 2020 Induction Ceremony for 7/26. Instead, the plan is to honor the inductees (including Derek Jeter) in July 2021, along with its class of 2021 inductees.
MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and has begun a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions. Originally, MLB was going to realign the 30 teams by geographic location and drop the AL and NL distinctions, but settled on just restricting the schedules so that teams only played other teams in their division or geographically close interleague games, dropping games with other divisions in the same league. Each team will play 10 games against each of the other teams in its division, for a total of 40 games. Each team will play 20 Interleague games against the teams in its corresponding geographic division, with 6 of those games against its interleague ‘natural’ rival (typically in same city). I think ‘natural’ rival is a little subjective. All of this will simplify the schedule, reduce the playoff schedule, and drastically reduce the travelling. The games will be played without fans for now, in the teams’ respective home ballparks (rather than in Florida or Arizona). The normal 162-game regular season was scheduled to begin 3/26/20 and last into November. This COVID-19 shortened 60-game season will begin 07/23/20. Ironically, Dr. Fauci will throw out the first pitch at the Opening Day game, as the reigning World Champion Nationals will host the New York Yankees. Only 2 games will be played on 07/23, with the other teams playing on 07/24. Well, it only took 2 days before games had to be cancelled due to the risk of COVID-19 for players. And, this is a sport with little direct contact, unlike football, hockey, and basketball. Apparently, many of the Marlins (14) players tested positive, after playing in Philadelphia, which led to a chain reaction, as the Orioles refused to play the Marlins in Miami and the Yankees refused to play the Phillies in Philadelphia for 2 games so far. So, there are 3 games postponed. This is likely to have a ripple effect on other teams that have to play in both locations or have interactions with the infected team(s). This is only a 60-game season, but it already looks like 60 is an aggressive number. I think the risk is because of the travelling by airplanes and use of hotels. They could have gone the same route as the NBA and limited the number of venues and travel. The regular season will end on 9/27/20. The postseason will follow the usual format, with the two Wild-Card teams in each league meeting for a one-game playoff, and the winners advancing to play the division winners. The new MLB protocols will include no spitting, high-fiving, or team showers. All teams, including the NL teams, will have to use the DH rule. Pitchers will have to face a minimum of 3 batters, and extra innings will start with a runner on second base (kind of like NFL OT starting with teams already on the 25-yard line). Here are the teams in each division:
NY Yankees (rival Mets), Boston Red Sox (rival Phillies), Baltimore Orioles (rival Nationals), Toronto Blue Jays (rival Braves), and Tampa Bay Rays (rival Marlins).
NY Mets (rival Yankees), Washington Nationals (rival Orioles), Philadelphia Phillies (rival Red Sox), Pittsburgh Pirates (rival Tigers), and Miami Marlins (rival Rays).
Chicago White Sox (rival Cubs), Cleveland Indians (rival Reds), Kansas City Royals (rival Cardinals), Minnesota Twins (rival Brewers), and Detroit Tigers (rival Pirates).
Chicago Cubs (rival White Sox), Milwaukee Brewers (rival Twins), St. Louis Cardinals (rival Royals), Cincinnati Reds (rival Indians), and Atlanta Braves (rival Blue Jays).
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (rival Dodgers), Oakland Athletics (rival Giants), Texas Rangers (rival Diamondbacks), Seattle Mariners (rival Padres), and Houston Astros (rival Rockies).
Los Angeles Dodgers (rival Angels), San Francisco Giants (rival A’s), San Diego Padres (rival Mariners), Arizona Diamondbacks (rival Rangers), and Colorado Rockies (rival Astros).
The NCAA College World Series was cancelled. Vanderbilt Commodores were the champs from 2019. The NCAA Women’s College World Series (softball) was also cancelled.
The COVID-19 pandemic also picked off the fan-favorite Little League World Series on 4/29, when it was cancelled for the first time in its history. It is typically held in August in South Williamsport, PA.
The PGA Tour 2020 season was in ‘full-swing’ and they had the Players Championship at Ponte Vedra, FL (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). But, then it cancelled the tournament before Friday’s Round 2 and shut down for the pandemic. At that time, in early March, it also announced that it was postponing the Masters in Augusta. Augusta National Golf Club announced that the postponement of the Masters would be to November 9-15. The PGA announced that the Tour would resume its 2020 season with tournaments on 6/11. The USGA announced that the local and sectional qualifying for the US Open have been cancelled. I think that was wise, since there were to be some 120 events around the country and 3 sectionals outside the country to be staged. However, those 36-hole events, with club pros, amateurs, mini-tour players, and nonexempt Tour pros competing were how half of the US Open field made their way into the tournament, and it was the allure of this particular Major and what made it an “Open”. I’m sure many of you remember the movie which portrays an amateur beating the great Ben Hogan in the US Open. Instead, the tournament will be an all-exempt field, whatever that means. The US Open has been postponed until 9/17 Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, NY. The PGA Championship is still scheduled for August. The USGA, at the same time, also announced that 4 of its other championships were being cancelled: the Mid-Amateur, the Women’s Mid-Amateur, the Senior Amateur, and the Senior Women’s Amateur. That will leave the USGA with just (besides the US Open): the US Women’s Open (12/10-12/13) at Champions Golf Club in Houston, US Amateur (8/10-8/16), and the US Women’s Amateur (8/3-8/9). The Ryder Cup is being postponed until the Fall. The British Open (Open Championship) has been cancelled for 2020. The 2021 Open will be played at Royal St. George’s next year.
Muirfield Village hosted back-to-back PGA Tour events, and Jack Nicklaus’ course played like two completely different courses. With a little rain the previous week, it played softly and with low scores. This past weekend, with no rain, it played excruciatingly hard, with near-record 13.5 Stimpmeter greens and rock-hard fairways that flung balls into creeks or 6-inch deep rough. Needless to say, the scores were much higher. It was very entertaining, though, because for the first time in 2020, most of the top golfers, including Tiger Woods, were actually playing. It was a close match, until Jon Rahm opened up an 8-stroke lead going into Sunday. But, then, he made it interesting again by going all TIN CUP in front of us and shooting a 10 on a par-5 on the back 9, at one point narrowing his lead to only 3-strokes. But, he held on for the win and became the No.1 ranked golfer in the FedEx Cup. He made No.1 just like his hero fellow Spaniard before him, Seve Ballesteros. This weekend, the PGA Tour travelled to Blaine, MN, for the 3M Open, at TPC Twin Cities, which started Thursday. It was a pretty boring tournament, because few of the upper echelon players played (other than Finau, Schwarzel, DJ (one day)). Michael Thompson won by 2 strokes.
Much has been made about the 40lbs of muscle that fairly new pro Bryson DeChambeau put on during the COVID-19 quarantine, and his subsequent golf swing change and enormous boost in distance for his driver (on average 21 yards), now leading the Tour with an average of 323.8 yards. In the first round at Muirfield, DeChambreau reached the green on a par-4 with a 423-yard drive, which elicited some remarks from architect Jack Nicklaus. It also opened up the debate that Nicklaus started over 40 years ago about how the USGA needs to step in and do something to restrict professional golfers or their equipment. In the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, DeChambeau averaged 350.6 yards per drive during the tournament, the longest average measured driving distance for a winning player in PGA Tour history. Now, they can’t stop someone like DeChambreau from working out more and getting more muscular, as other golfers now do too (Tiger, DJ, Rory, Brooks, etc.). But, club technology and golf ball technology have advanced so quickly and so far, that the average 7400-yard golf course is reduced to an easier course because of the golfers’ shot lengths. Nicklaus said, once again, as an architect, he can’t design courses longer than he does now, as he doesn’t have any more land to work with. He said the USGA should be looking into the ball technology and come up with a plan to use a restricted flight golf ball, much like the Top Golf, driving ranges, and Drive Shacks do for amateurs. To put it all in perspective, I know a Professional Long-Drive Champion and I’ve watched several of their tournaments, and he’s shown me his bizarre swing to generate some 400-yard drives to win championships. It’s a swing he can’t win with on any Tour and it is only possible to keep some balls in play, but now Tour players are actually hitting the ball FURTHER and with more consistency than he can.
No doubt, now that golf is back on TV, and has played 5 tournaments, you’ve noticed that there are NO galleries of spectators. The PGA will start allowing some spectators, starting this week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational tournament in Memphis. A memo obtained by Golf Digest has the Tour allowing tournament and title sponsors to each have up to 50 guests per day during the tournament and that spouses and significant others of the players would also be allowed on-site during competition. These spectators will not be subject to testing for COVID-19, but will be required to undergo a temperature check and fill out a questionnaire each day. The Tour will decide what rules to apply on a tournament-by-tournament basis in accordance with that state’s local guidelines. In addition, the Tour will allow ‘honorary observers’, 16-two-person groups per day, and virtual player engagement, which will replace Wednesday pro-ams that have been cancelled for the remainder of the season. This ‘virtual player engagement’ would require up to 30 players to participate in duties such as 30-45-minute Q&A. All of this will add about 500 more people on site to each tournament, in addition to about 1,100 players, caddies, volunteers, media and officials currently at tournaments. I personally don’t care one way or the other if there are spectators for golf. I don’t think it impacts watching the sport on TV.
On the Korn Ferry Tour (which is still not rolling off of my tongue, like the dot.Com Tour did before), next week’s Pinnacle Bank Championship will have expanded on-site access for select tournament sponsor representatives and other VIPs, as well as a limited number of honorary observers. Camilo Villegas’ 22-month-old daughter has passed away.
The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments.
Cheyenne Knight is returning to the site of her first LPGA victory for today’s start of the Texas Women’s Open. She actually had to book a tee time for her practice round on Monday.
The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 NFL Draft, which was scheduled for 4/23-4/25 in Las Vegas, was cancelled and held remotely. Training camps are expected to open in late July/early August (but it isn’t a certainty), and teams may play 2-4 or no preseason games (I have always been against preseason games, due to the high incidence of injuries), and the regular season is expected to start on Thursday night, 9/10. QB Cam Newton signed a low-pay one-year contract with the Patriots. Potentially a game-changer, Newton will have to compete with sophomore QB Jarrett Stidham, to replace QB Tom Brady, who has left for Tampa Bay (where he has been joined by TE Rob Gronkowski out of retirement). After years of protests, and in light of the current nationwide focus on racial bias, the Washington Redskins have finally decided to do away with the name “Redskins” and logo on their helmets. For now, they will call themselves the “Washington Football Team”. LeBron James took to Twitter to poke fun at the new creative name. If the NFL does allow fans at games, they will be required to wear face coverings. However, the NFL has decided not to require players to wear face shields in their helmets. Meanwhile, as team virtual work continues, there is still no deal between the NFL and NFLPA. Former Steelers Pro Bowl guard Carlton Haselrig has passed away. Chase Young signed his rookie contract with Washington. Jets’ star safety, Jamal Adams, the 6th overall pick in the 2017 Draft, wants to be traded, and has given the Jets a list of 8 teams to which he would prefer to be traded. But, it has been uglier than that, as initially he told team management that he wanted to stay, and they went around his back and shopped him to other teams, and refused to sit down with him to negotiate a contract extension. Not only will this situation potentially set a precedent, but with Tom Brady out of the AFC East, if the Jets deal Adams, they may be sending the wrong signal to their fans. After what we have seen with this COVID-19 pandemic, nothing should be shocking to us. Yet, I am still surprised by some of the unsigned free agents in the NFL. Granted, the NFL might not even play a football game in 2020, but DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Clay Matthews, CB Logan Ryan, and S Tony Jefferson are shockingly still available.
The Canadian Football League’s season was postponed from 6/11 to an unspecified date in July. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the CFL’s defending Grey Cup champions.
The new Vince McMahon-backed XFL, on 3/8, suspended and then cancelled its inaugural season. By mid-April, the league filed for bankruptcy, and currently has no plans to field teams in 2021.
The Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA) are discussing when and how to reopen their seasons. We know that the French Open will has been postponed to 9/24-10/4. We know that the 134th Wimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 has been cancelled for 2020. The US Open is still expected to be played at its normal time in September. There is still a strong possibility that initially there will NOT be fans in the tennis stadiums. ATP Citi Open in D.C. was cancelled.
The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, will be postponed until July 2021. 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.
The 2020 X-Games, that were to be held in Minneapolis in July, were cancelled on 4/24 due to COVID-19 (although now they could have been cancelled for another reason).
The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had been scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, was cancelled for the first time since 1945.
The World Series of Poker didn’t fold, but the 2020 tournament, scheduled to begin 5/26 in Las Vegas, was pushed back to an unspecified date in the Fall. Although the tournament of thousands of players begins rounds typically in May, the final table doesn’t normally play until November. So, the gap between the preliminaries and the finals will be much less time in 2020.
MMA and UFC are back on.
All leagues have now reopened but do not have fans in the seats. I was just watching the Premiere League yesterday. The MLS season was suspended on 3/12.
In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day has already been cancelled, the first time that has ever happened. Various college conferences have either said they will only play teams within their conferences in 2020 or have said they won’t play at all. Ohio State announced this morning that home games will only have 20% attendance (of a facility that holds more than 100,000 fans), no tailgating parties, and face coverings required of all fans before, during, and after the game.
Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll for 2019-2020:
1. LSU 13-0
2. Clemson 14-1
3. Ohio State 13-1
4. Georgia 12-2
5. Oregon 12-2
6. Florida 11-2
7. Oklahoma 12-2
8. Alabama 11-2
9. Penn State 11-2
10. Minnesota 11-2
11. Wisconsin 10-4
12. Notre Dame 11-2
13. Baylor 11-3
14. Auburn 9-4
15. Iowa 10-3
16. Utah 11-3
17. Memphis 12-2
18. Michigan 9-4
19. Appalachian State 13-1
20. Navy 11-2
21. Cincinnati 11-3
22. Air Force 11-2
23. Boise State 12-2
24. UCF 10-3
25. Texas 8-5
Here are the very early 2020-2021 Preseason College Football Rankings:
2. Ohio State
5. Penn State
9. Notre Dame
12. Oklahoma State
14. Texas A&M
18. Iowa State
20. North Carolina
23. Arizona State
Near the halfway point of the college hockey season in 2020, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell was ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19. The NCAA just approved college hockey’s move to 3-on-3 overtime across all levels.
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 a halt due to COVID-19. One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament.
I know this is a little weird, but Gonzaga is No.1 on the early 2020-2021 Coach’s Poll basketball rankings. Baylor is No.2, followed by (in order) Villanova, Virginia, Iowa, Kansas, Duke, Creighton, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. Teams have returned for their first workouts, with masks. Ex-UConn star Robinson, chosen by the Orlando Magic in 2010 Draft, has died at age 32.
Here was the current AP Top 25 for the regular season in 2019-2020:
1. Kansas 28-3
2. Gonzaga 29-2
3. Dayton 29-2
4. FSU 26-5
5. Baylor 26-4
6. San Diego State 30-2
7. Creighton 24-7
8. Kentucky 25-6
9. Michigan State 22-9
10. Duke 25-6
11. Villanova 24-7
12. Maryland 24-7
13. Oregon 24-7
14. Brigham Young 24-7
15. Louisville 24-7
16. Seton Hall 21-9
17. Virginia 23-7
18. Wisconsin 21-10
19. Ohio State 21-10
20. Auburn 25-6
21. Illinois 21-10
22. West Virginia 21-10
23. Houston 23-8
24. Butler 22-9
25. Iowa 20-11
Last season ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this current season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken. I love the name from the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie franchise!
The puck drops (again) to conclude this season on 8/1/20. The teams who will play in the modified playoffs are in their 2nd week of training camps. The Stanley Cup Qualifiers will begin on 8/1, with the top 4 teams in each conference, based on points percentage, playing a 3-game round-robin tournament, and the No.5-12 seeds playing eight best-of-5 series. The winners of those series will advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the 4 teams from the round-robin. The losers will have a chance at the No.1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase Lottery on 8/10.
Like the NBA, the NHL will not be playing its games at teams’ respective home ice arenas. All Eastern Conference games will be played at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. All Western Conference games will be held at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
So, the best-of-5 series will be played between:
Blue Jackets vs Maple Leafs
Rangers vs Hurricanes
Panthers vs Islanders
Canadiens vs Penguins
Blackhawks vs Oilers
Jets vs Flames
Coyotes vs Predators
Wild vs Canucks
The round-robin tournaments will be played between:
Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, and Flyers
Blues, Stars, Golden Knights, and Avalanche
This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games will be played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl. Some coup for ESPN Wide World of Sports/Disney! The top 8 teams in each conference, plus the Blazers, Pelicans, Suns, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards (the bubble teams), will compete, starting 7/30. The training camp started 6/30, and all teams would fly to Orlando on 7/7. The tip-off would be 7/31, and a game 7 of this modified playoff format would be on 10/12. Each team will play 8 games before the playoffs would start. Gone, will be the home court advantage. All teams will play on the courts at ESPN Wild World of Sports/ABC/Disney World in Orlando, FL, affectionately being referred to as the “bubble” or safe haven. I originally thought this was an over-hyped idea. But, just observing the problems with the first week of baseball, the team sport with the LEAST physical contact (except the baseball itself), I see that this “bubble” concept may be the only one that works for team sports.
The WNBA season was postponed from mid-May start, although the 2020 WNBA Draft went on as scheduled 4/17.
The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season was suspended on 2/1. The latest word is that the CBA would restart its season in July.
On 5/28, the 124th Boston Marathon announced that the 2020 race, postponed from April (Patriot’s Day) to 9/14, has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be held virtually. The virtual part is to reward people who run the marathon with participant t-shirts and medals like the ones that are normally given out. Runners, at this time, will NOT be automatically entered into 2021’s race, because they don’t yet know what that race will look like. The Boston Marathon typically brings in more than $200 million to Boston’s economy and raises another $36 million for charities, each year. About 30,000 people usually run the Boston Marathon each year and there are about a million spectators along the 26.2-mile route.
The Tour de France was scheduled to begin 6/27, but that date was pushed back until 8/29-9/20. Then, the French government said that no sports events may be held until September, so they will likely have to tweak the start date or cancel the race.
For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed. It will be run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend. Horse racing is expected to begin soon, but will likely be without in-person fans. Churchill Downs ran a virtual showdown of the 13 Triple Crown winners running the Kentucky Derby. Seattle Slew was leading from the wire, but Secretariat and Citation overtook Seattle Slew, and Secretariat won. It was very cool to watch! The production raised funds for COVID-19 relief charity. Other horseraces have been held in the past month, but without spectators, like the Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby.
NASCAR began the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races. The season finally restarted this past Sunday, at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.
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 (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results. You will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races had to be postponed, some had to be cancelled, and some had to be replaced by other races. Also, NASCAR snuck in a lot more races in-between the typical Sunday races. In addition, NASCAR was the first professional sport to allow spectators back during the COVID-19 epidemic:
2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones
2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano
3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman
3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano
3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED
3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED
3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED
4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED
4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED
4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED
5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED
5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED
5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED
5/17 Darlington, The Real Heroes 400-winner Kevin Harvick
5/20 Darlington, Toyota 500-winner Denny Hamlin
5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled-winner Brad Keselowski
5/28 Charlotte, Alsco Uniforms 500-winner Chase Elliott
5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES Food City Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol, which was scheduled for 4/5-winner Brad Keselowski
6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15, winner Kevin Harvick
6/10 Martinsville, Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9, winner Martin Truex, Jr.
6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22-winner Denny Hamlin
6/22 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by GEICO 500 at Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26-winner Ryan Blaney
6/27 Pocono, inserted race Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute-winner Kevin Harvick
6/27 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled-winner Denny Hamlin
7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick
7/12 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled-winner Cole Custer
7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Open, inserted race-Matt DiBenedetto
7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Race, inserted race-Chase Elliott
7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, replaced by O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway-winner Austin Dillon
7/23 Super Start Batteries 400, also presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, inserted race
8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400-as scheduled
8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled
8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled
8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled
9/6 Darlington, Southern 500
9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400
9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400
10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500
10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400
10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400
10/25 Texas, Texas 500
11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race
11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship
Formula One began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule. The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run, and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix. It announced a number of race postponements. F1 will have an abbreviated 19 race season (instead of the record 22-race season planned), when it begins. The reports were that they were thinking about 7/5 as a start date, and that was good intel. There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29. So, we lost the Australian GP, Bahrain GP, Vietnamese GP, Chinese GP, and Canadian GP. The season began on 7/5/20 with the Austrian GP. Here is the NEW 2020 schedule and results:
7/5/20 Austrian GP-winner V.Bottas
7/12/20 Steiermark GP-winner L.Hamilton
7/19/20 Hungarian GP-winner L.Hamilton
8/2/20 British GP
8/9/20 70th Anniversary GP
8/15/20 Spanish GP
8/30/20 Belgian GP
9/6/20 Italian GP
9/13/20 Tuscan GP
9/27/20 Russian GP
10/25/20 United States GP (Circuit of the Americas)
11/1/20 Mexican GP
11/15/20 Brazilian GP
11/29/20 Abu Dhabi GP
Meanwhile, in F1 news, McLaren had an F1 reunion with Gulf Oil in new sponsorship deal. Additional races will join the 2020 F1 calendar: Imola, Nurburgring, and Portimao.
Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit (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). In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them (notice that IndyCar doubled up on some races on back-to-back days):
3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25
3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED
4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED
4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED
4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED
5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4
5/24 104th Indianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23
5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED
5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED
6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles-winner Scott Dixon
6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-POSTPONED
6/27 Indy Richmond 300-CANCELLED
7/4 GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis (postponed from 5/9)-winner Scott Dixon
7/11 Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 1-winner Scot Dixon
7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-CANCELLED, replaced by Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 2-winner Felix Rosenqvist
7/17 Iowa 300-rescheduled as Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 1-winner Simon Pagenaud
7/18 Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 2, inserted race-winner Josef Newgarden
8/9 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio-moved up one week
8/23 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-POSTPONED, replaced by Indianapolis 500, previously scheduled for 5/24
8/30 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-originally scheduled for 8/23
9/13 Grand Prix of Portland, POSTPONED one week
9/19 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 1, inserted race-
9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 2, as scheduled
10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP at Indianapolis-ADDED
10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race
Oddly, the US finds itself quarantined by other countries at the moment, with no travel allowed to Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, or Europe, without a 14-day quarantine of people from the US. As the Northeast former hot-spots for COVID-19 diminish in numbers of new cases, the new hot-spots are Florida, Texas, and California. It’s unclear whether is the first wave or the second wave. But, increases in COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed there and are leading to discussions of re-closing establishments, beaches, etc. For those travelling to Hawaii, now that the hurricane has passed, remember that if you break the 14-day quarantine, you will be arrested. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has added 3 more states to his travel advisory. There are now a total of 34 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. on the travel advisory. Incoming travelers to New York from these states are required to self-quarantine for 14-days upon arrival. Minnesota was one of the 3 states added to the list, which had been removed from the list previously. Dublin Airport Authority said it is losing EU 1 million per day, keeping its airports open, with a 24 million drop in passengers.
As of this afternoon (7/28), globally, more than 655,613 people have died from COVID-19. More than 16,553,770 people have been confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19. The US has had the most confirmed cases and most deaths, 4,315,889 confirmed and 148,488 deaths. Last we spoke, Brazil moved into second in terms of COVID-19 deaths, now at 87,618, with the UK third with 45,963, Mexico fourth with 44,022, and Italy fifth with 35,123. The head of Germany’s public health agency says people have been “negligent” as COVID-19 infections increase and German officials said they are “very concerned” by the rising cases.
The CDC says that actual COVID-19 infections are up to 13 times higher than reported cases in some US states. The CDC former chief says that states fail to report this data to show that some states are handling the pandemic better than other states. Bloomberg reports that virus spikes may indicate that certain states may need focused closings or re-closings. Other local studies have shown that the death toll in some states and counties have been exaggerated, as “death by COVID-19” has become a common moniker for deaths by unknown causes. With testing delays and surges in the number of cases, some states have found contact tracing impossible. US News & World Reports reported that common diabetes meds are linked to higher odds for a serious complication from COVID-19. A new WebMD poll shows that most people would wait on a COVID-19 vaccine. It is still believed that survivors’ COVID antibodies may be a powerful weapon against the pandemic. There are now people classified as “super spreaders” who can fill a room with the virus. As part of the anti-mask/glove/social distancing movement, many people (particularly younger people) are having COVID-19 parties. Some of them are having attendees pay up-front fees, so that the person who first is diagnosed with COVID-19 wins the pot. This is deeply disturbing. One man attended such a party, in which 35 attendees (including him) came down with COVID-19. Despite still not being a cure for COVID-19, hydroxychloroquine is trending again.
As many states begin reopening, refuse to reopen, or begin re-closing, I think about the different sectors of our lives that are impacted, such as the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants, bars, travel), healthcare, education, retail, etc. and wonder how they will have to adapt and how different things will look next year. Some things will change until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, assuming that the vaccine can last a long time and that there isn’t a new variety of COVID-19 next year. Some things have changed permanently.
Just thinking today about education, as parents struggle through home-schooling their children, finally hoping that the children will return to official schools to obtain quality and appropriate education from amply qualified, underpaid and under-appreciated teachers. There is no doubt going to be a collective sigh of relief, as schools reopen. But, that issue has yet to be resolved. Some schools will reopen, but some are deciding not to reopen. Some schools will still offer their fine education from those very qualified teachers, while others haven’t decided if they will rely on the parents, who are unqualified to teach, to educate the students. At the heart of the matter is that studies are showing that a large chunk of students are testing positive for COVID-19 and authorities aren’t sure how they are going to ensure that teachers don’t become infected or other students, who didn’t test positive, don’t suddenly get infected. Then there’s the moral issue of ‘forcing’ teachers to return to classrooms and put their lives in jeopardy, which must bring in the longtime discussion of their being underpaid. Surely, now after months of having to figure out curriculums and home-teach their children, parents recognize the incredible value of these teachers. But, what is the right answer? Should these teachers continue to teach, but online only, to keep them away from risk, and how does that impact the education/childhood of the students? Further, if you have the parents continue to educate their children, how do you consistently evaluate the students versus certain goals and requirements for advancement to the next grade or for a diploma? It gets way more complicated for colleges and universities, who are charging enormous tuitions and board for students to not only learn from learned professors and experts in their fields, but also for those students to go through the ‘entire college experience’ (living on their own, developing friendships, developing social skills, learning responsibility, etc.). How are the students going to get that from living alone and taking online classes? Once again, how will you evaluate each student versus some standard for receiving a particular degree? Also, from the institution’s perspective, how will they be able to afford to keep up these sprawling campuses and gorgeous buildings, if they have to charge a discounted price for online learning? There is not a lot of time left, as the back-to-school sales have already begun down here in Florida and colleges will be reporting shortly. Some authorities, unions, institutions, and parents are going to have to look hard at the pros and cons or how to adapt the current educational system. There is also a growing group of parents who are considering continuing home-schooling, even if the public schools in their area open, to reduce their children’s and their potential exposure to COVID-19.
In other health news, many people have been sickened by a parasite found in a bagged/pre-packaged salad. Pilgrim’s Pride Chicken Nuggets have been recalled. Cyclospora outbreak has been linked to bagged salad mixes. Ground beef from one distributor has been recalled over E.coli fear. Diabetes drug Metformin extended-release has been recalled by Apotex, for a possible cancerous chemical. One lot tested by the FDA showed higher NDMA levels than allowed. NDMA was the culprit environmental contaminant that triggered numerous recalls of widely-used heart medicines last year. In water utilities around Georgia, the system for testing lead in water is not working properly, leaving people uninformed and unprotected about this potential threat.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped reset the planet, giving it a break environmentally. Tahlequah, a famous killer whale who carried her dead calf for 17 days while she swam 1,000 miles, is pregnant again. She is part of a community of three pods, made up of some 72 whales. They are frequently encountered off the southern end of Vancouver Island in Canada and in inland waters of Washington State in the US. Authorities now estimate that nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced by last year’s Australian wildfires. A new study suggests that the Arctic species of polar bears could disappear by the end of this century, due to melting ice, climate change, and starvation. A 9-year-old Arkansas boy was killed in a dog attack while checking the mail. The Siberian Zoo has seen an animal baby boom during lockdown. Another woman was attacked by a bison at Yellowstone. A rare incident, human death by shark attack, and actually there are 3 to report. A teenage surfer was mauled to death by a shark of the south east coast of Australia on Saturday. The prior Saturday, a 20-year-old scuba diver who was spear-fishing died after he was attacked by a shark off the coast of Australia’s Queensland state. On Monday, this week, authorities in Maine said that a 63-year-old woman from NYC was killed by a great white shark bite off Bailey Island, while she was swimming. It is the first fatal shark attack in Maine’s history. Although she was swimming with her daughter 30-40 feet offshore, her daughter was not hurt. There had previously only been one recorded unprovoked shark attack in Maine, 10 years ago off Eastport, also by a great white shark. Large sharks do prey on seals, which are common off Maine.
One of the last major surviving icons of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Dame Olivia de Havilland, leading actress of her day in 49 feature films from 1935 to 1988, passed away on Monday, at age 104. She was the oldest living Academy Award winner. She also was successful in work on stage and television. De Havilland is best known for her role in GONE WITH THE WIND, a long, successful legal battle with Jack Warner of Warner Brothers, a long loving friendship with actor Errol Flynn, romantic relationships with Howard Hughes and Jimmy Stewart, and a lifelong feud with her sister Joan Fontaine. She and her sister are the only siblings to have won any Academy Awards. On Friday, iconic television personality, Regis Philbin, died of natural causes at age 88. Philbin became famous and endearing to television audiences in 1985, with his The Morning Show on WABC-TV, with co-host Kathie Lee Gifford, which in 1988 became the nationally broadcast Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee. The show was a massive hit and set the bar for all morning shows to come. Gifford eventually left Live! In July 2000 to join Today Show’s 4th hour with Hoda Kotb, replaced by Kelly Ripa. Eventually, Philbin left Live! in November 2011, after having won a Daytime Emmy Award and setting a Guinness World Record for “Most Hours on Camera”, replaced by Ryan Seacrest. During is also well-known for his hosting the popular game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, which won him a Daytime Emmy Award. Philbin and his wife, Joy, lived in my building in Manhattan (or I lived in their building), so I would run into them in the lobby many times. Royana Black, Broadway and RAISING MIRANDA star, has died of leukemia at age 47.
38-year-old singer, Britney Spears, says she’s “demanding attention” with full-body henna bikini picture. Chris Hemsworth’s wife, Elsa Pataky, had to climb out of her car window, after being stuck in a flood. The 72nd Emmy Awards nominations ceremony begins today, 7/28. Mick Jagger, Lorde, Lionel Richie, Sia, Sheryl Crow, and others are urging politicians not to use their music without permission for political rallies, in an open letter. A new biography has come out, detailing the dwindling relationship between Prince Andrew & Kate Middleton with Prince Harry & Meghan Markle. I thought one line was particularly strange, attributed to Markle that she gave up everything to be a part of the royal family and was shunned, but her public actions (to me) showed her actually tearing Prince Harry away from the royal family and having him give up everything for her Hollywood dreams and life. NY Governor Cuomo announced an investigation following the “illegal and reckless” Chainsmokers’ ‘Drive-In’ concert, that he claims had “egregious social distancing violations.” Presidential candidate, Kanye West, known to be on medication for bi-polarism, has been unraveling publicly on the campaign trail, and has several friends and family rushing to his aid. After saying some hurtful things about his wife, Kim Kardashian, and their daughter West, and then breaking down on stage, people have been visiting him at their Wyoming Ranch to console him. Kim just flew out there to have an “extremely emotional” visit with him. The reality TV star, Charlie Balducci, from MTV’s True Life, was found dead in his home in New York, Saturday, at age 44. Music mogul Dr. Dre has taken a knee with Colin Kaepernick. Ellen DeGeneres Show workplace is now under investigation by WarnerMedia, with a third-party firm reportedly asking current and former employees about their experiences working on the show, amidst workplace misconduct allegations that appeared on BuzzFeed news. Katy Perry pushed back “Smile” album release dur to ‘unavoidable production delays’. One of the least-kept secrets has finally broken, that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith have been having marital trouble for some time. However, the smoke from this distant fire turned out not to be because of Will Smith, as assumed, but actually because of an agreed upon ‘open marriage’, which wound up with a serious relationship for Jada and another man. I still don’t understand the TV show of secrets around the red table, but this has got to be a difficult topic to discuss nationwide. Michael Kopech filed for divorce from Vanessa Morgan weeks before pregnancy announcement. Lori Loughlin turns 56 on Tuesday, less than a month before sentencing. Dancing With the Stars plans to begin production for Season 29 in September. The first confirmed contestant is Bachelorette alum Kaitlyn Bristowe.
Here, so far, are the top 2020 movies by Global box-office, which ended its tallies abruptly in March with COVID-19 (and no, I still haven’t seen any of them):
1. BAD BOYS FOR LIFE $419.1 million
2. SONIC THE HEDGHOG $306.8 million
3. DOLITTLE $224.8 million
4. BIRDS OF PREY $201.9 million
5. THE INVISIBLE MAN $128.3 million
6. ONWARD $108.5 million
7. THE CALL OF THE WILD $107.6 million
8. FANTASY ISLAND $47.3 million
9. UNDERWATER $40.9 million
10. THE MAN STANDING NEXT $34.7 million
Technology & Space News:
A security breach in the administration system of Twitter resulted in many prominent accounts promoting a Bitcoin scam. Comet NEOWISE is visible to the naked eye in the Northern Hemisphere. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, is the only tech CEO appearing tomorrow in front of Congress, and is the only tech CEO who hasn’t yet sat before a public hearing in Congress. Twitter temporarily has limited Donald Trump Jr.’s account over COVID-19 video. Amazon is now selling to the public its in-house-designed face shield. If you are wondering why, early on, banks began requiring people to make appointments to meet inside, or otherwise conduct all their banking at the drive-in windows, a new study shows that face masks are thwarting even the best facial recognition algorithms. Scientists are looking at a self-replicating Chernobyl mold to potentially protect the International Space Station from space radiation. Science has finally identified an ancient enzyme that makes body odor so pungent. Scientists think a binary star system may have had a dramatic split or supernova, sending an exploding star speeding across the Milky Way. Facebook and Instagram said it will look more closely at potential racial bias on its platforms and are creating new teams to tackle this issue.
The US election is now within 100 days. Extended unemployment benefits of $600 billion will end at the end of the week. The Federal eviction moratorium extension also ended on Saturday (in all but New York). There may be waves of evictions coming. The government is finalizing the HEROES Act for an addition check to taxpayers. It has surprised me at how difficult it has been for legislators to agree on the details of this second stimulus for Americans. According to Reuters, on Monday, Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion Coronavirus aid package that they hammered out with the White House, to now be discussed with Democrats, which would slash the emergency unemployment benefit (which expires this week) of $600/week to $200/week, focus on getting children back to school (which I think is nuts, since in a recent survey, 1/3 of children tested were found to HAVE COVID-19), getting employees back to work and protecting corporations from lawsuits. The Republican plan sparked immediate opposition from Democrats, who had proposed a $3 trillion plan that passed the House of Representatives in May.
A Federal Appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the US Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantees a right to openly carry a gun in public for self-defense, finding that Hawaii overstepped its authority to regulate firearms possession outside the home. This San Francisco-based court became the sixth US Circuit court to interpret the Second Amendment that way and could set the issue on a path to the US Supreme Court, which has not looked at a major gun rights case since 2010. The same Circuit Court ruled in 2016 that the Second Amendment did not guarantee a right to carry concealed firearms in public in a case originating in Southern California. The states with the most restrictive laws on openly carrying firearms are California, Florida, Illinois, and the District of Columbia.
On the Unemployment front, the weekly US Initial Jobless Claims data skyrocketed from 282,000 on 3/14, to up (including later adjustments):
• 3/21 3,307,000
• 3/28 6,867,000 highest reading in history
• 4/04 6,615,000
• 4/11 5,237,000
• 4/18 4,442,000
• 4/25 3,867,000
• 5/02 3,176,000
• 5/09 2,687,000
• Unemployment Rate was 15.7% for the week ending 5/02, the highest rate since the Great Depression
• 5/16 2,446,000
• 5/23 2,123,000
• 5/30 1,897,000
• 6/06 1,566,000 12-week total increase of 44,230,000
• 6/13 1,540,000
• 6/20 1,482,000
• 6/27 1,408,000
• 7/04 1,310,000
• 7/11 1,300,000
• 7/18 1,416,000 first uptick since 3/28/20
Maybe, a more important figure is in a survey by the Census Bureau, which shows that 47.5% of adults are from households that have lost income because of the COVID-19 lockdown.
As you can see, in this Repo Commentary, and typical of my writing, I’m not going to go too far into reporting on all the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown protests, COVID-19 parties, Black Lives Matter protests, police defunding, statue teardowns and defacements, the political battle for President, and dramatically increased urban violence and overall lawlessness. All of these issues have become increasingly polarizing, some of them just coincidentally at the same time. Some issues politicians and community leaders thought they had dealt with before, but clearly were not resolved. Some have come to a head because of other issues, like police brutality highlighted due to racial tension AND due to the government’s reaction to the pandemic with some strict ordinances, curfews, and suspension of citizens’ rights. Of course, it all gets confusing with some factions going to far, or some factions over-reacting too far, or some factions sitting in wait to cause trouble, anarchy, and crime under the cover of real issues. In its totality, across many related and unrelated issues, justified and unjustified, the citizen unrest is worse than ever before in this country. It is now a ‘perfect storm’. Sadly, that means that some issues, which are really important and should be dealt with, will probably get swept up in the overall chaos and not given their fair light, discussion, and solutions.
A 3D hologram image of George Floyd, who died in May after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes as Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe, will work its way through the US South this week, temporarily replacing former Confederate statues as a symbolic call for racial justice and solidarity. The officer was fired and has been charged with murder.
The body of the late US civil rights icon, John Lewis, was carried over Selma’s historic Edmund Pettus Bridge for the final time, symbolizing the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march that Lewis and other civil rights leaders made peacefully across the bridge before being attacked by Alabama police officers.
Attorney General Barr is defending deploying Federal agents to Portland, accusing “rioters” of committing “an assault on the government of the United States.”
Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings continue to surge. Now, 30 companies, each with over $1 billion in assets, have filed for bankruptcy protection.
A series of attacks over disputed farmland in Darfur, Sudan, left more than 80 people dead and several villages destroyed. At least 16 people have been killed in border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Huawei employees will be hit with US visa restrictions, due to human rights abuses. Akinwumi Adesina, president of African Development Bank, has been cleared after corruption probe. A postcard helped researchers locate the probably spot near the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise, believed to be the location of Van Gogh’s last painting. A female lecturer jailed in Iran has been moved to a remote prison. Malaysia’s ex-PM has been given a 12-year sentence for corruption. Delhi, India’s mask-averse shoppers are worrying officials.
Gov. DeSantis announced that Florida would enter full Phase 1 on Monday, 5/18. He allowed for gyms and fitness centers to be open, beaches to be open, and retail stores and restaurants up to 50% capacity. On 6/3, Gov. DeSantis said that all counties, except Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, could move to Phase 2, which will include opening Bars and Nightclubs to 50% capacity (and 100% capacity outdoors), movie theaters (to 50% capacity), bowling alleys, and theaters (to 50% capacity). When I wrote that in the 6/4 Repo Commentary, Gov. DeSantis was being praised for his COVID-19 handling of Florida, including the 14-day quarantine he imposed on visitors from Louisiana, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Boy, has that changed since then!
Record-numbers of increases in daily cases of COVID-19 over 10,000/day in Florida, the over-crowding of beaches, the flaunting of rules regarding bars & restaurants, and the absurd practice of COVID-19 parties (in which everyone puts money in a pot and congregate outdoors in a large group and the first to contract COVID-19 wins the pot), has caused a major reversal in Florida and the nation’s sentiment towards the State. Now, New York is requiring visiting Floridians to be quarantined for 14 days, and Gov. DeSantis has had to scale back Phases in many counties and curfews have been imposed in hot-spot cities. As the Governor contemplated reopening schools, it was determined that more than 1/3 of school children tested for COVID-19 tested positive.
I am usually singing in Palm Beach County, FL, at least somewhere. My National Anthems for MLB came to an abrupt halt in mid-Spring Training, due to the pandemic lockdown. I still did some charity singing in my 6-part harmony group Generation Gap, but mostly just drive-ups in parking lots at restaurants. I will be doing more solo gigs as Elvis Presley ETA, and had already begun singing on friends’ gigs. I decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from my harmony group (after 12 years). I will be expanding my songs to other artists, besides Elvis (Michael Buble, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Josh Turner, Sinatra, Jason Mraz, Roy Orbison, etc.). However, given my knee surgery and asthma that now put me in a high-risk category for COVID-19, I am happy that I have not yet been doing any gigs. Frankly, the restaurants are hurting so much that few can afford to hire entertainers.
Here are the upcoming scheduled concerts, still subject to change due to COVID-19, in South Florida:
07/07 Motley Crue/Def Leppard/Poison/Joan Jett-Miami
07/09 Chris Botti-Fort Lauderdale
07/18 The Weeknd-Miami
07/29 Boz Scaggs-Fort Lauderdale
08/01 Dave Matthews Band-West Palm Beach
08/18 John Legend-Sunrise
09/03 Brad Paisley-West Palm Beach
09/26 Backstreet Boys-West Palm Beach
12/20 Andrea Bocelli-Miami
Jokes and Such:
I’m so old that I remember when this ‘#’ was a “tic tac toe” sign, before it was a “number” sign, before it was a “pound” sign, and before it became a “hashtag”. I remember searching for the dot “.” On my computer to type “.com”.
My uncle was in the furniture-making business, he died after accidentally drinking furniture varnish. It was a slow death, but a great finish.