Repo Commentary-11/10/20

It is Day 244 (on 11/10) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). Of course, that depends on which conspiracy theories to which you ascribe.

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.

The last installment of the Repo Commentary was at the end of July (7/28). Luckily, nothing has happened since, lol! Hopefully, you missed not seeing it, while I toiled very hard on my latest project. It was actually fascinating and educational for me. It was kind of a work of love, sort of like a book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Financial Consulting and their Finance Academy, I have compiled an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training and education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

So, I am still NOT retired from the Securities Finance industry.  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 (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under.

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 (11/10):

  • Area Code Day
  • International Accounting Day
  • National Forget-Me-Not Day
  • National Vanilla Cupcake Day
  • National Young Reader’s Day
  • World Science Day for Peace and Development
  • Sesame Street Day
  • US Marine Corps Birthday (reportedly beginning to disband some units)
  • Cry of Independence Day in Panama
  • Day of Remembrance of Ataturk (Turkey)
  • Day of Russian Militsiya (Russia)
  • Day of Tradition (Argentina)
  • Heroes Day in Indonesia
  • Martinisingen in Germany
  • World Keratoconus Day

Some Famous People Born on (11/10) in History:

  • 1483-Martin Luther, German monk and priest, leader of the Protestant Reformation
  • 1810-George Jennings, English plumber and engineer, invented the flush toilet
  • 1834-Jose Hernandez, Argentinian journalist, poet, and politician
  • 1888-Andrei Tupolev, Russian engineer and designer, founded the Tupolev Company
  • 1919-Mikhall Kalashnikov, Russian general and engineer, designed the AK-47
  • 1925-Richard Burton, Welsh actor and singer
  • 1929-W.E.B. Griffin, American soldier and author
  • 1931-Lilly Pulitzer, American fashion designer
  • 1944-Tim Rice, English lyricist and author (lyricist for many Andrew Lloyd-Webber hit Broadway shows)
  • 1947-Dave Loggins, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1953-Les Miles, American football player and coach
  • 1954-Bob Stanley, American baseball player and coach (my coach in fact)
  • 1955-Jack Clark, American baseball player, coach, and manager
  • 1956-Sinbad, American comedian, actor, and producer
  • 1959-Mackenzie Phillips, American actress
  • 1968-Tracy Morgan, American comedian, actor, and producer
  • 1969-Ellen Pompeo, American actress and producer
  • 1977-Brittany Murphy, American actress
  • 1978-Eve, American rapper and producer
  • 1983-Miranda Lambert, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1992-Teddy Bridgewater, American football player
  • 1996-Drew Lock, American football player

Daily Weird Facts:

Finland is the world’s Happiest Country, according to the 2019 World Happiness Report. I think the 2020 Report was cancelled, due to lack of happiness.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Democracy is not just an election, it is our daily life.”—Tsai Ing-wen

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18

$47.66/barrel on 12/23

$48.63 on 01/07/19

$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 1/17/20

$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

$43.17/barrel on 11/9

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices, although still waffling, and nowhere near the highs. It did rally 8.5% on promising COVID-19 vaccine results. Brent markets have rallied to just shy of the 200 day EMA, a major resistance area. UAE oil major ADNOC sees oil demand reaching 105 million Bpd within a decade. Big oil stocks have been soaring this week. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has been unchanged for some time, at $1.89/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

105.26 on 11/10/20

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

11/10 at $1.1821

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

11/10 at $1.3255

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

1.3014 on 11/10

On 10/02/19, Gold closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 3/11/20 (one day after ‘pandemic’ declared), it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 07/27/20, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. But, as of 11/10/20, it is trading at $1,880.30, having backed off the highs.

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

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

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.   Bitcoin is up nearly 400% since 3/13/20, when it hit $3,867. 

Global Financial News:

US exchanges, including Nasdaq and several other exchanges and trading firms, are meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott to discuss the possibility of moving data centers to Dallas from New Jersey, after New Jersey followed France and the EU in considering a Financial Transaction Tax. Don’t get me started, but this FTT is simply an attempt to take punitive action on Wall Street for what happened during the Great Recession. I think it is ridiculous and will only hurt business. Good for the firms who are thinking of moving away from such an absurd tax. US bank shares rose, along with oil company shares, on the news of a potential vaccine for COVID-19. It also pushed up corporate bond and corporate loans prices. Banks are preparing to work with President-elect Biden on climate change. The UK is set to sell its first green government bond in 2021, per Reuters. The UK Treasury is drafting regulations for privately-owned stablecoins “that ensures they meet the same minimum standards we expect for other payment methods.”  The Treasury and BoE are also researching the possible use of a central bank digital currency “as a complement to cash.” Today, the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs continues its remote hearing on the “Oversight of Financial Regulators.” Witnesses will be the Fed’s Quarles, Office of Comptroller of the Currency’s Brooks, FDIC’s McWilliams, and the NCUA’s Hood. Congressional Democrats are drafting legislation aimed at making it easier to move tough legacy LIBOR contracts to a replacement benchmark, while providing some safe harbor from litigation. The UK has announced that it will grant EU firms a series of equivalence rights to operate in the City of London after the Brexit transition period.  The decision covers activities such as derivatives trades and financial benchmarks. The BOJ is moving to encourage regional bank mergers.

US Market News:

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be the top news. On Monday, the Dow Jones soared more than 1,500 points after Pfizer announced great news about its vaccine. Oh, and Joe Biden was declared victorious. At 29,887, the Dow was now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. However, it retreated to 29,158 at the close, so not yet a record close. Of course, industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as travel & hospitality had large rebounds, and industries that were thriving during the battle against the pandemic, like remote e-commerce and technology, suffered.

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20 26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

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

11/09/20 at 3,550.50

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020. JPMorgan is now calling for S&P 500 to reach 4,000 points by early next year.

Nasdaq 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

11/09/20 at 11,713.78 just off the record high on 11/05/20

The US Treasury curve was about as flat as it gets and yields were at historic lows in July 2020. But, ever since, the curve has steepened dramatically!  2year yields have barely moved. 3year yields have moved a bit higher. 5year yields have moved higher. But, 7year, 10year, and 30year yields have moved much higher, each one more than the shorter one.  30year yields have nearly doubled since July. And, the yields on all 3 later maturities have reached yields seen pre-COVID pandemic.

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

11/09/20 at 0.17%

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!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

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%

11/09/20 at 0.44%

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%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

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%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

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%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

Housing News:

The real estate market is rethinking whether appraisals are an ‘essential’ service. With many states, counties, and cities having issued stay-at-home orders for non-essential workers, it impacted real estate brokers, homebuilders, appraisers, notaries, and others in the real estate process. Many suffered, some found other ways to do their jobs, and others were replaced by alternatives. FNMA and FHLMC, for instance were directed by the FHFA to use “appraisal alternatives to reduce the need for appraisers to inspect the interior of a home for eligible mortgages.” During COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 40 million people were put out of work by May. The CARES Act of 3/27 offered economic relief to those affected by shut-downs, expanding unemployment benefits and offering mortgage forbearance to homeowners with mortgages backed or insured by the federal government (FHLMC, FNMA, GNMA, VA, and FHA). This allowed homeowners to ask for forbearance from their mortgage servicer and suspend payments for up to 12 months. About 4.3 million homeowners wound up requesting forbearance since the program began. That number of homeowners in forbearance has continued to drop, decreasing to 3.4 million at the end of September, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The MBA updated that figure last week, showing that US forbearance rate has now fallen to 5.67%, or 2.8 million. Today, the FHFA announced the validation and approval of the Classic FICO credit score model for FNMA and FHLMC. The real estate industry is expressing support for President-elect Biden’s proposed $15,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit. The National Association of Realtors said that was good news, but that we also need to focus on the ongoing housing supply shortage, as we have not been building a sufficient number of homes during the pandemic.  JPMorgan Chase has tightened standards for jumbo loans in Manhattan, which could signal more problems for very high-end real estate in the City.

Repo/Securities Financing News:                               

As many of you know, since 2018 I ghost-wrote a book, worked on several conferences, and continued consulting in Repo & Securities Lending, I am really not retired. In my last Repo Commentary 7/28/20, I agreed to partner with Roy Zimmerhansl and his Pierpoint Financial Consulting, to develop and teach the curriculum for the Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy Repo course. I put my decades of knowledge to good use and worked on something that I am passionate about, teaching and speaking about Repo. Well, I finished designing, writing, presenting, and videotaping the 11-week course last week! Many firms and individuals are already signing up for this virtual training, the new normal for global education, for several of the courses offered by Pierpoint Securities’ Finance Academy. Please take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

Securities Lending Times 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.

My friend, Scott Skyrm, writes about the new 10-year US Treasury being issued, after a triple-issued old 10-year note. A triple reissue tends to reduce the ‘specialness’ of an issue in the repo market, despite its use as a hedge for other products. However, a new issue tends to bring back volatility in the Specials Repo market. It could become very Special, given the shorts established already and its limited size of supply. It’s a demand and supply thing, although on two different levels: in the Repo market and in the outright market-primary and secondary. If the issue is bought primarily by investors who do not lend or repo in the Securities Finance market (like the decade-ago debacle on the 10-year note), then the supply could be sharply less, and the issue more Special. The current 10-year has a $108 billion supply and it still trades a little Special, so I wonder if those shorts will reset with the new, much smaller 10-year note.

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis. 

  • Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.
  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.).  They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship. Now, they are trying to privatize them.
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge. There are now 22 primary dealers.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.8 trillion (the Fed argues it is $4 trillion now).
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets.
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement.  They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers.  They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER.
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019.
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.
  • QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day.  That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.
  • Issuance of US Treasuries hit $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.
  • The Fed rolled out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies.
  • Basel IV is now coming, after Basel III began being implemented.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (most conferences from March on were postponed, cancelled, or made virtual)

  • 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.  That has been my last Repo conference so far this year.
  • iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.
  • GIOA 16th annual conference. I have spoken (and sung) at this one.
  • Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.
  • IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum. 
  • Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  I have attended this one in the past and manned one of 250 booths.
  • IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.
  • ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.
  • Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  I’ve attended this before. 
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.
  • IMN annual ABS East conference. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference
  • 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. WAS CANCELLED FOR ONLY THE 2nd TIME (FIRST WAS AFTER 9/11/01).
  • Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    
  • Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.
  • Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • Risk.net annual conference. I’ve chaired this one.
  • SIFMA annual meeting.

Federal Reserve News:

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 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: 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 pandemic crisis we are facing now.  For 2021, the Fed announced FOMC meetings for: 01/27/21, 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day.

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.

At the 11/05/20 FOMC meeting, the Fed kept interest rate target near 0% and said the economy is still well below pre-pandemic levels, despite certain markets moving to pre-pandemic levels or even record levels. The Federal Reserve, according to Bloomberg, just warned that assets will face big declines, if the virus continues to go unchecked. The US still faces a possible default wave and market declines, according to Reuters and the Fed. The Fed also formally called out climate change as a risk to financial stability, just as President-elect Biden has indicated that he wants the US to re-join the Paris Accord on Climate Change. With a change in Administration, a political fight is brewing, according to the NY Times, over whether to extend critical programs that the Federal Reserve implemented in March and April, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those programs are set to expire on 12/31/20. It is unclear whether President Trump’s administration, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, or Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, have decided if they will continue the programs. Ironically, I just removed my write-up from my last two Repo Commentaries on the 5 programs, which include the buying of state and local municipalities’ bonds, another purchasing corporate debt, and another making loans to small and medium-sized businesses. With pressure mounting to let the programs sunset and a proposed additional fiscal stimulus plan unlikely to be passed by a lame-duck Congress, this may come at a bad time, when COVID-19 cases increase, as expected in December. An important decision for President-elect Biden will be whether to keep Jerome Powell as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, since the President nominates the Chair. Powell has called for Congress to pass more economic stimulus.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

The Earth remains seismically active. Buzzards Bay, MA actually had a 4.2-magnitude earthquake on Sunday.

Earthquakes 5.0+-magnitude, in the last week:

11/09 5.5 ENE of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea

11/08 5.1 central Mid-Atlantic Ridge

11/07 5.0 E of Big Lake, Alaska

11/07 6.1 NNE of Hihifo, Tonga

11/07 5.8 Volcano Islands, Japan

11/06 6.0 South Shetland Islands

11/06 5.2 Honshu, Japan

11/06 5.5 ENE of Hachinohe, Japan

11/06 5.2 NW of Shohimardon, Uzbekistan

11/06 5.2 NE of Lospalos, Timor Leste

11/05 5.2 NNW of Lae, Papua New Guinea

11/05 5.1 South of Alaska

11/04 5.0 SW of Pelabuhanratu, Indonesia

11/04 5.0 NE of San Benito, Philippines

11/04 5.3 SE of Easter Island

11/04 5.0 SE of Akutan, Alaska

11/04 5.2 South Sandwich Islands

Weather:

West Palm Beach, FL hunkered down this weekend for major flooding, rain, and winds from Tropical Storm Eta. Eta became the 12th Tropical Storm or Hurricane to make landfall in the US, breaking the record of 9 making landfall in 1916. Eta left 150 people dead or missing in Guatemala, before shifting to the East and hitting Cuba, before hitting the Florida Keys on a sharp Westerly turn into the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to hang out and strengthen in the Gulf, before possibly making a second landfall somewhere in the Florida Panhandle. We are still getting major rain and flooding in Florida, as Eta hovers in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ends November 30th.  According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU was 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 higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength. 

It turns out that it has been an extremely active tropical cyclone season, with a total of 29 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 28 named storms, 12 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes. 28 named storms ties it with the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system. The unprecedented activity is believed to be due to an ongoing La Nina. The 2020 hurricane season has been particularly difficult for US residents during COVID-19, as there is an inherent incompatibility between strategies for population protection from hurricanes (evacuation and sheltering in groups) and effective approaches to slow the spread of COVID-19 (stay-at-home and physical distancing.) I didn’t even get to publish this Repo Commentary, before another Sub-Tropical Storm, Theta, formed in the Atlantic. This BREAKS the 2005 record of 28 named storms, now 29 named storms in 2020!

The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years.

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ended 11/1/20. There are not tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific.

Sports News:       

MLB:

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.

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played 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, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in an exciting (and rare) 7-game series.

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.

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2020 season came to a screeching halt in the middle of a tournament in March. The Masters tournament was postponed from April to this week in November. So, the PGA Championship and US Open have already been played. The British Open, to round out the Grand Slam events, was actually cancelled until 2021. Remember, Tiger Woods, on his second comeback, won the 2019 Masters. He hasn’t had a top 30 finished in the restarted 2020 golf season, though. He is a 33:1 shot to win this week’s Masters. Bryson DeChambeau is the favorite at 9:1 to win. Sergio Garcia has had to withdraw from Masters, after testing positive for COVID-19. Like all the tournaments this year, there will be no fans at Augusta. On Monday, after 9 playoff holes, Kevin Sutherland beat Paul Broadhurst for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, at Phoenix Country Club. It was the final PGA Tour Champions event of the year. Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre clinched his maiden European Tour title at Cyprus Showdown on Sunday, ahead of Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura, at Aphrodite Hills Resort. On the PGA Tour, Carlos Ortiz became the first Mexican to win on Tour in 42 years, winning the Houston Open.

NFL:

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 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. Both, the ‘opting out’ of the season (Patriots had the most players opt out, with 8) and COVID-19 contractions, have wreaked havoc on team makeups, coaching staffs, and game results. Some games have been missing several star players. There have been a lot of other changes too, but mostly due to trades and injuries, some prior to the season. Former strong teams are no longer strong and former weak teams are no longer weak. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown, all former Patriots, now play for the Bucs. In the NL West, the Seattle Seahawks (6-2) have a one game lead over the Cardinals. In the NFC East, no one has a winning record, and the Eagles (3-4-1) are ahead of the Washington Football Team (which no longer has a team name). In the NFC South, the Saints (6-2) lead over Brady’s Bucs (6-3), as Brady no longer gets to feast on the AFC East teams, but must contend with NFC South teams. In the NFC North, the Packers (6-2) still lead. In the AFC East, the Bills (7-2) lead over the Dolphins (5-3). My Patriots (2-5) are no longer a factor behind QB Cam Newton. And the Jets (0-8) are the only winless team in the NFL. In the AFC South, the Titans (6-2) lead over the Colts. In the AFC North, the Steelers (8-0) are the only undefeated team in the NFL. In the AFC West, the Super Bowl champion Chiefs (8-1) are rolling over the new Las Vegas Raiders. We are halfway through the season now.

Tennis

The 134th Wimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 was cancelled for 2020.

Olympics

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, were 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 Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had been scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, was cancelled for the first time since 1945.

Poker

The World Series of Poker didn’t fold, but the 2020 tournament,

Fighting

MMA and UFC pretty much continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, with just a few postponements and no fans in the stands.

Soccer

All leagues have now reopened but do not have fans in the seats.

NCAA Football:

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 was 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. There was a delayed start to the 2020 season, with some conferences delaying their starts by weeks. Some stadiums have had a small number of fans and others have had no fans. Needless to say, homefield advantage has been mostly eliminated, because of the lack of fans.

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

There was a very exciting game this past Saturday night, in which No.4 Notre Dame upset No.1 Clemson 47-40 in double OT. There have been several key upsets this season. Speaking of, earlier in the day No.5 Georgia fell to No.8 Florida 44-28. No.11 Miami survived a 44-41 scare by NC State. No.20 USC came from behind to beat unranked Arizona State. Here are the current 2020-2021 AP Top 25 College Football Rankings (which are a little weird because of some conferences’ late starts, like Big Ten, and COVID-19 cancelled games):

1.          Alabama (6-0)

2.          Notre Dame (7-0)

3.          Ohio State (3-0)

4.          Clemson (7-1)

5.          Texas A&M (5-1)

6.          Florida (4-1)

7.          Cincinnati (6-0)

8.          BYU (8-0)

9.          Miami (6-1)

10.        Indiana (3-0)

11.        Oregon (1-0)

12.        Georgia (4-2)

13.        Wisconsin (1-0)

14.        Oklahoma State (5-1)

15.        Coastal (7-0)

16.        Marshall (6-0)

17.        Iowa State (5-2)

18.        Oklahoma (5-2)

19.        SMU (7-1)

20.        USC (1-0)

21.        Texas (5-2)

22.        Liberty (7-0)

23.        Northwestern (3-0)

24.        Auburn (4-2)

25.        LA-Lafayette (6-1)

NCAA Hockey

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 approved college hockey’s move to 3-on-3 overtime across all levels.

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to 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.  

NHL:

Last season (2019) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this asterisk 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). Ironically, halfway through the playoffs, Tuukka Rask suddenly announced that he was leaving the Bruins, leaving them with just their No.2 goalie. Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken.

The puck dropped (again) to conclude this season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins due to the curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

NBA:

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 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers.

Horse Racing:

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed from 5/2/20. It was run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend. The Preakness Stakes was moved from 5/16/20 to 10/3/20. The Belmont Stakes was shifted from 6/6 to 6/20. So, the 3rd leg of the Triple Crown became the 1st leg, the 1st leg became the 2nd leg, and the 2nd leg became the 3rd leg. It was awfully confusing and all the races were held without fans. Tiz the Law won the Belmont, but Authentic beat him in the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness was won in an upset by a filly Swiss Skydiver.

Racing:

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 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-winner Denny Hamlin

8/2 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, added-winner Brad Keselowski

8/8 Michigan, Firekeepers Casino 400-addedwinner Kevin Harvick

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400, as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled-winner Chase Elliott

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled-winner William Bryon

PLAYOFFS:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500-winner Kevin Harvick

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400-Brad Keselowski

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race-Kevin Harvick

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400-Kurt Busch

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500-Denny Hamlin

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400-Chase Elliott

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400-Joey Logano

10/25 Texas, Texas 500-Kyle Busch

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race-Chase Elliott

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship-won by Chase Elliott. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the third father-son duo to win a title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale)

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-winner L.Hamilton

8/9/20       70th Anniversary GP-Verstappen

8/15/20     Spanish GP-L.Hamilton

8/30/20     Belgian GP-L.Hamilton

9/6/20       Italian GP-Gasly

9/13/20     Tuscan GP-L.Hamilton

9/27/20     Russian GP-L.Hamilton

10/25/20   Portugal GP-L.Hamilton

11/1/20     Italy GP-L.Hamilton

11/15/20   Turkey GP

11/29/20   Abu Dhabi GP

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

8/23 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-POSTPONED, replaced by Indianapolis 500, previously scheduled for 5/24-Takuma Soto

8/29 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 1-inserted-Scott Dixon

8/30 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 2-originally scheduled for 8/23-Josef Newgarden

9/12 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 1-inserted-Will Power

9/13 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 2-inserted-Colton Herta

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-Josef Newgarden

10/2 IndyCar Harvest GP 1 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Josef Newgarden

10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP 2 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Will Power

10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race-Josef Newgarden

Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden.

Travel News:

Oddly, the US still finds itself quarantined by other countries at the moment. Also, several countries, particularly in Europe, have had a major spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, leading to imposition of re-closing of establishments and closing of borders. The US Department of State advises all US citizens to read the country-specific Travel Advisories and US Embassy COVID-19 pages for updates worldwide. I studied the travel.state.gov color-coded global map, and they have most of Europe, China, Mexico, and others as “Reconsider Travel.” Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, India, Indonesia, Russia, as well as others, are listed as “Do Not Travel”. Experts and S&P Global Ratings now believe the hotel industry may not recover until 2023, even if a COVID-19 vaccine is released next year. Year-over-year revenue per available room, which is a closely watched metric for gauging hotel health has decreased 50% in 2020.  Marriott announced that its Q3 revenues dropped 65.9% worldwide and 65.4% in North America. Wynn Resorts announced that Q3 operating revenues dropped 77.5% year/year. Speaking of Las Vegas, the drop in tourism there has prompted some Las Vegas hotels to close for midweek. S&P has slashed ratings on about 75% of all rated US lodging companies since April 2020.

S&P has since focused on theme parks and cruise lines, for ratings downgrades. If you ever wondered how much it would cost to buy a cruise line, the Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) fleet auction is over, with 5 ships heading to new owners (or to scrap) for pennies on the dollar during the sealed bidding process. The 1992 Vasco Da Gama sold for $10.2 million, the 1988 Columbus sold for $5.3 million, the 1987 Astor sold for $1.7 million, the 1985 Magellan sold for $3.4 million, and the 1965 Marco Polo sold for $2.8 million. Three other modern cruise ships were just scrapped in Turkey. Carnival was expected to make an announcement on its Operations yesterday. I remember reporting on a 1/6/2020 cruise industry article that proclaimed that a record 25 new cruise ships, ranging from expedition and luxury vessels to large contemporary megaships, would debut in 2020. That turned out to be very unfortunate timing. All major cruise lines, this week, extended their suspensions until 2021 in the US, due to the new CDC Conditional Sailing Order. They had planned on resuming cruising in December 2020. In the last few months, the European cruise lines have been surprisingly successful with sailing in Italy, Germany, Greece, and the Canary Islands. Carnival’s new Mardi Gras cruise ship has departed on its second round of sea trials. It will be its largest ship. The World Dream has officially kickstarted cruises from Singapore. The cruises are called Seacation voyages, as they have no destinations. Carnival-owned Seabourn reports strong booking volume for its 2022 World Cruise: Extraordinary Horizons.” Costa Cruises announced that it would suspend operations for its one-week cruises to Greece. MSC cruise ship sailings have been suspended, due to significant travel restrictions in France and Germany.

The positive vaccine news is coming just in time for the airline industry. The airline industry is still furloughing employees and aircraft, reducing their flights, as demand still hasn’t picked up. Delta managed to avoid furloughing pilots. Ottawa says Federal support in Canada for the airline industry is contingent on refunding customers. Korean Air actually reported a profit. Singapore Airlines sees COVID-19 procedures as pioneering airline health and safety initiatives for the future of travel. Mexican low-cost carrier Interjet could no longer pay for fuel, and was forced to cancel flights.

The Thanksgiving holiday, the number one travel weekend in the US, will be an important determinant of the travel & hospitality industry. But, the government and authorities are already advising the public to avoid social gatherings with families greater than 5 people and reintroducing lockdowns in some areas, which could suppress some of the travel numbers.  Looking at the map of COVID-19 travel restrictions by US State, there are currently statewide restrictions in Alaska, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, Vermont as of 10/27/20. These could include 14-day quarantines or statewide Phase restrictions on businesses.

Health News:  

As of this evening (11/9/20), globally, more than 1,259,245 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 50.7 million people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 10 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 237,742. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (162,397), India (126,611), Mexico (95,027), and UK (49,154). France and Italy, like the US, are reporting record cases, as COVID-19 continues to ravage Europe. In the US, daily new cases now top 100,000. Navajo Nation, after a weekend lockdown, is now experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

There are dozens of COVID-19 vaccines now in clinical trials. Eleven vaccines are now in late-stage trials. The biggest COVID-19 news is an announcement from Pfizer, on Monday, that is has a vaccine that is more than 90% effective and has had positive early results from its COVID-19 trial, putting it in the lead of a frenzied global race to find a vaccine. If true, that would put its effectiveness on par with childhood vaccines for diseases like measles. It believes that by the end of the year, it could produce enough doses to immunize 15-25 million people. Those people will likely be on the front lines in hospitals.  The general public, according to doctors, probably wouldn’t receive the two-dose vaccine until sometime in February to June next year. The US Government’s Operation Warp Speed, an effort to rush a vaccine to market, has promised Pfizer (or others) $1.95 billion to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine to the federal government, which will then be given to Americans for free. It is important to note that Pfizer’s announcement was a news release, not a peer-reviewed medical journal.

In parallel good news about the COVID-19 vaccine, the US military announced that it is preparing to lend a hand in the logistics of delivering the vaccine in massive numbers, efficiently, and very quickly. The military will NOT be administering the vaccines, however.  One logistic that the military will have to tackle is that the Pfizer vaccine currently needs to be stored at -70 degrees. According to officials in Operation Warp Speed, more volunteers are needed to participate in clinical trials. They are looking to have some 30,000 patients for each clinical trial of the 6 vaccine candidates here in the US. Moderna, one of the vaccine candidates has already recruited 30,000 patients for its Phase 3 clinical trial. Moderna is said to use a similar process of using the messenger RNA, rather than a killed virus, to produce the proteins that get the body’s immune system to fight the virus. President-elect Joe Biden, on Monday, praised the Pfizer news, but told Americans that even if it is found to be effective, it won’t be available to most Americans until months from now. He re-emphasized that public mask-wearing and social distancing are critical for the months until the vaccine is available. President-elect Biden has also announced that he intends to have the US rejoin the World Health Organization, unwinding President Trump’s withdrawal from the WHO. Some doctors are wondering if a second wave of the pandemic is starting in NYC.

In other health news, researchers have ended a clinical trial of a drug to prevent HIV early, because the results were so convincing. The effective shot works better than the daily pill in women. It would be administered in 6 injections per year, rather than 365 daily pills. Select romaine lettuce has been recalled for E.coli risk.

Animal News:

Shark attacks are rare in the Red Sea coastal region of Egypt in recent years. But, it 2010, a string of shark attacks killed one European tourist and maimed several others off Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt’s Red Sea resort, right after a deep-water port was constructed near the area. Last week, near the same area, two Ukrainian tourists and a guide were attacked while snorkeling by a shark, believed to have been a oceanic white-tip shark, and the 12-year-old boy lost his arm, the tour guide lost his leg, and the boy’s mother had several light injuries. Scientists have long wondered how did the first animals appear? Uppsala University researchers and colleagues in Denmark have jointly found in Greenland, embryo-like fossils that are up to 570-million-years old. Not only does this reveal that organisms like this type were dispersed throughout the world, but may give clues as to how animals suddenly appeared around 540 million years ago. The latter is well substantiated by the scientific community. The event in evolution is referred to as the “Cambrian Explosion”, and has many fossils from a huge number of creatures. But, this is the first time scientists have found what could be animal fossils from the Precambrian Era in the Portfjeld Formation. Similar finds were uncovered in southern China’s Doushantuo Formation, which is nearly 600-million-years old, more than 3 decades ago. A dog and 8 people were shot in Nashville during a fight over the animal. I was reading an interesting article, which posed the question, “which species did humans force into extinction first?” They  mentioned the dodo (which was only about 350 years ago), the woolly mammoth (10,500 years ago), passenger pigeon (106 years ago), Eurasian cave bears (40,000 years ago), etc. After much research into the fossil history, scientists found that large megafauna (giant bears, sloths, elephants, antelopes, etc.), gigantic prehistoric relatives of current species, began getting wiped out in their territories, as hominids, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens left Africa some 125,000 years ago and began migrating en masse to other continents. Unlike the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, believed to have been wiped out by an asteroid about 65 million years ago, every time our ancestors stepped foot in a new region, the large animals were wiped out in 1,000 years or less, perhaps because they represented food, or a threat, or a competitor for the same food to the incoming humans. And, it was not because the necessarily hunted them, but simply started destroying some of their habitat with fires and dwellings, and maybe hunted all of the herbivores that the big animals ate. The scientists who did the study actually postulate that fossil records in Africa may show that human ancestors were already forcing megafauna into extinction before they left Africa.

Entertainment News:

Beloved game show host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek, died on Sunday at the age of 80, after his well-publicized 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was a 7-time winner of the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host for his work on Jeopardy! He actually hosted many game shows in his career, starting in 1963, when he worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. In 1973, he moved to the US and began hosting The Wizard of Odds game show. Lucille Ball, the star of I Love Lucy, was a big fan of Trebek’s gameshow High Rollers, and told her friend, producer Merv Griffin, to hire Trebek when they decided to resurrect the gameshow Jeopardy! Trebek would go on to host that show from 1984 until his death. On April Fools’ Day in 1997, Trebek and friend Pat Sajak, host of Wheel of Fortune, switched places, with Trebek hosting Wheel of Fortune, and Sajak hosting Jeopardy!  Interestingly, Trebek didn’t access the Internet, didn’t blog, didn’t text, and didn’t Tweet. He just used his cellphone to make calls. He didn’t care for social media either.  Scooby-Doo co-creator, Ken Spears, has died at age 82. One of my favorite actors and definitely my favorite (and first) James Bond, Sean Connery, died at age 90 on 10/31. CBS has announced its Fall Lineup. In October, Genesis drummer, Phil Collins, sued his 3rd wife, Orianne, claiming she refused to leave his Miami Beach home. They married in 1999, had 2 sons, split in 2006 and were divorced in 2008. She married another man, but in 2016 confirmed that she had reconciled with Phil. However, they did not remarry. Then, she secretly married another man this Summer and broke up with Phil. Now, she is revealing startling things in her court documents about the star. I’m going to have to unfriend her on Facebook. Beyonce has joined forces with Peloton to launch workout classes. I want either a Peloton or that Mirror thing, so I can work out at home! Netflix has renewed The Umbrella Academy. I’m still annoyed with them, after they announced they were going to produce a 3rd season of Away and then just announced that they have scrapped it. I binge-watched that, along with Ozarks, Dateline, 48 Hours, 20/20, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Bloodline, City something, and more. I’ve only watched on regular TV some golf, football, hockey, news, Diners Driveins and Dives, and Below Deck. There are 94 new Christmas movies set to be released! Teresa Giudice of Real Housewives of New Jersey, has revealed her new man, Luis ‘Louie’ Ruelas, who replaces her ex-husband Joe Giudice, who was jailed and then deported. Southern Charm alum Cameran Eubanks (my favorite on that show) is releasing a memoir.

Technology & Space News:

As COVID-19 cases increase, yet the likelihood of a vaccine increases, bosses and workers will be faced with tough decisions about whether to return workers to the office. Two employees of Virgin Hyperloop traveled on a small system that the company built near Las Vegas, in its first manned test. The employees within their hyperloop pod reached 107 mph in just over six seconds, on Sunday.  The Hyperloop technology is being designed to transport people and cargo at speeds of up to 600 mph! The pod is levitated by magnets and moves inside a vacuum tube. The almost science fiction mode of transportation, was first described in 2012 by Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla. Although his companies are not working on the idea, he offered it up to any companies that wanted to exploit it, and several companies are looking to commercialize the technology, which they hope will move passengers between cities and cargo to/from ports. For example, a trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco could take less than an hour. Virgin Hyperloop’s Chief Executive was the head of NY’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Transport for London, so he has eyes on hyperloop technology becoming a mass transit system within this century. Before we begin living like the Jetsons though, there are some major hurdles, such as no large object striking the tube, expensive maintenance for the tube, crossing tubes and turns in tubes, expensive rights of way, etc.  Stock-trading platforms in Europe and the US struggled yesterday to meet the surging demand from retail investors, who were hoping to ride the rally sparked by the positive news about the vaccine trial. Several systems reportedly experienced issues. I see that MIT Sloan finance lecturers expounded on 3 key areas in which financial firms could benefit from the use of natural language processing: automation, data enrichment, and search and discovery. This would not require a PhD in machine learning. This is interesting to me, because when I was hired at Morgan Stanley into Bill Cook’s MIS program (which was featured on the cover of Time magazine), he emphasized the use of natural programming language, which is what we learned on. It was based on English prose, not computer language, which is why they hired Liberal Arts majors for the program.  I wonder how related the two subjects are?

US News:

President Trump fired his Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, on Monday, via Twitter.

The government is supposedly finalizing the HEROES Act for an addition check to taxpayers.  President-elect Biden says that he will rejoin the Paris Agreement Global Climate Pact. The FBI said several hundred investigations related to the PPP have been opened, involving loans totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. 73 defendants have been charged by the Dept. of Justice so far. The US Treasury and IRS have approved legislation enacted by several US states that provides businesses with a workaround on the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. Noncorporate firms will be allowed to pay state income taxes at the entity level, rather than at the previously enforced individual level.

In a survey by the Census Bureau, 47.5% of adults are from households that have lost income because of the COVID-19 lockdown. The Labor Department reported that the Unemployment Rate fell to 6.9% in October, a more favorable rate than analysts expected. Meanwhile, the FRB NY’s Survey of Consumer Expectations showed workers’ fears of joblessness have dropped slightly, from 16.6% in September to 15.5% in October.

International News:

The EU is imposing tariffs on $4 billion of US goods over a trade dispute regarding Boeing. The World Trade Organization last month sided with the EU in the year-long battle, faulting the US government for breaking trade laws by providing tax breaks to Boeing. incidentally, the US currently faces two dozen trade disputes at the WTO, mostly in response to its trade wars with Europe and China. Canada also seems relieved by Biden’s win, after Trump’s tariffs and insults. Russia brokered a deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with the latter winning many of the concessions it has sought for decades in negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist region. In unrelated news, Azerbaijan apologized for downing a Russian military helicopter and killing two people. Longtime Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has died at age 65. The President of Peru, Martin Vizcarra, has been impeached by Congress, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a constitutional crisis. United Arab Emirates has changed its laws to attract foreign tourists and investment. Brazil has halted trial of a Chinese vaccine. A Vatican report has concluded that disgraced prelate McCarrick’s ascent was based on “inaccurate and incomplete” testimony from bishops, regarding his denials about sexual misconduct. President Trump’s reported defeat is not helping supporter and British PM Boris Johnson in urgent Brexit talks. In eastern France, a capsule was discovered, probably dropped by a carrier pigeon, that contained a message with details of German military drills from WWI. Oxford University Press changed its definitions of “woman” in its dictionaries, after a petition called the previous definitions “sexist”.

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