Repo Commentary-12/3/20

It is Day 265 (on 12/01) 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. 

In the last installment of the Repo Commentary (11/10), I wrote about my latest project. 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. It has now been uploaded and is now available. 

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. 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 (12/01):

  • Battle of the Sinop Day (Russia)
  • Damrong Rajanubhab Day (Thailand)
  • First President Day (Kazakhstan)
  • Freedom and Democracy Day (Chad)
  • Great Union Day (the union of Transylvania and Romania in 1918)
  • Military Abolition Day (Costa Rica)
  • National Day (Myanmar)
  • Republic Day (Central African Republic)
  • Restoration of Independence Day (Portugal)
  • Rosa Parks Day (Ohio, Oregon, US)
  • Self-governance Day (Iceland)
  • Teachers’ Day (Panama)
  • World AIDS Day
  • Bifocals at the Monitor Liberation Day
  • Civil Air Patrol Day
  • Day Without Art
  • Eat A Red Apple Day
  • Giving Tuesday
  • National Christmas Lights Day
  • National Pie Day
  • World Trick Shot Day
  • Wear a Dress Day

Last Thursday, in the US (as well as Canada, Brazil, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Liberia, and Leiden Netherlands and Norfolk Island, on different dates), was the Thanksgiving holiday, which was celebrated in England as a secular holiday in the 1500s and carried forth in to the New World as both a secular holiday and a end-of-harvest festival. The modern Federal holiday was created by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, and US financial markets and banks will be closed. It used to be that all stores were closed as well, but each year, the brick and mortar stores keep pushing up Black Friday shopping to early afternoon on Thursday. For the first time, I actually wound up in a Costco on Black Friday. Electronic retail sales for Thanksgiving didn’t even wait for this week. Cyber Monday is normally the Monday after Thanksgiving. I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving.

Some Famous People Born on (12/01):

  • 1081-Louis VI, French king
  • 1761-Marie Tussaud, French-English sculptor, founded Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
  • 1805-9th Dalai Lama
  • 1847-Julia A. Moore, American poet
  • 1913-Mary Martin, American actress and singer
  • 1924-Masao Horiba, Japanese businessman, founded Horiba
  • 1933-Lou Rawls, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actor
  • 1935-Woody Allen, American actor, director, and screenwriter
  • 1939-Lee Trevino, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1940-Richard Pryor, American comedian, actor, producer and screenwriter
  • 1945-Bette Midler, American singer-songwriter, actress and producer
  • 1946-Jonathan Katz, American comedian and actor
  • 1948-George Foster, American baseball player and radio host
  • 1949-Pablo Escobar, Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist
  • 1950-Richard Keith, American actor and drummer
  • 1951-Treat Williams, American actor
  • 1960-Carol Alt, American model and actress
  • 1960-Jane Turner, Australian actress and producer
  • 1966-Larry Walker, Canadian baseball player and coach
  • 1970-Sarah Silverman, American comedian, actress and singer
  • 1986-DeSean Jackson, American football player

Daily Weird Facts:

Latin and Irish have no words for “yes” or “no”.  These words are not easily classified into any of the 8 conventional parts of speech. They are not interjections or adverbs. Sometimes, they are referred to as their own 9th part of speech, sentence words, word sentences, pro-sentences.  

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.”—Jim Carrey

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

$45.13/barrel on 11/30

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. Don’t look now, but oil tanks in America’s important storage hub are filling to the brim again, rapidly approaching levels reached in May after prices crashed. Lack of demand and seasonal maintenance are being cited as the main factors. 

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

104.38 on 11/30/20

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

11/30 at $1.1925

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

11/30 at $1.3319

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

1.3000 on 11/30 

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 was trading at $1,880.30, having backed off the highs. It has continued to back off those highs, closed on 11/30/20 at 1,774.00.

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

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

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.  On 3/13/20, it hit $3,867.  Bitcoin appears to be replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There is also growing interest from institutional investors. It is now again in all-time record territory above $19,000. Visa has entered into a partnership with BlockFi to offer a credit card through Evolve Bank & Trust, where consumers can accumulate rewards in Bitcoin, rather than in air miles or cash. This follows an earlier agreement between Visa and Fold to roll out a debit card offering bitcoin-denominated spending rewards. 

Hershey was behind a massive trade that shook up New York’s cocoa market on 11/19, directly sourcing its beans through ICE futures US Exchange, instead of the physical market, reportedly. The purchases, which sent contracts for December delivery to a record premium over the next contract, were so huge that Hershey had to get special permission from the exchange. 

Global Financial News:

According to the Institute of International Finance, global debt has increased $15 trillion this year to $272 trillion and is expected to set a record of $277 trillion by year-end.  The encouraging news about COVID-19 vaccines is boosting investor optimism about a faster-than-expected economic recovery. Yet, with that recovery, investors appear not to expect inflation to rise. After the US election, investors not only rallied global stock markets, but also started selling 10-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), which are commonly used to hedge against rising inflation. UBS is looking to gain $5 billion in assets, by expanding the My Way digital wealth-management platform. Since launching in May, the hybrid robo-adviser has attracted $1 billion in assets from Swiss clients and has proved to be popular with investors who like a hands-on approach to managing money, according to Reuters. According to a poll by Greenwich Associates, very few traders are likely to return to their trading desks on a daily basis when the COVID-19 pandemic has abated. Only 4% of respondents believed their firms would require traders to work from their office trading desks after the crisis has ended. I predicted this in the Repo Commentary earlier during the pandemic. I thought that remote trading and offices were going to become more of a permanent change to the financial markets, and that companies would find ways to reduce their commercial real estate in large financial hub cities, as they would no longer be needed. I also predicted that this would have a ripple effect on real estate in those financial hub cities, like NYC, particularly at the higher end, for people in the financial industry who no longer would have to live IN the cities. There may be a migration of workers from living in the NYC to living in the suburbs. So, the improvement of technology solutions, remote office accommodations, and the efficient globalization of such, have led to some permanent changes and evolution. One of the things that actually may inhibit some migration to suburbs and may push moves further away, is that some of those suburb states are starting to look at a way of capturing new taxes on that new business being done there. No doubt, NYC is also considering the ramifications of tax revenues leaving the city.  US consumers are more satisfied with regional and community banks than with credit unions this year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. However, satisfaction rates for all financial institutions declined, with super-regional banks seeing the biggest decrease. CFTC’s Behnam says that regulators must make sure that ESG products meet sustainability standards and investors are not misled by greenwashing. HSBC’s Quinn is calling on banks to act on climate change. Goldman Sachs is remaining bullish on commodities for 2021. Deutsche Borse is reportedly looking for more acquisitions, after agreeing to acquire 80% of Institutional Shareholder Services for $1.8 billion. Reuters says that the bank has told investors that it is seeking acquisitions worth $1.2 billion to $5.9 billion. The Euro has overtaken the US Dollar as the leading payment currency, with more international payments conducted in Euros for the first time in 7 years, in October, according to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. The G-20 is warning of risk to pandemic economic recovery. The communique also warns that measures to contain fresh outbreaks could force some countries back into recession. Nasdaq has agreed to pay $2.75 billion for Verafin, which makes software that deters financial crime, in its latest step to diversify its business. SEC’s Clayton says that the rapid acceptance of Bitcoin is being driven by the inefficiencies of today’s conventional payment systems. He also said that Bitcoin probably can’t be regulated as a security. PNC Financial Services Group’s $11.6 billion acquisition of the US operation of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya (BBVA) is the biggest such deal since BB&T’s $28 billion purchase of SunTrust Banks last year. I may prompt an long-expected wave of consolidation of banks on both sides of the Atlantic, and might cause some European banks to reevaluate their US presence. I would think that the regulatory environment would also cause such a reevaluation. China has issued negative-rate debt for the first time ever. Face-to-face Brexit talks have paused after an EU negotiator tested positive for COVID-19. The decision has come at a crucial moment, with the two sides wanting to reach an agreement as early as next week. There are 3 hurdles that remain. Goldman Sachs pledged that it would reclaim the $67 million from 5 former top executives, who were tied to the 1MDB corruption scandal. President-elect Biden’s administration is reportedly nominating two BlackRock executives for key roles on the National Economic Council and at the Treasury Department.  US Banks are seeing a drop in Q3 interest income of 7.2%, due to the pandemic, according to data from the FDIC. Net interest margin also dropped in Q3 to 2.68%, the lowest on record. This year Credit traders are on track to receive 16% increases in compensation, the largest raises likely on Wall Street, according to recruitment firm Options Group. Citigroup has reshuffled its leadership of its equity business, to improve performance against its peers. It wants to be among the top 4 equity trading companies within the next 3 years. Online trading platforms have seen a rise in sign-ups from women, since March. One platform reports a sixfold increase in female customers just this year. HKEx’s sustainability-themed exchange STAGE has launched. The UBS chairman is optimistic about London’s post-Brexit future, basing his rosy view on “the division of Europe is a massive benefit to the City of London because if Europe were united, the impact …of Brexit would be much more.” Shares in London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) climbed as much as 12.6% yesterday, in response to reports that the EC will allow LSEG’s $27 billion acquisition of Refinitiv. Goldman Sachs has appointed a duo to head Private Wealth Management. FSB’s Randal Quarles says regulators will examine possible disincentives that have deterred banks from tapping capital and liquidity buffers to support lending during the COVID-19 pandemic. I can help there: the word starts with an ‘R’ and ends with an ‘S’!  If you were wondering how that LIBOR replacement project is going and how the transition to SOFR is moving along, the FCA and IBA have just announced intentions to extend the date of cessation for contracts with the most widely used LIBOR term rates, causing further market uncertainty at the prospect of a new timeline. Just kicking the can down the road again…

US Market News:

At 29,887, the Dow was now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. Here’s some weird stock news: Senator David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, has been the Senate’s most prolific stock trader during his time in office, by himself accounting for nearly one-third of all transactions by Senators in the past six years! Did he do ANY work?

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

12/01/20   29,823.92

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

12/01/20 at 3,662.45

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. On Tuesday, S&P 500 achieved a record high of 3,662.45. 

Nasdaq proposed rules that would require firms listed on the exchange to name 2 or more diverse members to the board, or explain why they haven’t done so. On Tuesday, Nasdaq achieved a record high of 12,355.11. Nasdaq closed 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

12/01/20 at 12,355.11 a new record high

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%

12/01/20 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%

12/01/20 at 0.22%

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%

12/01/20 at 0.42%

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

12/01/20 at 0.68%

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

12/01/20 at 0.92%

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

12/01/20 at 1.66%

Housing News:

The FHFA has set a $283 billion capital target for a privatized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to safeguard against losses. That is significantly more than their current $35 billion. This is another step, per FHFA, necessary for responsibly ending the conservatorships of both GSEs. Housing Starts for October were up 4.9%, according to the Commerce Department. Homebuilding Permits remained flat though, maintaining a 13.5-year high. Down payments on single-family homes and condos reached an average of $20,775 in Q3 2020, the highest figure since 2000 and a 69% increase from the $12,325 recorded in Q3 2019, according to Attom Data Solutions. Median loan amounts also climbed to a 20-year high of $275,000. Existing Home Sales rose for the fifth consecutive month, up 4.3%, in October, to reach 6.85 million, the highest point since February 2006. Exceptionally low mortgage rates and the trend for people to move out of large cities amid the COVID-19 pandemic are cited as main factors. That is like a ‘theme’ in this Repo Commentary.

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, I wrote that I partnered with Roy Zimmerhansl and his Pierpoint Financial Consulting, to develop and teach the curriculum for the Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy “Fundamentals of Repo” 11-week course. I share my 38 years of experience in the industry from basics to complex, and insert my humor and teaching style. I not only have 147 slides, and do all the voiceovers, but I also appear in videos in every lesson, and have created an exam. The course is accredited too. 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

My friend, Scott Skyrm, continues to write about the new 10-year US Treasury being issued (announced on 12/3/20 and auctioned on 12/9/20), 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. The New one is already trading volatilely at -.40% to -70% over just the last 3 days. 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.
  • GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance will be held virtually on 12/3/20.
  • FIS is holding a Webinar on trends in Securities Finance on 12/9/20. 

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. As I said in the last Repo Commentary, 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. Well, on 11/19, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin put an end to speculation about this, with an announcement that the 5 Federal Reserve coronavirus relief programs will expire on 12/31/20 and their funds will be left for Congress to reallocate. However, he did request that the 4 emergency credit facilities that are backstopping short-term funding markets, which includes commercial paper and money market mutual funds, be extended for another 90 days. The Federal Reserve’s Chair Powell responded by saying that it “would prefer that the full suite of emergency facilities established during the coronavirus pandemic continue…” (so, all 9 programs). It’s kind of ironic, or prescient, that I’ve been speaking about an unusual distancing or rift between the Fed and US Treasury that began in Q4 2019, when Treasury dramatically increased Reserves in the system, catching the Fed off-guard. The latest Fed Beige Book showed that the US economy is only making marginal headway. Employment openings remain sluggish, some Fed districts report growing concern about loan defaults and bankruptcies, particularly in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

In the interest of getting this 3-day Commentary out, I’m skipping Earthquakes today. Sorry to all of the Earthquake fans.

Weather:

West Palm Beach is in the middle of a two-day cold front (66 degrees yesterday and 72 degrees today), before returning to the 80s and rain. 

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 they were both wrong, and it has become the record worst or most active tropical cyclone season ever in the Atlantic. There have now been 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. And it is not over yet! There is still tropical activity that has a chance to form into a Tropical Storm or more. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by 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, after running out of the assigned names. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was already 250% more active than average. And, it still may not be over!  Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates that have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!

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 no 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 past weekend 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. Bryson DeChambeau was the favorite at Augusta at 9:1 to win.  He struggled keeping his very long drives near the fairways. The winner was Dustin Johnson, who despite a horrible tournament after COVID-19 delay, in which he missed a cut with a score of 82, he took up where he left off and left the field in the dust, winning the 2020 Masters by 5 strokes.  Tiger Woods, who showed a little flash in the first 2 rounds, wound up 16 strokes back of DJ, not helped by scoring a 10 on a Par 3 on Sunday. Like all the tournaments this year, there were no fans at Augusta. 

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, other games have been postponed. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL. I hope the NFL realizes it and at least plays the playoff games in a bubble or two bubbles. The Chiefs, Steelers, and Saints can clinch playoff berths this week. Thanksgiving’s 3 NFL games were even impacted by the virus, as the third game was postponed three times, finally held last night. Seahawks’ WR Josh Gordon has been ‘conditionally’ reinstated by the NFL. I guess that means on condition that he stays out of legal trouble.

As of now, in the 13th Week of the 2020 season, the Bills (8-3) top the AFC East, just a game ahead of the Dolphins. The Jets (0-11) remain the only non-winning team. In the AFC West, the Super-Bowl champion Chiefs (10-1) are cruising, winning their last 6 games, well ahead of second-place Raiders. In the AFC North, the only unbeaten team, the Steelers (11-0) rule the roost, well ahead of the Browns (8-3). In the AFC South, the battle continues between the Colts (7-4) and the Titans (8-3), but now the Titans have the edge. The Jaguars (1-10) have lost 10 games in a row. They are fighting the NY Jets for that coveted No.1 Draft pick. The NFC East is liable to have a non-winning record playoff team this year, as the first place Giants (4-7) are tied with the Football Team from Washington (4-7).  In the NFC West, the Seahawks (8-3) are one game ahead of the Rams (7-4). In the NFC North, the Packers (8-3) have established a comfortable lead over the faltering Bears (5-6), who have lost 5 games in a row and the conundrum Vikings (5-6). In the NFC South, the mighty Saints (9-2), who have won 8 games in a row, even having lost their QB Drew Brees to a collapsed lung and 3 broken ribs, ahead of the Brady-led Bucs (7-5).  The NFL is heading toward a chaotic end to the season, with postponed and cancelled games, as well as incomplete rosters and lack of stadium fans, due to COVID-19. The NFL had to postpone the game between the Steelers and the Ravens 3 times, before finally playing it last night (Wednesday), in which the Steelers won 19-14. On Sunday, the Broncos had to play without any QBs, leading to one of the worst football games ever. Bengals rookie QB Joe Burrow underwent “successful” knee surgery. 

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. 

Fighting

MMA and UFC pretty much continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, with just a few postponements and no fans in the stands. Okay, I admit it. I’m a sucker. I loved Roy Jones Jr. and Mike Tyson in their primes, so I thought it might be interesting to see them at 54 and 51 box again. I paid the $49.95 payperview on Saturday night, and watched Tyson hammer Jones to a draw?  Tyson may still have enough skills to compete at his age, and he definitely still has a ton of power. But, Roy did not look that good and he was clearly out of shape, going up again in weight class, the story of his career. It’s a shame that they may be remembered for 8 round exhibitions like this, instead of their Hall of Fame careers. 

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. 

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

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 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) as of 11/20. You’ll note that some teams didn’t play this past weekend and some did. College football has been severely impacted by COVID-19, not only in not having fans in the stands, but especially because of players who were sick and many games that were cancelled or postponed. Some states now will impact college football, as counties like Santa Clara in California has now banned all contact sports for the next 3 weeks.  That means that the NFL 49ers can’t play home games, and will have to play near Phoenix (where ironically the case numbers are higher than in Santa Clara). It may have a huge impact on Ohio State, who was ranked as high as No.2 a few weeks ago, but who is in danger of not making the college playoffs because it has canceled so many games this season. Ohio State actually needs to play a minimum of six games to qualify for the Big Ten Championship Game, let alone the BCS. Like I’ve said, it’s hard to judge just how good a 3-0 team is versus a 10-0 team. The SEC has no plans to cancel 12/12 games as the Commissioner questions ACC’s decision to aid playoff pushes. As the once mighty Michigan Wolverines falter again, one wonders how long they will pay coach Jim Harbaugh $7 million plus per year. Plus, my Michigan State Spartans continue to lose to lousy teams, but beat another high ranked team in Northwestern this past Saturday. The two teams, Spartans and Buckeyes face each other this Saturday.  Here are the latest AP Top 25, for what that’s worth in this pandemic environment, going into Week 14 (not much change in positions):

1.          Alabama (8-0)

2.          Notre Dame (9-0)

3.          Ohio State (4-0)

4.          Clemson (8-1)

5.          Texas A&M (6-1)

6.          Florida (7-1)

7.          Cincinnati (8-0)

8.          BYU (9-0)

9.          Miami (7-1) supplanted Indiana

10.        Indiana (5-1)

11.        Georgia (6-2) Wisconsin fell 

12.        Iowa State (7-2)

13.        Oklahoma (6-2) Oregon dropped to No.21

14.        Coastal Carolina (9-0)

15.        Marshall (7-0) amazing story that reminds me of their tragic history

16.        Northwestern (5-1) dropped 5 places after loss to Michigan State

17.        USC (3-0)

18.        Wisconsin (2-1) fell 7 places

19.        Oklahoma State (6-2)

20.        Louisiana (8-1)

21.        Oregon (3-1)

22.        Tulsa (5-1)

23.        Washington (3-0)

24.        Iowa (4-2)

25.        Liberty (9-1)

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. Well, the 2020 season started with a roar, although it wasn’t from the fanless seats. We are already 2-3 games into the season, depending on COVID-19 cancellations, and we’ve had some shuffling at the top. My No.8 Michigan State, last night, shocked No.6 Duke (finally), after winning their first 2 games. In fact, the Big Ten is well represented in top of the Rankings.  However, this AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 11/29/20:

  1.  Gonzaga (2-0)
  2.  Baylor (2-0)
  3.  Iowa (2-0)
  4.  Wisconsin (2-0)
  5.  Illinois (3-0)
  6.  Duke (1-0)
  7.  Kansas (1-1)
  8.  Michigan State (2-0)
  9.  Creighton (1-0)
  10. Houston (3-0)
  11. West Virginia (3-0)
  12. Villanova (2-1)
  13. Tennessee (0-0)?
  14. North Carolina (1-0)
  15. Virginia (1-1)
  16. Virginia Tech (3-0)
  17. Texas (1-0)
  18. Texas Tech (2-1)
  19. Richmond (2-0)
  20. Kentucky (1-1)
  21. Oregon (0-0)?
  22. Florida State (0-0)?
  23. Ohio State (2-0)
  24. Rutgers (3-0)
  25. Arizona State (2-1)

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 3rdleg 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-added-winner 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:

I have not travelled during COVID-19 pandemic, until last week for Thanksgiving. As a certain Special Forces (Green Beret) Airborne soldier is being deployed (again), and others in the family came together in Colorado for the holiday, we flew on American Airlines. I was pleased with the cleanliness and newness of the planes and the procedures for disinfecting. I was pleased (though uncomfortable) with wearing a mask for a long flight, as my fellow passengers did the same, and we were lucky that the booking agent for American actually blocked the middle seat for us on 2 of the 4 flights. I only had 2 near passengers on one of the flights who negligently did not wear their masks at all during the flight. I don’t know why the flight attendants didn’t jump on that. I was very surprised that at PBI, DFW, and DVR, no one took our temperature at Security. Seems like an easy thing to do that could be helpful at screening. I noticed that TSA also wasn’t as diligent or on top of things security-wise. Maybe they are lax because of distracting worry about COVID-19 or maybe they are shorter-staffed, I don’t know.  The Trump Administration is changing the US Citizenship test. The new version will ask 20 questions (in Spanish) rather than 10, including some with a more conservative framing (I have no idea what that means either). And it’s in English.

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 272,000. 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. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in several US states is now accelerating more rapidly than anywhere else in the world. The WHO said that Europe’s latest restrictions seem to be slowing the spread of the virus. New cases there have dropped about 10% in the past week. Japan is suffering a new and more serious wave of infection, while in the US, hospitalizations and deaths are skyrocketing out of control. Just on 12/1/20, 2,473 Americans died from COVID-19.  The director of the CDC now predicts that US virus deaths, now at about 273,000, could hit 450,000 by February. Remember, Dr. Fauci was ridiculed when he predicted 150,000-250,000 deaths in the US from COVID-19, near the beginning of the pandemic. This is important, so I put it in bold (I’m not sure that shows on the website though): the CDC has reduced the recommended minimum quarantine time for people exposed to the virus. The old standard was 14 days; now, those without symptoms may end quarantine after 7 days with a negative test, or after 10 days without a negative test.  

There are dozens of COVID-19 vaccines now in clinical trials. Eleven vaccines are now in late-stage trials. Last week, Pfizer made headlines with an announcement that it has a vaccine for COVID-19 that is more than 90% effective in late-stage trials on about 43,000 volunteers. Pfizer announced that it will request emergency use authorization for its vaccine, as will BioNTech. This week, Moderna announced that it has a COVID-19 vaccine that is 94% effective in late-stage trials, and it does not have to be stored at -70 degrees Fahrenheit, like Pfizer’s vaccine. It turns out that major financial support for Moderna came from Dolly Parton. Moderna said that it is benefitting from the troubles of two other pharmaceutical companies. The US Government’s Operation Warp Speed, an effort to rush a vaccine to market, has promised a vaccine producer $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.  Also, vaccines in the FDA express lane still have hurdles to clear. Gilead pointed out that the WHO ignored evidence in advising doctors not to use its remdesivir treatment. Meanwhile, Roche will be able to make its first deliveries of its antibody treatments (which have been very effective in reducing symptoms in patients if caught early) in early 2021. The UK became the first Western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, with its regulator, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, clearing the Pfizer BioNTech shot, ahead of decisions by the US and EU. The UK has pre-ordered 40 million doses, which is enough for 20 million people, and intends to have the first doses available starting next week. 

The CDC was urging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, saying the safest way to celebrate is “at home with the people you live with.” We are in the middle of the 11/01-12/15 Affordable Health Care Act window, to obtain long-term health care insurance. I got jammed on that last year and had to pay for my own knee replacement surgery. So, don’t mess with this. The only thing that President Trump removed last year was the IRS penalty for not having it.  Harvard Medical School reports that research on mice has been able to ‘turn back the clock’ on eye cells in the retina, reversing vision loss. 

People who have been “fooled” by Tecate beer into thinking that the beer was brewed in Mexico, rather than in Holland, are taking action and bringing a class action lawsuit against the Holland brewer. 

Animal News:

Restaurants in Singapore now offer chicken items on their menus that don’t require the inhumane slaughter of chickens. The chicken is part of “cultured foods” grown in a lab, so no animals need to be killed. The other benefit of the process is that it reduces the risk of diseases being spread via livestock.  Starting next month, only DOGS will be allowed as service animals aboard US flights. All other emotional support animals (which have included on flights snakes, pigs, cats, monkeys, etc.) will be considered pets by the airlines. Yes, that had gotten out of control. Although, I don’t know how cat owners are going to feel about that.

Entertainment News:

The Voice season 19 is moving along, with Christina Aguilera back in her judge’s seat. Nick Kroll married Lily Kwong. Duck Dynasty’s Bella Robertson, 18, is engaged to boyfriend Jacob Mayo. I finally paid the $6.99/month and bought Disney+, so I could watch The Mandolorian on my laptop. I am all caught up and it’s awesome! I needed my STAR WARS fix. Cher flew to Cambodia for the world’s “loneliest elephant”. Felicity Huffman will finally make her TV return after college entrance scandal. Ice-T continues to urge fans to take coronavirus seriously. Kelly Clarkson has won custody of her children most of the time, per an LA County judge. The singer and her estranged husband, Brandon Blackstock, were each seeking primary custody of the children. Glenn Close, in an interview, ‘politely’ called out Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1999 Oscar win, saying “doesn’t make sense” while discussing past Oscar nominations. Looking over at Grammy’s, Halsey has slammed “elusive” Grammy nomination process after snub. “Hamilton” could be the first show to reopen Broadway, reportedly. Lori Loughlin has a new $9 million mansion. Carrie Underwood, one of the two most successful American Idol winners of all time, revealed that she considered not competing for the show due to fear. She “burst into tears.” British Culture Minister (apparently there is one) said to the Mail that Netflix’s Crown series needs to be labeled “fiction” and have a disclaimer. Melissa Gilbert shared a health update one week after “life altering” spinal surgery and negative coronavirus test. Jennifer Lawrence’s family farm that doubled as a kids’ summer camp in Kentucky was destroyed ‘horrible fire’. Netflix’s hit Ozark, which I just binge-watched to catch up, just had its 4th season cancelled, per Rotten Tomatoes. So, I binge-watched Ozark, Away, and Bloodline, all of which were given another season, and then were all cancelled. I’m not jinxy or anything, being a Red Sox fan, lol!  Umbrella Academy star Elliot Page, formerly known as Ellen Page, has come out as transgender. Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki split from girlfriend Alaina Meyer after 2 years of dating. President Obama said not giving Dolly Parton a Medal of Freedom was a “mistake”. “She deserves one”, he said. Dolly was instrumental in partly funding Moderna on their search for a vaccine for COVID-19, among other humane acts. Sarah Silverman says lefty comics get away with offensive jokes simply because being a liberal allows them/her to say “words that are unsayable” to people with other political views. Stephen Colbert has been diagnosed with benign positional vertigo, saying “I just fall down”. Wow! I had ‘regular’ vertigo for 2 months from 7 sinus/ear infections back in the early 2000s, and it was awful, but I’ve never heard of this one. Justin Bieber says he’d “love to have a tribe” of kids with Hailey Baldwin. A Queen Elizabeth’s staffer has admitted to stealing from Buckingham Palace, selling royal items on eBay. A Christmas celebration is being put together which will include Mariah Carey to bring Christmas cheer in a year when too much has had to be ‘cancelled.’ I hope she gets the lip-synch track to work, unlike that New Year’s Eve celebration. Oh, stop! I’ll give the Long Island native some props for having the most popular Christmas song, 1994’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, which hit No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and is now the highest selling holiday digital song of all time in the US, with 3.6 million downloads.  It’s the first Christmas song to hit No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, since “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” in 1958.  That beats all of Elvis Presley’s Christmas hits.  Mariah has reportedly made $70 million on just that Christmas hit. Jennifer Lopez has posed nude for cover art of her new single and is wowing fans, blowing up Instagram. I saw the picture on Entertainment Tonight and she does not look anywhere near 50 years old. The movie HOME ALONE turned 30-years-old. That means that Kevin McCallister would now be 38-years-old. Entertainment icon, Tina Turner, released her new memoir on 12/1, and in it says that she is very happy to have retired from on-stage performing and was ecstatic about the Broadway musical that debuted last year about her life. I know this isn’t ‘entertainment’ but I always put news about famous people in this section. Valery Giscard d-Estaing, who was the President of France in the 1970s (and I remember him), died from COVID-19 at the age of 94. A crowdfunding campaign is seeking to raise at least $5.3 million to buy the longtime home of J.R.R. Tolkien, where he wrote “The Hobbit” and most of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and turn it into a museum. Rafer Johnson, who carried the American flag into Rome’s Olympic Stadium in 1960, as the first black captain of the Unites States Olympic team, and went on to win Gold in the decathlon and become a close advisor to the Kennedy family, has died at 86.

Technology & Space News:

Google has teamed with Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union to extend its reach into consumer finance by offering bank accounts and payments transfers. They figure that it will be particularly appealing to the younger population, Gen Z, that are more tech-driven and mobile-focused. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta released a paper that suggests that low-income Americans could benefit from digital-payment systems that don’t require participation from banks, sort of a public utility that offers universal access to a basic bank account.  As banks race to meet the March 2022 deadline for phasing out LIBOR, some are now turning to Artificial Intelligence to go through troves of documents and identify necessary adjustments.  PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said that the use of digital currencies is about to go mainstream and may lead to cash being on the way out, as more merchants are now taking a “digital first” approach to payments. Research suggests that our new ‘remote workplace/meeting’ approach in 2020 has led to the extinction of ‘water cooler talk’, casual office conversations which allow colleagues to collaborate on work projects.  BlackRock has added climate risk software to its Aladdin investment operations platform, that allows investors to quantify climate risk in their portfolios. 

US News:

President Trump has still not conceded the 11/3 Presidential Election. He is taking legal action in a number of states, to challenge the outcomes there. He has managed to get hand recounts in some districts. Georgia’s recount showed Biden kept a narrower but still decisive lead. President-elect Biden says that he will reveal his appointment for Treasury secretary “before or just after Thanksgiving.” Candidates are thought to include Fed’s Lael Brainard, former Fed Roger Ferguson, and former Fed Chair Janet Yellen. Biden’s Secretary of State pick is under fire for Chinese Biden Center funds. Despite health expert warnings about large gatherings, the White House reportedly intends to hold plenty of holiday parties. President-elect Biden says he has no immediate plan to remove the Trump Administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods. Instead, he reiterated a pledge to coordinate a strategy with friendly nations in Europe and Asia to compete with China. President-elect Biden plans to keep Christopher Wray as FBI Director. In an effort to make the job less political, the FBI Director has a 10-year term (too bad Congress doesn’t at least have that term limit), although President Trump surprised everyone during his term, by firing James Comey.

The government is still floundering with the HEROES Act for an additional check to taxpayers. JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon has called on lawmakers to end “childish behavior” and agree on another relief package for the economy. Last I read, I think there are 3 draft bills on the table with large differences. A bipartisan Senatorial group has proposed $908 billion in aid, which includes a boost of $180 billion for unemployment benefits and another $240 billion for state and local governments. Fed Chairman Powell and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin have been urging Congress to act quickly to help small businesses survive. Powell says that many small businesses are at risk of going out of business in the near term, while Mnuchin said that Congress should authorize an additional $300 billion for the PPP to aid smaller firms, particularly restaurants. Some 12 million Americans could lose access to federal unemployment benefits by December 26th, if Congress fails to renew emergency assistance programs, according to Century Foundation. 2.9 million of those people would still be able to receive state assistance. Many Americans are facing a bleak holiday season, with millions still unemployed and benefits almost exhausted. Moody’s Analytics did a great job painting the bleak picture: Some 7 million freelancers (or gig employees) will lose their emergency aid, which averaged $1058 per month. Then, 5 million other Americans who have been out of work for at least 6 months will also be cut off from aid, which now averages $1253 per month. The normal limit for jobless benefits is 26 weeks, but a provision extended it to 39 weeks. Also, several million people could face eviction from their homes, due to a Federal moratorium on evictions expiring soon. About 21 million people will have to begin making student-loan payments again, as that moratorium will also expire. Even a tax credit for some 125,000 companies as an incentive to NOT lay off workers will expire. Companies will also no longer be able to defer payroll taxes and take deductions for business losses. If that isn’t enough, aid to state and local governments, to the tune of $150 billion, will also expire, which could impact schools, police services, health care, and other programs. Yet, Americans have already spent some $2 billion on Christmas trees. Like the song says, “we need a little Christmas now.” If you recall, as I carefully detailed, almost 40 million jobs were lost in the US at the height of COVID-19 pandemic economic impact. There is still a net loss of 9.7 million jobs in the latest unemployment numbers, since the beginning of the pandemic in the US. The SBA released full details on the PPP loan recipients, which showed that 28% of the loans were for less than $150,000. About 5% of PPP borrowers received more than 50% of the $522 billion loaned, and about 600 large companies received the maximum amount of $10 million. 

A Chicago man was killed during a fight over hands in Thanksgiving leftovers. The police broke up a party of 400 people at a luxury home on Long Island. One of the many calls to the police actually came from the mansion’s owner, who had rented his property out on Airbnb and discovered the gathering while watching his security cameras from afar. Past-President Barack Obama (I didn’t know what honorific to use) said Progressives should avoid calls to “defund the police”, arguing that it turns off voters and gets in the way of change. Doesn’t it also put citizens at risk? I mean, I know that there have been some inexcusable incidents of police brutality lately, which are bizarre, and some officers have committed cold-blooded murder and should be prosecuted, but defunding ALL of the police is an extreme measure. I think police should be better at policing (and arresting) police and follow rules that are far more citizen-friendly. And, that’s the first time since I started this in 1982 that I gave my opinion about a controversial subject in the Repo Commentary. 

International News:

The EU is imposing tariffs on $4 billion of US goods over a trade dispute regarding Boeing. President Trump met with China’s Premier Xi at virtual trade summit. The US House of Representatives has approved legislation that could lead to Chinese companies, including the likes of Alibaba and Baidu, getting kicked off of US exchanges, if US regulators aren’t allowed to review their financial audits. The bill has already cleared the Senate in May, and President Trump is expected to sign it.  The US is not the only country having trade issues with China. Australia said that it won’t back down from a list of grievances against China, as the growing diplomatic fight is hurting trade between the two countries. I never know where to put the Climate Change news; in WEATHER, INTERNATIONAL, HEALTH, etc.?  Anyway, the world is on the brink of either preventing devastating climate change or spending hundreds of billions of dollars on something worthless. Bloomberg reports that there are proposals to build a new industry producing so-called green hydrogen. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are reportedly about to end their 3-year fight. Elon Musk is now taking his battle against unions to Germany. Iran says it will begin enriching uranium to a level closer to weapons grade (grrrrr) and stop allowing inspections, unless the US lifts economic sanctions. It appears that they want to force President-elect to re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal that President Trump scrapped. 

Florida:

A Florida woman, Suzette Penton, suffered a traumatic brain injury and several broken bones in an 11/9 crash, after being run over while defending her son, and has subsequently died. She was allegedly run over as she defended her sone, who had reportedly been assaulted by a group of 4 teenagers. They have now been charged with murder. 

Jokes and Such:

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