Repo Commentary-12/16/20

It is Day 280 (on 12/16) 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. For many, unemployment benefits could end soon.

In the last installment of the Repo Commentary (12/03), I wrote about my latest project. It was kind of a work of love, sort of like a 122,000-word book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy and sister company, Fintuition, 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:  www.pierpoint-securities-finance.teachable.com and click on my course. It has now been uploaded and is now available. I think you will find it a very informative, complete, and an entertaining version of distanced learning, with my usual humor and my experience sprinkled across some 149 PowerPoint presentations within a new state-of-the-art Teachable system, with hours of my voiceovers, as well as 10 videos, and an exam. The course has international accreditation.  I suspect many companies will subscribe and relieve themselves of the burden of training their people in Repo, and leave it to one of the OG Repo dinosaurs. Lol. But, first, check out my friend, Professor Moorah Choudhry’s, FREE 30-minute Primer on Repo (at the same address), which introduces my course. 

So, I am far from retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  Kidwell Consultants, LLC is 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 (12/16):

  • Barbie and Barney Backlash Day
  • Boston Tea Party Day
  • Day of Reconciliation (South Africa)
  • National Chocolate Covered Anything Day
  • Stupid Toy Day
  • National Day (Bahrain)
  • National Sports Day (Thailand)
  • Victory Day (Bangladesh)
  • Victory Day (India)

Some Famous People Born on (12/16):

  • 1485-Catherine of Aragon, Spanish princess, later queen consort of England
  • 1534-Hans Bol, Flemish artist
  • 1770-Ludwig van Beethoven, composer
  • 1775-Jane Austen, English novelist
  • 1899-Noel Coward, English actor, playwright, and composer
  • 1901-Margaret Mead, American anthropologist and author
  • 1917-Arthur C. Clarke, British science fiction writer
  • 1928-Terry Carter, American actor, director, and producer
  • 1938-Liv Ullmann, Norwegian actress, director and screenwriter
  • 1941-Lesley Stahl, American journalist and actress
  • 1962-William ‘the fridge’ Perry, American football player and wrestler
  • 1963-Benjamin Bratt, American actor and producer
  • 1964-Billy Ripken, American baseball player and sportscaster

Daily Weird Facts:

 In an effort to preserve the language, STAR WARS is being dubbed in Navajo.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Sex? Unfortunately, as you get older – and I shouldn’t admit this – there are other things that become more important in your daily life.” Alex Trebek

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

$50.73/barrel on 12/15

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has risen 20 cents higher, at $2.09/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

104.38 on 11/30/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

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

12/16 at $1.2196

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 

12/16 at $1.3494

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 

1.2752 on 12/16

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. However, here on 12/16/20, gold is back up to $1,858.20.

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

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

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 had cratered at $3,867.  But, 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. After sneaking up now again to all-time record territory above $19,000, it broke through to a new record, where it is now. 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. The CBOE Global Markets will bring its cryptocurrency indexes to the Options market in the second half of 2021. Initially, the exchange will focus on 10 or less trading pairs from among the cryptocurrencies with the highest market capitalizations. 

Brexit:

I didn’t expect this section to reappear in the Repo Commentary, but there is news specifically about Brexit.  Europe’s largest truck owner has warned that it could turn away deliveries to the UK, if Brexit will trigger chaos at the border, which in turn would threaten the supply of fresh produce to Great Britain. Reportedly, it could lead to 30 mile-long lines of idling trucks, according to Bloomberg. 

Global Financial News:

Warren Buffett wants more money for small businesses hit by COVID-19. Meanwhile, in a survey by the US Chamber of Commerce and MetLife, nearly two-thirds of small businesses say they have not yet felt the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some 74% of small business owners want the federal government to offer more financial support. Regulator, Massachusetts Securities Division, is saying that online broker, Robinhood, is not meeting its fiduciary standard for acting in its clients’ best interests and has exposed them to “unnecessary trading risks,” according to the WSJ. Brett Redfearn will step down as Director of the SEC’s trading and markets division at the end of this month, ending his 3-year term. Congress has approved a bill that would double the amount of time to 10 years for the SEC to recover profit obtained through fraud. The provision is buried in a $732 billion Defense authorization bill. The DOJ and FBI have launched a probe into possible fraud and violations of anti-money-laundering regulations at Scandinavian banks SEB, Swedbank, and Danske Bank, according to Swedish media reports and Reuters. Fintech venture, Vestrata, is launched an offer to private banks and wealth managers an integrated platform that focuses on quality service, rather than volume, to increase revenue. High-frequency traders are experimenting with a cable that accelerates data transmission called a hollow-core fiber cable.  It relies on the fact that light travels faster through air than through glass. Vanguard has joined other leading money managers in promoting racial diversity at the Board level by promising to press firms to divulge intentions and strategies and by voting against company directors at annual meetings if they appear to be making insufficient efforts. NYC received $985 million in extra revenue from July 2020 to October 2020, due to the performance by Wall Street banks. Unlike the Global Recession of 2008, the financial-services sector has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic relatively well. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. 

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

12/15/20   30,199.31

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

12/15/20 at 3,647.49

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, but has backed a little off of that since.  

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 12,595.06. 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 

12/15/20 at 12.505.06

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 dropped to record lows. 3year yields have dropped to near record lows. 5year yields have inched lower. But, 7year, 10year, and 30year yields are stuck higher.  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%

12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

06/03/20 at 0.26%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/01/20 at 0.22%

12/15/20 at 0.18% wow!

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38% 

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

06/03/20 at 0.38%

07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.44%

12/01/20 at 0.42%

12/15/20 at 0.37%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63% 

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%

12/15/20 at 0.64%

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%

12/15/20 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%

12/15/20 at 1.65%

Housing News:

Well, shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plunged Tuesday on the announcement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that he’s all but ruled out letting them exit US control before he steps down, and become privatized. His decision actually prevents a major policy change that could have risked disrupting the $10 trillion mortgage market. US lenders are pressing lawmakers to extend an accounting waiver that helps them offer more forbearance measure to their customers beyond the 12/31 deadline. 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

Okay, I won’t run another ad for it, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

My friend, Scott Skyrm, points out that the danger in monetary policy in the US of ZIRP is that the target federal funds rate or repo rates could go NEGATIVE. Now, of course, we are chatting about General Collateral Repo rates, not Specials rates, which have many times traded at negative rates. Specials are specific CUSIPS in certain types of securities that have a completely different risk dynamic and supply/demand characteristics, both from the Primary and Secondary outright markets, along with the Repo Market and Securities Lending market. You can tell, I just wrote a Lesson all about this. Anyway, back in July 2013, as Scott points out, GC Repo Rates (US Treasuries) hit .05%, very close to ZERO, and the Fed began its RRP Program (very similar to my former Direct Repo product, disintermediating the primary dealers and going to their main cash providers). There are a number of reasons why Negative rates would not be good in the US or at least would be very disruptive.  As Scott points out, the Fed has a couple of options to head this off at the pass:

  • Interest on Excess Reserves-the Fed could raise the IOER rate, which would incent banks to move reserves to the Fed and away from Repo, potentially raising repo rates.
  • RRP-the Fed has the ability to raise the Repo rate on this program, even above market repo rates, incenting those cash providers to put their cash with the Fed, rather than other collateral providers, potentially raising repo rates. 

Well, we will find, out what the Fed intends to do today, after the second day of the current FOMC meeting.

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 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). It has actually been trading closer to 0.035% lately. 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.

In today’s FOMC statement, we look for what the Fed will adjust to keep GC Repo rates from going negative, which could lead to other problems. We also will see what they intend to do about large-scale buying of US Treasuries (continuing QE 4 or 5, whoever is counting), what the economic outlook is, and if there is a plan for any other emergency lending facilities. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Here are the latest significant earthquakes over the last couple of weeks.  It’s been pretty quiet:

4.4 12/14 SSE of Waimea, Hawaii

6.1 12/10 E of Yilan, Taiwan

6.1 12/06 E of Iquique, Chile

3.6 12/06 SSW of Warner Springs, CA

4.4 12/06 W of Lakeport, CA

3.6 12/05 WSW of Aguanga, CA

6.4 12/01 ESE of Nikolski, AK

Weather:

West Palm Beach suffered a two-day cold spell that brought temps fortunately down to the 50s. But, that has given way to hot and humid, near record, 80s. Up North, things are a little different. A major winter storm has raced across the Midwest and is now eyeing the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and expected to bring a great deal of snow to the area and snarl travel. It will be wet snow, so authorities expect many downed lines and power outages. Further South, in NC and VA, freezing rain and ice are a concern. Japan just had a record snowfall. Many records have been broken, including Fujiwara, which saw 176cm of snow in just 48 hours.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ended 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. 

The MLB owners want to delay the start of 2021 season and have it be only 140 games, not 162.  However, MLB Players Association says that players are planning to start on time, and we have the makings of the same feud were had in 2020.  That feud, which started over the length of the season, moved on to forcing players to pro-rate their salaries downward based on the actual number of games played. Then, owners pressed for more salary concessions beyond that prorating and the final 60-game season wasn’t even fully played for most teams.  The owners appear to be using the pandemic as a way to get out of paying those full salaries for another year. Owners also want players to be vaccinated before beginning Spring Training.  I think that’s a good idea. Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez is back in baseball, now in Australia. 

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. The 2020 national championship had to be held in December, this past chilly weekend in Houston, The US Women’s Open, and it was an inspiring tournament, particularly by runner-up Amy Olson, who persevered and led, despite the sad news on Saturday that her father-in-law had died. Lim Kim won the tournament at Champions Golf Club on Monday, with 3 birdies over her final 3 holes, beating Olson by one. Kim became the second non-LPGA member after Sophia Popov to win a major this year. For once, the LPGA did not have to compete for TV ratings with a scheduled PGA Tour event. This week, there is the odd PGA event, PNC Championship, which begins Saturday, and which pairs fathers with sons. Charlie Woods, 11, will play with his father, Tiger Woods. They will play the Langers, the Thomas’s, the Goosens, the Lehmans, the Loves, the Dalys, and others.

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. 

As of now, in the 15th Week of the 2020 season, the undefeated Steelers (11-0) of two weeks ago, fell to the bad Washington Football Team and then were upended Monday night by the Bills and are now 11-2. Big Ben is looking suddenly old and they haven’t had a running game in six weeks. They have 3 games to fix things before the playoffs. The Chiefs (12-1) just seem to be getting better, maybe even better than the last year’s Super Bowl Champion team, finding ways to win difficult games, when superhuman Mahomes throws 3 interceptions and loses a fumble. The Packers (10-3) have methodically torn teams up with their offense and have the top seed in the NFC. The Bills (10-3) are the real deal in the AFC East and Josh Allen has become a star QB. Coming up right behind the Steelers are the Saints (10-3), but they have been shaky behind QB Taysom Hill and really need QB Drew Brees back. It’s hard to tell which Seahawks (9-4) are going to show up, the one that crushed the Jets or the one that lost to the Giants. The Colts and Rams are also still trying to prove themselves at (9-4). Then, there’s the Tom Brady-led Bucs and the Ravens, both at (8-5). The Browns (9-4), Titans (9-4), Dolphins (8-5), Cards (7-6), and Raiders (7-6) don’t seem to be quite ready for the playoffs yet. The Football Team, Bears, Patriots, and Vikings are still statistically alive for the playoffs. AFC East is led by the Bills, AFC North is led by the Steelers, AFC South is led by the Titans and Colts, and the AFC West is led by the Chiefs. The NFC East is led by the Football Team, the NFC North is led by the Packers, the NFC South is led by the Saints, and the NFC West is led by the Rams and Seahawks. So far, the 0-13 Jets have been eliminated from the Playoffs. The Steelers and Saints have clinched Playoff berths. The Chiefs and Packers each clinched their Division. 

Tennis

The 134th Wimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 was cancelled for 2020. The NY Post reports that 39-year-old Roger Federer’s tennis future is in doubt after his shocking speech at the Switzerland Sport Awards, after an alarming admission that his body may deny him his return in 2021. He was pushing for a final run at Wimbledon and the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, but says he may have already played his last match. He most recently has been suffering from an ongoing knee injury. He was named Switzerland’s greatest athlete of the past 70 years. The Australian Open is likely to be postponed by “one or two weeks” due to COVID-19 pandemic. ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev says that the Australian Open could be “really dangerous” for tennis players. Novak Djokovic reached the semis of the ATP Finals. Medvedev, who stunned No.1 Djokovic in the semis, came from behind to beat Dominic Thiem in the Finals. Thiem had beaten Rafael Nadal.

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. 

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. No.6 Florida should have beaten rival LSU, but then, bizarrely, a Gator defensive player ripped a shoe off the Tiger player and threw it 20 yards down the field, which led to a penalty and a 57-yard game-winning field goal for LSU. Gators actually had a chance to tie it in last 30 seconds, but missed their field goal attempt.  That player may never play football again, at the college or NFL level. What a stupid thing to do!!!  Shilo Sanders has transferred from South Carolina to Jackson State, to play for his father, NFL great Deion Sanders. The woman kicker, Sarah Fuller, for Vanderbilt had her college football career end unceremoniously, when the Vanderbilt-Georgia game was cancelled this weekend due to COVID-19. Ohio State actually needed to play a minimum of six games to qualify for the Big Ten Championship Game, let alone the BCS. They managed to play 5 games, but they got an exemption to play Northwestern for the Big 10 championship this weekend. Ironically, that’s the same Northwestern team that just a few years ago was setting the winless consecutive record. Here are is the next to last (penultimate) College Football Playoff Rankings as of 12/15.  The top 5 teams held steady and Iowa State moved up to No.6 to take Florida’s place, as the College Football Playoff committee faces choosing the Final 4, after this week’s conference championship games:

1.          Alabama (10-0)

2.          Notre Dame (10-0)

3.          Clemson (9-1)

4.          Ohio State (5-0)

5.          Texas A&M (7-1)

6.          Iowa State (8-2)

7.          Florida (8-2)

8.          Georgia (7-2)

9.          Cincinnati (8-0)

10.        Oklahoma (7-2)

11.        Indiana (6-1)

12.        Coastal Carolina (11-0)

13.        USC (5-0)

14.        Northwestern (6-1)

15.        North Carolina (8-3)

16.        Iowa (6-2)

17.        BYU (10-1)

18.        Miami (8-2)

19.        Louisiana (9-1)

20.        Texas (6-3)

21.        Oklahoma State (7-3)

22.        NC State (8-3)

23.        Tulsa (6-1)

24.        San Jose State (6-0)

25.        Colorado (4-1)

NCAA Hockey

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season in 2019-2020, 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. 

In 2020-2021 NCAA Hockey, Minnesota is now No.1, BC is No.2, Minnesota-Duluth is No.3, North Dakota is No.4, and Minnesota State is now No.5. Six-ten spots are: Michigan, Clarkson, Denver, St. Cloud State, and UMass.

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments in early 2020, 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. 

The 2020-2021 season began in November. We are deep into it now, with no or limited fans in some stadiums, removing most of the home stadium advantage. We are also seeing major impacts to the top teams from COVID-19, causing them to cancel games.  My Michigan State (after beating Notre Dame and Duke), as well as the rest of the Big 10, have been particularly strong at the start.  These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 12/16/20:

  1.  Gonzaga (3-0) have had to suspend activities due to COVID-19
  2.  Baylor (4-0) crushed Illinois, but suspended activities due to COVID-19
  3.  Iowa (6-0) crushed UNC and Iowa State
  4.  Kansas (6-1) only loss is to No.1 Gonzaga
  5.  Michigan State (6-0)
  6.  Tennessee (3-0)
  7.  Villanova (5-1)
  8.  West Virginia (6-1) only loss is to No.1 Gonzaga
  9.  Virginia (3-1) have suspended activities due to COVID-19
  10. Houston (4-0) have suspended activities due to COVID-19
  11. Texas (5-1) beat UNC and Indiana
  12. Texas Tech (6-1)
  13. Wisconsin (5-1)
  14. Ohio State (5-0)
  15. Missouri (5-0)
  16. Creighton (4-2)
  17. Illinois (5-2)
  18. Rutgers (5-0)
  19. Duke (2-2)
  20. UNC (4-2)
  21. San Diego State (5-0)
  22. FSU (4-0)
  23. Louisville (4-0)
  24. Michigan (6-0)
  25. Saint Louis (5-0)

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.

The US Hockey League has been managing its 2020-2021 schedule that started in November, although with some game postponements, without using a bubble or any league-wide breaks so far. They have relied on detailed planning and flexibility. The NHL plans to begin the new season in mid-January.  The Penguins have decided to play in their own building and travel only for Division games. The NHL is considering having just 4 NHL divisions to align teams for less travelling.  

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. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo has signed with the Milwaukee Bucks for 5years/$228 million. James Harden trade rumors continue to dominate the NBA preseason. However, he is contractually obligated to play for the Rockets. That’s going to be awkward. Payton Pritchard looks good in his Celtics debut. 

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.

In Motorsport, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won the World Rally Championship, while Hyundai won the manufacturer’s title. 

Travel News:

The Legoland them park in Florida is planning expansion and new rides next year. The storied 21 Club in midtown Manhattan has closed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but its owners are optimistic about reopening at some point. A Barcelona concert, with 500 fans at a live show without social distancing, is testing the effectiveness of same-day COVID-19 screening at the concert. Empty hotels in some states have become government homes for the homeless.  Two-thirds of England’s citizens have been told to avoid holiday gatherings and travel, due to COVID-19 flare-up. United Airlines will now ask all passengers for Contact-Tracing information, working with the CDC. Royal Caribbean has sold Empress and Majesty of the Seas to an undisclosed buyer in the Asia-Pacific region. Vaccine news have boosted international cruise bookings. Guyana is expanding visitor access with new flights and tours. US State Department is updating Saint Lucia Travel Advisory. Airlines have issued travel waivers ahead of this East Coast winter storm Gail. US, Canada, and Mexico land border restrictions have been extended. In a recent survey, half of US travelers plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine. MSC Cruises has confirmed its Winter 2021-2022 itineraries. Calls are growing louder for Aviation workers to be considered essential workers for vaccination priority. American Airlines has extended it change fee waiver policy into 2021. Pittsburgh International Airport will offer optional COVID-19 testing. Commercial airlines are being used to ship COVID-19 vaccines. Hilton Hotels has hit a milestone with 1 million hotel rooms. Palladium Hotel Group received numerous accolades in 2020. Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Cancun has pushed its grand opening to 2021. Disneyland has launched a COVID-19 health and safety awareness campaign. Disney has also unveiled new details for 2021 Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. The Travel Corporation is now offering travel protection program with COVID-19 coverage. Amtrak is adding new digital payment options. RV rentals look to thrive in 2021. 

Health News:  

As of this morning (12/16/20), globally, more than 1,640,867 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 73.6 million people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 16.7 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 304,589. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (182,799), India (144,096), Mexico (115,099), and UK (66,537). France and Italy, like the US, are reporting record cases, as COVID-19 continues to ravage Europe. 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. 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.  British authorities will hold talks on Christmas COVID-19 rules, after a surge in infections fueled demands from medical experts to stop households from socializing over the holiday. Denmark is extending local lockdowns to the entire country. Italy’s PM is mulling further curbs to slow cases during the season. Here in the US, California has stepped back a phase or two and NYC may get a second full lockdown. 

Kizzmekia Corbett is being praised as the key scientist behind the COVID-19 vaccine. BioNTech-Pfizer’s vaccine was approved by the FDA. Moderna’s vaccine has now also been deemed safe by US regulators, clearing the way for a second COVID-19 vaccine to quickly gain emergency authorization, possible from FDA by Friday. In Europe, agencies will review the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine earlier than planned amid growing pressure to approve it quickly. Meanwhile, China and Russia are reportedly already distributing their versions of vaccine to essential workers.

The 11/01-12/15 Affordable Health Care Act window, to obtain long-term health care insurance, just closed.  

Animal News:

The Federal Reserve has joined the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System, which focuses on mitigating risk from climate change. More than 300 shark and ray species are threatened with extinction, a new report finds. A Florida pelican was caught on video swallowing a whole alligator. As I reported last issue, emotional support animals (other than dogs) have now been grounded by new air travel rules. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree owl is being released into the wild. Four lions have tested positive for COVID-19 at a Spanish zoo. There is a wild video that shows a Florida man rescuing his small puppy from an alligator in a pond, prying open the gator’s mouth to release the dog. I don’t know if I could do that, probably. An iceberg the size of Delaware is on track to slam into South Atlantic island. A humpback whale was spotted in New York Harbor near the Statue of Liberty. The “world’s loneliest elephant” has arrived at a sanctuary in Cambodia, thanks to help from Cher. A massive 9-pound goldfish was found in a South Carolina lake. A 20-year-old Oregon surfer vows to return to the sea, after a rare shark attack, off the shores of Seaside. His left leg was severely injured as the shark bit so hard he went through the board. He was surfing alone and was lucky that other surfers came to his rescue and applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Oregon has only had 28 shark attacks since 1837. The Maui Pro surfing tournament in Hawaii has just been put on hold, due to a shark attacking a 56-year-old surfer there, on Tuesday, also biting through the board. The attack occurred near Honolua Bay in Hawaii. In contrast, Hawaii has recorded 171 shark attacks since 1837. Florida still is the leader, with 852 shark attacks since 1837.  Here is the Hawaii board:

Entertainment News:

The big news in entertainment is that music icon, Bob Dylan, has sold his entire songwriting catalog of more than 600 songs to Universal in a blockbuster deal for an amount estimated to be greater than $300 million! This is for a guy who can’t read music and signed his first record contract 58 years ago for $100. This is a recent trend of high-profile musicians cashing in on their music catalogs, both young and old. Last week, Stevie Nicks sold a majority stake in her songwriting catalog for an estimated $80 million to Primary Wave Music. Hipgnosis Songs Fund, a British company that has had a rapid rise in just 2 ½ years, recently disclosed that it had spent about $670 million from March to September, acquiring rights to more than 44,000 songs by Blondie, Rick James, Barry Manilow, Chrissie Hynde, and others. Streaming has really helped lift the entire music market, as album/CD sales are down. Publishers in the US collected $3.7 billion in 2019, mostly from streaming. Disney made a shocking announcement at its shareholders’ meeting, detailing many new shows, a dozen new STAR WARS spinoffs, and several Marvel Comics movies. After almost 3 decades since its debut the MIGHTY DUCKS franchise will also be returning with a Disney+ TV series, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.” Fans are remembering John Lennon, on the 40th anniversary of his death. Tina Turner says the steps to happiness are: “be kind, be grateful, and forgive.” Country music legend, Charley Pride, has died of COVID-19 complications, at age 86. There is some controversy surrounding this, as the CMA had him do a concert special only a couple of months ago, after which he contracted the disease. He became the first black country music superstar, with 29 No.1 hits and more than 50 songs that reached Top 10 status. Whoopi Goldberg called him “Americana personified.” Actor and bodybuilder, Keith Middlebrook, 52, who played parts in IRON MAN 2, IRON MAN 3, and THOR, has finally achieved stardom, becoming the first person in the US to be charged with a federal crime for peddling a fake cure for COVID-19 and promising big returns for investors. New film, WONDER WOMAN 1984, is soon to be released and the trailer has just come out. The original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, and current Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, will be in this movie. Thousands of French theater and cinema workers are staging a street demonstration in Paris against the prolonged closure of entertainment facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Highwomen won 3 awards at the Americana Honors and Awards and the late John Prine was given the award for Artist of the Year. Nickelodeon is scheduled to air an NFL playoff game, which will include stars like SpongeBob Squarepants running out of the tunnel and commentary from the cast of All That. New Year’s Rockin’ Eve is lining up entertainment acts, including Jennifer Lopez, Cyndi Lauper, Jimmie Allen, Lucy Hale, Ciara, Billy Porter, host Ryan Seacrest, and others. Fashion mogul Peter Nygard has been arrested in Winnipeg, Canada on 9 sex crime charges involving his Bahamas estate. Although initially charged with 9 counts, authorities believe there is a decades-long pattern involving at least dozens of victims in the US. 74 additional women have joined the class-action lawsuit brought by 10 alleged victims, accusing Nygard of rape, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Some authorities have said that this case could be worse than the Jeffrey Epstein case. Despite the popularity of BTS and Blackpink, most K-pop bands have been struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, most artists, except those well-established who can get Internet/Zoom/Facebook/Twitter audiences for remote concerts, are all struggling. Many of my entertainment friends have still not been able to get gigs, partly because their areas may be in more restrictive restaurant and gathering phases and others because restaurants and venues haven’t recouped their losses from this year enough to hire entertainment. I know many friends, especially photographers, who have no graduations, charity balls, weddings, and other public gatherings to entertain at or perform their skills at, leaving them desperate. Australian actor Craig McLachlan has been cleared by a judge of allegations he indecently assaulted his stage co-stars in 2014. Tony-winning choreographer, actress Ann Reinking has died at age 71. A federal Appeals Court has ruled that a lawsuit filed by the Michael Jackson estate over the HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, about two of the late pop star’s sex abuse accusers can go forward in private arbitration. After ABC’s Big Sky drew Native American criticism for overlooking violence against indigenous women and girls, its producers have set about making changes. DARK KNIGHT and GREASE have just been added to the National Film Registry. Justin Bieber and UK health workers have teamed up for charity song. Spy-turned-novelist, John le Carre, who probed the murky world of spies, has died at age 89. New Orleans stage and screen actor Carol Sutton has died at 76 from complications from COVID-19. Britain’s Prince William thanked pandemic workers at Christmas show in London. The leading pro-China news channel in Taiwan has been taken off air, despite employees and supporters rallying for the cable news channel on Saturday. Rapper Lil Wayne has pleaded guilty to federal weapons charge (in possession on his private plane in Miami in 2019, despite being a convicted felon). MSNBC’s election coverage star, Steve Kornacki, debuted on NBC’s Football Night in America last week and will continue to be a part of the show. Singer FKA twigs has filed a lawsuit alleging that Shia LaBeouf was physically and emotionally abusive during their relationship from 2018 to 2019. Like her mother and father, Blue Ivy Carter is now a Grammy nominee. A lone Utah Senator has blocked national museums for American Latinos and women. Former movie producer, Harvey Weinstein, will remain in a New York prison for now, after his lawyers and prosecutors agreed to postpone efforts to send him to California to face sexual assault charges. The credit card companies, Visa and Mastercard, have decided that they will no longer allow their customers to use the cards to charge for services on the pornographic website Pornhub. Concert trade publication, Pollstar, puts the total lost revenue for the live events industry in 2020 at more than $30 billion, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Award-winning South Korean director Kim Ki-duk has died in Latvia. He won the top award at the Venice Film Festival in 2012, but later faced allegations of trying to force an actress into shooting off-script sexual scenes while making another movie. Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia are expecting their 3rd child.  I am enjoying Disney+’s Mandalorian.Now I have heard the good news, despite many top series being cancelled, Netflix’s Ozark will have another season!  Blake Shelton got engaged to fellow The Voice judge Gwen Stefani over the weekend. 

Technology & Space News:

Hayabusa2 successfully returned samples collected from asteroid 162173 Ryugu to Earth.  EU has revealed its plan to regulate Big Tech, including Facebook, Google, and others. UK is planning tailored set of rules for each tech giant. Also in UK, Ofcom regulator will enforce the online harms law, and can block apps in UK or fine tech giants huge sums if it believed that they failed to protect users. More US government agencies have been hacked and the list of victims is growing. SolarWinds says about 18,000 customers may be affected. Twitter has been fined GBP 400,000 for breaking EU data law, failing to notify the regulator of its 2019 data breach within required time. COVID-19 CONTACT tracing apps can now work on older iPhones. Snapchat drug safety campaign is targeting young people. The suspected hackers tied to the Russian government who were behind a massive cyber-attack on the US also hit an American think tank in Austin, TX, according to Bloomberg. Bridgetown Holdings, the blank-check company, is reportedly considering a potential merger with Indonesia’s e-commerce giant PT Tokopedia. The technical glitches plaguing CD Projekt’s Cyberpunk 2077 game have reduced the value of the company’s founders’ stock by $1 billion and may have shaken the image of the company. IBM bought a Canadian fintech company, which processes some $50 billion per day. Discover executive discussed in an interview that embedding payment facilities in vehicles and the increased use of voice assistants, such as Alexa, are 2 key opportunities for the payments sector. China’s Chang’e-5 Moon mission is set to return with samples of lunar rock and dust. 

US News:

President Trump has still not conceded the 11/3 Presidential Election. President-elect Biden has chosen Pete Buttigieg, the former Presidential candidate to be his Transportation Secretary. On Monday night, Biden used the moment of the Electoral College formalizing his defeat of President Trump to call for unity, according to Bloomberg.  

International News:

Nana Akufo-Addo was re-elected for a second term as President of Ghana. Zdavko Krivokapic took office as PM of Montenegro, become the first independent to hold the post. The farmers’ protest continues in India, against the 3 farm acts which were passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020. The acts have been described as “anti-farmer laws” by many major unions, and feel that it will leave farmers at the “mercy of corporates”. While, the government, thinks the laws will make it effortless for farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers. The Tigray conflict is an ongoing military battle that began in November 2020 in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, between the Tigray Regional Government (led by the TPLF) and a military alliance between the Ethiopian National Defense Force and special forces in Afar and Amhara. The conflict stems from new PM Ahmed’s new reforms since 2018 that took away political and economic power from the TPLF, so the TPLF started defying the new orders. The TPLF had been in control for 27 years with its powerful military.  German police have made their 4th arrest over a Dresden jewelry heist. It was a spectacular theft of 18th-century jewels from a Dresden museum last year. The heist of the Green Vault which held about 4,000 objects, most from the treasury of Augustus the Strong of Saxony, which included a 220-lb Canadian gold coin, on loan from Berlin’s Bode Museum. A noun describing social distancing is the Dutch word of the year. It is translated into ‘one-and-a-half-meter-society.’ 2020 never ceases to surprise. Paris mayor is mocking ‘absurd’ fine for hiring too many women. Europeans are being urged to wear masks during family Christmas gatherings. Ten experts are now probing the COVID-19 origins in China’s Wuhan. 14 people were found guilty in 2015 Paris terror attacks (Charlie Hebdo magazine and Jewish supermarket) trial. Dutch prosecutors have found Trump Twitter was hacked. Apparently, Victor Gevers says that he guessed the President’s password, “MAGA2020!”. Police in Peru, disguised as Santa Claus’s and an elf, carried out a drug raid. Dozens of Armenian soldiers were “captured in a raid.” A New South Wales man has been charged with table tennis “corrupt betting.” Nigerian states have shut schools down, after pupils were abducted. An architect is rebuilding Beirut’s homes for free. A man, Jamie Rothwell, has been arrested in the Netherlands on suspicion of firearms and drug offenses, and connection to Cheshire shooting. The Ugandan President has reappointed his son as head of special forces. Rights groups are calling on DR Congo to convict mass murderers. 

Florida:

For the first time since 3/15/20, nearly the start of the pandemic, I have my first singing gig this Friday. I will be performing at Zuccarellis Ristorante in West Palm Beach 12/18 6:30-8:30pm. I am doing half Elvis songs and half Christmas songs in a 28-song Elvis Christmas show. 

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