Repo Commentary-01/07/21

It is Day 302 (on 01/07) 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/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 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 from Chartered Institute For Securities and Investment (CISI).  I suspect many companies have already budgeted to 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! 

I hope everyone had good holidays and a Happy New Year!!! I know that you will all see this on 01/07/21, which is the day before Elvis Presley’s birthday, so I wanted to wish the King of Rock n’ Roll an early Happy Birthday on 1/8. He would be 86-years-old. 

Holidays or Events (01/06):

  • Apple Tree Day
  • Bean Day
  • Cuddle Up Day
  • Epiphany (Three Kings Day)
  • National Take A Poet to 
  • Lunch Day
  • National Shortbread Day
  • National Smith Day
  • National Take Down the Christmas Tree Day
  • National Technology Day
  • World Day for War Orphans
  • Armed Forces Day in Iraq
  • Befana Day in Italy
  • Christmas (Armenian Apostolic Church)
  • Christmas Eve (Russia)
  • Christmas Eve (Ukraine)
  • Christmas Eve (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • Christmas Eve (North Macedonia)
  • Little Christmas (Ireland)
  • Prettandinn (Iceland)
  • Pathet Lao Day (Laos)

Some Famous People Born on (01/06):

  • 1367-Richard II of England
  • 1412-Joan of Arc, French martyr and saint
  • 1878-Carl Sandburg, American poet and historian
  • 1900-Maria of Yugoslavia, Queen of Yugoslavia 1922-1934
  • 1910-Kid Chocolate, Cuban boxer
  • 1934-Sylvia Sims, English actress
  • 1937-Lou Holtz, American football player, coach, sportscaster
  • 1944-Bonnie Franklin, American actress and singer
  • 1951-Don Gullett, American baseball player and coach
  • 1957-Nancy Lopez, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1960-Paul Azinger, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1960-Howie Long, American football player and sportscaster
  • 1970-Gabrielle Reece, American volleyball player, sportscaster, actress

Daily Weird Facts:

 Humans have caused 322 animal extinctions over the past 500 years.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”—Steve Martin 

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

$50.70/barrel on 01/04

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has risen 10 cents higher in the past 2 weeks, at $2.19/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

103.15 on 01/04/21

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

01/04 at $1.2246

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

01/04 at $1.3571

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

1.2787 on 01/04

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. On 12/16/20, gold was back up to $1,858.20. On 01/04/21, it was up to $1,948.00.

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

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

$31,592.20 on 01/04/21

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. Since I last reported two weeks ago, when it was 6-7 times higher than the low from March, it has more than doubled again (now nearly 10 times higher than that March low)! JPMorgan now says that Bitcoin could rally to $100,000! One market follower said on Twitter: “it’s not a rally. It’s not a bubble. It’s a chain reaction spreading like a fire in cyberspace.”

Brexit:

Britons have been blocked from entry to EU nations as ports faced the first day under new rules, on Monday.  EU firms also refused UK deliveries over the Brexit tax changes.  The long Brexit process has come to a conclusion. Northern Ireland’s first minister is seeing a “gateway of opportunity” in the trade deal between UK and EU, which removes “some of the difficulties with the NI Protocol.” Gibraltar has received a UK-Spain deal to keep the border open. Channel Tunnel operator Getlink says there will not be any congestion caused when the new trading rules go into effect, referring to the Dover-Calais route. The UK technically left the EU on 1/31/20, but the subsequent deal between the two came into force 1/1/21. Most UK drivers will still be able to use their normal driving license while driving in EU countries. However, there are some exceptions, such as those with paper licenses and licenses issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Those people will need and additional International Driving Permit (IDP), which can be purchased at Post Offices. There are two types of IDPs, depending on which countries you will be driving in. As for car insurance, you will need to provide proof that you vehicle is insured while driving in Europe, which is in the form of a green card, which needs to be procured from your insurer before you travel to Europe. There are varying rules on whether you need a GB sticker on your license plate or not, depending on the plate you have and which country you are travelling to. 

Global Financial News:

Manufacturers in the Eurozone ended 2020 on a high note, with activity increasing at the fastest rate since mid-2018, according to IHS Markit.  Germany was the main driving force, since factories in that country have mostly remained open during COVID-19 related lockdowns. The FTSE 100 index of shares in London had a nice first full day of trading in 2021, up 1.73%.  The NYSE may still delist 3 Chinese telecommunications firms, reportedly, after withdrawing the threat earlier. US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin reportedly contacted NYSE’s president to say he disagrees with the decision to NOT delist them. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has determined that Wells Fargo has improved its anti-money laundering compliance program sufficiently, and has released it from a 2015 consent order, according to Wells Fargo. However, Wells Fargo remains under a 2018 consent order from the OCC regarding sales of mortgage and insurance products. 

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 has steepened even more Wednesday, on the heels of news that Democrats had won the first of two Senate runoffs, which immediately raised 10year Treasury yields over the 1.00% mark, for the first time since March 2020. 

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 has had a merciful four-day cold spell that brought temps fortunately down to the 50s, after being in the mid-80s last week and windy. But, today, temperatures will return to the 70s, until another cold front hits at the end of the weekend.  

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 there 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 starts 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21. 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 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 we 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 am hearing that Spring Training will likely be postponed, as my Boston Red Sox Fantasy Camp (which I considered playing in this year, now that I have a new knee) was cancelled to give Spring Training extra time. However, MLB intends to HAVE Spring Training, but they have not decided yet (according to my friends at the Marlins and Cardinals) whether they will have fans in the seats and whether they will do live National Anthems. Obviously, having sung 153 MLB games so far, that is very important to me, and I’ll keep you updated.  I have not heard back from the other ballpark for the Nationals and Astros.  The Yankees will acquire Greg Allen from the Padres. Rumors are that the Yankees have the inside track on acquiring ace Corey Kluber. Cubs Kris Bryant is now a trade rumor, as is teammate Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs are in the midst of dumping payroll, last week sending ace Yu Darvish and his catcher, Victor Caratini, to the Padres for Zach Davies and 4 prospects. They are listening to offers on every player, including star catcher Willson Contreras. Javier Baez and Craig Kimbrel are also rumored to be tradeable, as they all become free agents after this season. The Padres rotation is impressive now, after adding Yu Darvish and Rays’ Blake Snell, both blockbuster trades last week. They join the World Series champ Dodgers and Yankees as the best odds to win the 2021 World Series and having the top rotations. The Braves and Nationals fill out the rest of the top 5 pitching rotations. 

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2021 season will begin in Hawaii, at Kapalua, at the Sentry Tournament of Champions this week. World No.1 is currently Dustin Johnson, who lives about 10 miles up the road from me in Florida. He had a masterful season last year (culminating in winning the Masters in November), although the schedule was a mess and shortened from the pandemic. Only 3 of the 4 Majors were played, and they were all mixed up in order. Bryson DeChambeau, who also had a pretty good 2020 season (including winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July with a 313-yard driving average and winning the US Open in September) told reporters that his goal this year is to achieve a 210 mph average ball speed!  He currently leads the Tour with a 192.8 mph ball speed. He has yet to break 200 mph barrier in competition, which he feels will finally give him the shot distance he desires. He has been hitting and taking notes from friend and top-ranked World Long Drive competitor, Kyle Berkshire, who set the world record for ball speed with 228 mph, on his way to winning the WLD Final in 2019. They each are helping each other, as Berkshire wants to revive his playing career. DeChambeau hit 211 mph on the range already at Kapalua and hit an 8-iron 205 yards! Normal amateur distance for an 8-iron is about 120-130 yards.  The PGA, after a 9-month delay, will be rolling out its pace of play policy. Phil Mickelson turned 50 in June 2020, but said he is not giving up the PGA Tour yet and moving to the Champions Tour. He said, “when I stop hitting bombs I’ll play the Champions Tour, but I’m hitting some crazy bombs right now.”

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. Week 17 of the irregular season has ended and we are now on to an abbreviated Playoffs this weekend.

Let’s start with the teams that didn’t make the Playoffs and the growing number of head coaches who have been fired.  Falcons fired Dan Quinn in October. Lions fired former DC of Patriots Matt Patricia. Texans fired coach and GM Bill O’Brien in October.  The Jaguars fired Doug Marrone on 1/4/21 (which is considered Black Monday in the NFL for jobs).  The Chargers fired Anthony Lynn on 1/4/21. The Jets fired Adam Gase on 1/3/21. I think this list will grow. The Rams have activated WR Cooper Kupp from reserve/COVID-19 list. Chase Young of the Redskins says he wants to face the GOAT, Tom Brady, now of the Bucs. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson says he is out to erase the narrative about his playoff struggles. 

Now, to the Playoffs schedule:

The Chiefs have a bye for Week 1 of the Playoffs as the No.1 AFC team. They will face the winner of the Colts vs Bills. Also in the AFC, the Steelers will face the Browns and the Titans will face the Ravens. The winners of those two games will face each other.  There are a lot less steps now. On the NFC side, the Packers wound up as the No.1 NFC team and so get the bye. They will face the winner of the Saints vs Bears. Also in the NFC, the Seahawks will face the Rams and the Washington Football Team will face the Bucs. 

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season will kick off with the tournaments in Abu Dhabi and here in Delray Beach, Florida. 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 Paralympics, also scheduled for 2020, have been postponed, as well, to 2021. Ironically, the Winter Olympics, which are held two years after the Summer Olympics, are still scheduled for 2022, only one year after the Summer Olympics. Frankly, I can’t remember an athlete that performed in both Summer and Winter Olympics, so I don’t think the one year shortened resting period will be a factor. 

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

2020-2021 NCAA Football season was a very strange season, with the start delayed, most teams playing with NO fans (which really took away, in my opinion, any home-field advantage that they had), and many games either cancelled or postponed (but you can’t really make a game up with a packed weekly schedule). So, consequently, the College Football Playoff Committee, after the AP Coaches and other rankers, had to determine whether a 5-1 team was as good or better than an 11-0 team, and we had weird amounts of games played for each conference and each team. There were some conferences that started later than others and some that only played teams in their OWN conference, and it was a mess. I don’t even know if this qualifies as an ‘asterisk’ season or sport. Anywho, we all struggled to make meaning of games that we were starving to see, since all the other sports were shut down, and it didn’t make as much sense as we hoped. However, by sheer dumb luck or by real sifting, the 2020-2021 NCAA College Football Playoff will come down to two teams that are usually at the top (lately) anyway, No.1 Alabama and No.3 Ohio State. They will play each other this Monday 1/11/21 for the Championship, even though one has played only 7 games and the other has played 12 games. And, how did they figure out that (4-3) Oregon was a Top 25 team? Riddle me that. On New Year’s Day, No.1 Alabama crushed No.4 Notre Dame and No.3 Ohio State surprisingly crushed No.2 Clemson. Somehow, also strange, I wound up watching lesser bowls than those. Must have been the timing.  I did see a lot of Indiana vs Mississippi, a bit of NC State vs Kentucky, LSU vs Florida (which was a great game), UNC vs Miami (which was not from this universe), way more than I wanted of Texas A&M vs Tennessee, Oklahoma vs Iowa State (which was another good game), and We Are Marshall unfortunately losing to Buffalo. Clemson’s QB Trevor Lawrence is leaving Clemson for the 2021 NFL Draft.  It was a very strange season to get there and, even looking at their records should show you the weirdness, but here we are:

1.          Alabama (12-0)

2.          Clemson (10-2)

3.          Ohio State (7-0)

4.          Notre Dame (10-2)

5.          Texas A&M (9-1)

6.          Oklahoma (9-2)

7.          Florida (8-4)

8.          Cincinnati (9-1)

9.          Georgia (8-2)

10.        Iowa State (9-3)

11.        Indiana (6-2)

12.        Coastal (11-1)

13.        UNC (8-4)

14.        Northwestern (7-2)

15.        Iowa (6-2)

16.        BYU (11-1)

17.        USC (5-1)

18.        Miami (8-3)

19.        LA-Lafayette (10-1)

20.        Texas (7-3)

21.        Oklahoma State (8-3)

22.        San Jose State (7-1)

23.        NC State (8-4)

24.        Tulsa (6-3)

25.        Oregon (4-3)

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 past 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 Presidents Cup curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

The United States shocked Canada and just won the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship by a score of 2-0 in Edmonton on Tuesday! Spencer Knight (soon to be a Florida Panther) made 34 saves for his 3rd shutout of the tournament, setting US WJC career and single-tournament records. It was the first shutout by the US in the semifinal round or championship game in history! It was only the 5th championship for the US, and 4 of those titles came by wins over Canada (2004, 2010, 2017, 2021). Team USA Trevor Zegras (soon to be an Anaheim Duck) was named the tournament MVP. 

The 2021 NHL season (which normally would have started in 2020 and wrapped around to 2021) has been delayed.  The regular season is normally 82 games, but will only be 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. There will also be divisional realignment to limit team matchups to intra-division play and minimize team travel as much as possible, due to the pandemic. Remember, there were two Conferences with weird names for 4 Divisions of each, to get to (now) 31 teams. This will be this season’s odd configuration:

NORTH (all Canadian)

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs

Vancouver Canucks

Winnipeg Jets

WEST

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Phoenix Coyotes

Colorado Avalanche

LA Kings

Minnesota Wild

San Jose Sharks

St. Louis Blues

Las Vegas Golden Knights

CENTRAL

Carolina Hurricanes

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Dallas Stars

Detroit Redwings

Florida Panthers

Nashville Predators

Tampa Bay Lightning

EAST

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

That announcement was made by the NHL on 12/23. On New Year’s Day, the Canadian government, citing “national interest grounds” gave its approval for the start of NHL training camps. It issued an exemption for the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for NHL players and team staff to return to the country. The five provinces with NHL franchises, however, must give their approval for games between Canadian teams during the regular season, which is still scheduled to start 1/13/21. The 7 Canadian teams will play this season in a separate realigned division. Training camp for the American NHL teams began on 1/3/21. The NHLPA is still planning on allowing its players to return to the Olympics in 2022. The governors of the six New England states and New Jersey have extended a ban on interstate youth hockey through the end of January 2021. Boston Bruin captain, Zdeno Chara, 43, has agreed to a one-year $795,000 contract with the Washington Capitals for 2021. He is the oldest player in the NHL and tallest player at 6’9. He played 14 seasons for the Bruins. New Jersey Devil’s No.1 pick, Nico Hischier, will not participate in training camp, after injuring his leg training in Switzerland earlier this month. He was the No.1 pick in the 2017 Draft and signed a 7-year/$50.75 million contract in 2019 that begins this season. New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, 38, said Monday that he is scheduled for open-heart surgery. He had announced 12/17/20 that he could not play this season because of a heart condition. He had signed a one year/$1.5 million contract with the Rangers, after his contract was bought out. Chicago Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach will be out 4-5 months, after wrist surgery from an injury at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. Ilya Kovalchuk is officially headed back to the KHL. The veteran signed a 2year deal with Avangard Omsk last Saturday, returning to the Russian league for the first time since 2017-2018.  He spent 5 years in the KHL starting in 2013-2014 and was one of the best players in that league at the time. At his hockey peak, Kovalchuk was one of the most dominant goal scorers in the NHL, scoring at least 40 goals six different times in his career and 50 goals twice. Stanley Cup Champion Lightning will be without their All-Star, Nikita Kucherov, for the entire regular season, after hip surgery. NBC Sports announced that NBC and NBCSN will begin broadcasting NHL games on 1/13 and feature roughly 100 games of the 31 NHL teams during the regular season. 

NBA:

Last 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. 

The NBA season tipped off again on 12/22/20. But, it is totally different. Fan attendance differs in every stadium, depending on different factors, including state COVID-19 guidelines. Some stadiums are forced to deal with 10% of capacity attendance. Celtics’ TD Garden allowed ZERO fans at games. The Hornets also followed suit with NO fans. Cavs can have 300 fans at games. Rockets will have reduced capacity of fans. Pelicans will have 4% capacity of fans.  Raptors will have 3,200 fans maximum. Magic will have 4,000 fans maximum.  Jazz will have only a few thousand fans. Other teams with NO fans to start the season: Bulls, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Heat, Bucks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Thunder, 76ers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards.  We are into Week 2 of the NBA 2020-2021 season now. Stephen Curry and Tobias Harris were named NBA Players of the Week. Stephen just put up a 62-point effort!  Spencer Dinwiddie has had successful ACL surgery.  Mavs star Luka Doncic has been sidelined with contusion of quadriceps. Chris Paul is quickly making his presence known on the West-leading Suns (I remember how they were the worst team for a decade). HOF Paul Westphal (noted Celtic) has died at the age of 70. Still Houston star, James Harden, not traded, was scratched from a game against the Kings because of a sprained ankle. Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson was fined $25,000 for making contact with an official. Carmelo Anthony has now passed Tim Duncan for 14th on all-time list of career scoring, averaging 23.5 points per game in more than 1,100 career games. Sacramento Kings seem happy about their No.12 draft pick, Tyrese Haliburton.   

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. Global superstar Goldikova has died at age 16. She was one of the world’s top racehorses of any sex or surface in the past 15 years. She was dominant in her 5 seasons on the track, winning 17 of 27 starts for $7,176,551. Details have emerged from attempted murder charge against jockey CJ McMahon. NY Governor Cuomo is pushing for mobile sports betting. Mucho Gusto has been retired with a soft-tissue injury. Racing has begun in Australia. 

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)

A bizarre Martin Truex Jr. retirement rumor has emerged. Jeremy Mayfield’s NASCAR career changed forever after he test positive. NASCAR season begins in Daytona on 2/14, 38 days from now. 

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

Lewis Hamilton won his 7th World Title.  He is to be awarded a knighthood. F1 will revert to 2pm start times in 2021. Matteo Pagliani was crowned inaugural F1 Mobile Racing Esports Champion. 

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. 

3-time Indianapolis 500 and two INDYCAR championships winning team owner, U.E. “Pat” Patrick, has died at age 91. INDYCAR Race winner and Indianapolis 500 veteran, John Paul Jr., has died at age 60. The St. Petersburg Firestone Grand Prix has shifted to April 25. 

Travel News:

Mexican pilots have rejected a cost-saving plan put forward by their own trade union amid talks on how to restructure airline Grupo Aeromexico. The airline has wound up in discussions with two labor unions, but remains in talks with two more on Tuesday. This update was apparently a requirement for the airline to receive a second tranche of bankruptcy funding. For those of you readers old enough, you know what a tranche is. For those too young, it’s at the front of an elephant. Sorry. Now, get off of my lawn! Of course, I’m kidding. Airbus is expected to lose over $5 billion in orders under AirAsia X’s proposed restructuring, as court documents show. They are joining a dozen creditors that have challenged the Malaysian low-budget carrier’s bankruptcy plan. I see a theme here… The official overseeing Norwegian Air’s bankruptcy protection plan from its creditors in Ireland will present a report to the Irish High Court on 1/22. Norwegian Air’s shareholders are backing the restructuring plan. Struggling South African Airways said on Wednesday (today) that they have issued a 48-hour notice to prevent nearly 400 pilots from accessing the company’s premises (lockout), until they agree to a new contract. MGM is being urged by some shareholders to sell 20% of its China business. 

Health News:  

As of this evening (1/05), globally, more than 1,877,852 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 86.9 million people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 21.2 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 359,977. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (197,732), India (150,114), Mexico (128,822), and UK (77,470). 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. We are now at almost 360,000.

In the US, three States have the worst COVID-19 infection rates of anywhere in the world.  Arizona currently has the highest per-capita rate of new COVID-19 infections, with 785 cases per 100,000 population over the last 7 days, followed closely by California (658) and Rhode Island (671), according to NBC News. The COUNTRY with the highest per-capita infection rate is the Czech Republic, at 653 cases per 100,000 over the past 7 days. The trend is also countrywide, as the US has reported an average of 451 new cases per 100,000 per day over the past 7 days, putting it as the 10th highest countrywide rate in the world (and that includes tiny countries ahead of the US like San Marino and Lichtenstein, which need only a few people to have a high rate.). Hospitals in California have been overwhelmed, as the state is experiencing record numbers of daily deaths and hospitalizations. Case numbers in Los Angeles County alone have increased 905% since 11/1/20. 10 people there are getting sick with COVID-19 every minute. South America has hit a new high for COVID-19 hospitalizations rate and case numbers. 

In the US, there is an email address to send your information to, in order to receive information on when you will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I sent that in on Monday. On Tuesday, I got a rash of grief from some Pharmacology major on why I’m just playing into big-Pharma’s hands and yet another conspiracy theory about the new strain of COVID-19 that showed up in California. I believe, but I have not done the calculations yet, that conspiracy theories about the virus and the election have multiplied at a much faster rate than the price of Bitcoin in 2020, but I’m not sure yet! I think I could write a whole other Repo Commentary based on Conspiracy Theories. January is normally the boomtime for gyms, as people join to strive to complete New Year’s resolutions, and then start dropping off on attendance in February and March. This year, however, thanks to the pandemic, combined with an explosion in fitness tech (like the $3500 Mirror, Peloton bikes, and Zoom fitness classes), people have found other ways to exercise and may not return to the gym soon. Although I work out frequently, I have not been to the gym since the beginning of March. I didn’t think the precautions they were taking were sufficient and froze my membership. Frankly, I always thought that gyms were a breeding petri dish for the common cold, flu, and other viruses for years, especially with the unclean habits of many members. I miss the better workout than I can get in my apartment or my building, but still won’t take the risk, until I have been vaccinated. Peloton’s annual revenues hit $1.8 billion in the 12 months ending June 2020, double its revenues from the year before. 

CureVac has struck a COVID-19 vaccine alliance deal with Bayr-Bild. 

Animal News:

Siberia’s enormous hole in the ground is growing, due to the way permafrost interacts with the warming environment.  I have now become one of millions of people who has sent in their AncestryDNA information and saliva, not only to find out my roots, but to also appear on some future Dateline or 20/20.  He wasn’t in Codex, but we found his DNA in Ancestry. This is important: I told you in the last Repo Commentary that new Department of Transportation regulations had redefined what a ‘support animal’ was for travel on airplanes to just dogs (not cats, snakes, lizards, pigs, ponies, peacocks, etc.). American Airlines has decided, on Wednesday, to go further when the new DOT rules go into effect on 1/11/21, and will no longer allow ANY ‘emotional support animals’ to fly, including dogs. They are reverting back to only allowing ‘service animals’ as defined as a DOG “trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.” This is despite that, in many cases, emotional support animals are prescribed by mental health professionals to provide comfort and support. However, unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not required to have training in specific tasks. Animals that previously traveled as emotional support animals may travel as carry-on or cargo pets. My feeling is that the people who had no need for an emotional support animal and fraudulently flaunted or bent the rules (I know several) to get their pet on planes or in restaurants, have just made it bad for people who DO need emotional support animals (for instance, PTSD sufferers). As someone old in my family once said, “that just rots my socks.”  Did you know that feral hogs cause more than $1.5 billion in damage each year. Here in West Palm Beach, across from the airport, Palm Beach Kennel Club, after 88 years of running, closed on New Year’s Eve, after decades of featuring greyhound dog racing and becoming the dog-racing “mecca” of Florida, OTB-type horse racing, and recently poker rooms.  The greyhound racing was finally voted by Amendment 13 25 months ago. On Sunday, Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, Florida, the next-to-last track, closed. The demise of US greyhound racing, which has been around for over 100 years, is within sight. In the late 1980s, there were more than 60 dog tracks in operation in the US (in at least 12 states). There are now only 4 tracks running in 3 states (West Virginia, Arkansas, and Iowa). Earlier this year, dog tracks in Texas and Alabama closed. When the Amendment 13 passed in 2018, Florida had 11 of America’s 17 dog tracks. Some pet foods have been recalled after reports of 28 dog deaths, according to the FDA. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree owl was captured and released back into the wild. More than 300 shark and ray species are threatened by extinction, according to a new report. A prehistoric ‘swamp king’ crocodile of Australia was over 16-feet-long, according to a new study. I’m still watching this video of a Florida pelican who swallowed an alligator whole! 

Entertainment News:

JAMES BOND: A VIEW TO A KILL girl and Charlie’s Angels actress, Tanya Roberts, has died at age 65. She appeared opposite Sir Roger Moore in his final BOND film. Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving member of the McGuire Sisters singing act died at age 89 on 12/29. Gilligan’s Island star who played Marianne on the show, Dawn Wells, died on 12/30 due to COVID complications, at age 82. The high school principal, Joe Clark, who served as the inspiration for Morgan Freeman’s 1989 film LEAN ON ME, died on 12/29 at the age of 82. HOF baseball pitcher, reknowned for his knuckleball, Phil Niekro, died at age 81 on 12/26 of cancer. Bluegrass guitarist, Tony Rice, died on 12/25 at age 69.  Tony-nominated Broadway actress, Rebecca Luker, died at age 59 on 12/23. Jeremy Bulloch, who famously portrayed Boba Fett in the original STAR WARS trilogy, died at age 75 on 12/17. During the pandemic lockdown, music listening or streaming has skyrocketed, with more than 155 million albums purchased or streamed in 2020, in just England, according to record label body BPI. This was an increase of 8.2% over the previous year. However, for the first time since records began in 1973, not a single album released in the last 12 months was certified platinum (representing 300,000 in sales). Only 16 singles songs received a platinum disc (representing 600,000 in sales).  In total, fans played 139 billion songs on services like Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music last year, up more than 22%. This has certainly come to the rescue of an industry crippled by the piracy crisis of 10 years ago, but there are still questions among artists on how the money from streaming services is distributed. In an odd twist, outside of streaming, vinyl continued to grow in popularity, with sales hitting 4.8 million, up from 4.3 million in 2019, making it the format’s best year since 1990. Also, sales of cassette tapes almost doubled to 156,542 sold, the highest total since 2003. CD sales continued to fall though, with only half the amount sold in 2020 as were sold in 2018.  At their peak in the UK, 163.4 million CDs were sold in 2004, and only 16 million in 2020. All of these are just British figures, not global figures, but the trend is similar.  So, I’ve now binge watched all of The Mandalorian on Disney+, as well as all of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians Driving Cars Getting Coffee (I had no idea that this show has been around for like 11 years!). I have done a pretty good job binge-watching all the good shows on Netflix too, including Bloodline, Ozark, Away, The Crown, Queen’s Gambit, Fear City: New York VS The Mafia, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, Tiger King, Unbelievable, etc. Apparently, I have only scratched the surface, as Rotten Tomatoes lists 19 more series with higher rating than Unbelievable’s 98%!  And that’s looking at their 177 highest-rated Netflix series. I’m such a silly, uninformed person, as I thought I would look over at their Amazon-Prime highest rated series and there was a mere 58 more there. Sooo, apparently, I have barely watched the tip of the iceberg. The Office reunion is now looking more likely. Kristin Cavallari is feeling like her “old self” after turning 34. Something about that just annoys me. Bethenny Frankel and ex Paul Bernon just had a cozy reunion, after 3-month split. Dr. Dre has given his health update, after suffering a brain aneurysm. Meanwhile, 4 suspects have been arrested after an attempted burglary of his house while he was hospitalized. Christie Brinkley has undergone hip replacement surgery, 26 years after being injured in a helicopter crash. Not due to that ab machine she and Chuck Norris have been plugging. Okay, the scandal is all over now. Hilaria, Alec Baldwin’s wife is NOT Hispanic. She was born in the Boston area and grew up mostly in Connecticut. It was her press agent that screwed up her bio. Peacock is rebooting Punky Brewster. I know, why? Bridgerton’s Rege-Jean Page is seen as a possible JAMES BOND replacement. Kim Kardashian says that she’s getting her ”mind and body right” during Kanye West divorce speculation. Anne Burrell has a new cookware line. Ken Jennings, the all-time champion of Jeopardy! May replace Alex Trebek as the new host of the popular game show. I actually watched the last 5 episodes of the show to see Alex. He worked up until 10 days before his death. Gwen Stefani admits that she was confused why Blake Shelton took so long to propose to her.

Technology & Space News:

Amazon has been operating cargo planes and cargo vans for a long time.  But, in the past, those planes have been leased and the vans were leased. You know, if you’ve been reading this Repo Commentary, that the vans are now going to be purchased and be electric. Now, Amazon has purchased 11 jets from Delta Airlines and WestJet Airlines, which marks the beginnings of Amazon Air fleet that is expected to top 85 planes by the end of 2021. “Up in the air, junior birdman…” There isn’t a single reader out there old enough to get that reference.  

US News:

President Trump has still not conceded the 11/3 Presidential Election. Kenosha police officers will not face charges in the Jacob Blake shooting. In the US, kindergarten enrollment has declined. Delaying the start of kindergarten has been a thing since I was a kid (right before the turn of the 19th to 20th Century), as parents have opted to give their children extra time to prepare mentally and physically for school. However, this pandemic has sparked a sharp decrease in kindergarten enrollment in public schools. Many parents are simply ‘red-shirting’ their kids, like in college athletics. The silver lining is that this could lead to less college admissions competition. The Georgia Senate two runoffs may have yielded a small victory for the Democrats in the first runoff, which could lead to a narrow control of the Senate, to go along with their control of the House, and there apparent control of the Oval Office. The longer I take to write this Commentary, as always, the more important news that shows up that I need to report. So, now, as of Wednesday afternoon, it appears that the Democrats will win the second runoff as well in Georgia. However, the new headline news is that some 40,000 protesters stormed the US Capitol this afternoon, perhaps from some urging on by President Trump that he would join them (metaphorically), and actually broke through Capitol Police lines and the barriers and smashed the Capitol windows and stormed into the offices and gallery, forcing Senators to scramble to safety and Capitol Police to hold the protesters off with deadly force. One woman protester shot by Capitol Police died Wednesday night. This kind of scene hasn’t happened since the 1800s and is certainly a disgrace for America in front of other countries of the world. Reportedly, the people inside one section of the capitol were recounting the Electoral College votes for the Presidency. No matter which side anyone voted on, enough is enough. The future of Democracy in the country is now at stake, and even Vice President Pence said that he will take the side of the US Constitution. He openly defied his President Trump and said that Trump can’t reject electoral votes. This has been far from a peaceful turnover of power, and actually quite the opposite. The division in the country between different groups hasn’t been higher since the American Civil War. It did not help things that the police officers involved in shooting a black man 7 times in the back wound up not getting charged with any crimes on Tuesday. Basically, there is now dissatisfaction with the government and the police on many fronts. Sorry, this is going to seem scattered, but I’m trying to update it, as the news unfolds. President Trump’s Twitter account, on which he was able to reach at least 73 million Americans, has been locked, keeping him from entering any Tweets for 12 hours, until he removes an offensive video. 

Bankruptcy:

Business and personal bankruptcy filings fell to 529,068 in 2020, the lowest level since 1986, and a sharp drop from recent years’ total of nearly 800,000. The 2020 numbers, which also exclude Chapter 11 filings, are thought to be lower because of last year’s many pandemic relief programs. Before everyone jumps for joy, however, Reuters says that Chapter 11 filings, used typically for larger businesses and large individuals, still soared 29% in 2020, to 7,128, compared to 5,158 in 2019 (and 2019 included JC Penney and other brick and mortar stores closing due to an economic downturn.) Also, Epiq AACER SVP Kruse said in a press release that he expects household and other non-commercial bankruptcy filings “to grow substantially in the second half of 2021.” His feeling is that many government programs will end and many debts from the last few months will come due. Plus, many people wracked up future obligations by delaying rent and mortgage payments. Congress and the President DID finally agree on a further $900 billion second pandemic aid package, which included many areas, and $600 per citizen in the US.  Some people have already started receiving those checks or direct deposits. A $2000 stimulus check is supposedly still a possibility for citizens. I was hoping that this section of the Repo Commentary would never reappear, but wishes are for… I don’t remember the rest of it. China, apparently, has turned around more than 2,000 loss-making “zombie” and heavily indebted companies (without shooting them in the head or severing their heads) in its campaign against poorly performing enterprises, according to its regulator on Tuesday. Italy is considering taking on some $17 billion of UniCredit bad loans to ease MPS sale.

International News:

Singapore police tapped into data from a COVID-19 contact tracing app.  This was the very thing that many people feared. Ahhhh, 1984.  According to the World Economic Forum, data shows that in the 19th Century (don’t start!), people across the world used to work extremely long hours, but in the last 150 years (including the Industrial Revolution), working hours have decreased substantially, particularly in the richest countries. For the richest (or early-industrialized economies) over the last 150 years, hours worked annually dropped from about 3,000 (60-70 hours per week) to about 1,300-1,500 hours annually (or about 30-35 hours per week). Iran is ratcheting up aggression ahead of Biden inauguration. The US has sent more military personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the rhetoric that we are bringing soldiers out. Homicides in South America spiked in 2020, the second deadliest year in 25 years. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un said he would expand military capabilities to better defend the country, this morning. This was during  a rare party congress and despite international sanctions and pressure. Lovely.  Philippine students have been doing a lot of climbing on mountains and corrugated iron roofs, in order to get Internet signals to take online classes. Well, I used to have to walk to school both ways, uphill, ah never mind. Saudi Arabia is intent on moving quicker than its allies to reconcile with Qatar, aiming to impress the new US Presidential administration by ending what the West has seen as a parochial dispute that only benefits Iran. 

Florida:

For the first time since 3/15/20, nearly the start of the pandemic, I successfully sang my first singing gig at Zuccarellis Ristorante in West Palm Beach 12/18 6:30-10:00pm. I did half Elvis and half Christmas songs in a 2-hour gig that became 3 ½-hours. I’ve been asked to return monthly and perform there. 

Jokes and Such:

If you all keep sending me dirty jokes that I can’t publish in the Repo Commentary, I’m going to have to remove this section.  Again. 

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