It is Day 330 (on 02/04) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20).
I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. For many, unemployment benefits have ended, for others (particularly my friends in gig industries) there were no benefits. Some of us are still waiting for our second Stimulus check of $600.
I was thinking back to the early reports about COVID-19 pandemic and the contrasts made of it to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Overlaying the current COVID-19 numbers, we still see the enormity of the Spanish Flu of 1918 (which by the way was never proven to have started in Spain or any other location). Of course, there are nearly 7 billion people in the world and 336 million people in the US now.
Spanish Flu of 1918
Global cases (estimated): 500 million (33% of population)
Global deaths (estimated): 20-50 million (3-5% of population)
US deaths: 675,000
Length of pandemic: 15 months
COVID-19 of 2020
Global cases: 102,840,181 (1/31/21)
Global deaths: 2,225,302 (1/31/21)
US cases: 26,147,162 (1/31/21)
US deaths: 440,843 (1/31/21)
Length of pandemic: so far 11 months
In the last installment of the Repo Commentary (01/19), I wrote about my latest project. It is 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.
As I released the 1/19 Repo Commentary, I think at least two previews of my course and the course syllabus were released on LinkedIn. There was also an announcement made about a new members only training/networking/brainstorming/question-answering group, Pierpoint Alpha Community (PAC), created by Pierpoint Financial Consulting, which addresses many needs in our market in a creative, new interactive and immediate yet distanced way. I will be part of the circle of experts available, my course will be part of the training, and I will be participating in future forums that will be offered.
So, I am NOT RETIRED from the Securities Finance industry. I am consulting with 2 large firms about repo issues and business plans. As I mentioned, an article will be coming out shortly, with Global Investor Group, in which I share my thoughts about what we all need to pay attention to in 2021. 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), or hit me up on LinkedIn.
My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website: 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 (02/04):
- Liberace Day
- National Create a Vaccum Day
- National Hemp Day
- National Homemade Soup Day
- National Quacker Day
- National Sweater Day in Canada
- National Stuffed Mushroom Day
- National Thank a Mailman Day
- Torture Abolition Day
- Rosa Parks Day
- USO Day
- World Cancer Day
- Day of the Armed Struggle (Angola)
- Independence Day (Sri Lanka)
Some Famous People Born on (02/04):
- 1677-Johann Ludwig Bach, German violinist and composer
- 1902-Charles Lindbergh, American pilot and explorer
- 1912-Byron Nelson, American golfer and sportscaster
- 1913-Rosa Parks, American civil rights activist
- 1936-David Brenner, American comedian, actor, and author
- 1948-Alice Cooper, American singer-songwriter
- 1959-Lawrence Taylor, American football player and sportscaster
- 1962-Clint Black, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer
- 1973-Oscar De La Hoya, American boxer
- 1975-Natalie Imbruglia, Australian singer-songwriter and actress
- 1977-Gavin DeGraw-American singer-songwriter
Daily Weird Facts:
Elvis Presley is considered the best-selling individual artist of all time, with over 500 million records sold.
“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”–anonymous
Currency and Commodity Markets:
Oil prices closed at:
$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18
$47.66/barrel on 12/23/18
$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
$56.04/barrel on 01/13
$55.95/barrel on 02/04
Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has eased up 4 cents this week, at $2.25/gallon. I’m trying to decide if I am going to keep this running list of Oil price closes or not. I’m not sure if it has value and I want to trim down the Repo Commentary.
One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates). I did decide to trim this running list to just a few dates:
112.20 on 12/24/18
102.96 on 12/06/19
104.80 on 02/07/20
99.23 on 03/11/20
103.55 on 12/16/20
103.90 on 01/13/21
105.47 on 02/04/21
One Euro was trading on:
12/24/18 at $1.1426
12/06/19 at $1.1688
03/11 at $1.1937
05/04 at $1.0903
12/16/20 at $1.2196
01/04 at $1.2246
01/13 at $1.2156
02/04 at $1.2625
One British Pound was trading on:
12/24/18 at $1.2655
12/06/19 at $1.3819
02/07 at $1.3574
03/11 at $1.354
03/18 at $1.2665
03/24 at $1.2231
12/16/20 at $1.3494
01/04 at $1.3571
01/13 at $1.3635
02/04 at $1.3659
One USD versus the CAD at:
1.3442 on 12/24/18
1.2530 on 12/06/19
1.2390 on 01/17/20
1.3020 on 03/11
1.3540 on 03/18
1.2752 on 12/16/20
1.2787 on 01/04
1.2703 on 01/13
1.2837 on 02/04
For Gold prices, I have decided to put this in list form, but maintain a trimmed list of dates with prices.
07/27/20 a record $1,944.71/ounce
01/04/21 a new record $1,948.00
Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):
$8,185.21 on 7/25/18
$6,350 on 10/5/18
$3,774.97 on 12/24/18
$3,774.97 on 01/07/19
$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
$36,433.00 on 01/13/21
$36,607.50 on 02/04/21
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 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!
Cryptocurrency Ethereum rose to a record $1,576.70 on Wednesday, at the 2/8 launch of CME’s Ethereum futures contracts approaches. Ethereum is emerging as a diversifier to Bitcoin, and the futures market can be used to hedge existing Ethereum exposures.
Now that the long Brexit process has come to a conclusion, there are real reactions and fallout from the move. 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.
Seafood exports, in particular, like shellfish, have been held up by post-Brexit rules, sometimes making fresh product spoil. Supermarkets are calling for action on Northern Ireland food supplies. Deliveries to Northern Ireland from Great Britain have been suspended and may have to eventually be tariffed. Tariffs are being charged now by the UK on Ghana bananas. UK residents can now apply for a new global health insurance card to replace EHIC, as it runs out, so they can still access emergency medical care. British expats in Spain, particularly Costa del Sol, are running into major problems. Cannabis oil prescriptions are now not being filled in the Netherlands against UK prescriptions.
I found this Brexit ‘joke’:
How much space will be freed in the EU after Brexit?
Approximately 1 GB.
Global Financial News:
I just saw an announcement on LinkedIn from my former boss/colleague and extraordinary executive, Susan Estes, that the firm she founded and was CEO of, OpenDoor Securities, an electronic market for off-the-run US Treasury trading, has closed its doors on January 13, 2021. Oman is back to the debt markets, launching a $3.25 billion multi-tranche bond. ThoughtWorks has raised $720 million from Siemens, GIC, and other investors. CFTC and ESMA signed an enhanced Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding cooperation and the exchange of information with respect to certain registered derivatives clearing organizations established in the US that are CCPs recognized by ISMA under European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR). On 9/28, the SEC proposed rules to extend Regulations ATS and SCI to US Treasuries and other Government Securities Markets and a concept release on electronic F1 trading platforms for corporates and munis. The filing wasn’t published in the Federal Register until 12/31/20, which started the clock on the 60-day comment period. Companies in the S&P 500 look ready to report a marginal increase in profits for Q4 2020, according to Refinitiv Data, which is better than the expected 10% decline. This might calm concerns about overheated valuations. Deutsche Bank reported a 2020 profit of EU 624 million, surging back from a loss of EU 5.27 billion in 2019, and defying expectations. The surge in retail trading that sent small-cap stock prices soaring also fueled a 70% jump in equity options to a record monthly high in January, according to Options Clearing data. Retail traders are particularly enamored with Call Options on individual stocks. The SEC is reviewing online media posts for evidence that fraud played a part in the trading frenzy that triggered extreme volatility in the stocks of GameStop, AMC Entertainment, and other companies. That volatility caused short-sellers to get crushed on a massive rally. Some market participants suggest professional investors may have had a role in the Reddit-fueled rally. Margin Calls and collateral demands from clearinghouses, like DTCC, during the GameStop episode, protected the clearing system, but may increase risk elsewhere in the financial system, academics say, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. With fintech firms and giant technology companies providing more competition to traditional banks, Financial Stability Institute chairman Restoy is discussing the most appropriate and fairest method for regulating their activities. Rising prices in Germany and the Netherlands pushed up Eurozone inflation in January by more than expected, according to Eurostat. The ECB’s gauge of core inflation, which declined 0.3% compared with December, but soared 1.4% compared with January. BoE is reportedly warning banks about EU equivalence, per Bloomberg. Exchanges are cutting fees and rolling out innovative features to persuade sponsors of ETFs to list products with them. LSEG is focusing on Refinitiv’s (owned by London Stock Exchange Group) loss of the data provider’s market share to Bloomberg.
A proposal by some NY state lawmakers to enact a stock-transfer tax to overcome a projected budget shortfall, is being criticized by major financial exchanges and industry groups. Opponents of the tax said that the tax would be passed on to investors and pension funds and would lead to more financial firms leaving the state, taking jobs with them. NY firms and their employees are already dealing with high personal tax rates (state, city, federal), a cap on deductibility of mortgages, the question of taxability of NYC firms’ employees earning money at home in rural areas that are even out of state, and firms dealing with expensive commercial real estate in the City for employees working remotely. There are a lot of reasons piling up for firms to consider moving elsewhere, especially since the pandemic ‘continuity planning’ has yielded a successful remote trading/selling solution, allowing firms to have their employees working from almost anywhere. Of course, there are a lot of issues that have to be tackled with that, including cyber-security, supervision, retention of files and communication, connectivity, risk management communication, etc. Ant Group has reportedly agreed to terms of a restructuring with Chinese regulators that effectively turns the firm into a financial holding company. This will make Ant capital rules similar to those of banks, per Reuters.
US Market News:
At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. There has been an asset reallocation out of Treasuries and into stocks, on the heels of US politics and violence in DC.
Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (I haven’t decided yet rather to trim this list to just important dates):
4/10/20 market closed
2/12/20 29,551.42 record high
S&P 500 has closed on (trimmed list):
10/5/18 at 2,885.58
12/26/18 at 2,467.70
12/06/19 at 3,145.91
02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high
03/23/20 at 2,237.40
12/15/20 at 3,647.49
01/13/21 at 3,809.84
02/03/21 at 3,830.17
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, then backed off, then shot higher again to a new record.
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 (trimmed list):
10/5/18 at 7,788.45
12/26/18 at 6,554.36
12/06/19 at 8,656.07
02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high
03/23/20 at 6,860.67
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!
12/15/20 at 12.505.06
01/13/21 at 13,128.95
02/03/21 at 13,610.54
The US Treasury curve has steepened even more.
2 YEAR NOTES closed on (trimmed list):
10/5/18 at 2.88%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
12/06/19 at 1.61%
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!
05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low
07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low
12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!
01/04/21 at 0.11%
01/13/21 at 0.14%
02/03/21 at 0.11%
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)
12/06/19 at 1.64%
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!
05/10/20 at 0.21%
07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!
11/09/20 at 0.25%
12/15/20 at 0.18% wow!
01/04/21 at 0.16% record low!
01/13/21 at 0.22%
02/03/21 at 0.17%
5 YEAR NOTES closed on:
10/5/18 at 3.07%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
12/06/19 at 1.67%
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%
07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!
12/15/20 at 0.37%
01/04/21 at 0.36%
01/13/21 at 0.48%
02/03/21 at 0.46%
7 YEAR NOTES closed on:
10/5/18 at 3.18%
12/18/18 at 2.74%
12/06/19 at 1.78%
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%
07/24/20 at 0.44%
11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level
12/15/20 at 0.64%
01/04/21 at 0.64%
01/13/21 at 0.80%
02/03/21 at 0.81%
10 YEAR NOTES closed on:
10/5/18 at 3.23%
12/18/18 at 2.82%
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!
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
07/24/20 at 0.59%
11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level
12/15/20 at 0.92%
01/04/21 at 0.93%
01/13/21 at 1.10%
02/03/21 at 1.15%
30 YEAR BONDS closed on:
10/5/18 at 3.40%
12/18/18 at 3.07%
07/24/19 at 2.58%
09/10/19 at 2.11%
12/06/19 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
07/24/20 at 1.23%
11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level
12/15/20 at 1.65%
01/04/21 at 1.66%
01/13/21 at 1.82%
02/03/21 at 1.92%
The Work-From-Home (WFH) phenomena is expected to have long-lasting effects on housing inventory, per HousingWire.com. Yet, experts are optimistic about the housing market in 2021. Marcia Fudge vows to end discrimination as HUD secretary. President Biden is considering a $15,000 homebuyer tax credit to boost home-buying. Home prices surged to a 6-year high in November 2020. Zillow says to expect another record year for home sales in 2021. Housing Starts hit their highest pace this past month since 2006. The Obama Presidential Center project has cleared federal review, after more than 4 years. It will be located in Jackson Park. Carnegie Management is being sued by tenants for damaging non-paying tenants’ credit. Private equity firms Stone Point Capital and Insight Partners agreed to buy the real estate data firm CoreLogic for $6billion. Bank of America has pledged another $10 billion to its affordable homeownership program over the next 4 years, per Bloomberg. One year into the pandemic, Fifth Avenue is full of empty stores. NY suburban home inventory is depleted but the demand remains high. Francis Suarez is trying to make Miami the next Big Tech mecca. Global commercial real estate surprising ended on a strong note in Q4, with deal volume rising 84%. Simon Property Group has lost control of one of its malls in suburban Atlanta, as it has fallen to foreclosure. Deutsche Bank foreclosed on Simon’s Town Center at Cobb Mall.
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. Interestingly, today I saw an article in Inside Higher Ed that outlined the idea of offering people the option of paying for a 50-year subscription for education. With all the career transitions and re-skilling going on these days, a plan that covers the educational costs of those job pivots doesn’t sound that crazy, does it? So, with the Finance Academy idea of a subscribed education model, along with the PAC for continuing networking, education, and question-answering, with this article as a backdrop, it sounds like we are really on to something!
Tom Hayes, a former UBS trader who was convicted of manipulating LIBOR, who was recently released from prison, says there is no need to replace the benchmark, because it is now much save than it used to be and it is easier than changing everything to accommodate a new SOFR index in Swaps contracts.
Securities Finance Industry Conferences
The Securities Financing industry had all of these annual conferences, several for many years, which used to be attended by thousands of firms, colleagues, and peers. After the financial crisis, the numbers of participants decreased, as firms’ budgets were reduced. Some of the conferences were excellent networking opportunities and some had extremely valuable panels and current information and issues being discussed. Some of the more recent ones focused information and questions on specific sectors to be more effective. There was also a major emphasis recently by many of the conferences on diversity and women’s participation in the industry. Unfortunately, COVID-19 led to the banishing of gatherings worldwide, and these conferences were cancelled or held for free virtually. That isn’t a viable business plan for conference organizers though, as it can be costly to put these events on. So, our market is looking for other solutions to networking, discussing the pressing issues, and finding solutions for peers. Pierpoint Alpha Community is one such new solution.
- Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20.
- IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference was held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20.
- iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.
- PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.
- GIOA 16th annual conference.
- Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.
- IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum.
- Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.
- GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.
- 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.
- ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.
- Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium.
- National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.
- IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.
- Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.
- IMN annual ABS East conference.
- Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference
- RMA cancelled its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management.
- 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.
- Risk.net annual conference..
- SIFMA annual meeting.
- GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance was virtually on 12/3/20.
- FIS is held 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). 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 are: 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. 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 in.
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.
A Federal Reserve survey of 9,693 small businesses showed a general downturn in revenue due to the pandemic, but also revealed that minority-owned entities were hardest hit. A higher proportion of minority-owned firms also reported that they expect to find it difficult to get credit in the coming months, all according to Reuters. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stressed the importance of passing a $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package (No.3) with $350 billion in aid to help state and local governments, and to act swiftly. High borrowing by municipalities and states to cover budget shortfalls increased municipal bond issuance by a record level in 2020. The low cost of borrowing has made deficit funding more attractive than cutting spending.
Earthquakes and Volcanoes:
Here are the latest significant earthquakes over just the last two days! In the last Repo Commentary of 1/19, gobal earthquake activity was extremely busy, particularly in South America, the Middle East, and Russia.
02/03 4.5 W of Sinabang, Indonesia
02/03 4.6 SE of Gisborne, New Zealand
02/03 5.1 NW of Finschhafen, Papua New Guinea
02/03 5.0 South Shetland Islands
02/03 4.9 Peru/Ecuador border region
02/03 5.1 ESE of Pangai, Tonga
02/03 4.7 SSW of Puerto El Triunfo, El Salvador
02/03 4.9 SE of Ust’-Kamchatsk Staryy, Russia (I have such a weird memory, I remember Kamchatka because of that board game Risk that we played in college 1978-1979. So weird!)
02/03 5.0 E of Tondon, Guinea
02/03 4.9 SW of Empaque Tarriba, Mexico
02/03 4.9 SSE of Mamuju, Indonesia
02/03 6.7 West Chile Rise
02/02 4.9 SE of the Loyalty Islands
02/02 4.5 WNW of Haveluloto, Tonga
02/02 5.3 SE of the Loyalty Islands
02/02 5.0 SE of the Loyalty Islands
02/02 5.6 SE of the Loyalty Islands
02/02 5.2 SE of the Loyalty Islands
02/02 5.7 SE of the Loyalty Islands
02/02 4.9 SE of the Loyalty Islands
The Northeast, particularly New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts got socked with a terrible Winter storm on Monday and Tuesday this week, leaving as much as 20” of snow. It was the worst Winter storm for this area in at least 5 years. Some areas, including my hometown of Andover, MA, received 18” of snow, and had only received 16” of snow for the entire Winter of 2019-2020. Here in Florida, we had been enjoying 70-degree weather last week, that somehow popped up into the mid-80s. Then, on Tuesday morning it was 48-degrees and very windy, very unusual for Florida. The positive though is that it is 24% humidity outside here, which is also unusual, more like Arizona and Las Vegas (look it up, it’s because they water their lawns and golf courses). But, Friday, it will return to the low to mid-80s again with 70% humidity here. More snow is scheduled in the Northeast this weekend. In fact, there are 2 more winter storms in the approach pattern for the Midwest and the Northeast this weekend and next week. Denver has a day of sunny warmth, followed by a day of snow and arctic temps. That’s actually very normal for most of Colorado. Metro Detroit has winter kicking in full blast over the next few days. Philadelphia was still getting snowflakes as I write this on Wednesday, after their biggest snow in 5 years. Sunshine has returned to DC. New Jersey got rain, but could get snow in the next storm. Punxsutawney Phil came out of COVID-19 quarantine, saw his shadow, and went back into quarantine for another 6 weeks of winter. One man is dead after an avalanche in Utah left him buried in the snow on Square Top Mountain on Saturday.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ends November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes. CSU was predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.
It turns out that they were both wrong, and it has become the record worst or most active tropical cyclone season ever in the Atlantic. There have now been 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. And it is not over yet! There is still tropical activity that has a chance to form into a Tropical Storm or more. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was already 250% more active than average. And, it still may not be over! Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates 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 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.
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. However, they did take my videos for the National Anthem and “God Bless America”, to possibly use them on the scoreboard. A week later, I finally heard back from the other ballpark here, Ballpark of the Palm Beaches for the Nationals and the Astros, and they also don’t know if there will be fans and if there will be live Anthems, but they also took my videos, potentially to be played on the scoreboard. Obviously, having sung 153 MLB games so far, that is very important to me, and I’ll keep you updated.
The Red Sox appear to be interested in a reunion with one of their former relievers, Brandon Workman. The Angels appear interested in Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez. Red Sox great, 2B Dustin Pedroia, on the team 15 years and through 3 World Series championships, has finally decided to retire. The knee injury he suffered 3 years ago, when Manny Machado spiked him sliding into 2nd base, and the subsequent surgeries, left him unable to return to the sport he loves. Similar to what Pete Rose did to Ray Fosse in an All-Star Game, ending Fosse’s career. The Yankees traded reliever Ottavino to the Red Sox, a rare trade between the two rivals, and usually it goes in the other direction. I wasn’t around for the Babe Ruth fiasco (even though some of you still think I was). But, I do remember Luis Tiant, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Alan Embree, Johnny Damon, Kevin Youkilis, Derek Lowe, Mark Bellhorn, Carl Mays, and Jacoby Ellsbury. I’m sure I’m missing some. I think Mike Torrez, who later coached me, was a Yankee first, and then gave up the Bucky Dent season tiebreaker winning home run to Bucky Dent in 1978, while with the Red Sox. The Indians and Eddie Rosario are nearing agreement on a new contract. The Indians re-signed 2B Cesar Hernandez. The Cleveland Indians have decided that their Spring Training facility, in Goodyear, AZ, will NOT be open to fans in 2021. Five women have accused former Indians pitching coach and current Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway of lewd texts and harassing messages sent over the last 5 years. The Red Sox have bolstered their starting pitching, with the addition of Garrett Richards and re-signing of Martin Perez. Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr., 22, has been announced as the cover of the “MLB The Show 21” video game, the youngest player ever, since the game was introduced in 2006. As you may have heard, there will be NO 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame class of inductees. 2022 will also be a messy year for the Hall, as Alex Rodriguez (possible PEDs) and David Ortiz (DH) will be thrown into the controversial voting process, and the final year of eligibility will come up for controversial players Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling.
MLB owners finally, last Friday, sent a proposal to the MLB Players Association, outlining a 154-game schedule for 2021, with the season to be delayed by one month.
The PGA Tour 2021 season began this past weekend in Hawaii, at Kapalua, at the Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago. The distance debate is the hottest issue in golf. It flamed up again on Tuesday, amid a big announcement from R&A and USGA on the next steps of their distance study. The debate centers around whether the pro golfers hit the ball too far and whether golf needs to change the rules to stop golfers from hitting the ball too far. They are researching 4 possible changes:
- Changing the way manufacturers test golf equipment
- Changing the current specifications of golf equipment
- Limiting the maximum lengths of golf clubs to 46 inches
- Letting “committees conducting competitions” implement specific equipment standards that would “result in shorter hitting distances”
Patrick Reed was embroiled in another Rules controversy, during the 3rd round of the Farmers Insurance tournament at Torrey Pines (which he went on to win by 5 strokes). Reed hit his 2nd shot on the par-4 10th hole, his ball took a bounce and settled in the rough. He apparently did not see the bounce, and he and a Rules official said he had an embedded ball and took a drop. Also in the 3rd round of the same tournament, Rory McIlroy encountered a near-identical situation on the par-5 18th hole, except he didn’t call for an official.
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. 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.
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. Urban Meyer finalized a deal to become Jacksonville Jaguars head coach.
Now, to the Super Bowl, which will be played this Sunday in Tampa Bay.
The Chiefs had a bye for Week 1 of the Playoffs as the No.1 AFC team. The Bills, who beat the Colts and the Ravens, to go up against the Chiefs, found out that the Super Bowl defending champions, who had just beaten the Browns, were up to the task, putting the Chiefs back into the Super Bowl behind QB Patrick Mahomes. On the NFC side, the Packers wound up as the No.1 NFC team and so got the bye. The Bucs, behind QB Tom Brady, beat the Saints, after losing twice to them during the season, as QB Drew Brees had a sub-par performance for the Saints. That put the Bucs up against the Packers and the Bucs and the Packers’ coach, managed to beat the Packers. So, yes, Tom Brady is back in the Super Bowl, the first year out of a Patriots’ uniform. He has a record 6 Super Bowl victories and is going for his 7th. It will not be an easy task against the redhot Chiefs and QB Patrick Mahomes. This is the first time in NFL history that a team in the Super Bowl is playing in their home stadium.
The Lions are parting ways with QB Matt Stafford and are looking for a place to trade him. The two most likely candidates were the New England Patriots (after a miserable year with QB Cam Newton) and the LA Rams. Stafford announced Monday that he is nixing the Patriots as a trade destination. Late Tuesday, it was announced that Stafford had landed with the Rams. The Patriots did get back the Lions head coach, Patricia, who had been the Patriots previous defensive coordinator. Why are the Dallas Cowboys still considered “America’s Team” and so popular, even though their last Super Bowl was 25 years ago? Yesterday, the family of longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer announced that he would be moved to a hospice facility in North Carolina. Schottenheimer, 77, has Alzheimer’s Disease.
The 2021 tennis season kicked off with the tournaments in Abu Dhabi and here in Delray Beach, Florida. Rafael Nadal (no.2 in the world) had to withdraw with a “stiff low back” from the ATP Cup. Australia was unable to take advantage of Spain however. In the other night session tie, Russia beat Argentina. Defending ATP Cup champions, Serbia, barely won, by calling on Novak Djokovic (no.1 in the world) to beat Denis Shapovalov, after Serbian Dusan Lajovic was swept by Milos Raonic. Serbia will now face Germany today (Thursday), with a spot in the semi-finals at stake. Italy made a comeback against Austria. Serena Williams’ preparations are reportedly on track for her return to tennis. Australian Open 2020 defending champion, Novak Djokovic, said that he really wants the 2021 Australian Open and that his goal is to add to his 17 Grand Slam singles titles, and to beat the only 2 players, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who each have 20 Grand Slam singles titles. Many analysts expected Djokovic to have reeled off the US Open and French Open last year, along with the Australian Open, but then COVID-19 screwed up the entire schedule and even cancelled Wimbledon. The Australian Open would have been played already by now, in a normal year, but it is delayed for another 3 weeks.
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.
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 came down to two teams that are usually at the top (lately) anyway, No.1 Alabama and No.3 Ohio State. They played this past Monday in Miami, at whatever that stadium for the Dolphins is now called. The Buckeyes got whooped by the Crimson Tide, 52-24. It was Alabama’s 6th National Title and coach Nick Saban’s 7th. He broke the record for any college football coach. 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 (13-0)
2. Clemson (10-2)
3. Ohio State (7-1)
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)
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. These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 01/31/21:
- Gonzaga (17-0)
- Baylor (16-0)
- Villanova (11-1)
- Michigan (13-1)
- Houston (15-1)
- Texas (11-3)
- Ohio State (14-4)
- Iowa (12-4)
- Oklahoma (11-4)
- Alabama (14-4)
- Tennessee (12-3)
- Illinois (11-5)
- Texas Tech (12-5)
- Virginia (11-3)
- Creighton (13-4)
- Virginia Tech (13-3)
- West Virginia (11-5)
- Missouri (11-3)
- Wisconsin (13-5)
- Florida State (10-3)
- UCLA (13-3)
- Florida (10-4)
- Kansas (11-6)
- Purdue (12-6)
- Drake (16-0)
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 and started 1/13/21. The regular season is normally 82 games, but will only be 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. There was also divisional realignment to limit team matchups to intra-division play and minimize team travel as much as possible, due to the pandemic. However, this realignment has been discussed for a few years now. Remember, there were two Conferences with weird names for 4 Divisions of each, to get to (now) 31 teams. This is this season’s odd configuration:
NORTH (all Canadian)
Toronto Maple Leafs
Anaheim Mighty Ducks
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Las Vegas Golden Knights
Columbus Blue Jackets
Tampa Bay Lightning
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
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. The New Jersey Devils have postponed their next 3 games this week, as 10 players are now on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol-related absences list. So far, the NHL has had 14 games postponed since 1/13 start. Early on in the 2021 season (maybe 9-14 games in), the Central Division is led by the Hurricanes at 7-6-1, the East Division is led by the Flyers at 7-2-1, the West Division is led by the Blues at 7-2-1, and the North Division is led by the Canadiens at 7-1-2.
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.
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.
In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2020, Chase Elliott won. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the 3rd father-son duo to win the title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale). In 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 2021 regular season will begin with the Daytona 500 on 2/14/21. A bizarre Martin Truex Jr. retirement rumor has emerged.
Formula One began 2020 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. Lewis Hamilton won his 7th World Title. F1 will revert to 2pm start times in 2021. Matteo Pagliani was crowned inaugural F1 Mobile Racing Esports Champion.
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. 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.
The Sriwijaya Air plane that crashed in Indonesia on Saturday had not flown in 9 months, grounded during the pandemic. But it was reportedly inspected before resuming operations, according to the Transportation ministry. Indonesian authorities were able to locate the crash site and found the black boxes of the plane that carried 62 people to their death. It was a Boeing 737-500. Virgin has released a concept video showing what the Virgin Hyperloop, a high-speed pod that could travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 45 minutes. JetBlue has unveiled Epic Suites for Mint passengers in first class. Maui, Hawaii is requiring travelers to download exposure notification app for duration of their stay. Users will be notified via the app if they’ve possibly been exposed to COVID-19. Yosemite’s rare “Firefall” phenomenon is back. The Northeast snowstorm cancelled hundreds of flights this week. The CDC is now requiring masks to be worn on all public transportation. A portion of California’s Highway 1 collapsed into the ocean, after a mudslide, near Big Sur. British Airways will use VeriFly Mobile Health Passport for flights from London to the US. New York City restaurants will finally be permitted to reopen indoor dining at 25% capacity, starting 2/14. Canada has announced new quarantine restrictions and has now suspended flights to Mexico and Caribbean. American Airlines has cancelled more than 250 flights after its regional carrier, PSA Airlines, was grounded over inspection issue, which had to do with the nose gear door. They have since resumed the flights. PSA Airlines flies to 90 airports throughout the US. United Airlines launched COVID-19 Preclearance Program for travelers to Hawaii. Viking Cruises is launching a stunning new river ship so you can cruise the Nile in luxury. You can now buy a COVID-19 test from a vending machine at Oakland Airport. Egypt’s first high-speed train line will connect the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, when they paint the Chicago River (or ice) green, has been cancelled this year. Thanks a lot, COVID-19!
As of this evening (02/03), globally, more than 2,263,792 people have died from COVID-19. More than 104,248,610 people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 26.5 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 450,088. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (226,309), Mexico (159,533), India (154,596), and UK (109,547). COVID-19 continues to ravage Europe.
More countries are beginning to use the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine, Sinovac’s CoronaVac inoculation, including the Philippines and Turkey, despite a trial in Brazil in which its effectiveness was only slightly above the WHO’s 50% threshold. Canada has been criticized for its COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Canada has authorized COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech. China has reimposed lockdowns, as it battles worst virus outbreak in months. COVID-19 is taking a toll on Mexican health workers. Israel plans to vaccinate everyone by March. Iceland will allow its residents to skip its quarantine and testing requirements, if they show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine. New Zealand PM says borders will remain closed to tourists until citizens are vaccinated.
A 9-year-old boy on Sunday, died within 24 hours of receiving a positive test result for COVID-19. The first US cases of COVID-19 Variant from South Africa have been detected in South Carolina. Experts are now recommending citizens to double-mask for COVID-19 protection. The US has now hit 1 million COVID-19 vaccines on average per day. Scientists are now studying second generation COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots, that could protect against evolving virus or specific strains.
Researchers are repurposing used personal protective equipment (PPE) into materials for roads. The recycling solutions involves combining shredded surgical face masks with recycled concrete aggregate to create a sustainable material.
The EU food safety regulator proclaims that bugs are safe for humans to eat. A rare white kangaroo was born at New York Animal Park. Oklahoma may soon have an official Bigfoot hunting season, with a $25,000 prize for catching it. A new study shows that the US regulators do not know where all its fur farms are. An elephant was brutally set on fire just for wandering onto Indian property. Major, the White House German shepherd, is the first-ever rescue dog in the White House. Vegan ‘butchers’ chopped up over 2 billion beans for plan-based meats in 2020. ExxonMobil has decided to stop sponsoring the cruel Iditarod Race, where hundreds of sled dogs have died. In a mountain range too steep to cross, in Arizona, the Department of Homeland Security is spending millions of dollars to build 5 miles of border wall and destroy a canyon. Montana’s new Governor is scaring conservationists, as he talks about rolling back protections for public lands and waters. Endangered martens are living on the edge in Oregon. Wolverines have been denied Endangered Species protections. Pandemic-related drop in Oregon Lottery revenues could lead to a rise in the spiky-stemmed gorse, an invasive plant. The State of Alaska is suing the Federal Subsistence Board for approving an emergency hunt for the Organized Village of Kake, despite the tribal community’s dire food shortage. Target and other retailers have dropped Chaokoh coconut prodcuts, over forced monkey labor allegations. Southwest Airlines became the last airline to ban emotional-support animals. In Idaho, authorities are investigating the dumping of 34 dead ducks. Drug-lord Pablo Escobar’s hippos have now invaded Colombia’s waterways and reportedly need to be culled, according to a new study. Hippos are extremely dangerous, particularly to humans.
Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals have been cancelled indefinitely. Amid Mardi Gras parade cancellations, New Orleans residents have been transforming and painting their homes into elaborate ‘floats’. The list of the 78th Golden Globe Awards nominees has been released. Movie MANK leads Golden Globe nominations with 6. Netflix is dominating the list, with 20 nominations. It is going to be a weird Awards season this year. The Golden Globes will be televised with bicoastal hosts, for the first time, with Tina Fey live in NYC and her best friend, Amy Poehler, in Beverly Hills. The ceremony is adapting to the pandemic. Dolly Parton has not received the COVID-19 vaccine yet, even though she donated $1 million to Moderna to develop it. Marilyn Manson has posted a statement following abuse allegations. Silento has been charged with murdering his cousin. Hal Holbrook, veteran actor who portrayed Mark Twain, has died at age 95. He was a legendary Emmy and Tony Award winning actor. He had a prodigious career on stage and screen. In 1973’s movie MAGNUM FORCE, Holbrook played corrupt police Lt. Briggs to Clint Eastwood’s inspector Harry Callahan, and after Lt. Briggs dies from a bomb in his moving car, Callahan utters one of Eastwood’s most famous movie lines, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Gayle King’s daughter, Kirby Bumpus, got married at Oprah Winfrey’s home. Icon singer, Tony Bennett, revealed that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Dustin Diamond, Saved By The Bell, star, has died at the age of 44 from lung cancer, although he never smoked. The Sex and the City revival will address the COVID-19 pandemic. Jamie Tarses, influential TV executive, has died at age 56. Kelly Dodd of Real Housewives of Orange County reacted to Positive Beverage dropping her, following her COVID-19 remarks. Singer Kelly Rowland announced the birth of her 2nd child. If you are interested, I am currently binge-watching Netflix’s Designated Survivor, which is excellent. Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci are starring in the end-of-life movie, SUPERNOVA. A new lawsuit claims that the NFL uses race to determine compensation for head injuries. Oscar winner Jared Leto is starring in the new thriller, THE LITTLE THINGS. Jazmine Sullivan is happy to be joining country star Eric Church to give a memorable Super Bowl National Anthem this Sunday. Once again, they didn’t call me. ESPN is using new technology for a documentary to bring back Al Davis and Pete Rozelle to life. The documentary will be from the point of views of the legendary Oakland Raider owner and former NFL Commissioner. Sundance Film Awards were just handed out with CODA and SUMMER OF SOUL the top winners. Cable news ratings have tightened, with big months for CNN and MSNBC. Chadwick Boseman got 2 nominations for NAACP Image Awards. A producer who says disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped her over 7 years, says she wants him deposed for a lawsuit, despite a looming settlement. The British WWII veteran who walked into the hearts of a nation in lockdown, as he shuffled up and down his garden to raise money for healthcare workers, has died after testing positive for COVID-19, at age 100. US country singer Morgan Wallen has been dropped by radio stations over racial slur he made on a video, despite his apology. Mariah Carey has been sued by her sister over “vindictive” book.
Technology & Space News:
Google has closed the deal to purchase Fitbit, as Justice Department probe continues. It’s the dawn of a new era in human spaceflight, one in which anyone who has enough money can fly to space. Private company Axiom Space has announced its first all-commercial astronaut crew, which is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) for an 8-day mission early next year. So far, 3 paying customers, who each shelled out $55 million for the trip, are American investor Larry Connor (who will serve as pilot), Canadian investor Mark Pathy, and Israeli investor Eytan Stibbe. They will fly under the command of former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who is now a VP at Axiom Space and a veteran of 4 spaceflights. The crew will of investors will undergo an intense training program, comparable to the training of professional astronauts. In space, each private astronaut will be assigned to perform scientific research and experiments during the mission. This is a bit of shock to me, these aren’t the first private citizens in space! Seven. Others have flown to the ISS in the past as commercial astronauts or cosmonauts, and they’ve flown on a government spacecraft (Russia’s Soyuz system). The Axiom crew will hitch a ride in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which became the first private spacecraft to successfully bring astronauts to the ISS and back to Earth in 2020. Axiom plans on flying up to two missions to the ISS each year, starting with this 2022 Mission 1. COVID-19 has been fueling a huge demand for air purifiers, but experts are warning of the risks. Jeff Bezos is stepping down as CEO of Amazon. Andy Jassy will be the new CEO. Alibaba revenues soared, but Ant Group bond float is uncertain. Google’s co-founder has set up a family firm in Singapore. Bebo chief has revealed how he aims to take on Facebook. Home working is increasing cyber-security fears among firms and employees. McKinsey is halting operation of banking-analysis product CIB Insights and is investigating possible unauthorized activity. Some team members have reportedly been places on leave or dismissed, according to the Financial Times.
The 117th US Congress has begun. Chairwoman Waters of the Financial Service Committee, and its 6 Subcommittees, said that “the FSC will continue to work tirelessly to fight the pandemic and make sure the financial system works for everyone.” Although the House of Representatives is a majority for the Democrats, the Senate is split down the middle 50/50, which is both rare in American history and a challenge for the Biden administration. As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as President and Vice President last week, Amanda Gorman became the 6th and youngest poet to recite a poem at the US Presidential inauguration ceremony. She is just 22-years-old, and joined the likes of Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, with her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” President Biden is committed to the 3rd wave of stimulus checks for the COVID-19 pandemic, but is open to more limitations on who is eligible to receive the $1400 relief checks. Two members of the White House Council of Economic Advisers say the CBO’s prediction that 7 million people will remain jobless in 2021 is a dire situation and are urging immediate action, including the rapid launch of an economic relief program.
I actually heard something from an active duty soldier that sounded alarming, yesterday, that Homeland Security is preparing to mobilize the National Guard and dispatch them across the US and enforce a 2-week quarantine of the nation, under the martial law called the Stafford Act. But, members of the Ohio National Guard came out yesterday and said that the letter on their letterhead is a HOAX. The letter is circulating online.
Four people were injured at an industrial park near Los Angeles. Here in Florida, about 45 minutes south of me in Sunrise, two FBI agents were killed and 3 more officers were injured, as they tried to serve a search warrant on a suspect in a case involving violent crimes against children. He was ready with an AR-15 automatic rifle and opened fire on them as they approached his door. He was ultimately killed.
Costco announced that it will soon close all photo centers in all of its clubs. NHL star, Evander Kane, of the Sharks, has filed for personal bankruptcy, after accumulating $26.8 million of debt. He may not play anymore either. Shale gas pioneer, Chesapeake Energy will emerge from bankruptcy court as a $5.13 billion enterprise, having gained dramatically since filing. Lenders will have control of the company, ending a contentious trial. Flynn Restaurant will buy half of Wendy’s burger joints, operated currently by bankrupt NPC Quality Burgers. The rest will be bought by several other existing Wendy’s franchises. Hedge fund manager, Dan Kamensky, the founder of Marble Ridge Capital, has pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud in the Neiman Marcus bankruptcy.
According to the WSJ, Iran is assembling gear to produce key nuclear-weapons material. Israel has struck Iran-linked targets in Syria with airstrikes, killing dozens of people. The WHO is on a mission for the last 6 months with China to figure out how COVID-19 spread to humans, but no progress has been shared. Italy has begun the biggest Mafia trial in decades. An Irish inquiry has found that 9,000 infants died in homes for unwed mothers. $13 million has vanished from a South Korean casino. OCEANS 14? The US will designate Yemen’s Houthis as a Terrorist Group. China has reimposed lockdowns, as it battles worst virus outbreak in months. The US has banned cotton and tomato imports from China’s Xinjiang Region. This affects apparel imports and products assembled in third world countries and broadens the US effort to address allegations of forced labor. The US Supreme Court is making it harder for a multimillion-dollar lawsuit involving centuries-old religious artworks obtained by the Nazis from Jewish art dealers to continue in US courts. Proud Boys have been added to Canada’s list of terrorist groups. Canadian Gen. Jonathan Vance will be investigated over allegations of inappropriate behavior. Elected civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged after Myanmar army coup. Uighur camp detainees are alleging systemic rapes. Kaja Kallas became the first female PM of Estonia. In Russia, protests against the arrest of Alexei Navalny, Putin’s primary opponent, occurred in more than 120 towns and cities.
I will be singing monthly on a Saturday night at Zuccarelli’s in West Palm Beach, performing Elvis, as well as Neil Diamond, Michael Buble, Johnny Cash, Jason Mraz, Roy Orbison, Josh Turner, Broadway, etc. So, I mentioned that I put myself on the waiting list for the COVID-19 vaccine here in Florida. They just sent an appointment update to me from Palm Beach County, “everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one, however at our current rate, this process will take months, not weeks. We appreciate your continued patience.” So, I don’t know if my Ancestry.com results will come before or after the vaccination?
Jokes and Such:
Okay, I decided that since you people are only going to give me dirty jokes that would just get me in trouble, in the context of distanced learning and your kids likely at home on the computer, I would provide you some CLEAN jokes that you can share with them. That’s just how I am J
1. There’s a fine line between a numerator and a denominator. (…Only a fraction of people will get this clean joke.)
2. What do dentists call their x-rays?
3. Did you hear about the first restaurant to open on the moon?
It had great food, but no atmosphere.
4. What did one ocean say to the other ocean?
Nothing, it just waved.
5. Do you want to hear a construction joke?
Sorry, I’m still working on it.
6. Did you hear about the fire at the circus?
It was in tents!
7. Why do ducks have feathers?
To cover their butt quacks!
8. What’s the difference between a hippo and a zippo?
One is really heavy and the other’s a little lighter.
9. What does a nosey pepper do?
It gets jalapeño business.
10. Why should you never trust stairs?
They’re always up to something.
11. When does a joke become a ‘dad’ joke?
When it becomes apparent.
I promise that they will continue to be corny or cornier, unless you give me some good quasi-clean jokes for adults…