Repo Commentary-02/17/21

It is Day 343 (on 02/17) 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. New COVID-19 cases in the US dropped to the lowest rate in 3 months. Some 44 million Americans are now vaccinated.

This is 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 was released by Global Investor Group/ISF, in which I shared 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 (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

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

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

Holidays or Events (02/17):

  • Monday was Presidents’ Day in the US, an amalgam of the former Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday separate holidays in the past. Clearly, I’m not bitter about losing a holiday.
  • Independence Day in Kosovo
  • Revolution Day in Libya

In case you were completely oblivious, Sunday was the Hallmark Holiday, Valentine’s Day, which celebrates relationships, not a St. Valentine or the Valentine’s Day Massacre of the mafia in Chicago. 

Some Famous People Born on (02/17):

  • 1028-Al-Juwayni, Persian scholar and imam
  • 1758-John Pinkerton, Scottish antiquarian, cartographer, author, numismatist and historian
  • 1781-Rene Laennec, French physician, invented the stethoscope
  • 1843-Aaron Montgomery Ward, American businessman, founded Montgomery Ward
  • 1908-Red Barber, American sportscaster
  • 1925-Hal Holbrook, American actor and director (just passed)
  • 1931-Buddy Ryan, American football coach
  • 1936-Jim Brown, American football player and actor
  • 1937-Mary Ann Mobley, American model and actress, Miss America 1959
  • 1942-Huey P. Newton, American activist, co-founded the Black Panther Party
  • 1949-Dennis Green, American football player and coach
  • 1954-Rene Russo, American actress
  • 1962-Lou Diamon Phillips, American actor and director
  • 1963-Larry the Cable Guy, American comedian and voice actor
  • 1963-Michael Jordan, American basketball player, actor, and owner
  • 1966-Luc Robitaille, Canadian ice hockey player, manager, actor, and my friend
  • 1971-Denise Richards, American model and actress
  • 1972-Billie Joe Armstrong, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and producer
  • 1974-Jerry O’Connell, American actor, director, and producer
  • 1981-Paris Hilton, American model, media personality, actress, singer, DJ, author and businesswoman
  • 1991-Ed Sheeran, English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer

Daily Weird Facts:

The iconic stone heads that protrude from a hill on Easter Island are a pretty familiar sight to most people, but did you know that there are full bodies below those heads? Archaeologists earlier in 2010s, studying the hundreds of stone statues on the Pacific Island, excavated two of the figures and found that they had full torsos, which measure as high as 33 feet. 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”—Alfred Lord Tennyson 

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

$60.07/barrel on 02/16

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has eased up 14 cents these past 2 weeks, at $2.39/gallon. I’m trying to decide if I am going to keep this running list of Oil price closes or not (above). 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

106.00 on 02/16/21

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

02/16 at $1.2106

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

02/16 at $1.3903

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

1.2691 on 02/16

For Gold prices, I have decided to put this in list form, but maintain a trimmed list of dates with prices.

10/02/19 $1498.70/ounce 

03/11/20 $1,641/ounce

07/27/20 a record $1,944.71/ounce

11/10/20 $1,880.30

11/30/20 $1,774.00 

12/16/20 $1,858.20

01/04/21 a new record $1,948.00

01/13/21 $1,848.70

02/04/21 $1,796.20

02/16/21 $1,793.60

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

$48,526.90 on 02/16/21

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! Well now that’s a distinct possibility, after the announcement from BNY Mellon two weeks ago that the clearing bank plans to begin holding, transferring, and issuing cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, for its institutional clients this year. The announcement, which follows similar ones this week by Mastercard and Tesla, also embracing cryptocurrencies, propelled the price of Bitcoin to a record at the time of $48,663. However, Bitcoin has already surpassed $50,000 in intraday trading Tuesday. The record-shattering 2021 rally has extended to 74%. A Gartner survey shows that corporate CFOs are intending NOT to buy Bitcoin. Gold bug Peter Schiff has given Bitcoin permission to trade at $100,000. Evolve has won a second Canadian Bitcoin ETF as Ontario regulator approved their application. Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, remains a mystery genius from Japan. Cryptocurrency exchange Kraken said on Monday that due to the significant move in Bitcoin and Ethereum prices, I has cut minimum withdrawal amounts and fees.  I don’t know if anyone is listening, but the Relative Strength Index on Bitcoin is approaching the overbought area. 

Cryptocurrency Ethereum rose to a record $1,576.70 on last 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. Coinbase opens Waitlist for Ethereum 2.0 staking. According to one article I read, $2000 ETH price is closer than it seems, based on Ethereum fundamentals. Ripple continues to suffer under heightened overhead pressure, but a breakout is expected. On the other hand, some other altcoins, like Polkadot, Cosmos, IOTA, and Kusama have shown double-digit gains. The overall cryptocurrency market’s value has now topped $1.5 trillion. Osprey Funds has brought to the OTC market a trust that gives retail investors exposure to Bitcoin. Fidelity Digital Assets is acting as custodian of the assets of the trust. 

Brexit:

Irish FM is calling for “flexibility” amid Brussels’ concerns about Dublin’s stance on Brexit. Post-Brexit companies are facing new UK tariff regime and trade compliance challenges. One of the main goals of Brexit was to give the UK a clean slate to renegotiate its trade relationships around the world unencumbered by its current obligations to the EU. That has given rise to the UK Global Tariff (UKGT), which applies to goods imported into the UK after 1/1/21. In theory, UKGT reduces and simplifies tariffs on thousands of goods entering the UK and removes tariffs completely on certain raw goods and products. However, many products that used to be traded duty-free between the UK and EU may now be subject to higher tariffs. The EU is the UK’s largest trading partner, accounting for 43% of all UK exports and 51% of all UK imports in 2019. So, the uncertainty of what would be tariffed higher or lower, led to concerns of several major multinational companies, who moved their European headquarters out of the UK (like Panasonic, SONY, Honda, Dyson, Barclay’s, HSBC, etc.). Starting on 1/1/21, goods moving between the UK and any EU country had to file import and export declarations, as well as calculate the origin of their goods. This includes Regional Value Content (RVC) and product-specific percentage calculations. International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, is refusing to answer questions about the cross-Channel trading crisis sparked by Brexit. I’ve been writing about the problems in Scotland, Ireland, and England, but there is also a crisis in the EU, as one-third of UK shoppers have stopped buying EU exports since Brexit began. Despite the pandemic and partly as a result of Brexit, NYC has been deemed the most important financial hub globally by 60% of senior financial professionals in Asia, Europe, and the US, compared with 56% last year, according to a survey by Duff & Phelps. Slightly more than 50% of the respondents said that Brexit diminishes London’s status as a hub.

Global Financial News:

Back on the short-squashing rally in various stocks, the Dept of Justice fraud section and federal prosecutors in San Francisco are now investigating whether market manipulation or other crimes took place in the recent Reddit-driven day trading rally for several stocks, that caused those stocks to surge, displacing many shorts. The CFTC and SEC are also looking into the uncommon trading frenzy. I heard a rumor that Michael Jordan may have had some positions in some of these stocks, perhaps GameStop. The CBO says that US debt will reach 107% of US GDP by 2031, as the federal government will run an annual budget deficit averaging $1.2 trillion during the coming decade. The SEC plans to make it harder for firms to secure a waiver to continue business after they settle an enforcement case. Critics of the waiver have been saying that it is akin to a fee pass for repeat offenders. Bank deposits increased by $100 billion since the end of December, according to the Federal Reserve data, and bank executives fear that consumers will not borrow the money if they have ample amount of cash on hand. Some bank executives say they do not expect lending to grow again until the second half of this year, according to American Banker. Excess deposits and few borrowers, but isn’t that somewhat disingenuous? I mean, during the Financial Crisis and now during the pandemic, didn’t banks raise the bar for consumers to get loans, requiring higher credit scores, etc. to obtain a loan? I know the bar was awfully ‘low’ in 2007, when documents didn’t even have to be completed and compensation wasn’t even verified, and ‘strawman’ loans were given. But, it seems like there is something odd about this. Maybe, it’s not even disingenuity. Maybe it’s simple risk/reward behavior, in which the banks can make more money with their cash in bank deposits or reserves, earning some interest, then getting tangled up in loans or tangled up in trading that have new punitive regulations that eat away a profit margin? Wasn’t the Federal Reserve tackling the very problem of too many Reserves because of the US Treasury and banks at the end of 2019? Well, what do I know anyway. International brokers (including CIBC, Bank of America, UBS, and TD Bank) have been sued over naked short selling allegations from 2016 by a Bermuda-based hedge fund. Over the past 3 weeks, the Securities Traders Association has received significant input from a broad range of market participants, with respect to a letter that they submitted to the House Financial Services Committee, just ahead of a virtual hearing on the market volatility we experienced in late January and early February. The title of the hearing is “Game Stopped? Who Wins and Loses When Short Sellers, Social Media, and Retail Investors Collide,” and the CEOs of Robinhood, Citadel, Melvin Capital Mgmt, and Reddit will be among the witnesses. The hearing will likely focus on the democratization of the markets, investor confidence (which is suddenly in jeopardy), investor protection and regulations, determining what issues are systemic and which ones are entity-specific, and whether broker/dealers share an additional burden to warn customers transactionally when a trade could involve ‘extreme risk.’ A Manhattan federal judge said Citigroup cannot reclaim some $500 million from a group of 10 asset managers who received the funds in error and refused to return them. Bank error in your failure? The bank mistakenly wired $893 million to creditors of Revlon while acting as the firm’s loan agent, per the NY Times. The judge said that “the non-returning lenders believed, and were justified in believing, that the payments were intentional.” Banks are ready to work with customers to shift Loans away from LIBOR to other replacement rates. Wells Fargo’s goal of cutting at least $8 billion in annual expenses is posing a dilemma for CEO Charles Scharf, who must simultaneously spend to restore the bank’s bank-end systems to satisfy regulators in the wake of its fake accounts scandal, according to WSJ. 

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.

On 12/15/1886, the NYSE saw its first-ever million share trading day.  On 10/28/1997, the NYSE saw its first-ever billion share trading day. In 1972, Warren Buggest invested $25 million in See’s Candy, which is worth $135 million today.  In 2005, Peter Theil invested $500,000 in Facebook and sold it recently for $400 million. We closed in record territory again yesterday. 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):

02/16/21. 31,522.75

02/03/21  30,723.60

01/13/21   31,060.47

12/31/20   30,606.48

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 (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

02/16/21 at 3,923.59

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 yesterday.

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

02/16/21 at 14,047.50  new record high

The US Treasury curve has flattened since the last Repo Commentary. BNY Mellon has decided to tackle settlement failures with Google Cloud, which it thinks can help clients forecast 40% of daily settlement failures in the US Treasury market. 

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%

02/16/21 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%

02/16/21 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%

02/16/21 at 0.42% 

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%

02/16/21 at 0.76%

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%

02/16/21 at 1.09%

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%

02/16/21 at 1.84%

Housing News:

The Work-From-Home (WFH) phenomena continues, which is having a negative impact on the supply of homes for sale and a negative impact on commercial real estate in metropolitan areas. A slow recovery could hit investors of higher-yield MBS as well. Investors have been favoring recently MBS yielding 3-3.5% over MBS yielding 2-2.5% amid fears that the Federal Reserve may begin winding down its latest QE program of purchasing lower-yielding MBS. However, those investors could wind up on the wrong side of the trade, if the concerns about the economic recovery grow. Major banks spent $7 billion on government-backed MBS during the first week of February, increasing holdings to a record 15.8% of assets, according to the Federal Reserve. The White House is extending the moratorium on foreclosures on federally guaranteed mortgages until June 30th. The administration also extended the deadline for homeowners to enroll in a forbearance program. The National Association of Home Builders released its latest data, which shows that builder confidence remains high, ticking up one point to 84 in February, due to increased demand offsetting supply chain challenges and surging lumber prices. Lumber prices hit a record high in mid-February, adding thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home and causing some builders to abruptly halt projects at a time when inventories are already at all-time lows.

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-repoInterestingly, 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!

I’m sure that most of you saw the article I was quoted in a number of times from Global Investor Group/ISF last Monday.  What I went on to say, that didn’t show up, was what I thought Securities Financing individuals might want to keep watch on in 2021. Here’s a list, and I’ll expand on this in further Repo Commentaries.

Clearly, the pandemic forced the migration of workers in our industry from the office (and the money centers) to remote locations (some of them home offices). Along with the migration of schooling and other businesses to working remotely or virtually, this migration of the Repo market is probably not a temporary thing, and certain benefits were unintentionally realized by the companies. There were tax, commercial real estate, technology, meeting efficiencies, and more benefits/issues that were realized during this almost forced Business Continuity Plan.  All of that has further implications for supervision, management, office leasing, employee compensation, home computer compliance, accounting, retention of documents, etc.  

I would proffer that the first issues that the Repo Market in 2021 must address are:  are these further implications identified and being dealt with for remote trading and sales, and is our technology up to the tasks of the benefits & issues highlighted by the remote migration? 

We would have liked to have by now been able to say that technology can meet all of the trading and collateral optimization needs of remote work. But the growth of the widely assumed move to ETPs, ATPs, and CCPs, has been lackluster, driven mostly by Sponsored Repo and industry consolidation. Focusing just on the CCP side, it seems that their very existence, to reduce systemic risk, has actually led to less transparency, more concentration risk, and a self-limiting capital cap on volumes. Is there still a market trust issue in banks or is this because these were vendor-based initiatives and not community-based initiatives.  

As we look at the technology needs for the Repo Market in this environment, do we have enough answers for remote users for elements of the Repo trade cycle? The electronic platforms would be for the quotes, inquiries, and trading. But, where are we on the settlement of trades. I read that the ECB and France think this is one of several areas in the trade cycle, during the massive transfer of assets to Europe from the UK, to take the opportunity to grow a more robust financial structure in Europe, including setting up its owner operations and clearing houses. Other parts of the Repo Trade cycle that we need to make sure there is appropriate technology solutions are: counterparty KYC, documentation, AML, counterparty credit risk determination and monitoring, pricing of securities, trade processing, trade confirmation, and the monitoring and completion of trades (including coupon payments, dividends, proxies, substitutions, margin maintenance calls, maturing securities, early unwinds, etc.). Of course, the Repo participants have to make sure that collateral and balance sheet is being optimized.  

Then, there are the Regulations. Not only do we need to look to see if the technology is sufficient to overlay the mountain of current regulations. In 2021, the Repo market may also have to deal with the specter of FSB & FSOC Shadow Banking reforms, EC rumored hedge fund rules, new Best Interest rules, ESG rules, short-selling bans in some countries, potentially that Volcker rule, the Fed finally addressing the Orderly Liquidation Authority for Firesale Risk, ESMA’s SFTR, CSDR, MiFID II, EMIR, Rule 165, Basel III & IV now, Financial Transaction Tax (in France and New Jersey), just to name a few.  

I think another topic for 2021 that the Repo market will have to deal with is the continuing imbalances of supply and liquidity, particularly in the US markets, somewhat due to the Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy, but also the imbalance of collateral suppliers (broker/dealers) due to regulations and competing balance sheet products, and the Fed’s own programs, where it repos collateral to the primary dealers’ cash providers and reverse repos collateral from the primary dealers. In effect, the Fed is running a mismatched repo book, while tinkering with the underlying rates of Repo, RRP, Fed Funds, and Interest On Excess Reserves. I’ve argued that some of those imbalances could be alleviated by having both the buyside collateral providers execute repo with the buyside cash providers, bypassing the handcuffed broker/dealers and the need for the Fed to intervene, but I haven’t seen the expected or potential growth in the recent figures that OFR is reporting and that I am hearing from clients. Perhaps, it’s because there hasn’t been a community-based technological solution that makes it work better with this remote trading. I think this overall supply/liquidity/counterparty diversification issue will be one of the most important for the Repo market in 2021.  

The last issue that comes to mind is the need for distanced continued learning, the need for distanced networking (particularly in like communities), distanced tutorials and conference panels, and distanced basic training. With the pandemic forcing us from our 3 dozen annual conferences, because we can’t have gatherings, and the non-specific panel discussions, and the need for more direct Repo issue Help Desks, if you will, there is a technology need here for the New Networking. I recently became a part of two of the solutions for this growing need in 2021. I have taught the Fundamentals of Repo course for the Virtual Academy designed by Pierpoint Financial, which is an intense 11-week course from my 38-years of experience in the Repo industry, and which accompanies other course in Collateral Management, Securities Lending, and others to come, taught by other experts. The second solution I am involved in is the very adaptable Pierpoint Alpha Community, which will provide the market with experts on call who can answer member questions on any number of topics, provide tutorials, develop Q&A discussions, and will allow for networking of like institutions to discuss the most important topics of the day. 

As Bloomberg wrote, “Repo is ending a very eventful year in an unusually subdued way.” The Federal Reserve’s quick response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ballooning of bank reserves certainly calmed the Repo market. For once (I say as a Repo dinosaur), the Federal Reserve flooded the market with liquidity AND the broker/dealers did not try to trim their balance sheets down as aggressively as they have in the past. Scott Skyrm spoke about the lack of leverage being used by hedge funds and other asset managers, combined with the Supplementary Leverage Ratio for banks being suspended, as contributors to a mild year-end. But, looking ahead, that SLR suspension will end on 3/31/21, which is our next quarter-end, as well as Japanese year-end. AFME has highlighted the risk of mandatory buy-ins for fails to Europe’s economic recovery from the pandemic and is calling for the measure to be removed from the upcoming CSDR. Broadridge has become an approved SFT submitter for the National Securities Clearing Corporation Equities Clearing Service. China has amended its QFII scheme to allow foreign investors to lend and borrow securities directly in the mainland market.

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.  They just did their 2021 version virtually for the first time.
  • 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.

MSU economics professor Lisa Cook is reportedly being supported as a possible nominee to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors to replace Judy Shelton, whose controversial nomination was withdrawn by President Biden. Cook previously worked during the Obama administration as a senior economist with the Council of Economic Advisers.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Here are recent significant earthquakes over just one day! This is the most I’ve seen for one day of this magnitude!  In the last two Repo Commentaries, global earthquake activity was extremely busy, particularly in South America, the Middle East, and Russia. I have just cancelled my vacation to the Loyalty Islands, just East of Australia.

02/10 5.9 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.3 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.2 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.4 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.6 S of Sovet Tajikistan

02/10 4.4 NW of Iquique, Chile

02/10 4.9 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.3 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 6.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.6 S of Fiji Islands

02/10 4.8 S of Fiji Islands

02/10 5.6 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.2 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.3 SE of Tinogasta, Argentina

02/10 5.0 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.2 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.9 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 6.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.9 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.6 SW of Abepura, Indonesia

02/10 4.9 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.5 Izu Islands, Japan

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.2 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.0 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.6 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.2 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 7.7 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 6.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 6.2 SSW of Bengkulu, Indonesia

02/10 5.7 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 6.0 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SSW of Bengkulu, Indonesia

02/10 5.1 SSW of Bengkulu, Indonesia

02/10 5.1 SE of Pondaguitan, Philippines

02/10 5.0 SSW of Jucuaran, El Salvador

02/10 4.4 SW of Puerto El Triunfo, El Salavador

02/10 5.7 central East Pacific Rise

Weather:

There is a Winter Storm Warning in effect for greater Portland/Vancouver metro areas, where snow and icy conditions are expected. Light snow is expected in the DC area. Early next week, a southern snowstorm is possible for the area from Texas to Tennessee, including Dallas. Pennsylvania will see another winter storm this weekend. After just having snow, New Jersey will get a mixture of snow, sleet, and ice this weekend. An arctic blast, well below freezing, is expected for the Houston area. They will likely have record low temperatures. Arctic air has also gripped the Midwest. At least 28 states now have winter weather alerts for 3 different winter storms. The Weather Channel predicts that warmer-than-average temperatures will dominate by April and May for most of the country. Winter Storm Orlena hammered the Sierra, Midwest, and Northeast with heavy snow. After a cold spell last week in Florida, with temperatures in the 40s on the back of that Winter Storm Orlena in the Northeast, this week has seen record high temperatures as high as 87 degrees. Miami’s heat index soared to the mid-90s. This has been causing unusual dense fog in much of southern Florida, and a National Weather Service “dense fog advisory.” The weather roller-coaster of South Florida has featured cold, heat, and a fire watch too in the past week. Oklahoma City plunged below zero for the first time in over 4 years and just the 3rd time in 100 years. In fact, nowhere else in the Northern Hemisphere, including Siberia, will experience temperatures so far below average on Valentine’s Day than in the central US. 

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins 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 predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.  

Instead, 2020 was a record year, not only with the pandemic, but also in meteorology. There were 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. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and 2020 was also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names in the alphabetical system. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was 250% more active than average. 

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. 

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.  However, MLB intends to HAVE Spring Training, but they have not decided yet (according to my friends at the Marlins, Cardinals, Astros, and Nationals) 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. Obviously, having sung 153 MLB games so far, that is very important to me, and I’ll keep you updated. A late Friday update for these 4 teams and others in Treasure Coast and Palm Beach County, each team will only play the teams in this area.  So, the Astros, Cardinals, Marlins, Mets, and Nationals will play each other, and not travel to other ballparks, just these 3 in West Palm Beach, Jupiter, and Port St. Lucie.  They will play 24 games in 30 days.  The other 8 teams in the Grapefruit League in Florida on the West Coast will be split into two groups (Tigers/Yankees/Phillies/Blue Jays and Braves/Red Sox/Twins/Rays) will play each other 28 games over the 30-day span. MLB eliminated the use of college baseball teams in the revised schedules, because they haven’t been subject to MLB testing protocols. Also eliminated were split-squad games, which allow for the evaluation of more players. I see another ‘asterisk’ season on the way. The exhibition season will begin for all teams on 2/28. 

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. Most teams will open their Spring Training sometime next week. The Red Sox finally pulled the trigger on a rumored trade deal, sending popular outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals, in a 3-team swap between the Red Sox, Royals, and Mets. Wednesday night, the teams announced the trade which will include outfielder Khalil Lee and the Royals’ No.8 prospect to the Mets, outfielder Benintendi going to the Royals from the Red Sox, outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later going from the Royals to Red Sox, and pitcher Josh Winckowski and a player to be named later going from the Mets to the Red Sox. The Red Sox will have almost a roster of ‘players to be named later.’ The Red Sox are reportedly close to signing Hirokazu Sawamura of Japan for 2 years/$2.4 million. The Red Sox have previously found invaluable relief pitching from Japanese players, such as Hideki Okajima, Koji Uehara, and Junichi Tazawa. Sawamura would join a late-inning relief crew that includes Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, and Darwinzon Hernandez. The Red Sox are mourning their first draft pick ever in 1965, Billy Conigliaro, who was also brother of beloved Red Sox star, Tony Conigliaro. Billy died Wednesday at age 73. He was also one of my coaches for a few years at Red Sox Fantasy Camp and a very nice guy. The Rockies finalized their trade sending franchise icon Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals in what amounts to a salary dump. Colorado received 5 players, but none cornerstone types, but did unload about $150 million in future salary obligation. Nolan wanted to move on though. He had signed an 8-year extension with the Rockies in 2019 for $260 million, but was frustrated with the team’s lack of effort in building a contender around him. There are other stars who may request trades from their teams, including Yankees’ 3B Miguel Andujar, who despite being the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year, currently has no position and no defined role; the Indians’ 3B Jose Ramirez, an MVP-caliber performer at 28, who just lost his best friend Lindor and Carrasco, who were both traded, on a team that has lost 8 straight postseason games and 11 of its last 13 postseason games; Rockies’ Trevor Story, who is a 28-year-old star on a team with the 7th-worst winning percentage in baseball from 2019-2020; and here is a surprise, Angels’ Mike Trout, one of the game’s greats (arguably the best player currently in baseball) who is on a team that has only played in 3 postseason games (all losses in 2014) during his 7 years on the team and hasn’t had a winning record since 2015, while he is now turning 30 with 10 years and $354.5 million still on his contract. MLB players are going to wear electronic tracing wristbands and will face discipline based on new COVID-19 health and safety protocols. MLB has decided to once again ‘deaden’ the baseballs, to reduce the number of homeruns, believing that this will put more people in the seats in the summer to see warning track pop-outs. I think that’s absurd!  MLB is renewing the rule about 7-inning doubleheaders (instead of 9-inning games) and runners on 2nd base in extra innings. However, the deal did not include extending the DH to the National League or expanded playoffs. 

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2021 season rolls on. The Tour has been updating players on allowing family and guests at events, during the pandemic. Seemingly with the tournament in hand, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth, the 54-hole co-leaders, couldn’t hold off a huge charge by Brooks Koepka at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, winning for the first time since the WGC-FedEx Invitational July 2019. His first Tour victory was at the same course, TPC Scottsdale, and tournament back in 2015.  Despite being a 4-time Majors winner, Koepka has been hobbled the last 2 years with knee injuries. Next up is the legendary AT&T tourney at Pebble Beach, where Nick Taylor was the defending champion. It was very weird Pro-Am without the crowd, amateur, and celebrity players. In the end, Daniel Berger prevailed by two strokes, with a late eagle. Jordan Spieth was 3 back, and in the hunt for the first time in a while. After winning the tournament and the Waterford crystal trophy, Berger withdrew from the Genesis Invitational, the next stop on Tour. Phil Mickelson is in exploratory talks for a broadcasting position. Bryson DeChambeau is sparking rumors that he will try to drive the famous Bay Hill par-5 sixth hole, with his 48-inch driver, when the Tour plays the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, FL. The hole is listed at 590-yards, but DeChambeau thinks he can cut the corner, which would reduce the in-the-air yardage to 340 yards, exactly how far he drove the ball last year on the same hole. Reminds me of the news in 2004, when an English amateur hit a ball with a 3-iron on a 496-yard par-5 hole over a corner of trees, on to the green, and in the hole for a hole-in-one. Golf didn’t have a name for it and had to invent one, for the 4-under par score. They could have gone with “Double Albatross” or “Triple Eagle”, but they sounded to corny, so the USGA came up with another avian name, the “Condor.” USC standout, Gabriela Ruffels, the 2019 US Women’s Amateur Champion has decided to forgo her senior year at USC and turn professional. LPGA great, Annika Sorenstam has committed to play in this month’s Gainbridge LPGA, which will be at her home course of Lake Nona, in Orlando, FL. The Hall-of-Famer has not competed in an official tournament since 2008. She played in an unofficial tournament in Orlando in January, in the celebrity division. The LPGA on Monday released a list of rule changes for this season, including a couple that benefit non-members who win Majors. Rangefinders on Tour is a hot topic of debate for pro caddies. Wayne Gretzky got his first hole-in-one on New Year’s Eve.  

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. 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.

Super Bowl LV was played in Tampa Bay on Sunday, with the Bucs acting as home team, the first time that a Super Bowl was played in the city where one of the teams was from. Despite the odds against it and his age against him, QB Tom Brady and the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl over the Chiefs, 31-9. The Chiefs were outplayed on both sides of the ball. Former Patriots’ TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Antonio Brown both played a huge part, scoring 3 of the Bucs’ TDs. Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP, as he won his 7th Super Bowl, more than any franchise, let alone any player, in 10 trips to the Super Bowl. To put it in even greater perspective, there have been 50 Super Bowls, Tom Brady has played in 10 of them and won 7 of them. Patriots fans no doubt are still steaming about Bill Belichick letting him go, as he continues to defy the odds and keeps winning. More on this story, as there was a development on Friday. There is a rumor that QB Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers will rejoin the Patriots as QB this season. The trading of Garoppolo to the 49ers by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, for virtually nothing, incensed Belichick, who had wanted Garoppolo to be the heir apparent to Brady and trained by Brady, which consequently led to the feud between Brady and Belichick, particularly after Kraft sided with Brady and traded Garoppolo away. Now, could it be that Brady wins another Super Bowl and Garoppolo returns to the Brady-less Patriots?  The family of Chiefs QB Pat Mahomes came out swinging after the game. His fiancée Brittany Matthews attacked ESPN for posting a close-up photo of him dejected in the 4th quarter. She took exception to the officiating too, during her live-tweeting during the game. Mahomes’s mother, Randi Martin, tweeted at Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, for having the ref on her team. She was not happy with Sports Centre making fun of her son. Bucs’ coach Bruce Arians reportedly prioritized rest and days off for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, before the big game. At the end of the game on Sunday, I ordered two super bowl champion Bucs hats and actually received them Thursday night. On Tuesday, the Chiefs announced that the team has placed OL coach Britt Reid (son of head coach Andy Reid) on administrative leave, amid an investigation into a Missouri car crash which left a 5-year-old girl in critical condition with brain injuries. According to a police report, Reid said that he had had 2-3 drinks in addition to prescription Adderall before getting behind the wheel of his truck and crashing into two cars on the side of a highway near the Chiefs facility. The GoFundMe for the child now exceeds $340,000. 

Longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer died on Tuesday, after it was announced that he would be moved to a hospice facility in North Carolina. Schottenheimer, 77, had Alzheimer’s Disease. The Texans announced to the rest of the NFL that they are no longer interested in trading their QB Deshaun Watson, although he still wants to be traded. The Texans did contact the Eagles about QB Carson Wentz. The Texans, on Friday, released their star, JJ Watt, which he had requested. Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers was named the NFL’s MVP. It was his 3rdMVP trophy.  It appears that during his acceptance speech, he dropped the bombshell that he is now engaged to actress Shailene Woodley.  QB Peyton Manning headlines the Hall of Fame class of 2021. QB Carson Wentz reportedly has his sights set on one team in Eagles trade talks. It appears that the Colts and Bears are the front-runners, but Wentz prefers the Colts. The Patriots and 49ers could be dark horses too. Reports are that QB Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears have “zero interest” in a reunion. QB Russell Wilson has been vague about his future in Seattle.

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season kicked off with the tournaments in Abu Dhabi and here in Delray Beach, Florida. The Australian Open would have been played already by now, in a normal year, but it was delayed for another 3 weeks. It has begun now, and Friday was Day 6. Tennis crowds have been banned though, as Melbourne enters the COVID-19 lockdown again, at least for 5 days. Players are being quarantined at a hotel. Some analysts question if it is leading to poorer performance. Serena Williams notched her 90th Australian Open victory, after a scary first set with Potapova. 10th seed Williams now faces 7th seed Aryna Sabalenka. World No.1 Ash Barty has withdrawn from her doubles bid, due to a leg injury. Rafael Nadal is also worried about his Australian campaign, as a lower back injury keeps nagging him. 

NCAA Basketball

The 2020-2021 season began in November. The 2021 NCAA tournament will hopefully be in Indianapolis.  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.  Seven Big 10 teams have pierced the Top 25 (and none of them are typical top team Michigan State), with 3 of them in the top 6. Other perennial favorites have also had brutal seasons, including Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, and Kansas. These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 02/07/21:

  1.  Gonzaga (18-0) 
  2.  Baylor (17-0)
  3.  Michigan (13-1)
  4.  Ohio State (15-4)
  5.  Villanova (12-2)
  6.  Illinois (13-5)
  7.  Texas Tech (14-5)
  8.  Houston (16-2)
  9.  Virginia (13-3)
  10.  Missouri (13-3)
  11.  Alabama (15-5)
  12.  Oklahoma (12-5)
  13.  Texas (11-5)
  14.  West Virginia (14-4)
  15.  Iowa (13-6)
  16.  Tennessee (13-4) 
  17.  Florida State (10-3)
  18.  Virginia Tech (14-4)
  19.  Creighton (14-5)
  20.  USC (15-3)
  21.  Wisconsin (14-6)
  22.  Loyola Chicago (17-3)
  23.  Oklahoma State (12-5)
  24.  Purdue (13-7)
  25.  Rutgers (11-6)

NHL:

Last season (2019-2020) 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 the asterisk season on 10/2/19. 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 2021 NHL season (which normally would have started in 2020 and wrapped around to 2021) was 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 have already been many cancelled or postponed games, due to COVID-19 racing through some of the teams. 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) (their current standings 15-19 games into the regular season)

Toronto Maple Leafs

Montreal Canadiens

Winnipeg Jets

Edmonton Oilers

Calgary Flames

Vancouver Canucks

Ottawa Senators

WEST(and their current standings 12-16 games into the regular season)

Las Vegas Golden Knights

St. Louis Blues

Colorado Avalanche

Phoenix Coyotes

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

LA Kings

San Jose Sharks

Minnesota Wild

CENTRAL (and their current standings 12-17 games into the regular season)

Tampa Bay Lightning

Florida Panthers

Carolina Hurricanes

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Dallas Stars

Nashville Predators

Detroit Redwings

EAST (and their current standings 10-15 games into the regular season)

Boston Bruins

New York Islanders

Philadelphia Flyers

Washington Capitals

Pittsburgh Penguins

New Jersey Devils

New York Rangers

Buffalo Sabres

The Islanders placed veteran Leo Komarov on waivers. Nathan MacKinnon and his wrist shot are back on the Avalanche. The Vegas Golden Knights have debuted gold chrome helmets. The NHL is busy postponing games for the Flyers, Devils, Sabres, and Wild, due to COVID-19 protocols. After a shocking resignation by Pittsburgh Penguins GM, Jim Rutherford, he could be back in the NHL very soon. The Penguins named Brian Burke as President and Ron Hextall was named the GM. Mikko Koivu, 37, retired from the NHL on Tuesday, after 16 seasons, playing 1,094 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. 

The Lamoureux sisters, Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, 31-year-old veterans of the US Women’s national hockey team, announced their retirement Tuesday. The twins helped Team USA to its first Olympic women’s hockey gold medal in 20 years, by defeating rival Canada in the final. Monique scored the game-tying goal in the 3rd period and Jocelyn sealed the victory with a shootout goal. They also won a pair of Olympic silver medals in 2010 and 2014, and seven medals from World Championships (six gold and one silver).

The World’s Longest Hockey Game, the 7th annual event, raised $1.84 million for cancer research, thanks to 40 hockey players. The event took 252 hours, starting on 2/4 and ending early Monday morning in Sherwood Park in Alberta.  Team Hope beat Team Cure with a score of 2,649-2,528. I would hate to be either goalie. 

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.  Mark Cuban and his Dallas Mavericks have decided that they will no longer play the National Anthem before home games. Celtics legend, Bill Russell, turned 87 Monday. 

Racing:

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 began with the Daytona 500 on 2/14/21. The race was marred by expected thunderstorms. Michael McDowell surprised even himself by winning.  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. 

Travel News:

On Thursday morning, the snowy conditions in Fort Worth led to a more than 100-car-pileup, with at least 6 fatalities and 65 injured. Some of the injured were frontline healthcare workers just getting off their shifts. I’ve watched the video of the Fed Ex semi-trailer slamming into all the other cars, skidding on the ice. In Wisconsin, a man in a pickup truck crashed through the side of a snowy overpass and landed 70 feet below on to another highway, and miraculously survived, with the help of good Samaritans. The storm also led to more than 100,000 customers in Texas, Kentucky, and West Virginia without power on Friday. 

Health News:  

As of this morning (02/17), globally, more than 2,423,307 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 109,659,317 people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 27.7 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 488,352 (almost double what Dr. Fauci predicted). The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (240,940), Mexico (175,986), India (155,913), and UK (119,159). 

NYC has finally, after 2 months, reopened indoor dining at restaurants at 25% capacity, starting on Friday. Of course, that’s only going to be for the restaurants that survived the closure and lack of revenues. Many did not. More than 140,000 New Yorkers in the city’s restaurant industry lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic, according to the NYC Hospitality Alliance. In the entire nation, more than 8 million bar and restaurant employees were laid off in the Spring last year, during the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns, according to the National Restaurant Association. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only about 4 million of those jobs were added back from May to October, and the industry has sustained job losses every month since November. A national survey in December conducted by HealthCareInsider on more than 1400 adults, found that only 26% say they are already comfortable drinking and dining indoors.  Governors and mayors elsewhere in the US have also recently reopened or loosened restrictions on indoor dining, including in Philadelphia, Chicago, Portland,OR, Maryland’s Montgomery County, and New Jersey. NY State has reported at least 59 cases of the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 that originated in the UK, according to the CDC. The CDC warns that this UK variant could become the country’s predominant strain by March. As of Wednesday, NYC had vaccinated more than 1 million people for COVID-19. The rate of vaccinations is nearly 1.6 million shots per day. The two COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use each require a two shot regimen, spaced out by 3 or 4 weeks. Vaccination is not complete until both doses are received. A Vanderbilt doctor says that it is common for people to feel sick after the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. So far, 11.9% of US citizens have received at least one dose of vaccine and 4.5% have received both doses of the vaccine. That’s a total of over 55 million people that have received at least one vaccine in the US. On 2/11, President Biden signed a deal to purchase 600 million vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna, to be delivered by Summer 2021. The Federal government also announced that it is using the Defense Production Act to help smooth other bottlenecks. 

A Public Service Announcement is apparently in order, since this was actually not included on the warnings of the packaging: Do NOT Use Gorilla Glue On Your Hair. A Florida (naturally) woman’s mishap has gone viral, in which she glued her hair and then required a 4-hour procedure in a hospital to remove the glue from her hair. 

Animal News:

At the Detroit Zoo, the male polar bear killed the female polar bear during breeding. Nope, not going to go there. A NYC restaurant is serving a 2-course meal for dogs and their owners. Sadly, NYC and surrounding metro area are still under Phase 1 of the COVID-19 plan, and will have restaurants only open at 25% capacity, now starting today (Friday). 

Entertainment News:

David Chappelle’s show is back on Netflix. I’m still getting caught up on Designated Survivor on Netflix, which remarkably 3 or 4 years ago predicted many of the crises we have been facing recently in its storyline. Attorneys here have negotiated a plea deal for Palm Beach resident, Rod Stewart, and his Palm Beach scuffle in a bar. Marilyn Manson has been dropped by a record label, after ex-fiance Evan Rachel Wood alleged abuse and released photos of her bruising and scars. Longtime ESPN reporter, Pedro Gomez, has died at 58. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Eric Clapton (probably one of the top 5 guitarists of all-time) owns no less than 4 of the world’s most expensive guitars. He also owns one of the world’s superyachts, a $10 million beauty purchased in 2005. But, he’s worth an estimated $250 million and can afford the upkeep on the bauble. New Zealand billionaire businessman Graeme Hart bought a $275 million, 107-meter yacht, Andromeda, in 2015. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling purchased Johnny Depp’s Amphitrite yacht in 2015 for $27 million. She is chartering the vessel out for roughly $130,000 per week. She is making a lot of money, even though she has paused her book/movie franchise, simply from the Comcast-owned “Wizarding World” section at Universal Studios every day. She has written a new book under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Oprah has the $300 million superyacht Trending, which is 50 meters long. Simon Cowell, who is now worth about $500 million, purchased yacht Slipstream of 60 meters, which costs some $329,000 per week to maintain the $73 million boat. You have to see this one:

Elton John has a $26 million yacht named Wabi Sabi. Steven Speilberg has a $150 million yacht named Seven Seas, which he now charters out for $1 million/month, as he is building a new, bigger yacht. Mariah Carey has a $17.6 million/192 foot yacht named the Songbird Supreme. Operating costs are hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Bono of U2 has an $11.5 million yacht named Cyan. Okay, that’s enough of that. 

Technology & Space News:

Goldman Sachs is launching Marcus Invest, a low-cost digital wealth-management service (robo-adviser) aimed at retail customers. The robo-adviser invests customers’ funds across managed portfolios of ETFs and allows a minimum investment of $1,000. Payment card startup Marqeta reportedly has filed for an IPO. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase are aiming for a valuation of about $10 billion. Amazon and Walmart have told customers to skip returns of unwanted items. A lawyer representing investors told a London court that traders accused of rigging foreign exchange rates might have used as many as 200 chat rooms across various online platforms to coordinate their efforts. The ongoing lawsuit came to trial recently and accuses traders from 7 major banks in participating in widespread FX market manipulation between 2003 and 2013. 

US News:

The 117th US Congress has begun. The President Trump was acquitted by the US Senate, in his second impeachment trial. House members said that it took the President more than 3 hours on January 6, 2021 for him to issue a strong rebuke to the rioters on Capitol Hill. The rioters managed to break through the outer door of Nancy Pelosi’s office, while yelling that they were going to lynch her, but did not manage to break through the inner door. Mike Pence and his family came within 100 feet of being captured by the rioters, who were also focused on him. Proud Boys, one of the radical groups responsible for the Capitol Hill attack, is reportedly splintering now into new factions. The Capitol policeman who died the day after the riots, who was originally thought to have succumbed to a blow to the head, is now believed to have succumbed to bear spray.

Reports now say that when President Trump came down with COVID-19 that officials considered putting him on a ventilator. COVID-19 has reportedly brought US violence against Asian Americans. San Francisco is suing the State to allow the city to reopen schools amid a record number of suicidal students. One California city has become the first in the nation to give “hero pay” to farmworkers and other essential employees. 

A Las Vegas man was arrested after trying to pull over a cop. 

Bankruptcy:

No news today.

International News:

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and first African Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Former President of Argentina, Carlos Menem, died at the age of 90. Mario Draghi became the PM of Italy, leading a national unity government, after the resignation of Giuseppe Conte. The abrupt halt to Ant Group’s IPO late last year was thought to be caused by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s concerns over risk to financial stability and irritation with Ant Group owner Jack Ma’s outspoken criticism of the government. However, some Chinese officials say an earlier investigation of the IPO revealed a complex ownership structure that could have benefited the political rivals of Xi. 

Florida:

Palm Beach County, longtime in feuds with Donald Trump over his properties, his flag, and his residency, are looking at options to enforce a rule that No One can stay at Mar-a-lago longer than a few months, as the President is considering it as his permanent residence. 

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

12. Why did the bullet end up losing his job?

He got fired.

13. What kind of shorts do clouds wear?

Thunderpants

14. I entered ten puns in a contest to see which would win.

No pun in ten did.

15. How do you measure a snake?

In inches—they don’t have feet.

16. Where does a waitress with only one leg work?

IHOP.

17. What does a house wear?

Address!

18. Why are toilets always so good at poker?

They always get a flush

19. Why is Peter Pan always flying?

Because he Neverlands. (I love this joke because it never grows old.)

20. You heard the rumor going around about butter?

Never mind, I shouldn’t spread it.

I promise that they will continue to be corny or cornier, unless you give me some good quasi-clean jokes for adults…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s