It is Day 359 (on 03/05) 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. Vaccine distribution began in the US on 12/14/20 and more than 78 million vaccinations have been administered (as of 3/3/21). The US is currently administering 1.9 million shots per day.
I have designed and crafted 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, last Monday, in which I shared my thoughts about transparency and liquidity in the Repo market. I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets. 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. 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 (03/05):
- Custom Chief’s Day (Vanuatu)
- Day of Physical Culture and Sport (Azerbaigan)
- Learn from Lei Feng Day (China)
- St Piran’s Day (Cornwall)
Just a reminder in the US that Daylight Savings Time begins on 3/14/21, in which we set our clocks one hour ahead, and lose what feels like three hours of sleep.
Some Famous People Born on (03/05):
- 1133-Henry II of England
- 1224-Saint King of Poland
- 1324-David II of Scotland
- 1326-Louis I of Hungary
- 1918-Milt Schmidt, Canadian hockey player, coach, and manager
- 1923-Laurence Tisch, American businessman, co-founded the Loews Corporation
- 1927-Jack Cassidy, American actor and singer
- 1947-Kent Tekulve, American baseball player and sportscaster
- 1948-Elaine Paige, English singer and actress
- 1955-Penn Jillette, American magician (Penn & Teller), actor and author
- 1956-Teena Marie, American singer-songwriter and producer
- 1958-Andy Gibb, English-Australian singer-songwriter and actor
- 1963-Joel Osteen, American pastor, author, and television host
- 1966-Michael Irivin, American football player, sportscaster, actor
- 1974-Eva Mendes, American model and actress
Daily Weird Facts:
Goosebumps are a defense mechanism. Our body makes the small muscles attached to individual body hairs contract, which leads the hair to stand on end. This inherited ability was used by our ancestors for their coat of body hair to capture air beneath it and in that way retain heat. It also would make our ancestors look larger to predators, with the hairy coats puffed out.
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”—Winston Churchill
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
$73.77/barrel on 4/29
$53.50/barrel on 10/2
$59.10/barrel on 12/8
$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20
$35.92/barrel on 3/11
$27.15/barrel on 3/18
$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
$50.70/barrel on 01/04/21
$56.04/barrel on 01/13
$60.07/barrel on 02/16
$66.34/barrel on 03/05
Oil prices have rallied well past pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station jumped 10 cents in the past 2 weeks, to $2.49/gallon.
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
108.31 on 03/05/21
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 $1.210
03/05 at $1.1915
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
03/05 at $1.3841
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
1.2659 on 03/05
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
$48,526.90 on 02/16/21
$58,093.71 on 02/21/21
$43,170.01 on 02/28/21
$49,207.43 on 03/05/21
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. I don’t know if anyone is listening, but the Relative Strength Index on Bitcoin is approaching the overbought area. Is what I said in the 2/17 Repo Commentary, as Bitcoin broke through $50,000. Well, it hit a record high of $58,093.71 on 2/21/21. But, meteoric rise since COVID-19 began, ended abruptly, as it corrected about 25% in one week to $43,170.01 interim low on 2/28/21. Since then, it has been crawling up again.
The Financial Times reports that the UK-EU export/import data from France, Germany, and Italy show that trade has fallen sharply, as Brexit disruption really takes hold. With France, exports to the UK were down 13% in January, imports from UK were down 20%. Meanwhile, imports and exports for France increased with other countries. The UK has scrapped the EU cap on COVID-19 grants for struggling businesses. EU is expected to launch legal action against UK “soon” over Northern Ireland protocol. The British government has been relaxing trade rules between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, without the approval of the EU. The US is suspending tariffs on UK exports over Airbus-Boeing trade dispute. Some politicians are warning about Scottish independence and how it would create Brexit 2.0. PM Boris Johnson is promising action to boost the British fish industry.
Global Financial News:
The CBOE filed with the SEC for approval of a Bitcoin ETF. So far, the SEC has rejected all applications for Bitcoin ETFs, pointing to a variety of problems, including thin liquidity, high volatility, and vulnerability to manipulation. Robinhood has seen a huge increase in the amount of brokerage-held securities it lends to short sellers, loaning out some $1.9 billion worth of client shares as of 12/31/20, up from only $674 million on 12/31/19. It’s interesting that Robinhood is also involved in securities lending. President Biden’s nominee to head the SEC, told the Senate Banking Committee that he would focus on issues including climate-risk disclosure, diversity, payment for order flow and day trading driven by social media, as well as social justice. Rohit Chopra told the Senate Banking Committee that he will focus on student lending, mortgage servicing, and credit reporting, if confirmed as the head of the CFPB. He intends for the agency to take a consumer-centric approach to enforcement. Goldman Sachs says that commodities are still the top hedge against inflation. Fidelity new account onboardings led to a 4.6% boost in profit. The US Treasury has appointed University of California-Berkeley professor Catherine Wolfram, who has conducted energy research in the US, Ghana, India, and Kenya, to the position of deputy assistant secretary for climate and energy economics in the Office of Economic Policy. It is another sign of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s intensifying the Treasury department’s efforts to address climate change. The CBOE also wants the SEC approval to modify rules after discovering overbilling and underbilling of traders dating back years.
US Market News:
At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569.
Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (this is the next list I intend to trim 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
02/16/21 at 3,923.59
03/05/21 at 3,841.94
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 02/16.
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
03/05/21 at 12,920.15
The US Treasury market’s calm could be temporary. Derivatives positioning and market indicators show the US Treasury market has steadied, after a recent sell-off. However, it could be short lived, as analysts believe that the Federal Reserve may have to tighten monetary policy sooner, if a quick economic recovery occurs, per Reuters. There have been massive jumps in Treasury yields, since the last Repo Commentary, except in 2years.
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%
03/05/21 at 0.14%
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%
03/05/21 at 0.32%
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%
03/05/21 at 0.79%
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%
03/05/21 at 1.23%
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%
03/05/21 at 1.56%
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%
03/05/21 at 2.28%
The Working-From-Home phenomenon continues, as JPMorgan Chase, according to Bloomberg, is now looking to sublet a total of 800,000 square feet of office space within two towers in Manhattan. There are reportedly many Wall Street firms who are said to be reassessing their need for physical office space amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This will likely have an impact on commercial real estate in the money center cities and could impact those cities’ revenues. Bloomberg says that tech-savvy and environmentally conscious millennial preference are poised to dramatically reshape the high-end housing market. According to survey, millennials (adults born from 1981-1996) represent the largest share of homebuyers in the US, at 38%, according to the National Association of Realtors. As my friend and former colleague, Diane Pearl, notes, NYC real estate market recovery has begun! Manhattan had the strongest start to a year since 2013. Signed contracts are up 41% year/year and February’s strength is a continuation of what she saw in January. She chalks it up to “increased affordability, low interest rates, high levels of negotiability, and an improving economy and pandemic response.” She noted that 3 and 4+ bedroom sales increased the most (+80%), while condominium sales drove February’s year/year sales (+66%), and the $5million + luxury market had its best month since May 2017 (+64%). So, it’s very interesting to me to see this surge in residential real estate in NYC, while the rumbles of falling commercial real estate in NYC are being heard.
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.
Participants in the bond and short-term funding markets are concerned, according to Reuters, that the Federal Reserve may not extend its waiver on the bank Supplementary Leverage Ratio (SLR), set to expire on 3/31/21. If the SLR is allowed into force, according to participants, it could reduce bank demand for government debt, dry up funding for other leveraged investors to buy bonds, and may increase market volatility. Remember, if the waiver expires on 3/31, that is also Japanese year-end, which could lead to even more illiquidity.
Bloomberg has reported on a study, conducted by the Reserve Bank of India, that shows certain tenors of Overnight Indexed Swap rates, when taken on average, can provide a real approximation of the markets expectation on where repo rates are headed. Speaking to some of my friends at a CCP, I see that the cap on their volumes, without another capital raise by members, is limiting their growth. Speaking to some of my friends at an ETP, they feel fortunate to have had some growth in this difficult environment for everyone. The Work From Home phenomenon certainly ‘begs’ for electronic solutions to trading remotely, and while broker/dealers see the advantages to that, buyside firms have still been slow at signing on.
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. I believe that you will see a couple more articles on that from me in other periodicals. 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 own 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 courses 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.
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: 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.
The Federal Reserve is increasing attention to banks’ actions in phasing out LIBOR, reportedly calling on the banks for details on their progress in the phase-out, what exposure to LIBOR they still have, their plans for shifting contracts to another benchmark, and fallback language they are using.
Earthquakes and Volcanoes:
Here are significant earthquakes for just Saturday!:
03/06 5.2 Kermadec Islands
03/06 5.4 Kermadec Islands
03/06 5.2 W of Fougamou, Gabon
03/06 4.6 SSW of Severo-Kuril’sk, Russia
03/06 4.9 Kermadec Islands
03/06 4.7 ENE of Gisborne, New Zealand
03/06 4.3 N of Yoichi, Japan
03/06 4.9 Kermadec Islands
03/06 4.6 ENE of Gisborne, New Zealand
03/06 5.0 Kermadec Islands
03/06 6.1 Kermadec Islands
03/06 5.4 Kermadec Islands
03/06 4.4 SSW of Taloqan, Afghanistan
03/06 4.9 Kermadec Islands
03/06 5.3 Kermadec Islands
03/06 5.4 Kermadec Islands
03/06 6.2 Kermadec Islands
03/06 4.7 Kermadec Islands
03/06 5.7 Kermadec Islands
03/06 4.3 Kepulauan Barat Daya, Indonesia
03/06 5.0 Kermadec Islands
03/06 4.9 Kermadec Islands
03/06 4.5 ENE of Gisborne, New Zealand
03/06 5.1 Kermadec Islands
03/06 4.6 ENE of Gisborne, New Zealand
03/06 5.5 Kermadec Islands
03/06 6.1 Kermadec Islands
03/06 5.6 Kermadec Islands
03/06 4.8 Kermadec Islands
03/06 5.8 Kermadec Islands
03/06 5.5 Kermadec Islands
03/06 5.3 SE of Ozernovskiy, Russia
03/06 4.5 NE of Gisborne, New Zealand
Today and tomorrow, South Florida is facing possible heavy rain, hail and even a cyclone, with an approaching cold front. This is after a week of high temperatures in the 80s. A Tsunami watch in Hawaii has been canceled, though the state remains alert after Pacific earthquake of 8.1 in the western Pacific. A rare storm hit San Diego neighborhoods in rain and hail. Rain and high elevation snow is expected for the Pacific Northwest to northern California, starting next week. Lake effect snow will be prevalent near the Lower Great Lakes this weekend. There is an elevated fire weather threat to the High Plains today.
For those people near the ocean, particularly in Florida, rip currents become more prevalent at this time of year. So, here is a Public Service Announcement from me (and the National Weather Service) on how one should break the hold of a rip current to avoid drowning. The safest way is to order a drink and sit on the sandy beach. However, if you are not worried about sharks, sea lice, occasional ocean-swimming alligators or crocodiles, and decide to go in the water:
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.
The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 of that 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 play each other in the Spring Training facility that they share (and where I sing the National Anthem at), I was delighted to sing a few games there, before the 2020 Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) was shut down about 3/15, with the pandemic. 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 another exciting (and rare) 7-game series.
For 2021, it was decided by MLB that in the Grapefruit League (Spring Training-Florida), the teams on the East coast would only play each other and the teams on the West coast would only play each other. So, the Astros, Cardinals, Marlins, Mets, and Nationals will play each other, and not travel to other ballparks, just these 3 parks 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) and 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. I was honored to be chosen by the Spring Training Facility of the Cardinals and Marlins to come in and be officially videotaped for the scoreboard performance of the National Anthem and “God Bless America”, but I don’t know at which game they will play my videotaped performance. I requested a Mets vs Cardinals game.
MLB owners and the MLB Players Association agreed on a 154-game schedule for 2021, with the season start to be delayed by one month. Most teams opened their Spring Training this week. Games begin on 2/28. Because the teams are only going to run their Spring Training games at about 20% crowd capacity, that only leaves 1,000-2,000 seats available, and they are giving season ticket holders priority. So, I thought about going to a Red Sox game in Fort Myers, a Cardinals game in Jupiter, or a Nationals game in West Palm Beach. Most of the games are already sold out, and those that aren’t, have a few terrible seats offered at $400-500! For a Spring Training game! For once, I won’t even have seats for the game at which they are showing my video of the National Anthem.
The PGA Tour 2021 season rolls on. Well, the big golf news, again, belongs to the off-the-course life of Tiger Woods. He had a terrible one-car accident in California on Tuesday afternoon, plunging his vehicle off a cliff and into a rollover. Strangely, there were no skid marks, as if he didn’t attempt to brake (or his brake lines were cut). He was said to be travelling at too high a rate of speed and that particular area has seen frequent accidents. He was rushed to the hospital for 7 hours of surgery on his legs, as he badly fractured both legs in multiple places, requiring pins and rods to be put in. Originally, rescuers said that Tiger tried to extricate himself and help them get himself out. But, now, officials say that he was unconscious when they arrived. So, his second comeback, this one which had featured no recurring back or knee injuries (or incidents or scandals), has come to an abrupt halt. Analysts now are speculating on whether he will be able to walk again, rather on whether he will golf again or catch Jack Nicklaus’s record of 82 wins on Tour. So, we are one month away from the Masters, and one of the perennial favorites, Tiger Woods, won’t be there. There was some doubt he would have played in this Masters, anyway, since he was coming off of 12/23/20 back surgery. Since his debut in the Masters in 1997 as an amateur, Tiger has only missed the Masters 3 times (2014, 2016,, and 2017). But, now there is no doubt. Jordan Spieth is peaking again, and DJ and Brooks Koepka have started winning again. Bryson DeChambeau has backed off the milkshakes and is getting leaner, and has put the 48-inch driver back in the garage, working instead with some other technology to make his drives more accurate. He has slipped from No.5 in the world to No.10. The next tournament is the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, FL, where Tyrrell Hatton is the defending champion. That started Thursday and ends Sunday. Next week, The Players Championship will be played at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, where Rory McIlroy is the defending champion. Then the tour swings down here in Florida, with the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.
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..
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. 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.
Former NFL Pro Bowler, Kellen Winslow II, has been sentenced to 14 years for sex crimes. The Browns picked up QB Carson Wentz from the Eagles, despite having QB Baker Mayfield. Former All-Pro LB Thomas Davis said he will sign a one-day contract with Panthers before retiring. Giants have released WR Golden Tate and LB David Mayo. The Saints have terminated contracts of TE Jared Cook and TE Josh Hill. Raiders GM said he would “pound the table” to keep QB Derek Carr. Cardinals GM said the start of the next season is not necessarily a deadline for star QR Larry Fitzgerald to make a decision on his future. Lions signed former Raiders WR Tyrell Williams to a one-year deal. NFL owners are considering having roughing the passer penalties reviewable.
The 2021 tennis season is now in full swing, although not always with fans in the stadiums. The first major of the year, the Australian Open was just played, delayed 3 weeks by COVID-19, and ended 2/21. Novak Djokovic successfully defended his Men’s singles title, claiming his 18th Grand Slam title, edging closer to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer who both have 20 Grand Slam titles each. Djokovic beat Daniil Medvedev in the Final. In Women’s singles, defending champion, Sofia Kenin, lost in the 2nd round. The Final was won by Naomi Osaka, her 4th Grand Slam title, after defeating Jennifer Brady (in her first Grand Slam final). Spectators were kept from the site after the 3rd round match between Djokovic and Taylor Fritz.
The 2020-2021 season began in November. The 2021 NCAA tournament will be entirely 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. The bubble teams, like Michigan State, are jockeying to get into the top 68 for the March tournament. Michigan State has helped itself by knocking off No.4 Illinois, No.2 Ohio State, and Indiana in 4 of the last 5 games. It looked like they would miss the tournament for the first time in 23 seasons. Looking at the rankings, I find it interesting that Gonzaga is the only undefeated, that Big 10 is represented by 6 teams, that the rankings look more like the usual football rankings, and that there are a few state rivalries represented (Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma). Also, missing from the list are perennial top teams (Michigan State, Duke, Louisville, Kentucky, etc.) These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 02/07/21:
- Gonzaga (24-0)
- Michigan (18-2)
- Baylor (19-1)
- Illinois (19-6)
- Iowa (18-7)
- West Virginia (17-7)
- Ohio State (18-7)
- Alabama (20-6)
- Houston (20-3)
- Villanova (16-4)
- Florida State (15-4)
- Arkansas (20-5)
- Kansas (18-8)
- Creighton (17-7)
- Texas (15-7)
- Oklahoma (14-8)
- Oklahoma State (17-6)
- Texas Tech (16-8)
- San Diego State (20-4)
- Loyola IL (21-4)
- Virginia (16-6)
- Virginia Tech (15-5)
- Purdue (17-8)
- Colorado (19-7)
- Wisconsin (16-10)
A new league, the Overtime Elite League is making some news, proposing to pay high school basketball players $100,000 salaries and a focus toward a pro basketball career, which organizers feel might me more appealing to players than college basketball programs. The OTE would be backed by a sports media company, Overtime, and is obviously intensifying the debate over whether student athletes should be paid. Overtime intends to compete directly with the NCAA for the nation’s top high school basketball players, by employing about 30 of them, to circumvent the college sports scene. Overtime will offer each athlete, some as young as 16, a minimum of $100,000 annually, as well as a signing bonus and some shares in the overall company. The company will also provide athletes with health and disability insurance, and will set aside $100,000 in college scholarship money for each player, in case any decide not to pursue the NBA. Overtime was founded in 2016 and got an early investment from David Stern, the former NBA commissioner. Its videographers have been filming high school players all over the country. The larger debate is whether it is appropriate for pro sports leagues to grab young athletes out of high school and college with big checks, or for colleges to exploit the talents of athletes for big revenues without compensating the athletes. Since 2006 draft, the NBA has not been able to go after athletes until they turn 19 or one year after their high school graduation.
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 21-25 games into the regular season)
Toronto Maple Leafs
Montreal Canadiens (fallen recently)
WEST(and their current standings 19-23 games into the regular season)
Las Vegas Golden Knights
St. Louis Blues (rallying lately)
Minnesota Wild (big rally lately)
San Jose Sharks
Anaheim Mighty Ducks (not so mighty lately)
CENTRAL (and their current standings 17-25 games into the regular season)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Columbus Blue Jackets
Detroit Red Wings
Dallas Stars (have been sliding recently)
EAST (and their current standings 18-22 games into the regular season)
Washington Capitals (have surged recently 4 spots)
New York Islanders
Boston Bruins (faded recently)
New York Rangers
New Jersey Devils
Nathan MacKinnon and his wrist shot returned to the Avalanche less than 2 weeks ago, and Tuesday night, suffered a hit to the head as he was skating to the bench by Sharks’ Joachim Blichfield, who was ejected. Unfortunately, MacKinnon did not return after the blow to the head. Fan favorite and tallest man ever to play in the NHL (at 6’9”), Zdeno Chara, returned to Boston with his new team, the Capitals, to play his old team for the first time since leaving in the off-season. As with everything surrounding Chara, the Boston arena and fans gave him a huge welcome back, with the Bruins putting a touching tribute video together, featuring his career highlights and thank you messages from fans, although there were no fans in the building. The Capitals won the game in a shootout. It was the Capitals 4th straight win. The Golden Knights just won their 4th straight. The Maple Leafs just swept 3 games from the Oilers. The Kings have also lost 3 straight.
Speaking of the fact that COVID-19 precautions are still preventing fans from attending games, it doesn’t seem to be preventing NHL teams from having those non-present fans from coughing up another $224.99 for brand-new official 3rd jerseys for various teams. I caught a piece of a St. Louis Blues game and saw an awful jersey on the players that, no doubt, fans are feeling obligated to buy. Sports merchandising (from a fan who has fallen into this trap many times before) either for team’s new jerseys, new 3rd jerseys, or for star players just before they leave for free agency, is a huge business and closet-filler. Several teams have new or alternate jerseys for the 2020-2021 season, in addition to the Adidas Reverse Retro alternate jerseys announced for all 31 NHL teams on 11/16/20. Here are just some of the new jerseys:
Ottawa Senators Dallas Stars
Anaheim Ducks Arizona Coyotes
Buffalo Sabres Carolina Hurricanes
St. Louis Blues Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Bruins Los Angeles Kings
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. Pacers’ T.J. McConnell broke the NBA record with 9 first-half steals, leading to a unique triple-double. Only 72 players in NBA history had managed to record 9 steals in a complete game, and he did it in just one half! So, with 16 points, 13 assists, and 10 steals in the game, he became only the 11th triple-double with steals in NBA history. Eyes are on the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, in which LeBron James and Kevin Durant will be the Captains drafting players. We’ve played 33-36 games so far in the regular season, and here are the current standings (top 8 of each conference):
New York Knicks
San Antonio Spurs
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. Here is the 2021 schedule and winners:
02/09/21 Busch Clash at Daytona-Kyle Busch
02/11/21 Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 at Daytona-Aric Almirola
02/11/21 Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 at Daytona-Austin Dillon
02/14/21 DAYTONA 500-Michael McDowell
02/21/21 O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona-Christopher Bell
02/28/21 DIXIE VODKA 400 at Homestead-Miami-William Byron
03/07/21 Pennzoil 400 by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas-
03/14/21 NASCAR Cup Series Race at Phoenix-
03/21/21 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta-
03/28/21 Food City Dirt Race at Bristol-
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. There will be a 23-race F1 calendar for 2021. It does not begin until 3/28/21. Here is the 2021 schedule and here are the winners:
03/28/21-Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix-
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. The 2021 season does not begin until mid-April. Here is the schedule and the winners:
04/17/21-Birmingham Barber Motorsports Park
04/24/21-St. Petersburg Street Course
05/01/21-Texas Motor Speedway
05/14/21-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-GP 1
06/12/21-Detroit Raceway on Belle Isle
07/03/21-Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
07/10/21-Toronto Exhibition Place
08/07/21-Nashville Street Course
08/13/21-Indianapolis GP 2
08/20/21-Gateway Motorsports Park
09/11/21-Portland International Raceway
09/18/21-Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
09/25/21-Streets of Long Beach
In Saudi Arabia, Six Flags Quiddiya is opening the world’s fastest, tallest, and longest roller coaster. Miami is creating a new park underneath its downtown rail lines. It will be similar to New York’s High Line park. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is giving away 8 seats for a free trip on his DearMoon spaceflight. A passenger is facing a $27,500 fine for reportedly assaulting a flight attendant who was enforcing face mask rules. The CDC has just added some Caribbean islands to its designation of “very high” risk for travel, now including (as of 2/2/21):
Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Barbuda, Bonaire, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burma (Myanmar), Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Curacao, Denmark, Easter Island, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Finland, French Guinea, French Polynesia, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guernsey, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jersey, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mayotte, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sint Maarten, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Maderia Islands, The Netherlands, Turks and Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands, United Kingdom, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and cruise ships. (After typing all that out, I’m wondering if it would have just been easier to name the ones that were okay to travel to.)
The CDC uses Travel Health Notices to alert travelers to health threats around the world and has adapted its 3-level notice system to a 4-level system for COVID-19 and updated criteria for each level.
Level 4-Very High level of COVID-19, travelers should avoid all travel to these destinations
Level 3-High level of COVID-19, travelers should avoid all nonessential travel to these destinations
Level 2-Moderate level of COVID-19, travelers are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and should avoid all nonessential travel to these destinations
Level 1-Low level of COVID-19, travelers should wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart from people who are not from your travel group, avoid crowds, wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer, and watch for signs of illness
A body found 465 feet below Grand Canyon rim is believed to be a missing man. A Delta flight had to be diverted to Sacramento, after a passenger died on the flight.
As of this morning (03/04), globally, more than 2,562,081 people have died from COVID-19. More than 115,311,727 people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 28.7 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 518,482 (more than US soldiers that died in WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam War, combined). The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (259,271), Mexico (188,044), India (157,435), and UK (124,017). As I mentioned at the start, more than 78 million vaccinations have been administered in the US (as of 3/3/21). However, those figures were for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use and require a two-shot regimen spaced out by 3 or 4 weeks. The third vaccine, by Johnson & Johnson, was authorized on 2/27/21 and requires only one shot, but its overall efficacy is less than the other two regimes, maybe around 75%. However, it is just as effective at keeping people from requiring intensive care and a ventilator. While the speed of vaccination has improved since it started in December, to 1.9 million shots per day, there are still millions more doses distributed to states than have been administered to people. One of the problems is that the first 2 vaccines required very cold storage, while the latter one that just came out, does not. You are, no doubt, hearing more about the variants of the virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 (UK, South Africa, Brazil, New York, California, etc.), which so far scientists believe the current vaccines will cover. However, scientists are beginning to agree that, because of the likelihood of more variants, that COVID-19 booster shots each year may be required, similar to taking the Flu shot. The reason behind that is that, unlike say a vaccine for measles, which works all the time, influenza shots have to be tweaked each year to identify the circulating strains, coordinated by the WHO, so as to change the structure of the vaccine every year.
And so, the next COVID-19 controversy has ensued. 5 states (Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota), so far, have decided to drop the mandatory mask-wearing, despite the fact that only 15.6% of Americans have gotten shots and most have not had the 2nd necessary shot. This is also despite strong warnings from the CDC that people continue to wear their masks. These states will join 11 other states (Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee) that never required face coverings statewide. I personally think it is putting people who haven’t had the shots at unnecessary risk (like me). I’m hoping to be in the next group that gets the shots, which will allow me to go back into my formal gym, instead of makeshift one at home. The Governor of Texas responded to criticism of ending the mandatory mask wearing, saying, “We no longer need government running our lives.” On 3/10, the mask order will end in Texas and businesses can reopen at full capacity. Texas and Mississippi’s announcements of lifting the mandate on 3/10 and 4/9 respectively and allowing businesses to operate at full capacity, were decisions slammed by President Joe Biden as “Neanderthal thinking.” A spokesman for the Neanderthals, formerly employed by GEICO, found the President’s remarks offensive and prejudiced and is considering legal action to change the name of the Neanderthals to “Hairy Hominids”, to remove the negative connotation about their intelligence, which they have endured for tens of thousands of years, originally from the Cro-Magnons. Some states are now prioritizing obesity patients for the COVID-19 vaccine. California will open outdoor attractions in April.
Zoom Fatigue is a new real malady. Looking at the CDC website, I see that there is a Level-3 travel advisory for Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, due to outbreaks of Ebola. It also recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Venezuela, due to outbreaks of infections diseases and inadequate healthcare. The CDC also has a Level-2 travel advisory for Asia and Africa, due to polio outbreaks, and recommends travelers be vaccinated fully against polio. There is also an outbreak of Yellow Fever in Nigeria.
Okay, let’s start with this. Lady Gaga’s dogwalker was shot by a semiautomatic gun, and 2 French bulldogs of her 3 dogs in his charge were stolen by a madman! Police think this could become more commonplace, because Gaga decided to put up a $500,000 reward for the return of the dogs. Magically, they reappeared on Gaga’s doorstep. The dogwalker survived (and should get some kind of medal). He saved one of the dogs from being dogknapped. The scene took place in Los Angeles, not too far from where Lady Gaga filmed the 3 dogs dressed up in Chia pet costumes for Halloween. I think you get where I am going with this. Just post on social media your most precious belongings and then when you are not at home. Starbucks has introduced plant-based Impossible breakfast sandwich in the US. China has upgraded pangolin protections and removed its scales from traditional medicine list. California protections for farmed animals have been upheld in court yet again. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) published a report that focused on the intensive animal agriculture as a major risk factor in the rise of new pandemics. Scientists are monitoring pets, livestock, and wildlife to work out where SARS-CoV-2 could hide and whether it could resurge. Scientists are worried that the virus could leap from people into wild animals, especially after a healthy wild mink last month tested positive in Utah. Strong evidence suggests that the virus originated in horseshoe bats and eventually jumped to humans. Jumping back to wild animals could take us full circle. Those free-roaming infected animals could then become a source of new flare-ups. It’s already been seen in domesticated and captured animals, such as cats, dogs, pumas, gorillas, snow leopards, and farmed mink. Denver animal control is investigating a video of a dog being dragged by a moving pickup truck. 23 more dogs were seized from a man already facing 75 animal cruelty charges. Scientists have discovered a giant, luminous deep-sea predator: sharks that glow in the dark. A cat that vanished 15 years ago has been reunited with the owner. The bad news is that it already coughed up 3 weird hairballs! Florida veterinarians remove a shoe from the stomach of a hungry crocodile. That’s just to remind you that we have crocodiles, along with the alligators, and actually a few caiman from South America. Enjoy your time here. My buddy was fishing my spot on the neighboring golf course the other day and caught 4 cottonmouth snakes. Not something you want to deal with. We have 5 poisonous snake species here in Florida, to go along with the panthers, 2 poisonous spiders, bears, crocodiles, caiman, alligators, and of course sharks. And, stay away from boar and deer. ‘undervalued’ freshwater fish are in decline with a third of species facing extinction in the world. By now you heard, (and I left it to the end for various reasons), an Alaska woman was attacked by a bear while using her outhouse, from below. On 2/13/21, the woman sat down on the outhouse toilet and a bear bit her. Her brother heard her screaming and rushed 150 feet from the ‘yurt’ to tend to her wound. They thought she had been bitten by a squirrel or a mink. Wait a minute, how many different species may attack you in an outhouse ‘from below’??? okay, I really just thought of this, I couldn’t use an outhouse now, or maybe even a toilet, without a buttler. LOL! Some Alaskan animal authorities think that she may actually have been swatted by the bear’s paw and huge claws, rather than bitten, not that that makes it any better. I keep seeing the pictures of Floridians who get a surprise by a large python or boa that wind up in their toilets or biting them from below. Now, I’m going to be thinking about bears too!
Netflix has decided not to make a Season 2 for Queen’s Gambit, a top 20 series of 159 Netflix series, according to Rotten Tomatoes, and one of 14 series I have binge-watched during the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, I want things to continue, like The Mandalorian (Disney+), Ozarks (Netflix), The Crown (Netflix), Away (Netflix), etc. But, I think the ending of Queen’s Gambit was perfect and that they are stopping while they are still on top. Away was not renewed either, but it too had reached its objective, literally landing on Mars, so it was a logical ending for the series. Eddie Murphy’s COMING 2 AMERICA is being released soon. The first was a cult classic, regarding the fictional kingdom Zamunda. The original cast returns, except one actress who has passed. The reviews are mixed because the sequel, with a nod to modern sensibilities and movements, isn’t nearly as funny or edgy as the original. There are some really cool cameos and notably, Gladys Knight, albeit Pip-less. WandaVision capped off Marvel’s version of a love story with an emotional finale. I haven’t gotten into this one yet. Lamar Odom got emotional watching the show Khloe & Lamar. Kind of along the same subject line, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have announced that they are getting divorced. Did they finish naming their kids by all points of the compass? I hate to come up with 3 Kardashian news items in the same Repo Commentary (Kardashian overload), but the Kardashians have decided to end their reality show after this season. Paris Hilton got a rare apology from comedienne Sarah Silverman for her jokes about jail. So far, six books written by Dr. Seuss have been removed from childrens’ curriculums, because they have been deemed offensive to a number of groups of readers. The SAG Awards will be a one-hour pre-taped TV special this year. Janet Jackson’s two-part documentary is set to air on A&E and Lifetime. Jennette McCurdy, star of iCarly, has quit acting and resents her career. John Oates of Hall & Oates has revived a music festival to fight pandemic-related hunger crisis. Maria Bello says goodbye to NCIS. The Golden Globe ratings sunk to a record low, sounding a warning to the upcoming Oscars. Didn’t we think some 38 annual awards shows was way more than enough anyway? It seems the entertainment industry was now giving out ‘participation awards’. Chris Harrison, infamous host of ABC’s The Bachelor franchise, has stepped aside from the show temporarily and apologized on Good Morning America to Michael Strahan, but did not explain why he defended contestant Rachael Kirkconnell’s antebellum plantation-themed photos from 2018 during an interview with former Bachelorettestar and current Extra host Rachel Lindsay. He said, “I’m sorry to Rachel Lindsay and the black community.” He said that he now believes, “Antebellum parties are not OK. Past, present, and future, knowing what that represents is unacceptable.” Lindsay is now reportedly being bullied online, and Harrison addressed that as well, urging Bachelor Nation fans to stop “throwing hate” at her. Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s daughter is now a billionaire. Julia Roberts’ daughter has turned 16 and is the spitting image of her mom. Nicolas Cage, 57, has tied the knot for the 5thtime.
Technology & Space News:
NASA’s Perseverance rover, carrying the Ingenuity helicopter, successfully landed on Mars. Assuming all goes well, it will return to Earth in 10 years. PayPal is reportedly in early discussions to purchase Curv, a specialist in digital currency transfers and storage, per Bloomberg. Swedish payments startup, Klarna, raised $1 billion in a round of funding that almost tripled its valuation to $31 billion, making it the most valuable startup in Europe. The company’s CEO said Klarna is considering going public through a direct listing. The mobile phone games business has really taken off. Over 2.5 billion people play mobile games every day (I play Words With Friends). But, just like movies, producing a blockbuster is not that easy. Google recently shut down its Stadia gaming studio and Amazon’s studio is struggling to produce a hit. Frank Gibeau’s turnaround of Zynga has been extraordinary, in light of the difficulty others have faced. He has quintupled Zynga’s share price and more than doubled its revenues, since he took over in 2016. Zynga was founded in 2007, and saw early success with Farmville and Zynga poker on Facebook. But, they were slow to get into mobile games. In 2013, co-founder and CEO Mark Pincus turned the helm over to Microsoft’s Don Mattrick, but by 2015, Pincus returned to the helm. Then, he found Frank from EA Mobile. Frank prioritized building out mobile games. Now he is in growth mode, buying Peak Game’s card games division, Gram Games, and 80% of Small Giant Games. In 2020, Zynga bought the rest of Peak Games and 80% of Rollic games. At the end of 2020, Zynga issued $875 million in convertible notes, to replenish its acquisition war chest. In Q4 2020, Zynga had a record profit of $616 million. And, by the way, Zynga owns Words With Friends. Microsoft is trying to take Zoom meetings to the next level with hologram meetings. That reminds me of STAR WARS Jedi Council meetings. The US is warning of an “active threat”, as Microsoft identified a State-sponsored group operating out of China that is breaching its email servers.
The Biden administration made changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) aimed at reaching underserved communities, however the program does not REQUIRE collection of the key demographic data to gauge the program’s effectiveness. The SBA is now asking applicants to voluntarily submit demographic information. Democratic Congressman Swalwell is suing President Trump over alleged role in inciting the violence. Capitol Police are requesting that the thousands of National Guardsmen stay for another 60 days. The Unemployment Rate fell to 6.2% last month. The US Senate has passed the latest $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. It has lowered the maximum annual income for citizens to qualify for a $1400 check this time. Also, this relief bill will focus more on the municipalities. More than 4,000 migrant children were transferred in January to the custody of the US Office of Refugee Resettlement, under the Biden administration, away from their relatives.
No news today.
Porfirije was enthroned as the 46th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church. About 300 girls were kidnapped from a secondary school by armed bandits, and later released, in Zamfara, Nigeria. Hundreds of people gathered in an illegal COVID-19 protest in Stockholm. The Pope denounced extremism on his historic visit to Iraq, just days after Iran retaliated against a US base in Syria with a dozen rockets. The Pope held the first mass in Iraq. Mardi Gras is being held in Sydney, Australia.
Mar-a-Lago news again, as a costly dismantling job was done on-property to remove the helipad that had been installed for President Trump, so that he could land at an air force base near Satellite Beach and take the chopper Marine One to Mar-a-Lago, whenever he came down here. Instead, he chose to fly into the commercial airport, Palm Beach International, with AirForce One, and disturb all the airplane and local vehicle traffic to get to the resort each time. Just pointing out that, after a year of having every concert and event in Florida cancelled, some things are being held this year. Spring Training for MLB has begun with stadiums at 15-20% capacity, due to COVID-19. Some concerts are coming to Florida. The Palm Beach International Boat Show will be held 3/25-3/28 on Flagler Drive. SunFest has been cancelled again. But, the Honda Classic at PGA National, in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, will be held on 3/15-3/21.
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
21. Two windmills are standing on a wind farm. One asks, ‘What’s your favorite kind of music?’
The other replies, ‘I’m a big metal fan.’
22. The first rule of the Alzheimer’s club is…
Wait, where are we again?
23. I took the shell off of my racing snail, thinking it would make him faster.
But if anything, it made him more sluggish.
24. What do you get from a pampered cow?
25. How does NASA organize a party?
26. What’s the best thing about Switzerland?
I don’t know, but the flag is a big plus.
27. You know, it was so cold in D.C. the other day, I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets.
28. How many tickles does it take to get an octopus to laugh?
29. Why doesn’t Dracula have any friends?
Well, honestly, he’s a real pain in the neck.
30. My teachers told me I’d never amount to much since I procrastinate so much.
I told them, “Just you wait!”I promise that they will continue to be corny or cornier, unless you give me some good quasi-clean jokes for adults…