Repo Commentary-07/02/21

I have designed and crafted an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training/e education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here:  https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

I am NOT RETIRED from the Securities Finance industry. 

  • I have completed the above Pierpoint Finance Academy course on Repo Fundamentals. Our new normal of e-Learning.
  • I am periodically consulting with 2 large firms about repo issues and business plans.  
  • I am sharing my opinion and expertise with the industry in articles in various periodicals. 
  • I am consulting with an electronic trading platform, potentially for Repo.\
  • I just consulted with a research team on electronic platforms for Repo. 
  • I am participating as the Repo expert for the Pierpoint Alpha Community (PAC)- training/networking/brainstorming/question-answering group, Pierpoint Alpha Community (PAC), and subsequent forums.
  • I was the panel moderator for a panel on trends in Financial Technology, pre- and post-Pandemic, for a virtual conference held by Securities Finance Times on 5/6. Honored to be working with thought leaders from MarketAccess, GLMX, and Broadridge. 
  • I was interviewed by my former colleague, one time COO of Cantor Fitzgerald, Ari Schonbrun, for his wildly popular (top 5% in the world) Apple podcast “Whispers and Bricks”. Here it is at: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jeff-kidwell-repo-expert-and-movie-buff/id1553840938?i=1000515889833

Kidwell Consultants, LLC is available FOR HIRE as a consultant. I’m actually not that busy (for me) at the moment.  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 (jeff@kidwellconsultants.com) or (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  in entertaining (70-80%) you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. You have more than enough stress already!  Feel free, as always, to send me information, comments or pictures, to make it better! 

Holidays or Events (07/01):

  • American Zoo Day
  • Blink-182 Day
  • Canada Day/Dominion Day
  • Devotion to Duty Day
  • Early Bird Day
  • International Chicken Wing Day
  • International Joke Day (don’t forget that there are jokes now at the end of the Commentary)
  • International Reggae Day
  • National Creative Ice Cream Flavor Day
  • National Financial Freedom Day
  • National Gingersnap Day
  • National Postal Workers Day
  • Zip Code Day
  • US Postage Stamp Day
  • National Television Heritage Day
  • Second Half of the New Year Day
  • Armed Forces Day in Singapore
  • Children’s Day in Pakistan
  • Communist Party of China Founding Day
  • Day of Officials and Civil Servants in Hungary
  • Doctors’ Day in India
  • Emancipation Day in Netherlands Antilles
  • Engineer’s Day in Bahrain and Mexico
  • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day in Hong Kong and China
  • Independence Day in Burundi (from Belgium)
  • Independence Day in Rwanda
  • Independence Day in Somalia
  • International Tartan Day
  • July Morning in Bulgaria
  • Keti Koti (Emancipation Day) in Suriname
  • Madeira Day in Madeira, Portugal
  • Moving Day (Quebec) in Canada
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Memorial Day
  • Republic Day in Ghana
  • Sir Seretse Khama Day in Botswana
  • Territory Day in British Virgin Islands
  • The first day of Van Mahotsav, celebrated until 7/7 in India

This weekend marks the 4th of July holiday in the United States of America, which is a celebration of Independence Day. US markets will be closed.

Some Famous People Born on (07/01):

  • 1534-Frederick II of Denmark
  • 1807-Thomas Green Clemson, American politician and educator, founded Clemson University
  • 1899-Thomas A. Dorsey, American pianist and composer
  • 1899-Charles Laughton, English-American actor and director
  • 1906-Estee Lauder, American businesswoman, co-founder of Estee Lauder Companies
  • 1912-David Brower, American environmentalist, founded Sierra Club Foundation
  • 1915-Willie Dixon, American blues singer-songwriter, bass player, guitarist and producer
  • 1916-Olivia de Havilland, British-American actress
  • 1931-Leslie Caron, French actress and dancer
  • 1934-Jamie Farr, American actor
  • 1936-Wally Amos, American entrepreneur and founder of Famous Amos
  • 1939-Karen Black, American actress
  • 1941-Rod Gilbert, Canadian-American hockey player
  • 1941-Myron Scholes, Canadian-American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate, co-author Black-Scholes Principle
  • 1941-Twyla Tharp, American dancer and choreographer
  • 1942-Genevieve Bujold, Canadian actress
  • 1945-Debbie Harry, American singer-songwriter (Blondie) and actress
  • 1951-Terrence Mann, American actor, singer and dancer
  • 1952-Dan Aykroyd, Canadian actor, producer and screenwriter
  • 1960-Evelyn “Champagne” King, American soul/disco singer
  • 1961-Carl Lewis, American long jumper and runner
  • 1961-Diana, Princess of Wales
  • 1967-Pamela Anderson, Canadian-American model and actress
  • 1971-Missy Elliott, American rapper, producer, dancer and actress

It’s Tom Sapio’s (and my) birthday month. My former partner and I share the 11thof the month, four years apart.

Daily Weird Facts:

Actor Liam Neeson was an amateur boxing champion, a forklift driver for Guinness and dropped out of a degree in Computer Science, all before the age of 25. 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”—Nelson Mandela 

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

$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 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$50.70/barrel on 01/04/21

$66.34/barrel on 03/05

$61.30/barrel on 04/01

$63.68/barrel on 05/13

$72.25/barrel on 06/15

$74.86/barrel on 07/02

The price of Oil continues to march higher. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station moved 10 cents higher in the past 2 weeks, at $2.98/gallon. However, gasoline prices have been rising faster in surrounding areas and in the country. Exxon Mobil has found itself in the crosshairs of activist investors seeking climate accountability. A lobbyist and Greenpeace have put the company in the news and Big Oil’s central role in accelerating global warming. 

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:

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

110.63 on 04/01/21

108.61 on 04/28/21

109.47 on 05/13/21

110.05 on 06/15/21

111.44 on 07/02/21

One Euro was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.1426 

12/06/19 at $1.1688

03/11/20 at $1.1937

05/04 at $1.0903

12/16/20 at $1.2196

02/04 at $1.2625

04/01 at $1.1774

04/28 at $1.2123

05/13 at $1.2077

06/15 at $1.2127

07/02 at $1.1822

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.2655 

12/06/19 at $1.3819

02/07/20 at $1.3574

03/24 at $1.2231

12/16/20 at $1.3494

02/16 at $1.3903

04/01 at $1.3832

04/28 at $1.3942

05/13 at $1.4045

06/15 at $1.4083

07/02 at $1.3743

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24/18

1.2530 on 12/06/19

1.2390 on 01/17/20

1.3540 on 03/18

1.2752 on 12/16/20

1.2548 on 04/01

1.2315 on 04/28

1.2160 on 05/13

1.2186 on 06/15

1.2417 on 07/02

With data showing reemerging inflation and the Fed’s concern about inflation, precious metals, a historic hedge against inflation may become a popular topic again soon. Interestingly, the number of people in the US invested in Gold and Silver is far less than those invested in Equities.  In fact, while about 50% of Americans invest, only 10.8% of the population owns Gold and only about 11.6% of the country owns Silver. Gold prices:

10/02/19 $1498.70/ounce 

03/11/20 $1,641/ounce

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

11/30/20 $1,774.00 

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

03/05/21 $1,698.70

04/01/21 $1,730.00

04/28/21 $1,782.20

05/13/21 $1,826.20

06/15/21 $1,859.90

07/02/21 $1,789.00

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

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$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

$58,979.60 on 04/01/21

$54,886.50 on 04/28/21

$54,242.00 on 05/12/21

$39,804.90 on 06/15/21

$33,039.30 on 07/02/21

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.  On 4/15/21, it hit a high of $63,237.  It has since made more than a 30% correction. I am not hearing as much grief from all the 20 and 30-year-olds down here. 

Cryptocurrency advocates and critics have broadly welcomed the Basel Committee’s stated intention to subject digital currencies to more stringent oversight than other assets, per FT. UK financial regulator has barred Crypto Exchange Binance Markets and ordered them to cease operations. 

Brexit:

Another deadline has just passed, June 30, 2021, when most EU citizens had to apply to live permanently in the UK as settled residents. Over 6 million EU citizens have applied to settle in post-Brexit UK.  Post-Brexit talks on London access to EU have stalled. Brexit and COVID-19 have caused a huge jump in pay for lorry (truck) drivers. A lorry driver shortage is threatening the German confectionery giant Haribo, in getting their supplies of Goldbears and Tangfastics to UK shops. The EU has postponed ban on British meat sales in Northern Ireland. The import protection for the UK steel industry was set to expire, but the UK made a last-ditch extension. New UK law, the Subsidy Control Bill, will replace EU-wide rules on government assistance to firms. The mobile phone operator EE is reintroducing Europe roaming charges for new UK customers to use their phones in Europe. Many think that the new Northern Ireland Protocol has broken the union of the United Kingdom. 

Global Financial News:

UBS has announced that it will allow some two-thirds of employees to adopt a permanent hybrid week, developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Luxembourg fund management trade association, ALFI, re-elected Corinne Lamesch as its chairperson for another 2 years. ESMA has registered the first 2 Securities Repositories under the European Securitisation Regulations. Bank of England confirmed that it took supervisory action against Euroclear UK and Ireland, following a settlement outage. German banks have reportedly completed an OTC interest rate derivatives trade using the digital smart contract.  Sinara Group has extended its international coverage through a Cyprus-registered holding company, which plans then on acquiring brokerage firms in the EU and the UK to expand its services to Russian and International clients. MJ Hudson, a buyside consultant firm, has bought Clarus Risk, a regtech company, to assist with private asset risk and automated regulatory reporting. BNP Paribas has signed a 10-year agreement with FIS Cleared Derivatives suite. It was a blockbuster IPO day, which produced huge gains for Uber, Delta Air Lines, and tech venture capital firms. Hex Trust has secured an investment from Cyberport, a fintech hub in Hong Kong, which is wholly owned by the Hong Kong SAR Government. Northern Trust has launched a machine learning-powered document capture capability as the foundation of a multi-year investment to digitize alternative asset servicing. The world took a big step toward sweeping changes to global taxation, according to Bloomberg, as 130 countries and jurisdictions endorsed setting a minimum tax rate for corporations, along with rules to share the tax revenue from multinational corporations like Facebook and Google. However, Wall Street corporations may receive exemptions. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. The specter of inflation and potential for future Fed tightening spooked the stock market, after the FOMC meeting announcement on 6/16/21. However, the resilient stock market recovered and continued its rally.  

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):

07/01/21  34,633.53 

05/12/21  33,587.66

03/31/21  32,981.55

01/13/21   31,060.47

12/31/20   30,606.48

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/22/20   27,005.84

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/08/20   27,572.44

6/03/20     26,269.89

5/27/20     25,548.27

4/17/20     24,242.49

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/03/20     25,917.41

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

03/31/21 at 3,972.89

05/12/21 at 4,063.04

07/01/21 at 4,319.94

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.  It has continued to be up at new record highs. 

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

03/31/21 at 13,246.87

05/12/21 at 13,031.68

07/01/21 at 14,522.38

The US Treasury market had seen yields rise slightly ahead of the 06/16/21 FOMC meeting. Then, the announcement caused a massive shift in the entire curve, with the front-end yields dramatically rising (2years and 3years), and the back-end yields dramatically falling (7years, 10years, and 30years). 

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%

03/31/21 at 0.16%

05/12/21 at 0.16%

07/01/21 at 0.25% wow!

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%

03/31/21 at 0.35%

05/12/21 at 0.35%

07/01/21 at 0.47% wow!

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%

03/31/21 at 0.92%

05/12/21 at 0.87%

07/01/21 at 0.89% not much increase

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%

03/31/21 at 1.40%

05/12/21 at 1.34%

07/01/21 at 1.24% wow, what a drop

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%

03/31/21 at 1.74%

05/12/21 at 1.69%

07/01/21 at 1.48% dramatic drop

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%

03/31/21 at 2.41%

05/12/21 at 2.40%

07/01/21 at 2.07% dramatic drop almost below magic 2%

Housing News:

There 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

At the 6/16 FOMC meeting announcement, the Fed could have increased the rate on the RRP to 0.05%, which might have forced GC repo rates higher to compete with the Fed paying cash providers 5bp more. However, it wouldn’t have solved the present dislocation that there isn’t enough collateral for the cash in the market and the RRP is a disintermediation of the broker/dealers with their own typical cash providers. Yet, the Fed chose to raise the RRP by 5bp. The second possible solution, to taper QE, was probably the logical choice, but would be the least friendly to other markets and perhaps to the public. However, the Fed, while not beginning the taper, decided to hint at it coming. This could solve the collateral shortage problem. The third possible solution, was to adjust the Interest On Excess Reserves (IOER) rate higher, which would in turn raise the average Fed Funds rate, which would in turn raise the GC Repo rate, since all three products compete with each other for that elusive cash. The Fed also chose to raise the IOER rate by 5bp. Some market analysts actually mentioned this as a major influence on the subsequent fall in the equity market, saying that cash left the equity market to take advantage of IOER. Really? I doubt that had much of a factor at all. I think the move out of Equities was due to several other reasons, including the rising competitive yield in US Treasuries and other Fixed Income products, the warning of future Fed tightenings in the Fed statement, and the specters of inflation and nagging unemployment discussed by the Fed in its statement. So, these are monetary policy concerns and economic fundamentals concerns, which made the equity market jittery, not the IOER tweak. 

Tom Daniels has left his post of Head of Securities Lending business development for BNY Mellon, after 14 years. CloudMargin is collaborating with Ivno now. LCH has opened up buyside clearing access on RepoClear. Insight Investment became the first fund manager to transact cleared repo on behalf of a UK defined benefit pension fund. DataLend (part of EquiLend) says global securities lending revenue is up 17% in the first half of 2021. There have been a lot of hot stocks and movement into emerging markets. ICMA has a new chief executive, as Bryan Pascoe takes over for Martin Scheck. South Korea lifted their short-selling ban in May, leading to over $130 million being traded through Tru Technologies’ securities finance platform there. ISLA is meeting its objective to deliver a minimum viable securities lending common domain model for market participants by mid-2021. The European Commission has issued an Interim Report on CSDR and is considering a REFIT legislative review of CSDR. Sharegain has released a new platform for real-time borrowing of securities electronically. Deutsche Borse is extending digital asset offering with its acquisition of Crypto Finance. The UAE-based equity clearing house, Dubai Clear, has become a member of CCP12. 

Securities Finance Industry Conferences

This section is a work in progress. I am searching new sources of virtual conferences, networking, and symposiums, rather than just continuing to run the 25-30 annual physical conferences for the industry, many of which are no longer being held, because of the pandemic.  

  • ICMA Fintech Week London:  7/12/21-7/16/21, Virtual.
  • 25th IMN/AFME Global ABS 2021:  9/27/21-9/28/21, London.
  • ICMA/ERCC Professional Repo Market and Collateral Management Workshop 2021:  9/27/21-10/5/21, Virtual.
  • 38th Annual RMA Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference:  10/11/21-10/14/21, TBA if virtual or on location.
  • FundForum Internnational/Clearstream: 10/20/21-10/22/21, Monaco.
  • 2021 RMA Annual Risk Management Conference:  10/25/21-10/28/21, TBA.
  • Finadium Rates & Repo 2021:  November 10, 2021, TBA if Virtual or on location in NYC.
  • 27th IMN ABS East 2021:  12/13/21-12/15/21, Miami Beach, FL.

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: 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 FOMC 2-day meeting ended 6/16. Lately, FOMC meetings have been followed by policy statements that are carefully positive, with a nod to the slow reemergence of the economy from the pandemic.  However, many economists thought THIS meeting could be very different. Monetary policy is still in full Ease mode, with the Fed Funds target at 0.00%-0.25%, although Repo rates are near 0.00%, and QE is still huge with $120 billion of buying per month. Well those economists were correct. The Fed did want to send a different signal in their policy statement. With inflation figures rising, the Fed is speaking about caution, eventual tapering of QE and eventual raising of Fed Funds target rate. Not only did they hit on both subjects, which was a little unexpected, but they also were a lot more specific than expected about the timing of possible braking. Now, the Fed did create some flexibility to keep monetary stimulus in place for longer. But, they did say that they see a possible Fed Funds rate hike in 2022 and two hikes by the end of 2023. They also indicated that they were inching towards tapering. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Here are significant earthquakes for just two days. Much quieter than it has been previously:

07/01 4.5 57km SSW of Kotabumi, Indonesia

07/01 4.9 242km ESE of Tadine, New Caledonia

07/01 5.2 South Indian Ocean

07/01 4.5 11km SW of Piedecuesta, Colombia

07/01 4.5 84km SSW of Kuril’sk, Russia

06/30 4.5 27km S of Kotabumi, Indonesia

06/30 4.7 78km W of Bandar Lampung, Indonesia

06/30 5.1 6 km E of San Juan Cabeza del Rio, Mexico

There is a massive evacuation underway in the Philippines, as the government raised the danger level for the Taal volcano. A volcano erupted in Costa Rica two days ago. Scientists have found that invisible bursts of electricity from volcanoes signal explosive eruptions. Did you know that there are currently 43 volcanoes with continuing eruptions active in the world right now? I guess I can understand this piece of news, but then again, I’m not sure whether it’s worth the risk. Researchers say that the brine released by the magma beneath volcanoes is a potential “liquid ore” containing metals such as gold, copper, and lithium. Some of those precious metals have seen their value increase around the world, as companies pursue the materials needed to produce batteries. However, extracting that liquid ore may prove to be very difficult and dangerous. I get the concept, that it may be easier to allow the Earth to disgorge the precious metals to companies, rather than have the companies go through the laborious process of digging or mining for them. 

Weather:

The nation is seeing record high temperatures, as a major heatwave has blanketed the nation, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, and Northeast. In particular, the Pacific Northwest saw rare temperatures up to 117 in places! Over 70 locations in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada have already tied or set new all-time heat records. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic were blanketed with 90s, while Florida is about 92 and daily threat of rain. The Midwest has been hammered with rain and flooding. The Governor of Michigan declared a State of Emergency for the Detroit area. Over 60 million people were under heat advisories or heat watches. Canada has also had the unprecedented heatwave and dozens have died. In British Columbia alone, the climate change-fueled heat wave may be the cause of 486 sudden fatalities this week, far above the average 165 fatalities normally occurring in this period. A wildfire engulfed a village in Canada, just as it set a heat record. St. Louis hit a record 115. 

Let’s go back to the subject of ‘rain’. This has been gnawing at me for a while, especially since Florida has already begun its August pattern of early in the day 90s and oppressive humidity, followed by afternoon thunderstorms. I wanted to focus on the “Chance of Rain” enigma. I think most of my life I thought when a meteorologist (or a “weather presenter” like Al Roker) says, “the Chance of Rain is 30% today, but increases to 40% tomorrow,” that they were saying There is a 30% chance of you seeing rain here in West Palm Beach and tomorrow those odds increase (so you better golf today!). it turns out that that simple phrase is far from simple and has different interpretations. TikTok recently circulated a video that claimed a 30% chance of rain meant that there would only be rain in 30% of the viewing area. How are you supposed to know how far a viewing area extends for a local TV station, the radio, or a cellphone app? It turns out that the TikTok video is incorrect. However, NOAA’s Weather Program Office said that Probability of Precipitation (PoP) is very difficult to explain. This stems from the fact that in their study, they found that there are 5 different commonly used definitions for PoP among meteorologists themselves. Here they are:

  • The TikTok version, that PoP=C x A, where C is the confidence that it’ll rain somewhere in the forecast area and A means the percentage of that area that will receive a measurable amount of rain. So, a 50% chance of rain in 80% of the area would be 40% PoP.
  • NOAA says PoP measures the likelihood that you’ll see rain at any given point within the forecast area within a 12-hour time period. This is the more commonly accepted definition.
  • The National Weather Service says “it’s the chance of precipitation, which we define as 100th of an inch of rain falling at a particular point over a certain period of time.”
  • Others believe that a 30% chance of rain refers to the proportion of a given area that with 100% assurance will receive rain.
  • Still others believe that PoP actually means that you’ll be seeing rain for 30% of the time in a given forecast area over a certain period. 

The two most accepted definitions are the NOAA and NWS ones. This whole problem stems from meteorologists and apps not giving us a “reference class” when giving us a percentage. A point of comparison would anchor the intended meaning of the forecast.  

The Atlantic Hurricane Season BEGAN June 1st and ends November 30th.  According to CNN, one thing about 2020 that people didn’t notice during the pandemic is that hurricane forecasts improved. Focus is now on size and speed of the approaching storm and the critical “cone of uncertainty”, which affects a certain population. 2021 is expected by the NOAA to be an Active hurricane season. They expect a likely range of 13-20 named storms (winds of 39mph or higher). They expect 6-10 of them to be Hurricanes, and of that 3-5 reaching Category 3 or stronger. There are currently no tropical cyclones in the Atlantic at this time. However we have already reached D on the list. Florida is now keeping an eye on two disturbances that are brewing in the Atlantic. If they become Tropical Storms, they would be named Elsa and Fred. As I wrote that, they upgraded the first one to Tropical Storm Elsa and this morning it was upgraded to a Category 1 Hurricane. It is moving very quickly towards the Caribbean and Florida. It is expected to impact Florida by Monday night or early Tuesday morning. 

The Pacific Hurricane Season BEGAN 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21. In the Eastern North Pacific, Tropical Storm Enrique has become poorly-organized. There are currently no tropical cyclones in the Central North Pacific. 

Sports News:       

MLB:

In the 2020 pandemic-shortened season, 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, MLB started with limited seating at ballparks, but it depended on the ballpark location. Many locations have been opening up to more fans. Boston has gone to full capacity, especially for the induction of former 2B Dustin Pedroia into the Red Sox Hall of Fame and retirement of his number 15.  There have been early surprises in 2021, like the Red Sox and the White Sox. The trade deadline isn’t until 7/30/21, but rumors are already flying. Meanwhile, All-Star Game voting is heating up and ends Thursday (today). The Blue Jays have acquired Adam Cimber and Corey Dickerson from the Marlins. MLB is now cracking down on pitchers using foreign substances on the baseball, something they have been doing for decades but weren’t really policed. Now, opposing managers can accuse a pitcher, without any retribution for a false accusation (which is not right!), and guilty pitchers receive a mandatory 10-game suspension and undisclosed fine. MLB just suspended Mariners’ veteran Hector Santiago for the infraction. Another negative from the new harsh policy is that the Mariners will not be able to replace Santiago on the roster during his suspension. So, it increases the workload on the team’s other starting pitchers. Astros don’t expect Bregman back for at least a month. White Sox and Diamondbacks are getting closer on a trade for Eduardo Escobar. Mike Soroka will undergo season-ending Achilles surgery. Aaron Civale is expected to miss 4-5 weeks with a finger sprain. Blue Jays have activated George Springer. Mets’ Joey Lucchesi will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season. The heatwave is taking its toll on Canadians and Americans across both countries. But, it also led to heat exhaustion for an Angels pitcher on the Yankee Stadium mound, who had to be removed from the game. 

Current standings (06/29), after about 75-79 games:

AL EAST is still kind of a 4-team race, but Boston and Tampa Bay have been pulling ahead of the others. Boston has now beaten the Yankees 6 times in a row, which hasn’t happened since 2009, and before that, 1912. Baltimore is already 23 games out of first place, having lost 8 of their last 10.

Tampa Bay

Boston

Toronto

NY Yankees

Baltimore

AL CENTRAL this was starting to look like the runaway division for the White Sox, but the Indians have righted the ship and closed the gap with the Sox. The Sox losing 7 of their last 10 has helped the Indians. The bottom 3 teams are all 12 or 12 ½ games out of first place.

Chicago WS

Cleveland

Minnesota

Detroit

Kansas City

AL WEST the A’s have been a surprise, but the Astros have finally overtaken them, winning 7 of their last 10.  

Houston

Oakland

Seattle
LA Angels

Texas

NL EAST this division continues to underperform, which leaves almost every team still in the running.  The Mets now have a 3 game lead over the Nats, who have won 7 of their last 10, as the Phillies lost 7 of their last 10.

NY Mets

Washington

Atlanta

Philadelphia

Miami

NL CENTRAL The Brewers just won 8 out of 10 and the Cubs lost 7 of their last 10, to widen the gap. The Cards have also lost 7 of their last 10, leapfrogging them down to 4th.  

Milwaukee

Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati

St. Louis

Pittsburgh

NL WEST the World Champion Dodgers looked like they would run away with the division, but the Giants said ‘hold my beer’. You can’t count the Padres out either. This high-flying division has put the Diamondbacks in the rearview mirror, behind first place by 29 games. 

San Francisco

LA Dodgers

San Diego

Colorado

Arizona

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2021 season rolls on. Next up, the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which will be held at the Detroit GC (hopefully the flooding will be done there). It will be an all-star packed field with DeChambeau, Mickelson, Matsuyama, Reed, Fowler, Day. Watson, Wolff, etc. It will be hard for this tournament to beat the excitement of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut this past Sunday. A familiar name, Bubba Watson, was cruising along to a victory, when the wheels fell off in the last 5 holes and he went 5 over. Meanwhile, the 139th golfer in the world, Kramer Hickok, who had yet to win a PGA Tour event, and little known Harris English, who was seeking his 4th PGA Tour event victory (2nd this year), deadlocked on the 18th hole and went to an 8-hole playoff, making putt after putt on the 17th and 18th holes. I think they wound up playing the 18th about 10 times on the weekend. English dropped a putt on the 8th playoff hole, the 18th again, and won the amazing tournament and about $1.4 million. It tied the 2nd longest tournament in PGA history. The longest had 11 playoff holes. They have to change that playoff format though! I know it’s easier for the fans to move between the 17thand 18th, but it gets boring for the viewers and the golfers. On the PGA Tour Champions’ Dick’s Sporting Goods Open, Dick Mast, 70, shot a 65 on Tuesday, 5 shots lower than his age. On the European Tour, Rory McIlroy has returned home to Mount Juliet Estate, the host venue for this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Meanwhile, the LPGA plays the Volunteers of America Classic at Old American GC in Colony, TX.  

NFL:

The 2020 NFL season ended with Super Bowl LV, which was played in Tampa Bay, with the Bucs acting as home team. 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. 

Guess who is an available free agent again? Yup, Le’Veon Bell. He is the perennial free agent, except that year that he refused to play and lost about $875,000 in pay per game that season. He may wind up on the Saints. But, there are other notables this year still looking for an NFL team. DE Melvin Ingram from the Chargers. Superstar CB Richard Sherman from the Seahawks and then the 49ers. He could be a Cowboy. RB Todd Gurley, a fixture of the Rams and then released by the Falcons. He could be a Charger. WR Golden Tate of the Lions and then the Eagles and Giants. He could wind up being a Patriot. However, the Patriots have already grabbed 2 new TE and 2 new WR in the offseason free agency market. Broncos’ TE Demaryius Thomas has retired. The NFL just levied today a $10 million on the Washington Football Team, after a one year investigation into a culture in the organization that caused bullying and harassment over the last 15 years on team employees. The team owner will step aside for now and his wife will take over the reins. 

Soccer

The European Championship is happening in FIFA EURO 2020 right now, as I type this Repo Commentary. France was the team to beat, and Switzerland surprisingly did just that in a penalty shootout, shockingly knocking France out of the round-of-16 with a tie, after trailing early 3-1. So, the Euro 2016 finalists and reigning world champions are out. England beat Germany. Matheus has been released by Barcelona after playing just 17 minutes. De Boer has stepped down as Netherlands head coach. The UEFA Europa League is also being played. 

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season is now in full swing. We have begun the next major, Wimbledon. And, American legend Serena Williams retired in tears from Wimbledon in her first round match! She was hoping to win her 8th Wimbledon Singles title and tie Margaret Court’s Grand Slam Singles record of 24. The 39-year-old was leading when she slipped and had to have her left ankle examined. Her odds were good, coming into the tournament, as 2019 champion Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka had withdrawn prior to the tournament. Williams had already passed on the Olympics, to focus on the US Open in September. Other players have complained about Centre Court being very slippery, including England’s Andy Murray. Williams has not won a Slam event since 2017. 

NCAA Basketball

The 2020-2021 season began in November. The 2021 NCAA tournament, March Madness, yielded the national champion, undefeated Gonzaga.

Olympics:

The 2021 Tokyo Summer Games are still officially on, although some athletes have refused to participate because of the pandemic. In the US, Team USA held their women’s gymnastics nationals and determined their best 8 women, led by Simone Biles. US Olympian hammer thrower, Gwen Berry, who came in 3rd, protested during the National Anthem, turning her back away from the American flag and then covering her head with a logoed t-shirt.  She has caused quite a public uproar, with many people calling for her to be removed from the US Olympic team. President Biden even felt it necessary to weight in and defended her right to protest under the very same flag.  In all, 543 athletes have so far qualified for the US Olympic team, on its way to having nearly 600 athletes by the 7/23 Opening Ceremony. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tokyo will not be allowing friends or family or fans to attend the Olympics. 

NHL:

The puck dropped on the asterisk season (last season) on 10/2/19. The puck dropped (again) to conclude the same 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 was only 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. 

This is this season’s odd configuration. There have been a lot of exciting playoff games and the Stanley Cup Finals began on Monday, with the favorite Lightning facing this year’s Cinderella team, the Canadiens. While not expected to do well this year, to be fair, the Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups, far more than any other team. The Lightning one Game 1 on Monday night and then Game 2 on Wednesday night.  Both teams had shown incredible passing, speed and shot-making. The Canadiens have far outshot the Lightning, but the difference maker has been the Lightning’s goalie.  The Canadiens will have coach Dominique Ducharme back for Game 3 tonight, as he comes off of 14-day quarantine for COVID-19. He missed the last 4 games of the previous series against the Golden Knights and the first 2 games of this series with the Lightning.  Negent-Hopkins just signed and 8-year/$41 million contract extension with the Oilers. The Predators made a trade with the Kings, sending Vikto Arvidsson to the Kings for two NHL Draft picks, one in the 2021 Draft and one in the 2022 Draft. The Coyotes hired Andre Tourigny as coach on Thursday, replaced Rick Tocchet, after the Coyotes failed to qualify to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

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. We are now nearing the end of the Playoffs. Baseball HOF Reggie Jackson says he is happy how well Reggie Jackson is playing for the Clippers in the NBA Playoffs. Paul George of the Clippers says he has been criticized too much in his NBA Playoff career. He managed to keep the Clippers alive in Game 5 on Monday. We are in the Conference Finals now, with the final 4 teams.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No.5 Atlanta Hawks trail the No.3 Milwaukee Bucks 2-1. Atlanta had shockingly upset the No.1 76ers, and Milwaukee had dispatched No.2 Brooklyn.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No.4 LA Clippers trail Phoenix Suns 3-2. The Clippers had surprised No.1 Utah, and the Suns swept No.3 Denver. 

Cricket:

In cricket, New Zealand defeated India to win the inaugural World Test Championship Final. 

Auto Racing:

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2020, Chase Elliott won. The 2021 regular season began with the Daytona 500 on 2/14/21. NASCAR and iRacing announced an official partnership. Gordon said he is retiring from Penske at end of 2021. Six teams were fined after Pocono race. 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-Kyle Larson

03/14/21 NASCAR Cup Series Race at Phoenix-Martin Truex Jr.

03/21/21 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta-Ryan Blaney

03/29/21 Food City Dirt Race at Bristol-Joey Logano

04/10/21 Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, VA-Martin Truex Jr.

04/18/21 Toyota Owners 400-Richmond Raceway-Bowman

04/25/21 GEICO 500-Talladega-Keselowski

05/02/21 NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas-Kyle Busch

05/09/21 NASCAR Cup Series at Darlington-Martin Truex Jr.

05/16/21 NASCAR Cup Series at Dover, Drydene 400-Alex Bowman

05/23/21 NASCAR Cup Series at COTA, EchoPark Texas GP-Chase Elliott

05/30/21 Coca-Cola 600, Charlotte Motor Speedway-Kyle Larson

06/06/21 Toyota Save Mart 350, Sonoma Raceway-Kyle Larson

06/13/21 NASCAR All-Star Open, Texas Motor Speedway-Aric Almirola

06/13/21 NASCAR All-Star Race, Texas Motor Speedway-Kyle Larson

06/20/21 Ally 400, Nashville Superspeedway-Kyle Larson

06/26/21 Pocono Organics CBD 325-Alex Bowman

06/27/21 Explore the Pocono Mountains 350-Kyle Busch

07/04/21 Jockey Made in America 250 by Kwik Trip-

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 did not begin until 3/28/21. Here is the 2021 schedule and here are the winners:

03/28/21-Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix-Lewis Hamilton edged Max Verstappen

04/18/21-Italy-Verstappen edged Hamilton

05/02/21-Portugal-Hamilton beat Verstappen

05/09/21-Spain-Hamilton beat Verstappen

05/23/21-Monaco-Verstappen

06/06/21-Azerbaijan-Perez

06/20/21-France-Verstappen

06/27/21-Austria-Verstappen

07/04/21-Austria-

07/18/21-Great Britain-

08/02/21-Hungary-

08/29/21-Belgium-

09/05/21-Netherlands-

09/12/21-Italy-

09/26/21-Russia-

10/03/21-Singapore-

10/10/21-Japan-

10/24/21-United States

10/31/21-Mexico-

11/07/21-Brazil-

11/21/21-Australia-

12/05/21-Saudi Arabia-

12/12/21-Abu Dhabi-

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:

04/18/21-Birmingham Barber Motorsports Park-Alex Palou

04/25/21-St. Petersburg Street Course-Josef Newgarden

05/01/21-Texas Motor Speedway Grand Prix of Texas Race 1-Scott Dixon

05/02/21-Texas Motor Speedway Grand Prix of Texas Race 2-Pato O’Ward

05/15/21-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-GP 1

05/30/21-Indy 500

06/12/21-Detroit Raceway on Belle Isle Race 1

06/13/21-Detroit Raceway on Belle Isle Race 2

06/20/21-Road America

07/04/21-Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

07/11/21-Toronto Exhibition Place

08/08/21-Nashville Street Course

08/14/21-Indianapolis GP 2

08/21/21-Gateway Motorsports Park

09/11/21-Portland International Raceway

09/19/21-Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

09/26/21-Streets of Long Beach

Travel News:

Portugal has just exempted children under-18 from quarantine, but they must be travelling with a fully vaccinated parent or guardian. There has been a spike in ‘air rage’ on US flights. There was the video of Capitol uprising folks shouting at flight attendants, the Southwest Airlines flight attendant who was punched in the face, the violent Delta passenger who had to be subdued near the cockpit, the American Airlines flight attendant scolding passengers, among others. The FAA received approximately 3,100 reports of unruly behavior, of which 487 have been investigated, between January and mid-June. The yearly average is 142. There have been incidents in Northern Ireland, The Netherlands, and New Zealand too. Authorities think that it may be fueled by the pandemic, and emerging from the pandemic into very tight quarters for hours on a plane, with complete strangers. As some 43.6 million Americans take to the roads, finally able to escape lockdowns, according to AAA, for the 4th of July weekend, they will be facing the highest gasoline prices since 2014.  The national average is $3.10/gallon, but many metro areas are seeing prices up to $1 higher per gallon. There is a surge in demand for gasoline and low supply due to not enough truckers to transport the fuel. Gasoline prices are 40% higher than last July 4th, but that was right in the middle of the pandemic lockdown. Las Vegas is betting big on Americans breaking out of their lockdowns and going to the destination city, opening the first new casino in years on the Strip, Resorts International. Large parties and concerts are planned at many of the casino resorts. 

Health News:  

As of this evening (7/01), globally, almost 4 million people have died from COVID-19.  More than 182,000,000 people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 33.6 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 604,000. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (518,066), India (399,459), Mexico (233,047), Peru (192,331), and UK (128,426). 

An outbreak linked to end-of-year trips to Majorca has prompted authorities to isolate Spanish teenager students and hold them in a Majorca hotel quarantine. NYC will hold a ticker tape parade on July 7th for healthcare heroes and essential workers who battled COVID-19.  

The more contagious Delta Variant of COVID-19 is likely to ruin another European Summer. India is dealing with a deadly fungus epidemic, in addition to COVID-19. The Irish government is delaying the return of some indoor activities beyond the 7/5 original deadline, including hospitality, over increasing cases of the Delta Variant of COVID-19. Scotland reported its biggest daily case increase and new infections in the UK hit a 5-month high. In Sydney, the delta variant fueled outbreak is becoming increasingly difficult to contain, despite Australia’s largest city being in lockdown for almost a week. The CDC reports that COVID-19 cases are rising again, and a lack of vaccinations coupled with the very contagious Delta Variant may be to blame. I still don’t understand all the people that refuse to get a vaccine shot or only get one shot in a two shot protocol. I lost a friend of mine yesterday to COVID-19 and he was five years younger than me and very fit. He wouldn’t get the shots.  A Chinese whistleblower is exposing COVID-19’s origins on Fox TV, saying that her husband is helping the Chinese Communist Party make her disappear for exposing the conspiracy. There have been a lot more allegations of the Chinese military having worked with coronavirus and testing as far back as 2017 and again in 2018, according to NBC and Fox. The laboratory in Wuhan is alleged to have worked closely with the Chinese military. The woman who is in charge of the Wuhan laboratory denies all of the allegations. Interestingly, as NBC pointed out last night, she herself has ties to the Chinese military. At this point, it’s all allegations and conspiracy theory. 

Scientists have pieced together clues from “patient zero”, a 5,000-year-old man who they believe is the ‘oldest plague victim’ and probably caught the disease from a rodent. GoodRx says that each year in January and July, manufacturers raise the prices of their medications. So far this month, 13 drugs have increased by an average of 3.9%.

Animal News:

It’s not Shark Week? Wait a minute, it is! The Shark Week blimp was seen flying/swimming over the Outer Banks on Wednesday, as well as Raleigh, NC, to promote the 33rd annual Discovery Channel event, which is very ironic, given the recent news. Near Catalina Island in California, Wednesday, a 15-year-old Boy Scout kayaker was bitten in the hand by a great white shark. In Cape Cod, a crowded beach watched a very large great white shark devour a seal in shallow water right near the beach, over the weekend. At the same time, a 39-year-old Northern California swimmer (just south of San Francisco) was bitten by a great white shark and, although he was able to swim to shore, he is still in serious condition. Also, a number of great white sharks were spotted close to the coast of North Carolina, apparently a ‘staging area’ as the sharks wait for the water north of that to warm up a bit. One attacked a 7-year-old girl at Ocean Isle Beach, just before the Shark Week blimp showed up. So, as the heatwave sends temperatures soaring and people to the beach for relief, the timing is bad because the sharks are also at the beach right now. That Tiger Sanctuary owner, Carole Baskins, from Florida is back in the news again, as her competition, the Tiger King, sits in jail, convicted for trying to kill her. In a new documentary, “The Conservation Game”, she is attacking popular animal expert and famed zookeeper, Jack “Jungle Jack” Hanna, whose family recently announced that he has dementia, and accusing him of not caring where all the animals went that he put on the Tonight Show and other talks shows, despite telling audiences that they’d be going to a zoo or sanctuary.  She is debunking that he actually gave animals to the Columbus Zoo or sanctuaries. It is part of a larger attack she is making on “faux-conservationists” and “wildlife experts”.  A Connecticut aquarium is auctioning off the chance to name 3 beluga whales recently shipped from Canada. Remember, as we visit fireworks displays or set off our own, pets do not do well with the sound of fireworks. It can be very traumatic. Shield them from the noise. 

Entertainment News:

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Bill Cosby’s indecent assault conviction on Wednesday, and he was released from prison. The ruling was because of a non-prosecution agreement Cosby had with a prior prosecutor. That prosecutor had given Cosby a deal not to file criminal charges against Cosby, if Cosby agreed to testify in a civil lawsuit (without the benefit of the Fifth Amendment) filed by Andrea Constand. Cosby did testify in the civil trial and settled for more than $3 million to Constand. The PA Supreme Court also disagreed with the trial court judge’s decision to let prosecutors call 5 other accusers in addition to Constand in Cosby’s retrial, after the jury deadlocked in the first trial. The ruling bars Cosby from being criminally tried again in the case, the alleged assaulting of Andrea Constand. The 83-year-old comedian was 2 years into a 3-10 year prison term. I didn’t realize that Cosby went blind 6-7 years ago due to Glaucoma. Some 60 women accused Cosby of sexual attacks. Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion was demolished and reduced to rubble. Will Smith has listed the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air mansion on Airbnb in celebration of the show’s 30th anniversary. The Golden Girls home is up for sale for $3 million. The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC is now up for sale. Isn’t that near the old Post Office? Don Cheadle land Brigid Coulter got married during the pandemic. The judge has denied November request to remove Britney Spears’ father as her co-conservator, which he has done for 13 years. So, the Free Britney movement will continue. Britney posted a message to paparazzi and her fans. Christina Aguilera has declared her support for Britney Spears. Her father is now asking the court to investigate the allegations made about him during the conservatorship hearing. Quentin Tarantino’s last movie is now a novel. Elvis Costello dismisses claims Olivia Rodrigo plagiarized his music, saying that’s rock ‘n roll. Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 gave a cancer treatment update. Ed Sheeran keeps pulling the same prank on Courteney Cox. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” will premiere on Broadway in November. Megan McCain announced that 2021 would be her last season on The View, even though she had 2 more years on her contract. However, she had often complained that she was bullied on the show, as the only conservative on the show. As of today, college athletes in the US can start making money from the use of their name, image, or likeness (NIL). This includes the social media influencer angle that will allow athletes from lesser followed sports to earn significant money. 

Technology & Space News:

While Elon Musk of Tesla was flexing his comedy/acting muscles on Saturday Night Live, while also bashing some cryptocurrencies, Tesla was dealt a huge blow, as almost all Tesla cars in China need a safety fix. Pinterest has made the unusual move to ban all weight-loss ads and imagery, saying that it is “body-shaming”. A flying car has completed a test flight between airports. Speaking of Amazon, they plan to manufacture a delivery robot tech in Finland. US and UK agencies accuse Russia of a cyber-campaign, which is attacking targets including parliaments and political operations in a continuing operation. More than 200 high-profile women have written to social media chiefs to tell them to take action to stop online abuse. The BBC presenter, Nolan, traced the identity of a person behind defamatory remarks about him (trolling) and he is paying Nolan a six-figure damages sum. OneWeb has laid a path to offering commercial broadband services. The London-based tech firm sent up another 36 internet satellites on a Russian Soyuz rocket. Tim Berners-Lee sold his web source code NFT for $5.4 million. I mentioned this in a previous Commentary, about how it is displayed as a work of art, along with a video. Well, it turns out that the video actually has a coding error. But, the original code doesn’t. A UK space start-up got a $500 million cash injection. Controversial John McAfee, who shot to fame in the 1980s, after launching an anti-virus software company he named after himself. He went on the run in Belize in 2008, then in 2012, his neighbor was murdered. Officials caught up with him in Guatemala, with a 17-year-old girl and a large number of weapons in his home. He was expected to be charged with his neighbor’s murder, but then was released and allowed to fly to Miami. In 2019, a Florida court ordered him to pay $25 million to his neighbor’s estate in a wrongful death claim. He then started making money again, announced he was running for US President, but then arrested in Spain. He was accused of failing to file tax returns for 4 years. Spain’s National Court jus authorized his extradition back to the US. Within hours, he was found dead in his cell. His lawyer said that he had killed himself. 

US News:

Jurors are now deciding the fate of Alabama bigamist charged with killing his pregnant wife, two children, and mother-in-law. The CFO of the Trump Organization has been arrested, along with other executives, for 15 charges regarding alleged tax fraud scheme over the last 15 years. Supposedly, the company paid several executives with expensive cars, apartments, and tuition to pay them “off the books” and avoid taxes. So far, President Trump has not been named. He is still being investigated for alleged influencing of the Georgia Senatorial election and investigated for alleged influence on the US Capitol uprising. A Washington, DC 5-story building under construction collapsed on Thursday. A massive explosion detonated in a Los Angeles suburb Thursday, as law enforcement seized illegal fireworks and had put them in an armored truck. They intended to safely detonate the huge 6,000-pound payload, but it prematurely detonated, destroying the truck, damaging nearby houses and totaling parked cars, injuring 17 people, 10 of them from law enforcement. NYC is reopening the massive 4th of July celebration that was cancelled last year, on 5 barges in the East river off Manhattan. Macy’s is sponsoring it and it will be held at 8pm on Sunday night. Many Southwest communities are canceling planned fireworks displays, because of record heatwave and drought. Politico reports that VP Kamala Harris’ office is rife with dissent and an aide said it’s “not a healthy environment.” Politico interviewed 22 current and former vice presidential aides, administration officials, and associates of Harris and Biden, who described a tense and at times “dour” office atmosphere. Most of the ire is directed at Harris’ chief of staff, Tina Flournoy. The US is projected to have a $3 trillion budget deficit this year, close to the 2020 record, while the economy will expand significantly more than previously forecast, according to the Congressional Budget Office, who incorporated the impact of President Biden’s COVID-19 relief programs. While Initial Unemployment Claims announced Thursday fell last week in the US by more than analysts projected, reaching a pandemic low, applications still remained above pre-COVID levels and many employers are still saying they are having trouble finding qualified workers.

Bankruptcy:

It turns out that the pandemic ripple effect of shutdowns of factories that produce computer chips, is being seen in almost every industry globally. Not only the direct ripples in computers and cellphone supplies, but also in vehicles, houses, farming products, etc. Many of these industries further down the line from computer chips are highly computerized now and rely on the technology to continue to function normally. So, while direct impacts from shutdowns of those industries’ factories, transport, distributors, and retailers from the pandemic hurt supply, so has the ripple effect from chip manufacture. I’m hearing and reading a lot of anecdotal reports of how difficult it is to find a car, especially used cars, how to find a home or build a home, how difficult it is to get refrigerators, and how prices are going up for certain foods.  This lack of supply due to lack of computerization or repair is actually a factor in the increasing global inflation. Demand is greater, supply is less, prices are going up. I was just at a high-end shopping mall in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, and noticed how empty it was of customers, how many less salespeople there were, and how less racks of products the stores were displaying. I assume that it is the continuation of the globalization and internet shopping impact on brick and mortar stores. That wasn’t very surprising. It wasn’t even that surprising that the only packed store was the Apple store. What was surprising is that there was a new brick and mortar Amazon store. So, the internet shopping giant which has been hammering brick and mortar stores, actually built its own brick and mortar stores. Strange full circle. 2021 may see many restaurants go out of business. According to the National Restaurant Association, some restaurants are not going to be able to recover from the losses due to COVID-19 lockdowns and now lack of staff, and will have to close many, if not all of their locations. These are the 53 major chains that are in serious danger of disappearing completely, according to Reference.com (this list seems to basically list ALL the fast food restaurants except McDonald’s. Starbucks, seriously? In all fairness, the online periodical does give reasons why for each and how many stores have closed and how many are left open and what the finances look like. I just didn’t have the space (patience) to type all of that. :

Applebee’s-down to 1200 locations

Carabba’s Italian Grill

Sbarro

Ruby Tuesday

Krystal

Bar Louie

Houlihan’s

Hooters

Boston Market

Papa John’s

Golden Corral

Ponderosa Steakhouse

Steak ‘n Shake

Joe’s Crab Shack

Noodles & Company

Old Country Buffet

The Cheesecake Factory

TGI Friday’s

Red Robin

Friendly’s

Qdoba

Buffalo Wild Wings

Checkers and Rally’s

Jack in the Box

Roy Rogers/Hardee’s

Baja Fresh

Fuddruckers

O’Charley’s

Quiznos

Bojangles’

IHOP

Luby’s

Taco Bell

Subway

Marie Callendar’s

McCormick & Schmick’s

Chipotle

Burger King

Pizza Hut

Carl’s Jr.

Kona Grill

Perkins

Starbucks

Hometown Buffet

Pie Five

Eat’n Park

Pollo Tropical

Taco Cabana

Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Denny’s

Tad’s Steaks

Pieology

Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo! Cucina Italiana (I was just at one last night!)

Zinburger

TooJay’s

Benihana

Sonic

Papa Murphy’s

Hard Rock Café

Pappas Restaurants

Rubio’s Coastal Grill

Le Pain Quotidien

Del Frisco’s Grille

Tim Hortons (branches in the US only)

PizzaRev

Specialty’s Café & Bakery

Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes

Dave & Buster’s

Out of all this negativity, here is some bright bankruptcy news. Hertz is back out of bankruptcy and its OTC stock began trading again. However, it was a volatile ride on Thursday. Krispy Crème is also back trading.

International News:

In Saskatchewan, Canada, 751 unmarked graves were discovered at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School. Former president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III, died at the age of 61.  Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper, accused of violating the national security law in Hong Kong, closed. Tigrayan fighters (Ethiopian rebels) have continued to gain more ground in war-torn North Ethiopia. They have already taken the regional capital from government forces. The Ethiopian government has denied targeting civilians, but many died when a missile hit a crowded Tigray market. After years of heated debate, France has extended fertility treatment and IVF to lesbians and single women. South Africa ex-President Zuma has been sentenced to jail. A builder has been arrested in Greece in possession of a stolen Picasso. In unrelated news, Portugal’s top art collector, Joe Berardo, has been arrested in a fraud case. He is alleged to have accumulated nearly 1 billion Euros in debt at 3 banks. Protestors have toppled a statue of Christopher Columbus in Colombia. A British architect who passed away 3 years ago, left his 14th century castle, valued at just under $2 million, to his gardener in 2018, who he considered like “the son he never had.” The gardener is now putting the property on the market. The castle was actually originally built for what amounts to under $50. 

Florida:

The awful news here and ongoing tragedy is the June 24th collapse of a 12-story beachfront condominium tower, Champagne, in Surfside, Florida, a town near Miami. At least 10 people are confirmed dead, 11 others injured and 151 people are still missing in the rubble. The collapse and almost complete destruction occurred at about 1:30am, as most people slept. 35 people were rescued from the uncollapsed portion of the building and two people have been rescued from the rubble. 55 units of the 136 in the building were destroyed in the collapse. There were recent repairs being done on the roof of the building. The structure was 40-years-old and was in the process of its 40-year reinspection report, a process that usually takes about one year, and had not yet been completed. However, in 2018, an inspection done on the building by an engineering firm found a “major error” in the construction of the pool deck, which led to collected water which severely damaged the concrete slabs below the pool deck. The report said that all of the waterproofing below the pool deck needed to be replaced, or it could ruin the concrete below.  The pool deck was on top of the parking garage and the garage’s ceiling slabs already showed several sizeable hairline cracks and exposed rebar. Those recommended concrete restoration repairs were never done. It’s heartbreaking to watch the news. In a smaller scale, it reminds me a little of the Twin Towers collapse on 9/11, but here the villain is probably going to be the management or owners of the building, rather than terrorists.  There is another 12-story tower one block north that was built by the same builders and is the same age, which the Mayor of Surfside is considering evacuating all occupants from and putting them in hotels with FEMA funds. The search was called off temporarily overnight, just as President Biden and the First Lady arrived at the site, when the remaining part of the building began shifting, putting emergency crews in potential danger. But, it resumed around 6pm. After Palm Beach County had toxins in its water supply two weeks ago, forcing the county to alert people not to drink the water, even boiled, the Treasure Coast has now issued a blue-green algae alert regarding the toxins that that releases.

I am singing the National Anthem (my 155th MLB game) at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL, for the single-A Cardinals, prior to the 4th of July fireworks display, on Saturday. 

Jokes and Such:

Okay, I decided that since you readers 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

63. What do you call malware on a Kindle?

A bookworm.

64. Did you hear about the painter who was hospitalized?

The doctors say it was due to too many strokes.

65. Why are crabs so bad at sharing?

Because they’re all shellfish.)

66. What did the tie say to the hat?

You go on ahead. I’ll hang around.

67. How do you make a tissue dance?

Put a little boogie in it.

68. What do you call a cow with a twitch?

Beef jerky.

69. I started a new job as a tailor last week.

It’s been sew-sew.

70. What concert only costs 45 cents?

50 Cent featuring Nickleback.

71. What kind of shoes does a spy wear?

Sneakers.

72. I’ve been trying to make a sarcastic club, but it’s been really hard to tell if people are interested in joining or not.

73. And the Lord said unto John, “Come forth and you will receive eternal life.”

But John came fifth and won a toaster.

74. What do you call a fake noodle?

An impasta.

75. My wife accused me the other day of being too immature.

I told her there were no girls allowed in my fort.

76. Someone stole my mood ring yesterday.

I still don’t know how I feel about that.

77. A Roman legionnaire walks into a bar, holds up two fingers and says, “Five beers, please.”

78. I tried to catch fog yesterday.

Mist.

79. Working in a mirror factory is something I can totally see myself doing.

80. Someone stole my Microsoft Office and they’re gonna pay.

You have my Word.

81. What do you call a dog with no legs?

It doesn’t matter, it’s not going to come anyway.

82. You know what they say about cliffhangers…

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

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