Repo Commentary-07/15/21

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 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 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.

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 (07/15):

  • Get To Know Your Customers Day
  • Gummi Worm Day
  • I Love Horses Day
  • National Be A Dork Day
  • National Give Something Away Day
  • National Pet Fire Safety Day
  • National Respect Canada Day
  • National Tapioca Day
  • Orange Chicken Day
  • Saint Swithin’s Day
  • Bon Festival (Kanto region, Japan)
  • Elderly Man Day (Kiribati) naturally, right after my birthday lol
  • Festival of Santa Rosalia (Palermo, Sicily)
  • Sultan’s Birthday (Brunei Darussalam)

Some Famous People Born on (07/15):

  • 980-Ichijo, Japanese emperor
  • 1606-Rembrandt, Dutch painter and etcher
  • 1850-Frances Xavier Cabrini, Italian-American nun and saint
  • 1911-Edward Shackleton, Baron Shackleton, English geographer and politician
  • 1929-Ian Stewart, Scottish race driver
  • 1935-Alex Karras, American football player, wrestler, and actor
  • 1938-Barry Goldwater, Jr, American lawyer and politician
  • 1944-Millie Jackson, American singer-songwriter
  • 1945-Jan Michael Vincent, American actor
  • 1946-Linda Rondstadt, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actress
  • 1946-Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei
  • 1951-Jesse Ventura, American wrestler, actor, and politician
  • 1952-Marky Ramone, American drummer and songwriter (The Ramones)
  • 1956-Barry Melrose, Canadian ice hockey player, coach, and sportscaster
  • 1960-Kim Alexis, American fashion model
  • 1961-Forest Whitaker, American actor
  • 1963-Brigitte Nielsen, Danish-Italian actress

I would like to thank everyone for you overwhelming amount of texts, calls, LinkedIn messages, emails, Facebook posts, and FB Messenger messages, wishing me a Happy Birthday on 07/11. I was actually a little blue, as I woke up, but you all took me out of my funk and made my birthday very special. I appreciate it and feel blessed to have you all in my life.

Daily Weird Facts:

For those who romanticize a burial at sea, the company Eternal Reefs mixes the cremated remains of a person with concrete to create a “pearl” onto which loved ones can etch personal messages, handprints or mementos. The pearl is then encased in a “reef ball” that is dropped into the sea, where it provides a new coral reef habitat for fish and other sea life, completing the ‘circle of life’.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Never apologize for having high standards. People who want to be in your life will rise up and meet them.”—Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

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, just where it was on 10/5/18 at the top of the list. What a roller coaster!

$72.30/barrel on 07/15

The price of Oil appears to have leveled off at these highs. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station held steady in the past 2 weeks, at $2.98/gallon. However, gasoline prices have been rising faster in surrounding areas (up to $3.69/gallon) and in other parts of the country. 

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

110.05 on 06/15/21

111.44 on 07/02/21

109.94 on 07/15/21

One Euro was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.1426 

12/06/19 at $1.1688

03/11/20 at $1.1937

05/04/20 at $1.0903

12/16/20 at $1.2196

02/04/21 at $1.2625

04/01/21 at $1.1774

04/28/21 at $1.2123

07/02/21 at $1.1822

07/15/21 at $1.1806

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.2655 

12/06/19 at $1.3819

02/07/20 at $1.3574

03/24/20 at $1.2231

12/16/20 at $1.3494

02/16/21 at $1.3903

06/15/21 at $1.4083

07/02/21 at $1.3743

07/15/21 at $1.3819

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 03/18/20

1.2752 on 12/16/20

1.2186 on 06/15/21

1.2417 on 07/02/21

1.2539 on 07/15/21

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 $1,498.70/ounce 

03/11/20 $1,641.00/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

04/28/21 $1,782.20

06/15/21 $1,859.90

07/02/21 $1,789.00

07/15/21 $1,828.00

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25/18 

$6,350.00 on 10/5/18

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,598.90 on 01/16/19 

$3,421.10 on 02/06/19 

$8,100.00 on 05/16/19

$7,215.79 on 05/17/19

$11,919.30 on 06/25/19

$9,790.37 on 07/24/19

$10,183.90 on 09/10/19

$8,235.46 on 10/02/19

$7,470.41 on 12/06/19
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$3,867.00 on 03/13/20

$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 pre halving event

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20 post halving event

$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

$36,607.50 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

$63,237.00 on 04/15/21

$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

$31,280.00 on 07/15/21

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. On 3/13/20, it had cratered at $3,867.  It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  It exploded in early 2021, as new corporate investors (including Elon Musk) jumped in. On 4/15/21, it hit a high of $63,237.  It has since made almost a 50% downward correction, falling back to early 2021 levels recently, wiping out all 2021 gains. It continues to slip further. It’s beginning to have an inverse relationship to Gold, like bonds tend to do with equities. The SEC has decided to put off a decision on WisdomTree’s proposed bitcoin ETF and requested public comments on the application. The SEC wants views on whether the ETF will be vulnerable to manipulation. Fidelity Digital Assets is increasing staff by 70%. Fed’s Powell favors Fed-issued central bank digital currency over multiple private cryptocurrencies or stablecoins.  

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:

Prices paid by US consumers surged in June 2021 by the most since 2008, blowing by all the forecasts and challenging the Federal Reserve and its commitment to monetary easing and support for the economy. The core, without volatile food and energy components, rose by 4.5% versus June 2020, the largest advance since November 1991! Morgan Stanley beat earnings expectations with $14.8 billion in revenue in Q2 2021. Wells Fargo earnings for Q2 2021 also beat economists’ estimates, with a $6 billion profit versus last year’s $3.5 billion profit for the same period. Of course, some of that was due to the return of $1.6 billion it has set aside in 2020 to cover loan defaults. BNY Mellon and US Bancorp also exceeded analysts’ expectations. Goldman Sachs followed its earnings announcement by issuing $5.5 billion in new bonds. The borrowing will facilitate Goldman’s expansion of its prime brokerage business. A Bloomberg Intelligence survey shows that virtually all of the largest US asset-management firms now offer and ETF or have plans to do so. Standing currently at $488.5 billion, ETF inflows this year are well on track to break the $497 billion all-time record set in 2020. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has contested the widely held assertion that the current bout of inflation is temporary, and added that he expects the Fed will be obliged to take steps to curb the trend. He expects that the rate will climb to around 3.5% or 4.0%. Financial Times reports that analysts believe the main drivers of this current inflation are used car prices, energy costs, home rentals and spending on travel and entertainment. Pretty much a breakout surge from COVID-19 lockdown. UBS said that it is incorporating the open-technology FlexTrade order management system with its new US outsourced trading desk. They hope to lean on FlexTrade’s track record with buy-side trading desks to extend their global outsourced execution to additional client segments. India’s central bank has banned Mastercard from issuing any new credit or debit cards to domestic customers for an indefinite period, following bans that it already placed on American Express and Diners Club. The central bank says that Mastercard failed to comply with the requirement that payment data must be stored exclusively in India. Inflation fears could cause problems for ESG investing, as rising energy costs may prompt calls for governments to curb those costs by making supplies, any supplies, more plentiful. So far, Europe has emerged as the major force globally in sustainable finance. For European issuers, $1 out of every $5 raised so far in 2021 has been tied to borrowers’ performance on environment, social and governance (ESG) criteria. 

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). We closed at a record high yesterday.:

07/14/21  34,933.23

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:

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

07/14/21 at 4,374.30

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

07/14/21 at 14,644.95

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% 

05/10/20 at 0.16% 

07/24/20 at 0.14% 

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!

07/14/21 at 0.23%

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%

02/16/21 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!

07/14/21 at 0.44%

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

07/14/21 at 0.80%

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% record low

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% 

07/14/21 at 1.11%

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% 

12/06/19 at 1.84% 

02/06/20 at 1.65% 

03/11/20 at 0.82% wow!

03/17/20 at 1.02% 

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

07/24/20 at 0.59% record low

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%

07/14/21 at 1.37% 

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% record low

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%

07/14/21 at 1.98%

Housing News:

Fannie Mae forecasts that “housing costs could eventually boost inflation by as much as 2% by the end of next year, though the effects could be felt sooner.” Ironically, the soaring housing market may wind up derailing the economic recovery, as Susan Estes points out.  Remember regulations and their unintended consequences in OUR market. Well, apparently the banned evictions ruling for the pandemic has caused a Hamptons home owner to not be able to enter her premises or remove the renter’s furniture. Meanwhile, her furniture is sitting in the garage of the home, right in front of her car, that she now can’t use. The renter apparently has been unable to find a job. Maybe the odd part, she is a real estate agent. Forbearance exits are speeding up, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, down to 3.76% as of 7/4/21. A shareholder sued Rocket Mortgage, the Detroit-based behemoth, for allegedly misleading disclosures to conceal adverse market conditions. Purchases of second homes declined in June. President Biden is renewing his push for housing in his new $3.5 trillion Infrastructure Plan. Mortgage Applications jumped 16% for the week ending 7/9/21, after several consecutive weeks of drops. The Mortgage Bankers Association points to increased refinancing as mortgage rates dipped again. However, the prior week’s report showed a drop in mortgage applications to the lowest level since January 2020. Let’s look at those official rates (per HousingWire.com):

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances (now $548,250 or less) decreased to 3.09% from 3.15%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (above $548,250) decreased to 3.16% from 3.20%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgages decreased to 2.48% from 2.52%. 

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. We’ve got another FOMC meeting coming up, so we may see some more Fed rhetoric and tweaks coming. One thing that I missed and my friend Scott Skrym brings to my attention, in the fine print of the FOMC minutes, was mention for the first time in a long time of the Standing Repo Facility (SRF). Basically, the SRF rate would be set at the top of the Fed Funds target range (currently that would be 0.25%), would be available at first only to the Primary Dealers, eventually extended to approved counterparties. There are some problems with the rate and the potential flood of collateral the Fed could receive on a daily basis, the opposite of the amount of cash the Fed is currently getting dumped on it on a daily basis. It also calls into question the term that the Fed has avoided in the 39 years that I’ve been in the industry, and that is to become “Lender of Last Resort”. I’m sure we will hear much more about this in the future from the Fed.

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. Marie Stringer has joined Pirum as client services team leader. Finadium has completed its 7th survey of 37 products across 22 firms in collateral management technology, leading to an analysis of market trends in Securities Finance Monitor. 

Happy 20th Anniversary to Eurex Repo, part of the Deutsche Borse family, and a critical element of the European Financial Markets.  Congratulations to my good friend, Guido Stroemer, co-founder and CEO of HQLAx, after an infusion of capital and partnership with JPMorgan Chase. Guido, I’m still checking my mail for one of your stylish sleeveless suits! I don’t know if you caught my partner, Roy Zimmerhansl’s “Fundamentals of Securities Lending” on Saturday’s livestreaming. Very informative.  This sounds like something I would have worked on, as Eurex announces that it is expanding buy-side access to cleared repo business through its ISA Direct product. This will broaden its availability to a greater range of market participants. Hana Bank became the first South Korean bank to clear at LCH ForexClear. Goldman Sachs is adding to its securities finance team.  

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.
  • HIS Markit Securities Finance Q2 2021 Webinar: 7/14/21, 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.
  • 37th Annual RMA Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference:  10/18/21-10/21/21, will be in person (first time since PASLA was cancelled), Aventura, FL. I have not missed an RMA, and it’s in Florida, so…
  • 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:  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 Fed Chairman Powell is feeling heat from all sides, as inflation spikes. He was brought before a House panel to explain policy and the economy. He is dismissing claims of Fed complacency on inflation. He said he still expects inflation to ease. While the ECB is accelerating its plans for digital euro project, one Fed official is throwing cold water on US CBDC plans. The Vice Chair says “We do not need to fear Stablecoins.” The Fed has been weighing a digital dollar, as cryptocurrency hits a “critical point”. The Fed’s balance sheet is expected by some analysts to exceed $9 trillion, after it starts reducing its monthly asset purchases. It is already past $8 trillion. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

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

07/14 5.1 south of the Fiji Islands

07/14 4.5 ESE of Mawlaik, Myanmar

07/14 4.8 ESE of Laikit, Laikit II, Indonesia

07/14 4.6 13km SSE of Hualien City, Taiwan

07/14 5.0 43km W of Tianpeng, China

07/14 4.6 97km SW of Bengkulu, Indonesia

07/14 5.3 166km SW of Merizo Village, Guam

07/14 4.8 32km ENE of Chicureo Abajo, Chile

07/13 4.8 153km ESE of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia

07/13 5.0 north of Ascension Island

07/13 4.9 146km ESE of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia

07/13 5.1 42km NNW of Neiafu, Tonga

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:

Some parts of the nation are still seeing record high temperatures, with Las Vegas ringing in at 117 degrees and Death Valley at 130 degrees (it reported a low of 107.7 degrees overnight, the highest overnight low ever recorded in North America), as the heatwave out West continues, fueling not only the Climate Change scientists, but also some major wildfires again. There are now 55 active large wildfires burning at this time, with the largest and most uncontained in Oregon. Over the weekend, in the US West, some 24 million people were under heat alerts, more than 100 people died due to heat (one could call a mass casualty event), and across 12 states, the fires burned 768,307 acres. Several pockets of thunderstorms and heavy rain have been pestering the Interior Northeast, northern Plains, Southwest, and here in Southern Florida. 

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. Elsa has moved into the storm graveyard, south of Greenland. 

The Pacific Hurricane Season BEGAN 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21. In the Eastern North Pacific. 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 is slowly returning back to normal. We are in the All-Star Game break, which was 7/13. No, they are back to not counting (meaning that the winning League gets Home Team privileges for the World Series). It is back to being just an exhibition game for the fans (along with a homerun derby). In the end, the American League won again. And, once again, the All-Star Game bombed in the TV ratings. So, did the All-Star uniforms, according to fans and analysts. The Nielsen numbers were horrible at 8.24 million viewers. That made it the 2nd least watched All-Star Game of all time.  Maybe, they SHOULD make them count again. 

One player who shined and probably kept the ratings from being much worse, was Shohei Ohtani of the Angels. The phenom participated in the Home Run Derby and wowed the crowd hitting 28 HRs in the first round, but ultimately losing to Manny Soto in a swing-off. But, Ohtani was very respectable, especially for a starting pitcher who is a HR hitter. This season, he has already hit 32 HRs, more than any Japanese-born MLB player in history (halfway through the season), and currently the most in MLB (by 2), and is also pitching great from the mound. He has currently hit 9 more HRs then the closest participants in the Derby. He is the hunt for the AL MVP award. He is batting .279, has stolen 12 bases, has a .364 on-base percentage, and .700 slugging percentage. Oh, and he is also 4-1 with an ERA of 3.49 on the mound. He is a rare two-way player in modern day baseball, harkening back to Babe Ruth in the early 1900s, a great pitcher and homerun king. Ohtani leads the AL with a 5.6 Wins Above Replacement. I’ve heard some AL fans complaining that he gets to pitch and hit in games against their teams, when typically pitchers are replaced by DHs, but Otani hits as his own DH or sometimes as a RF. So, he is well within the rules. He is also at a lot more risk of getting injured, as opposed to most AL starting pitchers who throw for 7 innings every 5 days and never step on the field the other days during a game. While he didn’t win the Homerun Derby, he captured the hearts and awe of fans and turned HOF players into fans. In the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, Ohtani was the first player in All-Star Game history to be a starting pitcher and also bat lead-off, and the Game’s first two-way starter since 1933.  

Pete Alonso ultimately won the Derby. On the horizon, is the 7/31 Trade Deadline. Rumors of trades abound. 

Current standings (07/13), after about 87-92 games:

AL EAST is still kind of a 4-team race, but Boston and Tampa Bay have been pulling ahead of the others. Baltimore is already 26 games out of first place, having lost 7 of their last 10. The Red Sox have the 3rd best record in MLB, tied with the Astros for best in the American League. Still have half a season to play, from a scarred Red Sox fan. 

Boston

Tampa Bay

Toronto

NY Yankees

Baltimore

AL CENTRAL this was starting to look like the runaway division for the White Sox, but the Indians had righted the ship and closed the gap with the Sox. The Sox had lost 7 of their last 10 games. That just flipped around, with the Sox winning 7 of their last 10 games, while the Indians lost 7 of their last 10 games, pushing the distance to 8 games between them. The bottom 3 teams are all 15-18 games out of first place.

Chicago WS

Cleveland

Detroit

Minnesota

Kansas City

AL WEST the A’s have been a surprise, but the Astros have finally overtaken them, winning 7 of their last 10. There isn’t a lot of distance between them though, and the Mariners are hanging tough too. The Angels will have a tough call on the trade deadline.  

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 ½ game lead over the Phillies, who have won 7 of their last 10, as the Nats lost 8 of their last 10, and fell below both the Phillies and the Braves. The Mets are the only team in the division above .500.

NY Mets

Philadelphia

Atlanta

Washington

Miami

NL CENTRAL The Brewers are holding on to first place by 4 games over the Reds, who just won 8 of 10, while the Cubs fell to 3rd, losing 8 of their last 10. 

Milwaukee

Cincinnati

Chicago Cubs

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’. Plenty of analysts said that the Giants were not good enough to hold first place, but yet they are still 2 games ahead of the Dodgers. You can’t count the Padres out either, who are only 6 games back of the Giants. Led by teams with the two best records in MLB, this high-flying division has put the Diamondbacks in the rearview mirror, behind first place by 32 1/2 games. 

San Francisco

LA Dodgers

San Diego

Colorado

Arizona

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2021 season rolls on. Next up, The 149th Open Championship (or we call the British Open), the 3rd Major, to be held at Royal St. George’s, to be played 07/15-07/18. 2015 champion Zach Johnson just tested positive for COVID-19 and is out of The Open. Bubba Watson was identified as COVID-19 close contact and also pulled out of The Open. Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama was also forced to withdraw from The Open, after a positive COVID-19 test result. The funeral for slain golf pro Gene Siller was held Monday.  At the American Century Championship in South Lake Tahoe, NV, a celebrity tournament, basketball player Vinny Del Negro became the first basketball player to win the tournament, outlasting pitcher John Smoltz in a Playoff on Sunday. This was despite Smoltz eagling the 18th hole. They used the Stableford scoring system. I’ve played in a couple of tournaments with that format, and it is very confusing. QB Tony Romo came in 3rd. World Golf HOF Annika Sorenstam came in 4th. Charles Barkley tied for 76th out of 87 finishers. That’s significant because the NBA star lost twice, since he had made a $100,000 bet on that he would be in the top 70 of the tournament. Just missed. NHL player Mike Modano hit an albatross (3 under par on a Par 5) by holing out from 205 yards on the 18th hole.  It was the first albatross in the history of the tournament. DeChambeau says he and his former caddie “are good”. He selected instructor Brian Zeigler as his new caddie. Lucas Glover ended a 10-year title drought by winning the PGA Tour John Deere Classic. Jim Furyk bounced back and won the US Senior Open by 3 strokes. Nasa Hataoka won the rain-shortened Marathon LPGA Classic. Min Woo Lee won the Scottish Open after a playoff. But, the biggest surprise at the Scottish Open was the video of Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and his caddie on the teebox chatting, when a spectator stepped out of the crowd, grabbed Rory’s headcover, then his 6-iron right out of Rory’s bag, and proceeded to the tee, as if to hit a tee shot. The three chatting just stared unmoving in disbelief. Security tackled the walk-on golfer and returned the club and headcover to Rory’s caddie. I’ve never seen anything like that!! Rory may have been a little rattled, as he went on to miss the cut. Argentinian golfer Angel Cabrera was sentenced to 2 years in prison for domestic violence conviction. Last week, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers paired up with Bryson DeChambeau to beat Bucs QB Tom Brady (who had knocked Rodgers out of the NFC Championship, but won the NFL MVP over Brady) who was paired with Phil Mickelson for The Match 2021. 

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. On Wednesday, Seahawks’ Richard Sherman was arrested for alleged domestic abuse in Seattle. 

Soccer

The European Championship of FIFA EURO 2020 was decided in an exciting round of penalty kicks after full time, on Sunday (my birthday). Italy beat England. 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 were out. England had beaten Germany. After Sunday’s Final match, two England players received a rash of racist tweets and texts from England fans, blaming them for missing penalty kicks on their turns at the end. One of the players has now alleged that UK’s Boris Johnson’s government “stoked the fire” that led to the flood of online racist attacks. 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. Across the pond, the Copa America 2021 was decided with the Final also on Sunday, with Argentina beating Brazil, 1-0. Lionel Messi of Argentina had a statistical dominance over all of the other Copa America players.  Manchester United to challenge Tottenham Hotspurs to sign the $72 million defender, Cristian Romero, who won Copa America. In addition, FC Barcelona is also interested in Romero.  Romero was loaned to Atalanta from Juventus last summer. 

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. Osaka, who pulled out of the French Open, after being forced to do press conference, while suffering from anxiety, then passed on Wimbledon, and pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics in her home country, won the ESPY’s Best Woman Athlete award for her bravery and courage to bring to light mental issues that many athletes and people have. 

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. They are set to begin 07/23. However, as Japan enters another wave of COVID-19, specifically the Delta variant, they have decided not to have ANY spectators in the Olympic stadium and at some other venues. The Marathon and Baseball will have fans, among some other outdoor sports. Nigeria stunned Team USA men’s basketball 90-87 in an exhibition game. Some of the new sports at this Olympic Games will include: Skateboarding, Surfing, Sport Climbing, Karate, 3×3 Basketball, Baseball (returns), Softball, BMX Freestyle, among others. 

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. 

It was an exciting Playoffs, despite the odd configuration of the Divisions to be less traveling for the players and more COVID-19 aware. The Cinderella team this year, but perennial Stanley Cup winners in the old days, the Montreal Canadiens, ran into a rough Tampa Bay Lightning team and a goalie who was on fire. They wound up losing in 5 games, 4-1, to the Lightning, who repeated their Stanley Cup victory from last year. That’s an unusual feat nowadays with trades, salary cap and free agency. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Conn Smythe Trophy, as the MVP of the Playoffs. Yahoo Sports ran a story about the goalie possibly wearing illegal goaltender equipment, as fans of other teams are looking for a reason for why he was so good, claiming that his pads were oversized. It appears to be just a smear campaign. Next up is the NHL Draft 2021. Pierre McGuire went from ‘Inside the Glass’ as a commentator for NBC Sports to the Senators’ front office. The Oilers have acquired Duncan Keith a longtime star with the Blackhawks for Caleb Jones and a 3rd round pick. The NHL has designated its best free agents and top buy-out candidates. The San Jose Sharks are open for business this off-season, with regular players up for grabs. Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane was just named the Best NHL Player at the ESPY’s. The NHL is expanding to 32 teams for the 2021-22 season, with the addition of the Seattle Kraken in the Pacific Division. There will be a special expansion Draft for the Kraken to fill their bench. If you recall, when the Las Vegas Golden Knights did their expansion Draft, they performed extremely well, getting some of the best players around the league, particularly at goalie. The Bruins signed Brandon Carlo to a contract extension, but Kevin Miller announced his retirement. 

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. We are in the Finals, as the No.2 Phoenix Suns knocked off the No.4 LA Clippers in the Western Conference and the No.3 Milwaukee Bucks chased the No.5 Atlanta Hawks away in the Eastern Conference. The Suns lead in the Finals, 2-1 in games. The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 41 points kept it from being a 3-0 series. The 2021 NBA Draft is less than 3 weeks away. 

Horse Racing:

Okay, I cry ‘shenanigans!’ so trainer Bob Baffert, who has had a remarkable streak of winners over the last few years, was found to have allowed the Kentucky Derby winner to have been given topical steroids that were banned, disqualifying him, eventually from the victory (although officially not changing that he won, screwing all of the bettors) and suspending for life the trainer Bob Baffert from Churchill Downs racing. A later blood test confirmed the initial blood test, which disqualified the horse, Medina Spirit, from running in the Belmont Stakes in Hempstead, NY. Bob Baffert was also banned from running horses in New York, which would include not only Belmont, but Saratoga, White Plains, etc. However, on Wednesday, a NY federal judge nullified Baffert’s suspension of horse racing in NY, finding the NYRA did not let him adequately respond to claims made against him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed those postrace drug tests. 

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:

While the US has had this unprecedented heatwave, it has also had unprecedented gun violence, road rage, and airplane rage. There have been 3200 air rage incidents reported to the FAA so far in 2021, multiple times the average for any single year (142 investigations per year). The reports of a surge in abusive or violent incidents on US flights are being linked to Pandemic-related factors. Behavior psychologists point to people emerging from pandemic lockdowns and then being forced into confined spaces on an airplane with strangers who may or may not be infected, leading to tension and outbursts. And, some of the unclear rules about how to deal with the pandemic are not helping, putting airline attendants at risk, as they interpret one set of rules versus what rules may have been set by other attendants for another airline. There have been attendants punched and losing teeth, passengers trying to open the emergency exit, other passengers being subdued by other passengers, one being duct-taped to a seat, etc. The TSA is now offering self-defense classes to airline personnel. Turning to road rage, a driver pulled out a gun on another driver along the East Loop in Houston on Tuesday. A teenager was shot and killed while leaving an Astros game last week in Houston. The father announced that the road rage from another driver did at least end with his son’s organs donated to 3 other people to save their lives. A Florida man in Alachua County was arrested after his fit of road rage ended with his and another man’s vehicle in a wreck and him beating on the other car until the driver emerged. A family of four, heading on vacation, narrowly missed being shot in their car just off the Capital Beltway on Sunday, after a man opened fire in what police called an apparent road rage attack. A woman was shot and killed in Riverdale in April, after friends said she honked at another driver to try to avoid a crash. Later in April, a woman shot a man along Massachusetts Avenue NW in DC, after a roadside crash. In May, a man driving a Maserati shot a woman who tried to get in front of him on Eastern Ave NE in DC. The violence is senseless. After a machete was pulled on a man and woman by a driver in May in Prince William’s County, police gave these tips on how to avoid road rage incidents and aggressive drivers:

  • Make every attempt to get out of their way
  • Put your pride aside and don’t challenge them
  • Ignore gestures and avoid eye contact
  • Don’t sink to their level. Remain safe
  • Be a courteous driver
  • Report serious aggressive drivers to law enforcement

Well, we are all excited to get out of pandemic quarantine and state and local restrictions (except those who are still in them), and many are flocking to amusement parks. Well, not so fast. All of a sudden, maybe because they were sitting unused for so long, some amusement parks are having accidents with rides having mechanical malfunctions. Health officials now say that bicycle helmets which have been involved in one serious accident are no longer safe and protective and must be replaced. I never heard that before.

Health News:  

As of this evening (7/13), globally, over 4 million people have died from COVID-19.  More than 188,000,000 people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 33.9 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 607,881. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (535,838), India (411,406), Mexico (235,277), Peru (194,606), and UK (128,748). 

Authorities in hotspots of COVID-19 in the US say that people are passing quicker than they did before. The newest COVID-19 hotspots in Singapore are in karaoke clubs. Cases have surged in Greece and the Netherlands. While UK PM is coming under increasing criticism to ease pandemic restrictions, he worries about triggering a rise in infections. 

The more contagious Delta Variant of COVID-19 is causing some new problems. There appears to be another rare problem with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. If you recall, there was a rare blood-clotting issue among a handful of people. Now, apparently, there is an issue that prompted the FDA to issue a new warning about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, of a new rare neurological reaction, Guillain-Barre syndrome, after vaccination. It was about 100 preliminary reports out of 12.8 million doses. The FDA  maintained that the vaccination still outweighs the risks. Okay, this is highly anecdotal, but six fully vaccinated people who attended an outdoor wedding in Texas got COVID-19. All of those guests were over 50. One died, who had had India’s Covaxin vaccine, while the other 5, who had Pfizer and Moderna, survived. Mississippi health officials are warning about Delta Variant ‘surge’, as 12 children are now in ICU with COVID-19. Remember, children under 12-years-old are not eligible for vaccination, yet. Ironically, the Delta Variant, which began in India, has been rapidly expanding in the US in the areas with the lowest vaccination rates. That, of course, has many people who ARE vaccinated worrying whether they are really protected or need a third Booster shot. Studies are already underway on a third dose, but experts so far agree that the vaccines are still working well, even against the Delta variant, and that booster shots are not necessary right now. However, planning ahead, Pfizer-BioNTech plans to seek authorization for a booster shot in the US in the coming weeks, citing that the possibility that protection against COVID-19 will wane 6-12 months after full immunization with the current two-shot regimen. Oy vey!  Well, the CDC and FDA quickly offered a quick rebuke to the Pfizer announcement, noting that public health officials would make the decision about booster shots, not pharmaceutical companies. Israel’s Ministry of Health said on Monday that it would begin offering a 3rd dose of the Pfizer vaccine to people with weakened immune systems. Pfizer’s announcement was reportedly based on Israel’s recent data, which shows that the vaccine remains about 93% effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization, but is 64% effective at stopping breakthrough infections, with or without symptoms. That is down from 95% in May. So, Pfizer is thinking a booster may be optimal 6-12 months after the second shot. 

More people than ever died of drug overdoses in the US in 2020. 

Animal News:

Important news: your pets can catch COVID-19 from you and cats appear more susceptible than dogs. It turns out that Shark Week began on the Discovery+ Channel on Sunday, my birthday. I didn’t catch which state this was, but I’m assuming Florida, someone ordered an actual contract hit on a peacock on Craigslist, which was then fulfilled with the animal shot dead in a neighborhood that it inhabited or graced. Seriously?? What is wrong with people? I saw the post on Craigslist, with the guy, it’s got to be a guy, saying that the bird is extremely loud and wakes him every morning at 5-5:30am and that he would gladly pay someone to put an end to it. Police have a man in custody. I hope his prison wakeup call isn’t too early. A southern Idaho animal rescue has been seeking help, as the shelters are overcrowded. Gymnast Aly Raisman was reunited with her dog that went missing over July 4th. A housekeeper claims that Chris Brown’s dog mauled her and alleged that he euthanized it after the attack. A 12-foot Burmese python that escaped from a Louisiana zoo was found in a shopping mall. In Atlanta, a woman woke up to find a serval cat in bed, after her husband left the door open. A city in Australia has implemented a 24-hour cat curfew. In South Lake Tahoe, as CA beachgoers sought to escape the oppressive heat, an adult black bear and her 4 cubs joined the humans on the beach, swimming in the water and stealing coolers. At the request of the owner, an Oregon deputy fatally shot a 250-pound chimpanzee, after it bit owner’s daughter. 

Entertainment News:

BLACK WIDOW won this weekend’s box-office, with a total worldwide (including streaming) of $215 million. That’s the most of any movie since the pandemic began. It seems weird to be once again announcing movie numbers. I’ve been watching some good 2021 movies that went straight to streaming, instead of movie theaters. I’m not even sure the local movie theaters are still open around here. People say the movie feels like a Marvel version of a Jason Bourne movie. Britney Spears remains at the center of the news, as her sister and mother come out to support her in her Conservatorship case, just as she posts some unusual stuff on Instagram. She is speaking with former federal prosecutor to represent her in the next phase of the case, and as of this writing Wednesday night, the judge granted her that ability. It seems so silly that a 40-year-old woman can’t choose her own judge and has to have her father call all of the shots in her life, who she can date, whether she can have kids, whether she can have a cup of coffee, etc. That father also paid himself $500,000 for HIS lawyers from HER estate to fight her in court over the Conservatorship. Now, Britney wants and investigation into alleged abuse by her father.  Everyone should have the right, especially at 40, with some restrictions for certain people, to become a train wreck or not. Catt Sadler warned “don’t let your guard down” after getting sick from COVID-19 while fully vaccinated. Nicolas Cage announced that he won’t be in TIGER KING series, portraying the lead character, after all. Jason Sudeikis says he isn’t sure what happened in the breakup with Olivia Wilde. Mj Rodriguez became the first out trans woman nominated for lead actress Emmy award. Ted Lasso broke the record held by Glee for Emmy nominations, with 20. Cedric the Entertainer will be the host for the Emmy awards. There is some controversy over the new SPACE JAM movie look, which follows on the Michael Jordan original, now with LeBron James. Patricia Heaton celebrated 3 years of sobriety. The animated movie MONSTERS AT WORK has enough laughs and famous voices to get the job done. GOSSIP GIRL is giving people something to talk about, although it’s not all good. FAST AND FURIOUS 9 has added John Cena, but the franchise feels like its spinning its wheels now. FATHERHOOD will give Kevin Hart a chance to show off his serious side. Rita Moreno is shining in a new documentary, “Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It”. I remember watching her dance and sing when I was growing up. I didn’t know where to put this raging controversy, one that I have been very vocal about, even before it appeared in the movie FATHER OF THE BRIDE, as Steve Martin’s character gets pissed off at the grocery stockboy about the discrepancy between the number of hot dog buns in a package versus the number of hot dogs in a package. He said that the two powerful industries got together to ultimately defraud the consumer. He proceeded to open up a package of buns with 12 buns and remove only 8, to match his package of 8 hot dogs. With the 4th of July barbecues and the famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest just behind us, I’m sure the topic came up many times. Well, now Heinz ketchup is fueling the debate, kind of tongue in cheek, by hosting a Heinz Hot Dog Pact petition, which already has 25,000 signatures!  Here is a fact that you can amaze drunk friends with at the bar: Heinz 57 varieties on their packaging does not refer to the variety of ketchup they have offered over the years, but the variety of pickles. It appears that the audience does not like Real Housewives of New York new format or continued antics, particularly in light of the pandemic, and the show has been put on hold before the Reunion show, because of bad ratings. In addition, the OG, Ramona Singer, has been fired after 13 years, according to Radar Online. She was the last original cast member. Just now, I saw that Bravo is denying that she is being fired and that Dorinda, who has been fired, leaked the false info. But, there is still rumors swirling that others will be fired and the show’s production has definitely been put on hold. I’ve watched pieces of all of the ROH series (OC, BH, NYC, Potomac, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, NJ, Idaho, etc.) and I find them to now be insipid. They become screaming matches and show these supposed friends doing lavish things and lavish vacations, that have nothing to do with the real lives of viewers. That was originally supposed to provide an escape for viewers. But, now it just seems insensitive and annoying.

Technology & Space News:

US President Biden recently warned Russian President Putin that if he didn’t do something about hackers in Russia, he would. So, read into it what you will, but suddenly some alleged perpetrators of a recent cyber-attack on the US from Russian soil had their Internet footprint ‘suddenly erased.’ Sorry to those who thought the lead story would be about Richard Branson. I thought that was more important. Okay, Virgin everything, Richard Branson, took his flight into space on Sunday, going 53 miles high, to the edge of space. It fulfilled his childhood dream. He was accompanied by 3 Virgin Galactic employees. While the journey was a landmark moment for the fledgling space tourism industry, the implications of the developments aren’t quite as rosy as Branson’s messages imply. Even with Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos own self-funded trip on 7/20 and Elon Musk’s planned launch of an all-civilian crew later this year, this space travel comes at a very hefty cost for the rest of us. First, there is the environmental footprint, which is huge. Virgin Galactic claims that the carbon footprint for its suborbital flight is comparable to that of business class on a transatlantic flight. However, per passenger means that the footprint is far more for 4 passengers versus 250 passengers or more. Jeff Bezos touted his comparably low carbon footprint for liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engines, which don’t even emit carbon.  But, he fell into the same canal of thinking that Elon Musk did with his electric cars, not taking into account the PRODUCTION of hydrogen fuels, which depends heavily on fossil fuels. In Musk’s case, it was the production of electricity and lithium batteries, which turned out to be big footprints. So, it looks like the world’s richest people are directing their outrageous resources to an endeavor that doesn’t benefit the majority of society and may make our global warming worse, as we suffer record-breaking temperatures, wildfires, and extreme weather. 

US News:

Former President Trump has made up his mind about the 2024 Presidential election. Unfortunately, he is keeping the results to himself so far. On Wednesday, a naked California woman was extricated from a crack between two buildings. San Francisco is allegedly seeing a wave of rampant shoplifting, in the open and during the daytime, seemingly without repercussion. The apparent lawlessness is showing up on several viral videos. However, city officials are pushing back. They say that overall thefts are down 9% in the first six months of the year, compared to the same period in 2020 (well, people were restricted and businesses were in lockdown then by the pandemic). California’s Proposition 47 in 2014 lowered criminal sentences for certain non-violent crimes, like shoplifting. It set a threshold of $950, below which shoplifting would not be considered a misdemeanor. 

Bankruptcy:

A New York District judge ruled that being an “Officer” disqualifies someone from a KERP. IRA withdrawals aren’t protected from Bernie Madoff fraudulent transfer judgments. Another judge ruled that liquidating a defunct corporation qualifies for the SBRA. An amended Chapter 13 Plan allows one to cure post-petition mortgage defaults.  Here’s one that is nearly Greek to me: “Fililng Chapter 15 as a ‘Litigation Tactic’ didn’t bar ‘Foreign Main Recognition.’ And, one I saw today, that if you own a car and are filing bankruptcy and put the car payments or lease payments in the Plan, you have to remove them specifically in another category, or you will lose the car as an asset. I’m sure what I read was more understandable. 

International News:

The 4-star US General in Afghanistan for the US forces has just stepped down, after 3 years, handing over command to the next and likely last mop-up General. The US has pulled out of Afghanistan, as did Russia before them, after 20 year packing up what equipment and weapons as they could. However, they left a lot of sophisticated weapons and systems behind for the Afghan Army, particularly their Special Forces commandos. But, there are only some 10,000 commandoes. The regular Afghan Army, which is much larger, is reportedly losing or surrendering to the incoming Taliban, who were just waiting for the US to leave.  The Taliban has an agreement with the US that they will not allow any other terrorist groups, like Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc. to operate out of the country of Afghanistan. Hmmm, I’m concerned by the word ‘other’ and not sure if I trust the agreement. But what do I know? My Special Forces group is back, which is important to me. However, important to them and me, is that the US changed their Rules of Engagement and no longer give automatic citizenship to interpreters or contractors and their families who work to support our troops. They left behind interpreters who are no longer afforded automatic citizenship and have to go through months of bureaucratic red tape, as they are on the top of the Taliban’s list for execution, after their families.  It’s unconscionable, and makes me angry! And, as you can all attest, I’ve never been angry. I just bought a case of tennis balls for Afghan interpreters to play cricket with our troops, because their tennis balls were like 20 years old, had no fuzz and didn’t bounce. These are surely our invaluable allies.  Shame on the US government and the Pentagon for not insisting that these people and their families are protected, after years of service to our soldiers! I’m guessing that by the time you read this, they will all be dead, after their families were tortured and killed. The Cuban government has shut down the Internet there, in response to increased violent protest against the Communist government there. People are angry about poor services, inadequate food supplies and water, and lack of COVID-19 vaccines. Large sympathy protests are being held in Miami by Cuban-Americans. China is now fixating on the Florida condo collapse at Surfside, as disaster have begun unfolding in China. There seems to be a lot of unrest in the world. In South Africa, protests over the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma has resulted in 72 deaths and 1200 arrests. The Supreme Court of Nepal designated Sher Bahadur Deuba as Prime Minister. The Party of Action and Solidarity won a majority of seats in the Moldovan parliamentary election. 

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. The recovery efforts are winding down at Champlain Towers South. At least 95 people are confirmed dead (85 of whom have been identified), 11 others injured and 14 people are still missing in the rubble. On Monday, a different kind of news regarding the incident put a new pallor on it. It turns out that a commissioner who has been deeply involved with the rescuers and consoling the families has been discovered to be infected with COVID-19. He has had the illness for at least 5 days before the announcement and can be seen hugging first responders and family members alike. A new issue is challenging first responders at Surfside, who are now recovering victims’ property, such as jewelry, cash, art, children’s toys, and firearms. Authorities are not yet sure how to return those objects to their rightful owners and what the legal implications will be. They are using a meticulous process to sort and catalog the items and store them respectfully. More than 18 million pounds of concrete and debris have been removed by 892 trucks since the collapse. COVID-19 cases have nearly doubled in recent weeks in South Florida. 

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

83. Why does a chicken coop only have two doors?

Because if it had four doors, it would be a chicken sedan.

84. A sandwich walks into a bar.

The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve food here.”

85. I got a new job last week as the new top dog at Old MacDonald’s farm.

I’m the new C-I-E-I-O.

86. The sky was looking ominous so I asked Siri, “Surely, it’s not going to rain today?”

And she replied, “Yes it is, and don’t call me Shirley.”

That was when I realized I’d left my phone on Airplane mode.

87. Why did the giraffe get such bad grades?

He always had his head stuck in the clouds.

88. Why are frogs always so happy?

They eat whatever bugs them.

89. Whenever you jump on a trampoline, did you know it changes the season?

No matter what time of year, it always becomes spring time.

90. Why didn’t the skeleton go to the dance?

Because he had no body to go with.

91. What do you call a musician with problems?

A trebled man.

92.Where do snowmen keep their savings?

In the snowbank.

93. What do you call a religious person who sleepwalks?

A roamin’ Catholic.

94. Did you hear about the carrot detective?

He always got to the root of every case.

95. What washes up on very small beaches?

Micro-waves

96. What did one elevator say to the other?

I think I’m coming down with something.

97. What happened when a faucet, a tomato, and some lettuce ran a race together?

The lettuce was ahead, the faucet was running, and the tomato was trying to ketchup.

98. What do you call a belt with a watch on it?

A waist of time.

99. Why did the tomato turn red?

It saw the salad dressing.

100. What did the grape do when it got stepped on?

It let out a little wine.

101. Why won’t skeletons fight each other?

They just don’t have the guts.

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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