Repo Commentary-08/13/21

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.

The Repo Commentary is back from a short break, while I was out in Colorado Springs for a certain, very close Green Beret’s beautiful wedding. 

I am NOT RETIRED from the Securities Finance industry. Although I have completed several projects (below) and am looking to lend my 39 years of expertise to firms via consulting or via full-time positions.

  • I have completed writing/recording/presenting 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.

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 (08/13):

  • It’s Friday the 13th
  • Blame Someone Else Day
  • International Left-Handers Day
  • National Filet Mignon Day
  • National Kool-Aid Day
  • National Prosecco Day
  • Skeptics Day International
  • Independence Day in Central African Republic
  • Women’s Day in Tunisia

On Monday, we remember icon Elvis Presley, who was found dead on August 16, 1977.

Some Famous People Born on (08/13):

  • 1860-Annie Oakley, American target shooter
  • 1866-Giovanni Agnelli, Italian businessman and founder of Fiat S.p.A
  • 1899-Alfred Hitchcock-English-American director and producer
  • 1902-Felix Wankel-German engineer
  • 1911-William Bernback, American advertiser, co-founded DDB Worldwide
  • 1912-Ben Hogan, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1926-Fidel Castro, Cuban lawyer and President of Cuba
  • 1930-Don Ho, American singer and ukulele player
  • 1935-Mudcat Grant, American baseball player and my former coach
  • 1949-Bobby Clarke, Candian ice hockey player and manager
  • 1951-Dan Fogelberg, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1959-Danny Bonaduce, American actor and wrestler
  • 1970-Elvis Grbac, American football player and coach

Daily Weird Facts:

Finland is the world’s happiest country, according to the 2019 World Happiness Report.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”—Dalai Lama

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

$68.03/barrel on 08/13

The price of Oil appears to have leveled off at these highs. Big Oil companies are blasting President Biden for turning to OPEC for more crude oil. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station jumped 6 cents in the past week, at $2.95/gallon. However, gasoline prices have been rising faster in surrounding areas (up to $3.79/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

109.59 on 08/13/21

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

08/13/21 at $1.1797

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

08/13/21 at $1.3866

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

1.2515 on 08/13/21

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

08/13/21 $1,781.50

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

$47,796.20 on 08/13/21 ouch what a whipsaw!

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:

Nothing to report.

Global Financial News:

Surging global M&A deals have reached a new high of $3.6 trillion worldwide. That has already topped last year’s $3.59 trillion according Refinitiv. The number of deals too is up to 35,128 so far for 2021, up 24% over the entire 2020. Cash deposited in the Federal Reserve’s RRP program hit a record $1.087 trillion, highlighting just how much USD cash is sloshing in the market and available. The Treasury Department is going to start paying down its Treasury Bill issuance, which is going to reduce the amount of collateral available, particularly in the Repo market, further. It’s kind of ironic that the Fed is starting their new facility to take collateral on Reverse Repo and pay out USD cash, as their counterparties in the RRP are already unable to find collateral for themselves at the broker/dealers. Some special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) face the prospect of returning cash to investors if they fail to sign up to deals before a lockup period expires. 80 SPACs have less than a year to secure acquisitions before they must refund investors according S&P Global. Major fund managers worldwide are holding on to risky assets based on the belief that a surge in US inflation is temporary and that the Fed will give ample indication when it will begin tapering asset purchases. Most money managers think the Fed will be watching the labor market more closely than inflation, according to Reuters. Hedge Fund stock pickers are becoming increasingly bold in their conviction buys and crowding into long positions in the 50 most popular stocks, according to data from Morgan Stanley. That could portend trouble, as it may not be enough diversification and if they choose to pull out, it could have a major impact on those stocks’ prices. Neobanks or fintechs that aren’t fully chartered banks but provide a variety of financial services are seeing soaring valuations and grabbing huge sums of money from investors, sometimes outshining their traditional banking rivals. Some firms, such as Robinhood, Coinbase, PayPal, and Square are tending to trade around 15x higher than their estimated core sales, while some traditional banks are trading around 3x, according to the WSJ.

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. We closed at a record high today!

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).

08/13/21  35,515.38

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

08/13/21 at 4,468.00

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 high today!

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

08/13/21 at 14,822.90 new record high

The US Treasury market

2 YEAR NOTES closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28%

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%

08/13/21 at 0.23% back to 7/14 level, after having fallen 2 weeks ago to 0.17%

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%

08/13/21 at 0.44% which ignores that it hit 0.33% on 08/02/21

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%

08/13/21 at 0.79% it hit 0.65% on 08/03/21

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%

08/13/21 at 1.08% hit 0.95% on 08/03/21

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%

08/13/21 at 1.29% hit 1.19% on 08/03/21

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%

08/13/21 at 1.94% although it hit 1.83% on 08/04/21

Housing News:

As President Biden has instituted an extension to the moratorium on evictions, states are racing to pay out $billions in rent aid before the Federal deadline for that. And they are way behind. For instance, incoming NY Governor Hochul faces the herculean task of distributing nearly $800 million to needy renters before the Federal government takes it back. NY received $1.3 billion from Congress last year as the first part of federal rent aid. As of this week, less than $100 million has made its way to landlords to cover what their tenants owe them in back rent. About $460 million has been approved but is awaiting landlord approval to be paid out. Guidelines allow the US Dept. of Treasury to claw back unused funding starting 9/30/21 and reallocate it to other states’ programs that have used up at least 65% of what they were allotted. Here is an odd connection, Americans most likely to be evicted are the least likely to be vaccinated for COVID-19. NY is not the only state with a problem. Seven states have spent less than 2% of their rent assistance funds (AL, AR, MS, IN, ND, SC, and WY), according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. Florida has spent just 3% of the $870 million allocated to it. Georgia has spent 2% and Ohio has spent about 7%. Nationwide, only 17% of this first round of rental aid funding has been used. NY’s program did not kick off until 6/1 and the first payments didn’t go out until 7/19. President Biden extended the Federal eviction moratorium, which is still being challenged in court, but NYC’s eviction moratorium ends on 8/31/21. You’ve probably seen the shocking headlines that in the last 10 months, some 60,000 New Yorkers have moved to Florida. But, the RealDeal reports that NYC grew by 629,000 people since 2010. Midtown NYC Distrikt Hotel is heading for foreclosure. Nationally, the hot housing market showed Home Prices were up in 94% of the nation’s major metro markets. Stephen Ross has become the King of the West Palm Beach (where I live) office market. Airbnb boasted a 2nd quarter revenue, but is sounding the alarm about the Delta variant impact. Billionaire Mets owner and hedge fund manager Steven Cohen has bought a South Florida mansion for nearly $22 million.

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 just had another FOMC meeting on July 28. (see below)

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). It should be thought of as a Reverse Repo from the perspective of the Federal Reserve: it will give out cash and take in collateral. This is similar in direction to the Discount Window and the O/N and Term RPs that the Fed has been doing with Primary Dealers. It is the OPPOSITE of the direction of the RRP program, in which the Fed takes cash from money funds and others and gives out collateral from its portfolio.  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.

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.  I am hearing from some customers that, with the current surge in COVID-19 cases and Delta Variant, particularly in Florida, that they may forego the RMA Conference in Florida.

  • 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:  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.

At the 7/28 FOMC meeting, the Fed focused on progress on vaccinations and indicators of economic growth and employment continuing to strengthen. But, it said the sectors most effected by the pandemic have shown improvement but haven’t fully recovered. The Fed specifically linked the path of the economy to the path of the virus.  It cited that risks to the economic outlook remain. Pointing at its mandate for maximum employment and controlled inflation at about 2%, the Fed said that it would continue to maintain an accommodative stance on monetary policy until these outcomes are achieved. It kept the target Fed Funds rate at 0.00-0.25%. it also chose to continue its aggressive purchasing of US Treasuries and Agency MBS at $80b and $40b/month respectively. It seemed to me that the Fed actually said less in this FOMC Statement than they did at the last one, choosing not to freak everyone out about possible Fed tightening or QE tapering. 

The FOMC also issued an additional statement regarding “Repurchase Agreement Arrangements”. It announced the establishment of a domestic Standing Repo Facility (SRF) (which I discussed above) and a repo facility for foreign and international monetary authorities (FIMA Repo Facility). This latter facility was new to me. Both facilities are intended to be backstops to the money market. So, we received more detailed information at this FOMC: the SRF will have daily O/N repo operations against US Treasuries, Agency Debentures, and Agency MBS pools, with a maximum total size of $500 billion. The minimum bid rate for repos under the facility will be the top end of the Fed Funds range, currently 0.25%, which is currently ABOVE the general level of O/N interest rates (of course, you never know what the Fed means here. Do they mean the SOFR rate, which is an Offer Side rate, while the SRF rate is supposed to be a Bid Side rate, or if they are calculating against the mean or mid-point of bid/offer spread?).  Or, they could just be talking about this SRF in the context of where Repo and Reverse Repo rates are versus the Fed Funds target rate, lately closer to the bottom of the range. The initial counterparties will be their 22 Primary Dealers, which we knew, and be expanded to other ‘depository institutions.’ Hmmm, I think that just means banks and credit unions, and could still not give access to other needy collateral providers like asset managers, hedge funds, REITs, insurance companies, municipalities, pension funds, etc. Hopefully, I am wrong about that. The FIMA repo facility will actually operate a little easier, as the Fed will enter into O/N reverse repos as needed with foreign official institutions against their holding of US Treasuries already maintained in custody at the Federal Reserve Bank of NY, mostly in the SOMA accounts. That rate will also be 0.25% now and the per counterparty limit will be $60 billion. This facility could be key for these institutions to receive US dollar funding, when propping up their own currencies, rather than selling their US Treasuries outright. I think we will be discussing these 2 Fed facilities in future Repo Commentaries and you probably will see my comments pop up in some upcoming media articles.

On Thursday, the Federal Reserve Board issued Enforcement Actions with South Shore Bank and Dime Community Bank. Both were Flood Insurance violations. On 8/5, the Federal Reserve Board announced individual capital requirements for all large banks, effective on October 1. Also on 8/5, the Federal Reserve Board announced the termination of enforcement action with JPMorgan Chase. The Fed has extended the comment period on proposed rule to govern funds transfers over the Federal Reserve Banks’ FedNow Service.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

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

08/10 5.1 northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge

08/10 4.9 Kuril Islands

08/10 5.1 SSE of Mukalla, Yemen

08/10 4.7 SW of Santiago, Peru

08/10 4.5 SW of Santiago, Peru

08/10 4.6 SSW of Paracas, Peru

08/10 5.1 SSE of Kuril’sk, Russia

08/10 4.5 WSW of La Libertad, El Salvador

08/09 4.8 SE of Shwebo, Myanmar

08/09 4.6 ENE of Lospalos, Timor Leste

08/09 5.0 southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Weather:

Northern California continues to burn.  The Dixie Fire has now scorched an area more than twice the size of New York City. Firefighters are battling the largest single wildfire in state history (surpassing last year’s Creek Fire in the Central Valley, but half the size of the August Complex of 2020 which were lightning-caused fires across 7 counties and fought together) and bracing for a return of weather that could make the fires worse.  The winds aren’t expected to reach the ferocious speeds that caused the fire to explode in size last week, but there are still thousands of homes that firefighters are trying to protect. An expert from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said, “the live trees that are out there now have a lower fuel moisture than you would find when you go to a hardware store or a lumber yard and get that piece of lumber that’s kiln dried.” So, it won’t take much in embers or sparks to set live trees ablaze. The fire incinerated much of Greenville last week, destroying 370 homes and structures and threatening nearly 14,000 buildings in the northern Sierra Nevada. The Dixie Fire is still being investigated, although PG&E said it may have sparked when a tree fell on one of its power lines. Northwest of the Dixie Fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, hundreds of homes remained threatened by the McFarland and Monument fires, which continue to grow. About 25% of the McFarland fire is contained and about 3% of the Monument fire is contained. South of the Dixie Fire, the River Fire, which broke out Wednesday near Colfax, has already destroyed 68 homes.  Smoke from the wildfires burning the US West continues to flow into parts of Colorado and Utah, causing air quality alerts. I was there in Colorado during alerts. The air quality there has measured as the worst in the world due to these fires. California’s fire season is on track to surpass last year’s season, which was the worst in recorded state history. Since the beginning of 2021, more than 6,000 fires in California have destroyed more than 1,260 square miles of land, more than triple the losses of 2020 during the same period. And California’s fires are currently among 107 large fires burning across 14 states. By Wednesday night, the Dixie Fire had burned over 500,000 acres. Although authorities will be looking at data supplied by PS&G regarding a possible downed line in igniting this fire, a man has been arrested for allegedly not only starting several of the fires, but even starting a fire in an evacuation alley for firefighters, basically behind them to engulf them.

The heatwave across the country, while about 10 degrees lower than it was, has very high heat indices for some 146 million Americans over the next few days. We’ve been getting slammed with rainstorms here in Florida and 105 heat indices, with temps in the 90s. The National Weather Service is expecting heavy rain through the week in some sections of the country and possible tornadoes through the tornado belt. According to NOAA, July was the hottest month ever recorded.

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 was expected by the NOAA to be an Active hurricane season. They expected a likely range of 13-20 named storms (winds of 39mph or higher). They expected 6-10 of them to be Hurricanes, and of that 3-5 reaching Category 3 or stronger.  This week, NOAA revised those numbers slightly higher. Now they predict 15-21 named storms, 7-10 hurricanes, of which still 3-5 reaching Category 3 or stronger.

There are currently two tropical waves in the Atlantic at this time, that could develop into tropical depressions or storms in the coming days. The NHC is keeping an eye on them, as they may impact the Caribbean this week. They are giving them a 50% chance and a 40% chance, respectively, of developing over the next 5 days. We’ve had 5 named storms, ending with Elsa. The next names would be Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Julian, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor, and Wanda. Radar and satellite images are showing increasing tropical activity in Atlantic. Storm warnings were just issued for Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands. As I’m writing this on Wednesday, the NHC named Tropical Storm Fred and put out warnings for the west coast of Florida, although the East coast of Florida is in the cone of possibility.  Fred fell to a Tropical Depression over Cuba, on Thursday, but now looks like it will intensify over warm water into probably the first named Hurricane of the season, a Category 1 is likely. Also, Tropical Depression Grace behind Fred is strengthening and may be the next Tropical Storm or even Hurricane.

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.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has just proclaimed “a code red for humanity.” This is the unequivocal consensus of the world’s top climate scientists, per Bloomberg, who revealed in a report Monday that, not only are humans responsible for the catastrophes befalling the atmosphere, the oceans, the ice packs, and the forests, but that without drastic moves by the planet’s leaders to eliminate greenhouse gas pollution, things are going get a lot worse soon. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that the crucial warming threshold of 2 degrees Centigrade will be exceeded during the 21st Century. In addition, the report says that the past decade was most likely hotter than any period in the last 125,000 years, and combustion and deforestation have raised CO2 in the atmosphere higher than it’s been in two million years.

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 seems to slowly be returning back to normal.  MLB and Barstool Sports are reportedly in significant talks to broadcast games, according to the NY Post. My mighty Red Sox have been tumbling, along with the Mets, as the Blue Jays, Phillies, and Braves make their August runs.  The 7/30 trade deadline passed with some teams becoming rebuilding and others adding star power for the big push. I don’t know if you caught Thursday night’s baseball treat for fans, as the Yankees and White Sox played in the cornfields of Iowa at a ballpark seating 8,000 fans, built right next to the field from 1990s movie hit, FIELD OF DREAMS, which one Best Picture Oscar. People dressed in old style uniforms and fans won seats through a lottery. Kevin Costner, start of the movie, was on hand to throw out the first pitch, stepping out of the cornfields in center field and walking to the mound. He also provided game coverage for a couple of innings. The game itself was as exciting as could be expected. With plenty of homeruns, the Yankees jumped out to an early 4-1 lead, but the White Sox climbed back into the game to lead late 7-4, but then the Yankees rallied back and seemed to cap off the dramatic comeback in the top of the 9th with a 2-run HR. But, the excitement wasn’t over, as the White Sox hit a walkoff 2-run HR of their own in the bottom of the 9th, to win 9-8! I actually watched the entire game, even though I’m not a Yankees fan, and I forewent watching the Patriots’ first preseason game. Preseason NFL games are meaningless for the fans anyways.

Current standings (08/09), after about 110-115 games:

AL EAST the Red Sox lost 9 of 11 games and relinquished first place now by 5 games to the Rays. In fact, the Red Sox lost several games to the Rays, Jays, and Yankees in this stretch, as those 3 teams won 8 out of 10 games each. The Red Sox have yet to pitch their healed ace Chris Sales, for some reason, and picked up some extra offensive punch, but it hasn’t translated yet to these games. Last night (Wednesday), the Red Sox ran up the score to 20-1 over the Rays (before giving up 7 runs in the 9th?). 20 runs was the most the Red Sox had scored in a game since 2015. Maybe the offense is back. Baltimore is 29 games back.

Tampa Bay

Boston

NY Yankees

Toronto

Baltimore

AL CENTRAL this began as the runaway division for the White Sox, but then the Cleveland Indians (renamed a politically more correct Guardians starting 2022) made a run at them. That has subsequently faltered. The White Sox are back in front by 10 ½ games over Cleveland. Minnesota is 18 games back

Chicago WS

Cleveland

Detroit

Kansas City

Minnesota

AL WEST the A’s have been a surprise, but the Astros have finally overtook them, and have the slight lead by 2 games. The Mariners are not out of it either, 7 ½ games back of the Astros. The Rangers are 27 games back.

Houston

Oakland

Seattle
LA Angels

Texas

NL EAST this division continues to underperform, which leaves almost every team still in the running.  With the Mets losing 8 out of their last 10 games, the Phillies leapfrogged to first place, winning 8 in a row, and the Braves won 7 of 10 to take 2nd place, bumping the Mets down to 3rd place. Based on the trade deadline, the Nats decided to throw in the towel on some big contracts and begin rebuilding. The Marlins are 12 games back.

Philadelphia

Atlanta

NY Mets

Washington

Miami

NL CENTRAL The Brewers are holding on to first place by 5 games over the Reds, who just won 8 of their last 10, while the Cards are 10 ½ games behind, and the Cubs became sellers at the trade deadline and begin their rebuilding. The Pirates are 25 games back.

Milwaukee

Cincinnati

St. Louis

Chicago Cubs

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 have widened to 4 games ahead of the Dodgers. You can’t count the Padres out either, who are only 7 1/2 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 38 1/2 games.

San Francisco

LA Dodgers

San Diego

Colorado

Arizona

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2021 season rolls on. Well, it’s hard to speak without remarking on the United States’ surprising Gold medals in Men’s Golf and Women’s Golf at the Tokyo Olympics. Our first in Golf in 121 years!  The 2021 US Amateur is coming up. Harris English is coming to Bryson DeChambeau’s defense on heckling fans. The fans were yelling “Brooksie” at him, carrying over from the spat he had with Brooks Koepka a few months back. Bryson is a polarizing force in golf, with his attitude and unorthodox long-drive approach to the game, which has had less success than expected. But, as Sergio Garcia could teach him, you need to ignore the hecklers or it just gets worse. The WGC-St. Jude Invitational, which featured many golf stars, ended Sunday in a 3-player playoff.  Third round leader, Harris English, began Day 4 with a 2-shot lead, then needed a 12-foot putt on 18 to make the playoff, and missed. Bryson was only 2 shots behind English, but wound up tied for 8th place. Cam Smith was tied for the lead with just one hole to play and wound up tying for 5th place! In the wild ups and downs, including penalties for slow play, Abraham Ancer won the playoff and the tournament. This week’s PGA Tour tournament is the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, NC.

NFL:

The 2020 NFL season ended with Super Bowl LV, which was played in Tampa Bay, with the Bucs beating the Chiefs 31-9. Preseason games begin next week. Despite surges in COVID-19 cases and deaths all over the country, the NFL is sticking with their plans to fill their stadiums with fans. This past Sunday, the NFL inducted the 2021 class for the Hall of Fame. Three of them made the HOF on their first ballot: Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, and Charles Woodson. Saturday’s enshrinement ceremony featured Troy Polamalu, Edgerrin James, and coach Jimmy Johnson. Along with the 3 first ballotters, there were 5 other inductees that took to the podium on Sunday: Drew Pearson, Tom Flores (coach), John Lynch, Alan Faneca, and Bill Nunn. After the ceremony, Tom Brady congratulated his friend Peyton via Twitter. NFL teams are currently in training camp and 5 teams have already been snakebit. The Colts QB Carson Wentz has a foot injury and G Quenton Nelson also had a foot injury and both have had to have surgery. The Texans are missing QB Deshaun Watson, who is still at odds with the organization, wanting to be traded, while himself fielding civil lawsuits from 22 women, accusing him of coercive and lewd sexual behavior. The team is leaving him off the plane for the trip to Green Bay and the preseason opener. The Seahawks have two holdout players in camp who aren’t playing, Duane Brown and Jamal Adams.  The Cowboys are without starting QB Dak Prescott, who missed two-thirds of last season with a gruesome injury. He left practice last week with a shoulder strain. The Saints, already dealing with QB Drew Brees retirement, now are missing top WR Michael Thomas, who is nursing an ankle injury.

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season is now in full swing. However, for various reasons, Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and Serena have dropped out of matches in July and August, implying that the 4 already all-time greats will not play a match at the big Canada or Cincinnati tournaments, which leaves their US Open prospects in question. Now, regarding Djokovic, he has won all 3 of the Slams this year, a feat not done in a single year since Rod Laver in 1969. Also, after winning Wimbledon, he then played at the Olympics, so he wouldn’t be going into the US Open cold. Federer is 40 and while he did come back this year, his record has been 9-4, and he has been questioning (out loud) how much more he will play. Nadal has a nagging foot injury and 39-year-old Serena has an ankle injury from Wimbledon. Let’s not forget Osaka either, who not only withdrew from Wimbledon, but has also already withdrawn from Montreal, not to mention skipping her own country’s hosted Olympics.

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 began on 7/23, and ended on Sunday 8/8 with the Closing Ceremony. It was marred by COVID-19 precautions and infections, and the need to ban fans from the stadiums.  It was still very competitive and frequently exciting. There was also plenty of drama to be had. The United States, for the 7th straight Summer Games, won the most medals (and most the country has ever won), and more importantly, beat out China for the most Gold medals of any country, with 39. Of course, they are no longer made out of Gold. Of the 113 medals that the US won, 66 of them were won by US women. The host country, Japan, won the most medals it has ever won before, a trend that continues, with the Host country seemingly with home field advantage, even without fans in the stands. This Olympics featured the most different countries winning medals. The US women’s volleyball team won its first team Gold (since sport started in 1964), while both the US women’s (7th consecutive) and men’s basketball teams (4th consecutive) won Gold. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi became the first basketball players, male or female, to win 5 Olympic Gold medals. The US women beat Australia for Gold medal. The US won Gold in golf in No.5 Xander Schauffele, who lives right here in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, and in No.1 world-ranked US player Nelly Korda. Both won the first Gold in golf for the US, for men or women, since 1900! The US won rare Gold medals in skeet shooting and fencing. Perennial US stars such as Katie Ledecky and Kevin Durant delivered. But, new stars emerged too, in Sydney McLaughlin, Suni Lee, Allyson Felix (winning her 11th career medal, making her the most decorated track and field Olympian in US history), and Caeleb Dressel who collected 5 gold medals for swimming. US men’s soccer team did not qualify, which is unusual, and US women’s soccer team won only Bronze, which is also unusual. Also, the US lost to Japan 2-0 in returning sport baseball (“America’s pastime”).  In the host country, where baseball is like a national religion, the Japanese took the Olympic Baseball seriously, stopping their Central and Pacific Leagues mid-season to pick the best players to take on the behemoth USA, knowing that the US has won Gold every time. Meanwhile, US fans considered Olympic Baseball and afterthought and the USOC fielded a team of misfits, minor leaguers, and lifers, but no current stars. The US dominated in women’s gymnastics with team Gold, but not as much as they have before, with 6 overall medals, and there was plenty of controversy, as team Captain Simone Biles decided to withdraw from the team event and the individual events, except balance beam, in which she won a Bronze medal. She highlighted mental issues, primarily anxiety and pressure she was under. While I sympathize with athlete’s speaking out about this stress, starting with tennis star Osaka, I also think that Biles took a spot from someone who could have been in the Olympics from our US qualifying. Also, I think some of that pressure was what she put on herself by wearing a patch on her jacket that said she was “Greatest Of All Time”. I’m not sure you get the same pass that Osaka did (and she by the way did not compete, despite it being her country’s hosting, but did light the Olympic flame), if you brag about being the GOAT and are by far the superior athlete and then quit. The US dominated in the pool with the men’s and women’s teams. The next Summer Olympics will be in just 3 years, 2024, in Paris. Meanwhile, the next Winter Olympics are going to be unusually next year, 2022. TV Ratings for the Tokyo Olympics were down significantly from Rio 2016, London 2012, and prior games, by an average of 45%!!!!!  Some individual days were even far worse. Definitely, the pandemic had an impact, but so did the 13-hour time difference from USA ET. That led to many spoilers from live broadcasts until the primetime broadcasts.  The group who was out the money was NBC, which will likely lead to NBC charging us extra for streaming the next Olympic Games.

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. Next up is the NHL Draft 2021. The NHL is expanding to 32 teams for the 2021-22 season, with the addition of the Seattle Kraken in the Pacific Division. One of my favorites and brother to another of my favorites, Tony Esposito, has died.  Jaromir Jagr is still playing professional hockey! He feels obligated to continue to play for Kladno, even though he is approaching age 50. I think Gordie Howe’s last game in professional hockey, in the Independent League, was when he was 72. Pettersson is ‘hungry for revenge’ after his injury. On Tuesday, Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn got to take a real drink from the Stanley Cup, which is making its way around the world with the players (as is customary), and his brother Brayden Schenn, who won it with the St. Louis Blues in 2019, poured it for him. McDonagh recently brought the Stanley Cup to an Irish pub in Wisconsin, along with a bagpipe band. Lightning coach Cooper took pictures with Wayne Gretzky and the Cup. Bogosian sang on stage with the Stanley Cup. It’s kind of funny to track where the Cup goes and what players do with it. Shattenkirk brought the Cup home. Colton was the first one to get the Cup. Blues forward Robert Thomas surprised an Imperial, MO family of 11 whose house burned down a day after the Blues’ championship parade, and gave them all new hockey gear.

NBA:

The NBA season tipped off more than two months later than usual on 12/22/20. The Suns beat the Bucks for the Championship. The Suns were a last place team only a few seasons ago. Two-time NBA champion JR Smith is heading to college, with his eyes set on playing golf professionally. NBA All-Star Andre Drummond saves his 2-year-old son who fell into a swimming pool. The Celtics and Dennis Schroder agree on 1year/$5.9 million deal.  He had turned down a lucrative extension a year ago from the Lakers. 2021 MGM Resorts Summer League is continuing. LiAngelo Ball is playing in the League with hopes to get back in the NBA.

Horse Racing:

Okay, this news item is not about besieged Bob Baffert. Another prominent horse racing trainer, Jorge Navarro, pleaded guilty Wednesday to involvement in what US prosecutors have called a global scheme to systematically drug horses and cheat the betting public. He could face 5 years in prison at his 12/17 sentencing, and has agreed to pay $25.9 million in restitution. At least 31 trainers, veterinarians, drug distributors and others have been charged since March 2020 over alleged doping affecting races in New York, Kentucky, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio and the United Arab Emirates. Seven defendants have already pleaded guilty. One such defendant who has not pleaded guilty is Jason Servis, the trainer of Maximum Security, which appeared to win the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being disqualified for interference. That horse also won the $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s richest horse race, before Servis was charged. His top horse was X Y Jet, who he allegedly regularly drugged with a substance he called “monkey” in March 2019 before it won the Dubai Golden Shaheen, collecting $1.5 million. The horse died of an apparent heart attack in January 2020.

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-Chase Elliott

07/11/21 Quaker State 400 by Walmart-Kurt Busch

07/18/21 Foxwoods Resort Casino 301-Aric Almirola

08/08/21 Go Bowling at The Glen-Kyle Larson

08/15/21 Verizon 200 at the Brickyard-

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-Verstappen

07/18/21-Great Britain-Hamilton

08/01/21-Hungary-Ocon

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-Colton Herta

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-Rinus Veekay

05/30/21-Indy 500-Helio Castronoves

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

06/13/21-Detroit Raceway on Belle Isle Race 2-Pato O’Ward

06/20/21-Road America-Alex Palou

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

07/11/21-Toronto Exhibition Place-cancelled

08/08/21-Nashville Street Course-Marcus Ericsson

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:

A lot to cover here. Demand for air travel, after surging dramatically as everyone escaped lockdowns and quarantines, has flatlined, amid delta variant surge. Now, airlines are considering requiring employees to be vaccinated. Some 75% are already vaccinated, so Delta and Southwest said they won’t require it of employees. But, we are all still flying with masks on. I just flew to Colorado and back with the mask on and I have to say it wasn’t particularly comfortable. I noticed that, after many incidents of unruly passengers, Southwest is no longer serving alcohol on flights. Let’s talk about flights, I am hearing anecdotal reports from family and friends about horrific travel plans disrupted by airlines arbitrarily cancelling flights and not offering alternatives. Some people who had direct flights wind up being delayed days. It appears to be a combination of problems for airlines, including shortage of employees (many furloughed during pandemic) in all facets of the air travel business, increased demand from travelers, causing flights to overfill (you do know that the airlines overbook, like hotels do, and expect people to cancel or not show), and bad weather nationally.  The weather has been causing major delays at hubs, which then affect connections, and ripple to cancellations. American Airlines said in a statement that its issues started with “unprecedented weather” impacting its largest hubs, setting off a snowball effect that led to delays, canceled flights, and disruptions to limited crew-member schedules. Spirit Airlines cancelled 60% of its flights on Wednesday to ‘reboot’ after a wave of computer problems caused massive disruptions, along with the summer storm season. It was so bad that the Department of Transportation is now monitoring Spirit Airlines flights.  Meanwhile, cabin crews and vendors for the airlines are being stretched thin, and any new hires on the airplane need to go through training or get recertified before taking to the air.  At the top of the list is a shortage of pilots and mechanics. One more explanation for all the disruptions is that the airlines can’t fly without planes, and they haven’t been able to bring all of their planes back on line, since they took them out of rotation early in the pandemic. As we probably all know by now, the Department of Transportation recommends booking flights earlier in the day, when you are less likely to be waiting for an incoming flight and less likely to be delayed or canceled. And if you do get canceled, you will have a whole days’ worth of rerouting options. They also recommend looking for direct flights, to avoid connection complications, try to fly on Tuesdays or Wednesdays when there is lighter flight traffic, and maybe consider taking out trip insurance coverage from Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR).

Martinique has asked tourists to leave, as French Caribbean is returning to COVID-19 lockdown. The CDC is once again rapidly adding countries to its “Do Not Travel” list because of surge in COVID-19 cases. However, the CDC and State Department have downgraded travel alerts on Tuesday for Canada following country’s reopening to vaccinated Americans. It is now Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution.  The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has published the new weekly maps for the current COVID-19 situation and says that it’s unsafe to travel to more regions of EU countries. Rules for travelers are changing, with more travelers being required to show proof of vaccination for travel.  The EU is now weighing restrictions on American tourists, as the US State Department says avoid Europe. The US has also not lifted President Trump’s rules banning most European travelers. France has promised foreign tourists access to COVID Health Passes. The Passes are now required to visit popular tourist sites, travel across the country by train, and more. The Canadian government will soon require all air travelers and passengers on interprovincial trains to be vaccinated.

I still think if the cruise ship industry is going to recover, it’s going to have to require passengers to come aboard vaccinated. Another 27 people aboard a Carnival cruise ship have tested positive for COVID-19. That means that they were likely in contact with some 3,000 people aboard. 26 of the 27 infected were crew members. Here is the weird thing, they were all vaccinated previously. I’m hearing more and more stories from friends of crossover or landmark cases, where vaccinated people are testing positive or coming down with COVID-19. I just had two neighbors who were sick for two weeks and they had been vaccinated in March, a month before me.

Health News:  

Okay, there is a lot to cover here. I am trying to be as neutral as I can and only reporting the news items I see, and not giving my bias about vaccinations. 

As of this today (8/13), globally, over 4.3 million people have died from COVID-19.  More than 205,000,000 people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 35.3 million people, and are rising with the Delta variant and slowdown of vaccinations. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 619,230. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (566,896), India (430,254), Mexico (246,811), Peru (197,209), Russia (165,996), and UK (131,116). 533 people were confirmed infected at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and not deaths reported. A new report says that some 100,000 more Americans are likely to die of COVID-19 this year. Deaths could climb even more if the hospital ERs and ICUs remain as swamped as they are now across the country.

As of Wednesday, 76.8% of adult New Yorkers had received at least one vaccine dose and 69.4% have completed their vaccine series, according to CDC. According to NBC News, unvaccinated adults are bringing COVID-19 home to their kids, after a study by pediatricians concluded those findings. In many parts of the country, where schools are about to start the new year (here in Florida, it’s next week!), many school districts and States are dealing with the issue of mandatory masking for students or home-schooling again. Focus on the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US began this summer in low-vaccination states in the Ozarks and Deep South.  Now, mostly because of the highly contagious Delta variant, it has engulfed the entire country, with cases and hospitalizations at their highest levels since February. 38 States have transmission levels considered high by the CDC. While this wave has been largely blamed on Americans who refuse to be vaccinated, in China, local officials are being punished, blamed for failing to curb an outbreak that has spawned almost 900 symptomatic infections in less than a month. Well, about 50% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and vaccination rates are beginning to climb again, to nearly 700,000 new doses administered every day. But tens of millions of Americans are still holding out.

Meanwhile, I’m sure you have seen that the UN has admonished countries like the US and banned booster shots being given, until more of the world has access to initial vaccinations. I’m sure that I’m not the only one, anecdotally, who has had non-vaxer friends recently die from COVID-19 or vaccinated friends suddenly becoming breakout cases, testing positive for COVID-19 and feeling symptoms. It’s getting scary again. A wave of vaccine mandates is sweeping across the US, including a particularly strict indoor public spaces vaccine one in San Francisco. The Department of Health and Human Services said it would require more than 25,000 health workers, including contractors and volunteers, to receive vaccines, becoming the latest Federal agency to issue such a mandate. The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a mandate last month requiring vaccines for its 115,000 frontline workers, or lose their jobs, and has now expanded that mandate to include nearly every worker, another 245,000 people. The FDA has authorized a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines only for immunocompromised people, specifying cancer patients and organ transplant recipients. So, my asthma hasn’t gotten me on that list yet. Despite the Delta variant, many US firms’ return-to-office plans remain moving forward.  French leaders are calling for heightened vigilance amid vandalism at vaccine sites. Iran is struggling with its worst wave yet of the virus. As you know and have heard from all the conspiracy theorists, the vaccines are still technically exploratory and were fast-tracked for an emergency. The full official approval by the FDA for all of the vaccines is expected in the coming weeks. 96% of ICU beds across Texas are full of COVID-19 patients.

Animal News:

Two separate shark attacks in a one-week span on beaches near Savannah, Georgia, are somewhat unusual since the area see relatively few bites each year, according to experts. On 8/3, a lifeguard at Hilton Head Island, SC received deep cuts to the chest but is expected to survive. On 7/27, a surfing instructor was bitten at nearby Tybee Island, GA during surfing class he was teaching. The two beaches are about 18 miles apart. Scientists have come up with a new name for the habit of birds to steal animal hair, calling it Kleptotrichy. It is actually common for some species of birds to steal hair from foxes, cougars, bears, coyotes, etc. as they sleep, and then line their nests with the hair. Scientists believe that this brazen behavior may be to ward off other predators from the birds’ nests, using the sight and smell of the larger animals’ hair. Squirrels are believed to use parkour tricks in order to leap from branch to branch. Here’s something I didn’t know, despite having once been an aspiring zoologist, snake-eating spiders are surprisingly common. A hammerhead shark baby boom near Florida is hinting at a historic nursery. Scientists say finding an endangered shark nursery in the vast oceans is like finding a needle in a haystack. But, that’s what they’ve done near Miami. A new study has found that viruses can kill wasp larvae that grow inside infected caterpillars and some moths. Inuit people have reported seeing polar bears using tools to kill walruses for years, which were usually dismissed, but new research has suggested that the behavior does occur, with polar bears sometimes bludgeoning walruses to death with stones or ice. A new book, “Wild Souls” explores what humans owe animals in a human-dominated world and the ethical dilemmas of saving Earth’s endangered animals. A 93-year-old Xerces blue butterfly specimen’s DNA shows that the butterfly is a distinct species, making it the first US insect that humans drove to extinction. A new study shows that dogs tune into people in ways that even human-raised wolves do not.  Puppies outpace wolf pups at engaging with humans, even with less exposure to people, supporting the theory that domestication is wired into dogs’ brains.

Entertainment News:

Miss America pageant now has the first transgender woman contestant. Markie Post has died at age 70. She was best known for television sit-coms, Night Court, The Fall Guy, Hearts Afire, etc. Ironically, on 7/12, Charlie Robinson, also well-known for Night Court, died at age 75. My show, The Mandalorian received 24 Emmy nominations. Real estate heir Robert Durst testified on Monday at his murder trial in Los Angeles. Three-time US Olympian, Lolo Jones, 39, celebrated her ‘mid-life crisis’ in a series of sexy poolside pics, calling them ‘thirst traps’. Kevin Costner, in a rare Instagram post, reacted to the news of additional cast of Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and Sam Elliott joining for prequel 1883 to season 4 of Yellowstone. Costner posted “welcome to the ranch.” Okay, another one I have to binge-watch to catch up! I actually wrote down the series that I binge-watched during COVID-19 pandemic and it totaled 43 series. Is that bad?  Mostly Netflix. Despite appearing to go through an exhaustive slow process of trying out many actors, actresses and celebrities as guest hosts of Jeopardy!, the show announced that Mike Richards, the show’s executive producer (and producer of Wheel of Fortune) Mike Richards will be the new host, filling the late Alex Trebek’s shoes and will be spelled occasionally by actress Mayim Bialik from Big Bang Theory (who is actually a nuclear scientist). Fans and celebrities who wanted the job are crying ‘foul’! Finally, Britney has been ‘freed’. Britney Spears’ father has agreed to finally step down from his conservatorship over her life and money. Selma Blair is opening up about her struggles with multiple sclerosis. Christina Applegate was just diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Elton John is teaming up with Dua Lipa for “Cold Heart” remix.  RESPECT is getting rave reviews as an earnest Aretha Franklin tribute and as a showcase for Jennifer Hudson. Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are actually pro-shower now. Kim Kardashian West credits Kanye with boosting her confidence.  Brendan Fraser got emotional about his Tik Tok supporters. Phish will require proof of vaccination for upcoming concerts. Dolly Parton is releasing her first novel and a companion album next year. A new “Batman” comic confirms that sidekick Robin is gay. Stevie Nicks has cancelled all her US tour dates, citing rising COVID-19 cases. Caitlyn Jenner is speaking out against current CA Governor Gavin Newsome, who is facing a Recall vote in September. She attacked him, in particular, for the states “epidemic of crime.” Jenner is running for Governor as a Republican. Just looking at Oakland’s crime, where officials have begged the Governor to send in State Police (he could send the National Guard if he wanted to as well), Car Jackings are up 95%, Homicide is up 51%, and Robberies are up 14%, versus last year.

Technology & Space News:

After Richard Branson of Virgin completed his short self-funded space trip, Jeff Bezos of Amazon followed on 7/20 with a short self-funded flight of his own. In more Jeff Bezos transportation news, his new yacht, Project 721, will be larger than the SS Titanic was!  It is 417-foot and cost $500 million.

Since we started with Branson, his yacht is a gigantic catamaran, which cost him $8 million. I may have to just change this section to “super-rich”, Elon Musk reportedly lives in a $50,000 Boxabi prefab tiny home that already has a 100,000 unit waitlist. Boeing’s troubled Starliner spacecraft must return to the factory, causing more delays.  

US News:

A woman is suing McDonald’s after complaining that a cheeseburger ad was so irresistible it caused her to break her fast during Lent. USA Today reports that more couples want to de-gender their weddings, in a growing trend. I know you’ve heard that the Unemployment Rate is going down from President Biden, but what that ignores is that many people no longer qualify for Unemployment or have just stopped working, reducing the workforce available. A new study has found that the pandemic forced more older workers to retire, often before they were financially ready, by as much as an additional 1.7 million Americans. When unemployed, to be counted and paid, you have to show that you are ‘trying’ to get a job. But, if you are no longer trying to get a job or outside the window of unemployment benefits, people fall off the map. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, accused by 11 women of sexual harassment or assault in civil lawsuits, despite his daily denials, finally announced his resignation on Tuesday, scheduled to hand over the rains to the Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul on 8/22. Cuomo has yet to be criminally charged. The media, particularly MSNBC, who saw Cuomo as a hero, has now turned on him and actually seems irritated with him. The investigation into the allegations against Cuomo and possibly his Impeachment process will continue, as there were no deals made, per Hochul. An Appeals Court has upheld the murder conviction of ex-Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who killed her neighbor, Botham Jean in his own home. A Federal judge has kept the CDC moratorium against evictions, but says it’s illegal. The moratorium was imposed by the Biden administration last week. If you are applying for a job, experts recommend that you get vaccinated. A second round of Chile Tax Credit checks has hit families’ bank accounts. Federal data shows fewer families struggled to pay their bills after the first, July, round of the new monthly checks.

Bankruptcy:

Nothing to report today.

International News:

Sorry for the upcoming rant, but my US Army Green Berets came home only six weeks ago from East Afghanistan, where they attempted to pack up 20 years of US gear for the massive pullout out of Afghanistan, with the backdrop of the Afghan Army and its Commando unit stepping up the defend Afghanistan against the Taliban. The US cold-heartedly did not speed up the process of citizenship for the Afghan interpreters or their families, who worked with the US soldiers, leaving many to likely be executed as traitors by the Taliban. In short order, news reports every day indicate that the Taliban is over-running the Afghan army and has now seized some 65% of Afghanistan. Many of the Afghan army simply surrendered and also surrendered the US weaponry that they had been given by the US, including battle helicopters. There are concerns that many women have been punished for having their hair showing under Sharia law, others have been ‘married off’ to various Taliban fighters, and others have fled to Kabul. Kabul is the largest city in Afghanistan and the last of the large cities that has not yet fallen to the Taliban. As an example of the ineptitude of the planning of this mass withdrawal of the US, that harkens back to the mass withdrawal of the Soviet Union before (which may have contributed to the 1991 breaking up of the Soviet Union), the US now has to send some 3,500 US soldiers back to Kabul so that the US Embassy can be safely evacuated. The Pentagon says those troops will arrive Sunday. Shouldn’t someone have thought about that when they planned this? Anyway, without even going into whether the US military should have been there in the first place 20 years ago, I’m just baffled by the government’s apparent surprise that the Taliban is taking over and doing it so quickly that they realize they have to send more troops over just to get the Embassy evacuated. And, no, I don’t know how else they could have done it and I’m not providing anything in the way of an alternate solution. However, I recognize that should the country or most of the country fall under Taliban rule, it will likely have further military implications for the neighboring countries, which includes some of our allies. Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Afghanistan has told staff to destroy sensitive materials. The Taliban now control 50% of the countries’ provincial capitals. The UK’s former hub in Afghanistan has been taken by the Taliban. Siberia is struggling with record wildfires. The Indonesian Army has finally stopped “virginity tests” on females. UK Police say that the man who went on a rare shooting spree there and killed 5, including a 3-year-old child, had a gun license. The suspect was found dead at the scene. Algerian officials are probing a mob lynching of a man accused of setting fires that devastated the region. Greece is also suffering from wildfires. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the first part of its Sixth Assessment Report on the state of knowledge of climate change and its effects.

Florida:

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The children returned to school in Florida this week, however it was with a mixture of mandated masks and no masks. 4 Broward County educators died from COVID-19 within a 24-hour period. At least 3 of the teachers were unvaccinated. The news comes just days after Broward County’s school board voted to defy the Governor’s order and require students to wear masks in school. Florida Governor DeSantis, on 7/30, banned mandates requiring students to wear masks. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend that K-12 students and staff returning for in-person learning should wear masks as part of a “layered prevention strategy”, especially since children under 12 do not yet qualify for vaccination. Unfortunately, Florida has been breaking records lately for new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Florida is planning new COVID-19 antibody treatment “strike teams” which can be mobilized quickly to facilities with severe cases. I keep hearing anecdotally from friends in the medical industry about some particular drug that can be administered in the first few days of the virus and wipe out almost all of the symptoms, but it is not approved by the FDA.  440 Palm Beach County students have already been forced into quarantine, just days into the new school year.

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

A Duck walks into a bar

“Got any bread?”

“No”

“Got any bread?”

“NO”

“Got any bread?”

“NO! if you ask me again, I’ll nail your bill to the bar!”

“Got any nails?”

“No.”

“Got any bread?”

I was sitting in a Chinese restaurant, thinking about how duckling means little duck. So, I cancelled my order of dumplings.

Three men die in a car accident and go to Heaven. At the pearly gates, Saint Peter says, you may enter, but don’t step on any of the ducks. Well, it turned out there were ducks all over the place and it was almost impossible to avoid stepping on them.

After just a few hours, despite his best efforts, one man stepped on a duck. Saint Peter strolled over with a heavy chain and an extremely ugly woman and said “I told you.” He then chained the two together for eternity.

The next day, despite his best efforts, the second man stepped on a duck. Once again, Saint Peter strolled over with a heavy chain and an extremely ugly woman and said “I told you.” He then chained the two together for eternity.

The third man managed to avoid stepping on ducks for 11 months. Then, one day he sees Saint Peter walking towards him with a heavy chain and a gorgeous woman. He chains them together for eternity without a word.

The man looks at the woman and acclaims, “what did I do to deserve such an honor?!?”

The woman answers, “well, I don’t know about you, but I stepped on a duck.”

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