Repo Commentary-5/17/19

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Paul McCartney-then and now
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Freddie Mercury-then and later
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Whitney Houston-then and later
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Hi everyone! Well, it took two months to rid myself of bronchitis, which had turned into pneumonia. Luckily, I was able to still sing my gigs and 6 MLB Spring Training games. I was also able to interview for jobs, edit the memoir I’ve been ghost-writing, and write some articles. The Repo Commentary took a nap for a bit (since 2/27/19). My Repo Commentary is posted on my website: http://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’m hoping to have one up there to entertain you every Friday.

If you need to reach me, my cell is still 646-753-1300, my email for work is jeffkidwell82@gmail.com, and you can also hit me up on LinkedIn. Oddly, in the last two weeks, two other books for ghost-writing have landed in my lap, one will likely be a movie, but I haven’t decided what I want to do about them. I am still very interested in getting back into our Securities Financing industry in some capacity.

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information. I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures. Also, please send me feedback, as I want to make it better all the time. I’m trying a new format for historical data, so let me know what you think. As many of you know, it used to be a daily Repo Commentary back in the 80s and for a long time.

05/17 Holidays or Events:

• Endangered Species Day
• International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia
• International Defense Transportation Day
• International Virtual Assistants Day
• NASCAR Day
• National Bike to Work Day
• National Pizza Party Day
• O. Henry Pun-off Day
• Same Sex Marriage Day
• Syttende Mai
• World Hypertension Day
• World Telecommunications and Information Society Day
• World Neurofibromatosis Day
• National Cherry Cobbler Day
• National Mushroom Hunting Day
• National Walnut Day
• National Pack Rat Day
• Children’s Day in Norway
• Constitution Day in Nauru
• Norwegian Constitution Day
• Feast of ‘Azamat (Baha’I Faith)
• Galician Literature Day
• Liberation Day (Democratic Republic of Congo)
• Navy Day in Argentina

Tomorrow is Armed Forces Day, which is ironic because I will be driving up to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for a Special Forces/Green Beret graduation of a family member. A very rare honor for a true warrior.

Some Famous People Born 05/17 in History:

• 1155-Jien, Japanese monk, poet, historian
• 1490-Albert, Duke of Prussia, last Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights
• 1868-Horace Elgin Dodge-co-founded Dodge
• 1913-Hans Ruesch, Swiss race car driver and author
• 1934-Earl Morrall, American football player and coach
• 1934-Ronald Wayne, computer scientist who co-founded Apple Inc.
• 1936-Dennis Hopper, American actor and director
• 1938-Jason Bernard, American actor
• 1938-Pervis Jackson, American R&B bass singer (The Spinners)
• 1942-Taj Mahal, American blues singer-songwriter and musician
• 1944-Jesse Winchester, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer
• 1945-Tony Roche, Australian tennis player and coach
• 1955-Bill Paxton, American actor and director
• 1955-David Townsend, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
• 1956-Sugar Ray Leonard, American boxer
• 1956-Bob Saget, American comedian, actor, and television host
• 1957-Pasqual Perez, Dominican baseball player
• 1958-Paul Di’Anno, English rock singer-songwriter (Iron Maiden)
• 1960-Simon Fuller, English talent manager and producer, creator of American Idol.
• 1961-Enya, Irish singer-songwriter and producer
• 1962-Craig Ferguson, Scottish-American comedian, actor, and talk show host
• 1966-Danny Manning, American basketball player and coach
• 1970-Jordan Knight, American singer-songwriter and actor (New Kids on the Block)
• 1982-Matt Cassel, American football player
• 1982-Tony Parker, French-American basketball player
• 1985-Derek Hough, American actor, singer, and dancer
• 1985-Christine Nesbitt, Canadian speed skater
• 1985-Matt Ryan, American football player
• 1988-Nikki Reed, American actress, singer, and screenwriter

This Day in History (5/17):

• 1395-Battle of Rovine: the Wallachians defeat an invading Ottoman army.
• 1521-Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, is executed for treason.
• 1536-George Boleyn, 2nd Viscount Rochford, and four other men are executed for treason.
• 1536-Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s marriage is annulled.
• 1590-Anne of Denmark is crowned Queen of Scotland.
• 1673-Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette begin exploring the Mississippi River.
• 1792-the New York Stock Exchange is formed under the Buttonwood Agreement.
• 1805-Muhammad Ali becomes Wali of Egypt.
• 1809-Emperor Napoleon I orders the annexation of the Papal States to the French Empire.
• 1814-Occupation of Monaco changes from French to Austrian.
• 1814-the Constitution of Norway is signed and Crown Prince Christian Frederick of Denmark is elected King of Norway by the Norwegian Constituent Assembly.
• 1859-Members of the Melbourne Football Club codified the first rules of Australian rules football.
• 1863-Rosalia de Castro publishes Cantares Gallegos, the first book in the Galician language.
• 1865-the International Telegraph Union (later the International Telecommunications Union) is established in Paris.
• 1869-Imperial Japanese forces defeat the remnants of the Tokugawa shogunate in the Battle of Hakodate to end the Boshin War.
• 1875-Aristides wins the first Kentucky Derby. There was not a challenge or review.
• 1900-Second Boer War: British troops relieve Mafeking.
• 1900-the children’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, is first published in the US. The first copy is given to the author’s sister.
• 1902-Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais discovers the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient mechanical analog computer.
• 1939-the Columbia Lions and the Princeton Tigers play in the United States’ first televised sporting event, a collegiate baseball game in New York City.
• 1940-WWII: Germany occupies Brussels, Belgium.
• 1943-WWII: Dambuster Raids commence by No. 617 Squadron RAF.
• 1954-the United States Supreme Court hands down a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
• 1967-Six-Day War: President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt demands dismantling of the peace-keeping UN Emergency Force in Egypt.
• 1969-Venera program: Soviet Venera 6 begins its descent into the atmosphere of Venus, sending back atmospheric data before being crushed by pressure.
• 1973-Watergate scandal: televised hearings begin in the United States Senate.
• 1974-The Troubles: thirty-three civilians are killed and 300 injured when the Ulster Volunteer Force detonates four car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan, Republic of Ireland.
• 1977-Nolan Bushnell opened the first Chuck E. Cheese’s in San Jose, CA.
• 1983-the US Department of Energy declassifies documents showing the world’s largest mercury pollution event in Oak Ridge, TN (ultimately found to be 4.2 million pounds), in response to the Appalachian Observer’s Freedom of Information Act request.
• 1983-Lebanon, Israel, and the United States sign an agreement on Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.
• 1987-Iran-Iraq War: an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1 fighter jet fires two missiles into the US Navy warship USS Stark, killing 37 and injuring 21 of her crew.
• 1990-the General Assembly of the World Health Organization eliminates homosexuality from the list of psychiatric diseases.
• 1992-three days of popular protests against the government of PM of Thailand Suchinda Kraprayoon begin in Bangkok, leading to a military crackdown that results in 52 officially confirmed deaths, hundreds of injuries, many disappearances, and more than 3,500 arrests.
• 1994-Malawi holds its first multi-party elections.
• 1995-Shawn Nelson steals an M60 tank from the California Army National Guard Armory in San Diego and proceeds to go on a rampage.
• 1997-troops of Laurent Kabila march into Kinshasa. Zaire is officially renamed Democratic Republic of Congo.
• 2004-the first legal same-sex marriages in the US are performed in the state of Massachusetts.
• 2006-the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany is sunk in the Gulf of Mexico as an artificial reef.
• 2009-Minecraft release as what is now known as Minecraft Classic.
• 2014-a plane crash in northern Laos kills 17 people.

Fun Fact of the Day:

Serial killer Ted Bundy once worked at a Suicide Hotline Crisis Center and was described by co-workers and being kind, solicitous, and empathetic.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”—Pablo Picasso

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5
$47.66/barrel on 12/23
$48.63 on 01/07
$52.31/barrel on 01/16
$55.26/barrel on 2/3
$55.41/barrel on 2/26
$73.77/barrel on 4/29, as President Trump announced that he would bring Iranian oil exports down to ZERO. He intends to end sanction waivers that had previously allowed 8 countries to purchase crude from Iran. The news shot oil prices up to their highest level since November 2018, when President Trump had thanked Saudi Arabia for brining oil prices down to $54/barrel.

Now, with OPEC about to meet in Jeddah today, without Iran, and American foreign policy crises in Venezuela, Iran, and Libya, oil prices are again surging higher. Ironically, Saudi Arabia needs oil prices to be higher than $80/barrel, in order for it to balance its budget.

Today, 5/17/19, oil is at $63.28/barrel.

The price of gasoline at my new West Palm Beach station has dipped to $2.44/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 10-30 cents more per gallon.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24
108.60 on 01/07
109.07 on 01/16
103.18 on 02/03
104.86 on 2/25
103.86 on 5/17

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426
01/07 at $1.1478
01/16 at $1.1396
02/03 at $1.2047
02/25 at $1.1955
05/17 at $1.1761

One British Pounds was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655
01/07 at $1.2770
01/16 at $1.2880
02/03 at $1.3758
02/25 at $1.3728
05/17 at $1.3427

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24
1.3297 on 01/07
1.3255 on 01/16
1.2492 on 2/03
1.2492 on 2/25
1.2800 on 5/17

Gold closed 2/25 at $1330.20, reflecting the continued uncertainty (almost steady uncertainty) of the markets and flight to gold. Today, 5/17, it is trading at $1275.90.

Bitcoin was trading at (Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25
$6,350 on 10/5
$3,774.97 on 12/24
$3,7774.97 on 01/07
$3,598.90 on 01/16
$3,421.10 on 02/06
$3,826.44 on 02/26
$8,100.00 on 05/16
$7,215.79 on 05/17

It has rebounded dramatically, although certainly not to its $19,000 highs. But, it also is showing its incredible volatility, even over the last 24 hours.

Global Financial News:

Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s top housing advisor and point person on GSE reform, my friend and former colleague at Morgan Stanley, Craig Phillips, reportedly is stepping down from his role as soon as next month. Speaking of which, the GSE (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) patch in place is set to expire in less than 2 years. US Bank is now the latest bank in a growing list of mortgage lenders that unveiling a digital mortgage lending process. Facebook Coin is reportedly under development in Switzerland, under Libra Networks, which is working on its own payments and blockchain systems. US consumer sentiment has surged to the highest level in 15 years.

US Market News:

Today, marks the anniversary of the creation of the New York Stock Exchange in 1792.

The Dow Jones has been on a roller coaster ride for more than six months, affected by geo-political upheaval, US political investigations, global tariffs, and, naturally, company earnings reports. It peaked in September, then plummeted, nearly to Bear market 20% extent in December, rallied sharply in the first quarter, drifted lower in the second quarter, and has been struggling the past week to recover.

The Dow Jones closed at (Repo Commentary Dates):

26,656.77 on 9/20/18
26,447.05 on 10/5/18
21,792.20 on 12/23/18
21,712.53 on 12/26/18
24,207.16 on 01/16/19
25,063.89 on 2/06/19
26,106.47 on 2/25/19
25,862.68 on 5/16/19, up over 240 points.

S&P 500 also gave up its all-time high on 9/20/18 of 2,930.66, closing on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58
12/26/18 at 2,467.70
01/07/19 at 2,549.69
01/16/19 at 2,616.10
02/06/19 at 2,706.53
02/25/19 at 2,799.34
05/16/19 at 2,876.32, almost recovered to that 9/20/18 high.

Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28/18 high of 8,030.04, closing on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45
12/26/18 at 6,554.36
01/07/19 at 6,823.47
01/16/19 at 7,034.70
02/06/19 at 7,263.87
02/25/19 at 7,561.87
05/16/19 at 7,898.05, similarly back to near that record high.

US Treasury yields had gotten much higher on 9/20/18, in advance of the 9/26 FOMC meeting, rose still higher after the meeting and then plummeted with the drop in Equities, and have continued to drop and even invert since. They have actually plummeted in the last few weeks, due to more talk of Fed rate CUTS, rather than Fed rate HIKES.

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
01/07/19 at 2.53%
01/16/19 at 2.55%
02/06/19 at 2.52%
02/22/19 at 2.48%
05/16/19 at 2.20%

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)
01/16/19 at 2.53%
02/06/19 at 2.50%
02/22/19 at 2.46%
05/16/19 at 2.15%

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
01/07/19 at 2.49%
01/16/19 at 2.54%
02/06/19 at 2.51%
02/22/19 at 2.47%
05/16/19 at 2.18%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%
12/18/18 at 2.74%
01/07/19 at 2.60%
01/16/19 at 2.62%
02/06/19 at 2.59%
02/22/19 at 2.55%
05/16/19 at 2.28%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%
12/18/18 at 2.82%
01/07/19 at 2.70%
01/16/19 at 2.73%
02/06/19 at 2.70%
02/22/19 at 2.65%
05/16/19 at 2.40%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%
12/18/18 at 3.07%
01/07/19 at 2.99%
01/16/19 at 3.07%
02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%
05/16/19 at 2.84%

Housing News:

Just as the snowbirds have left for New York and other northern parts from Florida (typically ‘Season’ ends around Easter or Passover), news comes to me from the US Census Bureau that more people are ‘permanently’ leaving New York to come live in Florida. According to recent data, more people are leaving the state of New York, than any other state. Between July 2017 and July 2018, New York state lost 180,306 and only gained 131,746 new residents. 42 out of 50 counties in New York have seen a population decrease since 2010. Now, NYC population is still growing, increasing by almost 500,000 from 2010 to 2017, but more are leaving each day. Part of it is how expensive it is to live in NYC (I know, I did it for 26 years), how layoffs have increased (I know that part too), getting burnt out in the rat race (live to work, I am familiar with that), and the new tax laws’ impacts. Meanwhile, more Americans (not going to address the illegal immigrants hot potato) moved to Florida than any other state in 2018. From July 2017 to July 2018, Florida gained 1,160,387 people net from migration from other states. If you include birth, deaths, and international migration, Florida (322,513 new residents) only trailed Texas (379,128). Florida now has a population of 21,299,325, No.3 in the US. Another note, Miami-Dade county is growing much faster this decade than last decade. Chicago is improving public housing with libraries. CNBC reports that the incoming wave of millennial homebuyers is a major opportunity for the US housing market. An immigrant, who was a refugee and a public housing resident, will now lead the Minneapolis public housing board. The National Association of Realtors is predicting that New Home Sales will probably reach a 12-year high in 2019, but sales of Existing Homes will probably be flat. When Ben Carson assumed the role as HUD secretary, he and his wife spent $165,000 of HUD funds to bring the office and its décor up to standards, but did not get prior approval from Congress. The GAO says he violated the law. When Zillow acquired Mortgage Lenders of America last summer, it signaled that it is now going all-in on mortgage lending.

Repo News:

Let’s look forward in the regulatory crystal ball for the rest of 2019. So, after the Financial Crisis, and over 350 financial regulations initiated by Dodd-Frank, FSOC, FSB, G20, and other regulators, it seemed that things had cooled down on the regulatory front. But, things are heating up again. We just experienced the implementation of MiFID II and we have SFTR ahead of us to implement. SFTR, if you don’t know, is the FSB’s attempt again to address the elusive Shadow Banking, among other things. Most of the other regulatory initiatives now on the table to implement are related to Basel III and the completion of three major European projects: the Banking Union, the Capital Markets Union, and the Digital Single Market. We are also still addressing LIBOR replacement (particularly in the US with the development of SOFR) and reform of Euribor and Eonia reference indices (which the EU just decided to put off for 2 years). Of course, there is always fintech stuff to deal with and to regulate and, lest we forget, there is the mess of Brexit (or now potential for Brelay or Bremain). Financial regulation in 2008-2012 had a very unified global approach. But, that seems to have declined since, and jurisdictional differences are rearing up and making implementation more complicated. While the Banking Package in Europe has come along way regarding what are prudential measures and how to share risks in the banking industry for recovery and resolution, including backstop plans by the ECB and the EC, there has been little progress made on the Banking Union, except to establish a Single Resolution Fund through the ESM, but no agreement on the EDIS. Likewise, the Capital Markets Union effort has seen only small progress. Lastly, while the industry in 2018 saw consolidation of the digitalization of the financial sector, there has been no concrete regulatory framework negotiated to deal with the growing change. Plus, we still have that EU Reform deadline coming up 3/31, as iMoneyNet reminds me. So, until further notice, the Legal and Risk departments remain in charge.

I still see the Repo and Securities Lending market as having changed in many permanent ways. We traditionally had a credit intermediator, the broker/dealers (originally just the primary broker/dealers) and later prime brokers, who were the pipeline through their respective repo matched books for collateral providers to trade with cash providers, without the two sides ever knowing about each other or facing each other. That lack of knowledge of the other side of the repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis and the impact on some of the dealers that then cost their clients. Not knowing who the other clients were and who could bring down the intermediary dealers was costly for many clients. Clearly, with that pipeline of intermediation becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be found for cash provider and collateral provider clients. AVM’s Direct Repo™ was the first of one of such pathways. Since then, other pathways to these markets have been created, including: the Federal Reserve’s RRP program with cash providers, peer-to-peer financing as reported on Treasury OFR’s website between MMFs and Insurance Companies, As Agent repo through seclending agents and now some prime brokers, direct lending from beneficial owner to hedge funds who are short, indemnified As Agent repo, buyside to buyside Triparty Repo through two international clearing organizations of their custodial clients, electronic all-to-all repo on a few electronic trading platforms like Elixium, GLMX, Tradeweb, and BNY DBVX, FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products to entice certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, and other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (several still being worked on, particularly in Europe, like Eurex, LCH, OCC, etc.). I believe this evolution will continue and eventually we will see all of these pathways used, including the traditional pathway (to probably a lesser than historical degree) through the broker/dealers and prime brokers. Some of that balance sheet has returned, as I mentioned above, but may be for only select ‘platinum’ clients and may come at a higher bid/offer spread or in specific, more profitable products/securities.

Upcoming Repo Industry Conferences:
 

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream is held its annual conference this week in Luxembourg, which I attended last year.
• IMN 25th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference was held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/5-2/6. I was chosen as the Chairperson.
• Finadium held a new conference on the Business of Collateral Trading in Frankfurt, Germany on 2/21.
• IMN held its annual Fixed Income Investor Network in Las Vegas on 2/24.
• iMoneyNet held its annual MMExpo in Middleburg, VA 3/4-3/6.
• PASLA/RMA held its 16th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Sydney, Australia 3/5-3/7.
• GIOA held its 15th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/20-3/22.
• Crane Data held its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Philadelphia on 3/25-3/26.
• Finadium will held its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/2-5/3.
• GFOA is holding its 113th annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/19-5/22.
• Securities Lending Times will hold its annual Securities Finance Technology Symposium in London on 5/9.
• IMN will hold its annual Global ABS conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/11-6/13.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Philadelphia, PA on 6/18-6/20.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26 in Boston.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/17-9/19.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 9/22-9/24.
• Crane Data will hold its annual European Money Fund Symposium in Dublin, Ireland on 9/23-24.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe in London on 9/24.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Naples, FL on 10/6-10/9.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its Fixed Income Leaders conference in Barcelona on 10/7-10/9.
• RMA will hold its 37th annual Repo & Securities Lending Conference in Boca Raton, FL in October.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its annual conference in Boston, MA on 10/20-10/23.
• Risk.net will hold its 25th annual Risk USA conference in NYC in November.
• SIFMA will hold its annual Meeting in Washington, DC on 11/18-11/20.

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 2.50%. However, the Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR), as reported by the NY Fed on its website, is only 2.39% as of 5/16/19.. it has drifted lower, averaging about 12bp below the actual target rate.. Now, Fed Funds don’t TRADE much like they used to, just between some regional banks and GSEs.

The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), 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. That rate on 5/16/19 was 2.38% and has been very constant throughout this month.

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities. It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website. It has been controversial and has been considered as a possibly replacement for LIBOR. SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special. However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC. It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers. It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buyside clients with collateral. That all being said, the current SOFR reported by the Fed for 05/16/19 was 2.43%.

The next FOMC meetings are: 6/19/19, 7/31/19, 9/18/19, 10/30/19, 12/11/19, 1/29/20.

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 OER 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. Remember when RRP was trading at year-end for $465 billion? Well, on 5/15/19, there was only $20 million in bids submitted. MMF cash and GSE cash has moved out of the Fed’s RRP and into the Repo market. So, if RRP is not extinct, it is certainly now dormant, occasionally coming out of hibernation for year-ends and quarter-ends, when liquidity becomes very strange.

So, last I wrote in the Repo Commentary, according to FOMC members, the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise the benchmark Fed Funds rate to 2.50% at the December FOMC meeting, 3.00% in 2019, and 3.50% in 2020. If you are keeping score, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds target rate on these dates so far:

12/15/15 to 0.50%
12/14/16 to 0.75%
3/5/17 to 1.00%
6/14/17 to 1.25%
12/13/17 to 1.50%
3/21/18 to 1.75%
6/13/18 to 2.00%
9/26/18 to 2.25%
12/13/18 to 2.50%

Quantitative Easing was ‘tapered off’ in 2013. The Fed still had $4 trillion of debt in 2017 on its books from that QE. In October 2017, it began allowing those holdings to gradually decline. For fun, the Fed Funds target rate was 5.25% before the Fed cut of 9/18/2007.

Well, things have done a 180-degree turn. Now, folks in the market, over the last couple of weeks, have been talking more about when the Federal Reserve is going to CUT interest rates, rather than RAISE them again.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

The USGS updated its 2005 rankings of the 161 volcanoes that pose the most threat to American lives. Since 2005, that total number has dropped by 8. The 18 very highest threat volcanoes are in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. 39 other volcanoes are high threat, 49 are moderate, 34 are low, and 21 are very low threat. The United States is one of Earth’s most volcanically active countries. Since 1980, there have been 120 eruptions and 52 episodes of notable volcanic threat at 44 US volcanoes. Using 24 factors to determine the threat to people and evaluate the US volcanoes, the USGS came up with the entire list. Here are the 18 very highest threat volcanoes:
• Akutan Island-Alaska
• Augustine Volcano-Alaska
• Makushin-Alaska
• Redoubt Volcano-Alaska
• Mount Spur-Alaska
• Mount Baker-Washington
• Glacier Peak-Washington
• Mount Ranier-Washington
• Mount St. Helens-Washington
• Crater Lake-Oregon
• Mount Hood-Oregon
• Newberry Volcano-Oregon
• Three Sisters Volcano-Oregon
• Lassen volcanic center-California
• Long Valley Caldera-California
• Mount Shasta-California
• Kilauea-Hawaii
• Mauna Loa-Hawaii

The USGS is now very excited about its capabilities to better predict the most dangerous volcanoes, using the new National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS). The USGS is now using unmanned drones to “sniff” for escaping methane gas from thawing permafrost. President Trump has proposed a $983 million budget for fiscal year 2020 for USGS. He wants the agency to prioritize supporting American energy enterprise, national security, and natural hazard response efforts. Latest strong earthquakes (5.0 magnitude and above):

none

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. For 2018, Colorado State University experts had predicted an above average season of 14 named Tropical Storms, of which 7 would become Hurricanes. Both are above the averages of 12 and 6, respectively. But, there were 15 named Tropical Storms, of which 8 were hurricanes, and 2 of them major. So, they were wrong, but this time, not in a good way. Hurricane officials are warning Floridians to prepare in advance of the upcoming storm season. There are several national meteorological services and scientific agencies that forecast how many named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes (above Category 3). TSR, CSU, and The Weather Company were similar numbers, while NCU was higher. CSU has been the most used and they forecast for 2019 a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. The National Hurricane Center is monitoring a system off of Bermuda that has a 30% chance of developing.

The Hurricane names for the 2019 North Atlantic season are:

Andrea
Barry
Chantal
Dorian
Erin
Fernand
Gabrielle
Humberto
Imelda
Jerry
Karen
Lorenzo
Melissa
Nestor
Olga
Pablo
Rebekah
Sebastian
Tanya
Van
Wendy

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/18 and ends 11/1/18.

As for the weather, the US has been dealing with huge storms, flooding, hail, tornadoes, and very whacky temperatures. There has been snow in Denver in May, the Northeast is suffering through 40-degree temperatures and rain (about 35 degrees below where it was on this date last year), the South has had punishing daily rain and winds, and Florida has been seeing typical summer pattern of August, with temperatures in the 90s, high humidity, and daily thunderstorms and massive amounts of rain. The National Weather Service says that Friday will be Day One of five days of severe weather hitting multiple areas of the US, staring in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and Texas.

Sports News:

MLB:

The MLB regular season began 3/28 this year and the 2018 World Series Champion Red Sox did not start well, in last place, fumbling to a 2-12 record out of the gate. Technically, the current season began on 3/20-3/21, when the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics played each other in Tokyo. The Boston Red Sox will play the Yankees in London, for the first-ever MLB games in Europe, on 6/29-6/30. Anyway, back to the Red Sox and Yankees, both teams started out poorly, but both have recovered well and are now playing above .500 and closing in on improbable AL East first place Rays. What is not different is that the Orioles are already occupying the cellar of the AL East, having mortgaged their present for their future, dumping all of their star players, except slugger Chris Davis, and I still can’t figure that one out. Another team that is no surprise to be in the cellar, for exactly the same reasons, is the Marlins. Granted, we are early in the season, only about 40 games in or roughly 25%. Still, there are some trends that are re-emerging and some new surprises due to aggressive free agency work. In the AL East: the Rays have a half game lead on the Yankees and 4 game lead on the Red Sox, with the Orioles already 13 games back. By the way, star closer for the Red Sox, Kimbrel, is still a free agent and not playing baseball. In the AL Central: the Twins have been on fire (2nd best record in MLB) and hold a 4 ½ game lead over the Indians. Speaking of the Indians, their ace Kuebler is still a free agent and not playing baseball. The White Sox have been surprisingly pretty good, with all of their trades. The Royals have the cellar 13 ½ games back. In the AL West: the Astros have roared out of the gate (best record in MLB) and command an 8 game over the surprisingly good Mariners. No one really occupies the cellar for a change here. In the NL East: the Phillies were able to turn themselves around with aggressive spending, particularly on slugging and pitching, and hold a 1 ½ game lead over the Braves, who really didn’t do much in the off-season, and 3 ½ games over the Mets, who are playing better than expected. The Marlins are 13 games out and have by far the worst record in MLB, at 10-31. In the NL Central: the Cubs started slowly, but have managed to eke out a ½ game lead over the strong Brewers. The Cards and Pirates are right there just behind them. The Reds aren’t even doing that badly, for a change, 6 ½ games back. In the NL West: the Dodgers did well with their acquisitions and kept first place for now, 4 ½ games ahead of the Diamondbacks. The Padres are only 1 game back of that with Manny Machado. The Giants, once again seem to have not found the answers and are drifting to 9 ½ games back.

Giants ace Madison Bumgarner is being rumored for a trade. Mets OF Michael Conforto is expected to go on IL. Mets IF Jed Lowrie suffered a significant setback in his recovery from hamstring injury. Red Sox star 2B Dustin Pedroia barely played a game and is back on the DL with that tricky knee that sidelined him all season last year. The Brewers called up top prospect Keston Hiura to replace Travis Shaw who went on IL. MLB has put Dodgers’ Julio Urias on leave after domestic battery arrest. An unruly Braves fan was absolutely destroyed by a security guard. Yankees’ Chad Green is no longer a reliever, and he is relieved. The Rangers hit 5 HRs and scored 16 runs. The Rockies are calling up Brendan Rodgers amid star Trevor Story injury. Red Sox Chris Sale set a new personal record of 17 strikeouts, but still didn’t get a decision. He struck out 31 in combined back-to-back starts, nearly tying Kerry Wood’s record. The Red Sox set a franchise record of 10 consecutive hits in an inning. Yankees IF Miguel Andujar is likely out for the season with shoulder injury. Cubs’ Ben Zobrist remains on leave, as his wife files for divorce. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit is first 2 MLB HRs for the Blue Jays. Angels two-way player, Shohei Ohtani hit his first HR since his return. White Sox LHP Carlos Rodon is out for season after Tommy John surgery. Pirates starter Jameson Taillon has gone on 60-day IL. Twins star slugger Nelson Cruz just landed on the DL.

I’ve had to field this question a lot lately, so let me try to clarify. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2018 and the entire MLB season is within that calendar year. The New England Patriots won the NFL’s Super Bowl in 2019, although the majority of the season is in 2018. So, overlooking that Foxboro is in the Boston-area and not actually Boston, that would mean that 2 of the 4 major team sports in the US (not globally) were won by Boston; baseball and football in the same season year. It has happened a few times in sports history and the NFL in the US has only been around since 1920. No city or metropolitan area (like San Francisco, Boston, New York/New Jersey, etc.) has ever won 3 of the major team sports in the US in the same year. This is a point that many people like to argue. For instance, both the Boston Celtics (NBA) and Boston Bruins (NHL) are playing in the playoffs right now. And, although both of their 82-game seasons BEGAN in 2018, the majority of their seasons and their championships (Stanley Cup and Finals, respectively) occur in 2019. So, if they were both to win their respective championships, they would not be in the same ‘SEASON YEAR’ as the 2018 Red Sox and 2018 Patriots. However, Boston could have claimed all 4 as the “current” reigning champions of their respective sports of the CALENDAR YEAR, at least until the 2019 World Series and the 2020 Super Bowl. Now, for an update. The Celtics’ locker room squabbles with Kyrie Irving helped them out the exit door from the playoffs against the Bucks. So, the all 4-team sport reigning champion dream was dashed. However, the Bruins have surged on, and with last night’s sweep of the Hurricanes, have made the Stanley Cup Finals. So, there is a potential 3-team sport reigning champions in play for Boston. That has only been done once by Detroit, in the 1930s, when it had 3 team sports (NBA, NFL, and MLB) as reigning champions in the same CALENDAR YEAR (but not SEASON YEAR).

The MLB announced the class of the six 2019 inductees into the Hall of Fame and they are: Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez (finally), Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, and Lee Smith. The ceremony will be on 7/21 in Cooperstown, NY. Baines and Smith were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game Era Committee. Baines, an ESPN analyst, will go in as a White Sox, Halladay will go in without a logo, Martinez will go in as a Mariner (kind of insuring that his fellow DH, David Ortiz, will make it too), Mussina will go in without a logo (I’m surprised), Rivera (the greatest reliever of all-time) will go in as a Yankee, and Smith (one of the greatest relievers of all-time) will go in as a Cub.

Golf:

The PGA Tour season began with its swing through Hawaii. Then they landed on the continent in California and moved over to Arizona, then stopped in Mexico, before hitting Florida, moving to Augusta, and now up to my old course, Bethpage in Long Island, NY. Sung Kang won his first PGA Tour title last Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Tiger Woods has been the main topic this season, like the old days, in his remarkable comeback, moving up from No.668 world ranking in 2018, to now No.6 as he plays at the PGA Championship at Bethpage this week. He won a tournament, then won an improbably 5th Masters Tournament at Augusta (15th Major), and has had several top 10 finishes this year. He didn’t start well at Bethpage yesterday, posting a 72, 2 over, as his chipping and putting were rusty. He only played 9 holes of practice since his Masters victory a month ago. He missed all 5 of putts he had from 5-10 feet (normally pros make 60-40% of those, with 40% for 10 footers). It probably didn’t help that one of his playing partners, Brooks Koepka, scorched the course record with a 63 (-7). The top 70 golfers will make the cut and Woods starts today at no. 58. Watching between paragraphs, I see that Koepka is now -10, Spieth is making a run, Adam Scott is making a run, Danny Lee fell dramatically, and both Day and McIlroy had bad rounds. There have been 1,142 bogeys or worse this week so far at Bethpage (over 7 per golfer), but Koepka hasn’t had one, yet. Of course, the minute I wrote those words, defending champ Koepka bogied his 28th hole. Coaches and competitors at the NCAA Women’s Championship were informed that the official yardage books were non-conforming.

NCAA Basketball:

The college basketball season closed out in March, with my Michigan State Spartans just missing a National title and coming in third. They lost to Texas Tech, who then lost to Virginia. Virginia had beaten Auburn to get to the Finals. Here is the AP Final Poll:

1. Virginia (35-3)
2. Texas Tech (31-7)
3. Michigan State (32-7)
4. Duke (32-6)
5. Auburn (30-10
6. Gonzaga (33-4)
7. Kentucky (30-7)
8. Purdue (26-10)
9. North Carolina (29-7)
10. Tennessee (31-6)
11. Michigan (30-7)
12. Houston (33-4)
13. FSU (29-8)
14. Virginia Tech (26-9)
15. LSU (28-7)
16. Kansas (26-10)
17. Buffalo (32-4)
18. Wofford (30-5)
19. Kansas State (25-9)
20. Villanova (26-10)
21. Oregon (25-13)
22. Maryland (23-11)
23. Nevada (29-5)
24. Wisconsin (23-11)
25. Iowa State (23-12)

NFL:

The 99th NFL regular season ended with the New England Patriots beating the Los Angeles Rams in a defensive battle 13-3 in the Super Bowl. It was QB Tom Brady’s 6th Super Bowl victory. Patriots owner Robert Kraft has made the news down here in southern Florida, where he owns a condo in Palm Beach, for allegedly soliciting sex twice at a massage parlor in Jupiter, FL. Several massage parlors were involved in the police sting which netted at least 105 ‘Johns’ and network of human trafficking. It’s disgusting behavior, if true, and will likely be met with NFL fines or sanctions. Just yesterday, a judge threw out the video evidence as inadmissible, probably because patrons didn’t know they were being videotaped. I had heard that it was only video and not audio, so it would be hard to convict without hearing him. The Raiders have reached an agreement to play in Oakland next season. The Ravens are releasing veteran WR Michael Crabtree. Falcons owner Arthur Blank just bought a $180 million yacht, according to a report. Buccaneers RB Peyton Barber reportedly had his car broken into and his playbook stolen. The NFL is considering banning players from leaving sidelines to join celebrations. The Panthers have released defensive captain Munnerlyn and Mike Adams. Kyle Long tweeted “Bear for Life” after contract was reportedly restructured. Cowboys COO finally admitted in discussing coach Jason Garrett that “everybody’s back is against the wall.” Packers team president says QB Aaron Rodgers has to “embrace” change. Jets are reportedly interested in WR Donte Moncrief. NFL’s Randy Gregory has been suspended indefinitely for substance abuse violation. Saints’ Ted Ginn says he will race anyone for $10,000.

Although the NFL season is over, the shortest season of the big 4 team sports in the US, the NFL has a new league, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) League, that had already started playing, which includes players who went undrafted, players trying to make a comeback, and players who are on NFL practice squads. The NFL hopes to make this league into kind of developmental league, like MLB’s minor leagues and NBA’s D-League. It was co-founded by Charlie Ebersol. Here are your AAF teams, who are heading into Week 4 (there are a total of 10 weeks plus playoffs, extending the season to 4/27):

Arizona Hotshots
Atlanta Legends
Birmingham Iron
Memphis Express
Orlando Apollos
Salt Lake Stallions
San Antonio Commanders
San Diego Fleet

Newsflash: the NFL suspended play of the new league, just 6 games into the inaugural season, and stopped paying players. Well, so much for that.
The AAF is not to be confused with the XFL, which was launched 17 years ago, by Dick Ebersol of NBC, Charlie’s father. Former Seahawks QB Jim Zorn has been named coach and GM of Seattle’s XFL franchise.

Let’s look at the new NFL Hall of Fame class, which includes Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed, Kevin Mawae, Champ Bailey, Johnny Robinson, Pat Bowlen, Gil Brandt, and Ty Law.

NHL:

The puck dropped on the regular season, for some teams, on 10/3. We are currently in the semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it has been a crazy playoff season. For the first time ever, all 4 division winners were ousted in the first round. My Bruins (2nd best record in NHL) just swept in 4 games the Hurricanes (3rd best record in NHL). The Blues and Sharks are still battling for the Western Conference spot in the Stanley Cup Finals, after a bad call in OT gave the Sharks a 2-1 edge in their best of 7 series. Once again, the President Trophy curse continued, as the Lightning, who had the best record in NHL, were knocked out in the first round. Of the 39 years that they have been awarding the President Trophy for the best record in the NHL, only 9 teams went on to win the Stanley Cup.

NBA:

The NBA season officially began on 10/3 as well. We are also in the semifinals of those playoffs. We saw a weird early exit by the Celtics, who were in the Finals last year, as the Bucks swept them. The Bucks are now playing Warriors, who lost Kevin Durant to injury and shocked the world by beating the Rockets in Houston in Game 6 to take that series without Durant.

Soccer:

Manchester City is arguably the best team in the world right now, at least in English terms, having completed the most dominant two seasons ever, winning back-to-back titles in the Champions League, beating rival Man United. They also retained the Carabao Cup this year. They could complete their version of the Triple Crown by now winning the FA Cup Final against Watford in the Premier League. They have two musicians in each teams’ corners, with Elton John there to root on Watford and Oasis’ Noel Gallagher to root on Man City.

Tennis:

Serena Williams has invested in a plant-protein based food brand. Australian tennis pro Nick Kyrgios threw a chair onto court during the Italian Open. Andy Murray became Sir Andy Murray as he got his knighthood. Nadal has reached the Rome semis, while Federer and Osaka withdrew with injuries.

MMA:

Legend Georges St-Pierre announced his retirement, but still left the door open for a UFC comeback. He had failed to secure a super-fight with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and decided to call it a career. Nurmagomedov is serving a 9-month suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his post-fight brawl following his UFC 229 victory over Conor McGregor in October. Nurmagomedov took to Twitter to try to dissuade St-Pierre from retirement and to offer to fight him in November. St-Pierre (26-2) turns 38 in May and holds the record for most welterweight title defenses in UFC history with 9 and is widely considered one of the greatest competitors in the sport’s history. In UFC 236, Israel Adesanya will fight Kelvin Gastelum for interim middleweight title. In UFC Phoenix, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez made his much heralded return, after a 31-month layoff for back surgery and the birth of his son. He came out strong in front of a rowdy crowd, missed two head kicks and a takedown, and took a short uppercut to the jaw, just as his knee buckled. Ngannou jumped on him and unleashed a series of hammerfists, and the return was over, after just 26 seconds. In Bellator 216, Michael ‘Venom’ Page got a unanimous decision over fellow Brit Paul Daley in a grudge match. Everyone expected a boxing match, but instead, a wrestling match broke out.

Horse Racing:

Well, the most exciting two minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby, became a controversial 20 minutes in sports, as for the first time the winner of the race, by a lot, Maximum Security, was disqualified for moving at least two lanes to the right and dangerously obstructing another horse, tangling legs. That gave the second place horse, a 59-1 longshot, Country House, the win. It was the second-largest odds for a Kentucky Derby winner. Gary West, owner of Maximum Security, filed a grievance and was denied and decided he won’t run in this week’s 144th Preakness on Saturday in Pimlico in Maryland. He also offered up $20 million of his own money, in an unprecedented move in thoroughbred racing, to the owners of Country House, War of Will, Long Range Toddy, and Bodexpress if any of those horses finish ahead of Maximum Security the next time any of them race against him through 12/31/19. The Preakness favorite is currently Improbable. There were 20 horses racing in the Kentucky Derby, but only 13 entered in the Preakness.

Racing:

Last year’s champion, his first, for the NASCAR Cup Series was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead. Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017. NASCAR’s 2019 season started with Daytona 500 kicking it off, as it does every year. A big crash with 10 laps remaining, knocked out many of the frontrunners. No one was injured in the 18 car pileup, but Denny Hamlin came away with the win. We have also already run in Atlanta. Here is the schedule of races just released for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2019 (they don’t have the sponsors or formal names of all of them yet):

2/17 Daytona 500, won by Denny Hamlin
2/24 Atlanta, QuickTrip 500, won by Brad Keselowski
3/3 Las Vegas-Joey Logano
3/10 ISM Raceway-Kyle Busch
3/17 Auto Club-Kyle Busch
3/24 Martinsville-Brad Keselowski
3/31 Texas-Denny Hamlin
4/7 Bristol-Kyle Busch
4/13 Richmond-Martin Truex Jr.
4/28 Talladega-Chase Elliott
5/5 Dover-won by Martin Truex Jr.
5/11 Kansas-won by Brad Keselowski
5/18 All-Star Open Charlotte-won by Austin Dillon
5/26 Charlotte
6/2 Pocono
6/9 Michigan
6/23 Sonoma
6/30 Chicago
7/6 Daytona
7/13 Kentucky
7/21 New Hampshire
7/28 Pocono
8/4 Watkins Glen
8/11 Michigan
8/17 Bristol
9/1 Darlington
9/8 Indianapolis
9/15 Las Vegas playoff
9/21 Richmond playoff
9/29 Charlotte playoff
10/6 Dover playoff
10/13 Talladega playoff
10/20 Kansas playoff
10/27 Martinsville playoff
11/3 Texas playoff
11/10 ISM Raceway playoff
11/17 Miami-Homestead final playoff

Formula One begins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That is followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule 2/18-2/21 and 2/26-3/1, both in Catalunya, Spain. Here is the 2019 Formula One 21 Race calendar:

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne
3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir
4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000th Grand Prix)
4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku
5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona
5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco
6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal
6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet
6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg
7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone
7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim
8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest
9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa
9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza
9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore
9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi
10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka
10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City
11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX
11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo
12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island

Matt Damon and Christian Bale have been named honorary Indy 500 starters. Then, there is the IndyCar Racing circuit and its 2019 calendar (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):

3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
3/24 Circuit of the Americas
4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama
4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach
5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis
5/26 Indianapolis 500
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2
6/8 Texas Grand Prix
6/23 Road America
7/14 Honda Indy Toronto
7/20 Iowa 300
7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
8/18 Pocono Grand Prix
8/24 Gateway Grand Prix
9/1 Grand Prix of Portland
9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca

Travel News:

Miami just revealed a multi-billion-dollar plan to remake the Miami International Airport for 80 million passengers. Also, the commissioner has proposed building a transit system from Miami’s Airport to Seaport. That would make it a lot easier for passengers to catch their cruise ships. The FAA has approved Miami’s Sunny Isles condos to complete its two tallest towers ever at 700 feet. Miami International Airport is considering gutting it in-terminal hotel to make into a shared office space. In the far north of Alaska, near Prudhoe Bay oil field, an international research consortium, using a test well, confirmed two high-quality gas hydrate reservoirs in the Alaska North Slope. Gas hydrate is a potential alternative new fuel source. Two people were killed after they were caught in a rip current at Atlantic Beach, NC. A family inherits a filed of forgotten Ferraris. How come that stuff never happens to me? The NTSB ruled that a Tesla Autopilot was engaged before a fatal Florida crash.

Health News:

704 individual cases of measles have now been confirmed in 2 states. This is the greatest number of cases reported since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in the US in 2000, through vaccinations. Many of the illnesses are among children, as a growing population of the US is going without the vaccination, due to fear of it causing other conditions, religious reasons, and because they are recent immigrants. People born before 1989 may also need to update their measles vaccine. This particular measles outbreak began in the Portland, OR area. The world’s first surviving octuplets are now 9-years-old. Research on more than 2.8 million adults suggests that being obese is linked to a significantly higher chance of serious disease and early death than being a healthy weight. Presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow, Scotland, the study found that people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30-35 were at 70% higher risk of developing heart failure than healthy weight people. Even a BMI of 25-30 increased the risk by 20%, and a BMI of 35-40 more than doubled the risk. A BMI of 25-30 also increased the risk of Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea by more than 200%, and a BMI of 30-35 increased the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 500% and sleep apnea by 600%. Scientists say they may have found a way to solve the world’s $2.5 trillion problem of plastic pollution, as they have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration at the molecular level. Suicides are rising among young girls. Texting while walking could soon be a crime in NYC. Researchers say that air pollution now damages “every organ in the body.”.

Animal News:

I am very psyched, after growing up wanting to be a zoologist (then finding out that they make zero money), I get to visit an animal rescue ranch in North Carolina next week that has jaguars, tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, etc. I can’t wait! National Geographic says that half of all amphibian species are at risk of extinction. Italy and Malta are the centers of songbird poaching. Dogs can tune out noise. A white beluga whale was found in the North Sea and is believed to have been trained to spy on NATO forces by Russia. Asiatic lionesses must shield their cubs from killer male lions. A woman has been charged with animal cruelty after a tiger was found in a ‘rinky-dink’ cage by Houston authorities. Animal rights group has accused Fellsmere farm workers of animal cruelty. Tourists’ exciting video shows an alligator biting a bigger, bellowing gator in Florida. A 7-foot snake scares an Oklahoma man as it pokes its head out of dryer vent. A fisherwoman in Ireland reeled in a 15-foot/1,200-lb shark after a 90-minute struggle. It was measured and documented and released. It was a rare bluntnose sixgill shark, also known as a cow shark. Researchers say an Australian dinosaur had natural “high-heel”. A “Summit of the Bear” is being held between Spain and France, after bears attacked sheep. A 27-year-old man was killed in Zimbabwe by a huge crocodile, while fishing with his brother. A recent study suggest the number of attacks by Nile crocodiles was between 275 and 745 per year, with about 63% proving fatal.

Entertainment News:

Phil McCormack, the lead singer of Molly Hatchet, died at the age of 58, on 4/26. Dave Samuels of Spyro Gyra died 4/22 at the age of 70. John Singleton, the director of the movie BOYZ N THE HOOD, has died at age 51. Fashion world’s Met Gala is coming up 5/6 in NYC. Larry King suffered a heart issue last week but is now recovering. Apparently, I missed an epic battle scene in Game of Thrones. Prince William and Kate Middleton are celebrating their 8th wedding anniversary. There also is rumored to a feud between Prince William and brother Prince Harry. It could be because of Harry’s wife’s Meghan’s non-royal actions. Buckingham Palace is reportedly considering separating the Princes, stationing Harry in South Africa. Anne Hathaway has been recalling her doubts about making it in Hollywood. She is also talking about a possible sequel to PRINCESS DIARIES. Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles will sing the National Anthem at the 2019 Kentucky Derby on 5/4. I didn’t get the call again! Actor Rami Malek credits his role on TV series “Mr. Robot” for landing him his Oscar-winning role in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. He is excited about his next movie role as the bad guy in the 25th James Bond movie, which has begun filming with Daniel Craig, who says it will be his last James Bond movie. “The Simpsons” celebrated their 35th anniversary. Kourtney Kardashian has reignited John Mayer romance rumors. There are a lot of questions and rumors about the six-episode of the 90’s hit “90210 Reboot” with Jason Priestley, Tori Spelling, Shannen Doherty, Jennie Garth, Ian Ziering, Gabrielle Carteris, Brian Austin Green, but without Luke Perry, who passed away last month. Natalie Morales is leaving Access Hollywood and Access Live. Vanessa A. Williams is heading back to Days of Our Lives. Jana Kramer and Mike Caussin are sounding off on Olivia Culpo and Danny Amendola’s messy split. Jenni “JWoww” Farley is slamming her ex Roger Mathews. Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are still in the spotlight for allegations of their briberies to get their kids into college. It’s official now, Woodstock 50 concert, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic music concert in upstate New York that changed the world, has been cancelled. Producer Andy Cohen had to physically separate Jax and James in the dramatic Vanderpump Rules reunion show, being aired now. Although I never liked Jax, I never liked James even less. Wait, does that make sense? Kim Kardashian had a CBD-themed shower for Baby No.4. Don’t worry, the baby is being carried by a surrogate, not Kim. Kim and Kanye West hilariously surprised a Hollywood tour bus. Halima Aden has made history as the first model to wear a hijab and burkini for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue. We have lost a number of stars this week, including comedian Tim Conway, famous for the Carol Burnett Show, at age 85, Laura Bush’s mom Jenna Hawkins Welch, at age 99, Twin Peaks actress Peggy Lipton, at age 72, and legendary actress/singer Doris Day, at age 97. The Jeremy Kyle UK tabloid talk show has been cancelled, after the death of a guest. Elsa Patton from Real Housewives of Miami died at the age of 84. POWER RANGERS actor Pua Magasiva died at age 38. The star of the new movie about Elton John, Taron Egerton, lived with Elton John before filming ROCKETMAN. Robert Pattison celebrated his birthday with his Twilight costars. He is in negotiations to play the next movie BATMAN. Nick Viall says he will stand by Hannah Brown, “regardless of who criticizes her.” Young and Pregnant’s Jade replaced Jenelle Evans on TEEN MOM 2. The original Beverly Hills 90210 writers and producers were “alienated” from the new reboot. The new writers quit on Tori Spelling’s birthday. Keanu Reeves revealed he had a crush on SPEED costar Sandra Bullock. Meredith, Alex, and Richard just got fired on Grey’s Anatomy. No doubt due to some of the fallout from its star’s alleged faking of his own attack in Chicago, the show Empire has now been cancelled. Ellen Pompeo slammed Bachelor producer over Kelly Ripa salary dig. You probably have noticed that Southern Charm is now missing former Congressman and convicted felon Thomas, who is now facing rape charges from his nanny. Survivor just completed its Season 38. Britney Spear’s manager is clarifying his comment about her possibly never performing again. Jon Gosselin is publicly reacting to ex-wife Kate’s new dating show. Game of Thrones finale will be streaming 5/19 on HBO Now. I am hearing from fans of the show how deeply disappointed they are in this season 8, the last season. 10.7 million Americans are expected to skip work on Monday, after Sunday’s finale. Joe Rogan calls AI that replicated his voice “terrifyingly accurate”. Kroft has exited 60 Minutes after 30 years.

2018 was a record year at the domestic box office. Ticket sales were almost $11.9 billion, of which Disney pulled in a record $3.092 billion with BLACK PANTHER ($700mm), AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ($678.8mm), and INCREDIBLES 2($608.6mm). JURASSIC WORLD 2 pulled in $417.7mm and AQUAMAN pulled in $320mm.

This past week’s box-office was extremely strong, as the last Marvel AVENGERS movie shattered the previous opening weekend record. It shattered a number of other records too:

• Largest Thursday Preview: $60 million (beat $57 million STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS)
• Widest Opening: 4,662 theaters (beat 4,529 theaters for DESPICABLE ME 3)
• Largest Friday/Opening Day/Single Day Box: $156.7 million (beat $119.1 million STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS)
• Largest Saturday: $109 million (beat $82.1 million AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR)
• Largest Sunday: $84.3 million (beat $69.2 million AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR)
• Domestic Opening Weekend: $350 million (beat $257.69 million AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR)
• #1 Movie Market Share: 90% (beat 84.5% AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON)
• Largest International Opening: $859 million (beat $443.15 million THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS)
• Worldwide Opening Weekend: $1.2 billion (beat $640.5 million (AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR)
It was also the Highest Per Theater Average, Largest April Opening, Largest Spring Opening, Largest PG-13 Opening, largest 3-Day Gross, Biggest Weekend Overall ($389 million), Fastest to $100 million, Fastest to $200 million, Fastest to $250 million, Fastest to $300 million, Fastest to $350 million, Global 4DX Format Opening Record, Global 3D Opening Record, and Global IMAX Opening Record.

So, AVENGERS: ENDGAME easily won the No.1 spot, with $357.1 million debut. No.2 was, ironically, CAPTAIN MARVEL, with $8.3 million in its 8th week (don’t feel badly, it has grossed $413.8 million already). No.3 was THE CURSE OF LA LLorona, with $8 million, in its 2nd week. No.4 was BREAKTHROUGH with $6.8 million, in its 2nd week. No.5 was SHAZAM!, which made another $5.5 million, bringing its total to $131.2 million on a budget of $100 million, it its 4th week.

The number of movies coming out this week is very low, with: EL CHICANO, THE INTRUDER (Dennis Quaid), UGLYDOLLS, LONG SHOT (Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron), ASK DR. RUTH, BOLDEN, THE CONVENT, MEETING GORBACHEV, NON-FICTION, SAVAGE, and SHADOW.

Technology & Space News:

After fatal airplane accidents and pilot difficulties on the new B-737 MAX aircraft, they were pulled from service by the FAA and the airlines that flew them. Boeing says it has completed the software update. It has logged 207 test flights lasting 360 hours and is now ready to release the fix to the flight control system under investigation for two fatal crashes. Do you remember Grumpy Cat, who sparked smiles and memes all over the Internet? Well, the cat has died. The EU competition commissioner says that a Facebook breakup would be “last resort”. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise says it plans to acquire Seattle-based Cray to beef up supercomputing power. On May 7, the US Department of Energy announced that it was working with Cray and AMD to build one of the world’s most powerful computers, called Frontier, due to arrive in 2021. It will have a performance of 1.5 exaflops, or 1.5 quintillion calculations per second, a little faster than my Texas Instruments calculator. That is 50% faster than the supercomputer that Cray is working on with Intel called Aurora. Microsoft and Sony will partner on game streaming and AI. China’s lunar rover reportedly made a discovery on the far side of the moon. Pink Floyd already told us about it though. iPhone 11R leaks show fresh new colors and larger camera bump. Apple has also unleashed its latest versions of iOS, MacOS, WatchOS, and TVOS ahead of its annual developer conference in June. Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, has unveiled a $9,999 electric car. NASA is creating the world’s first all-electric airplanes powered by “holy grail” frozen hydrogen fuel. Oh, we are still in a helium drought. Microsoft has harnessed AI to make Word politically correct. I might need that. Jeff Bezos of Amazon has unveiled an ambitious plan to send a spaceship to the Moon. Did you know that a rare Apple-1 computer could fetch as much as $650,000 at auction. Elon Musk told Tesla employees he will review all of company’s expenses in new cost-cutting plan.

US News:

75% of Americans are against a plan to let every prisoner have the right to vote. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says he won’t comply with subpoena for President Trump’s tax returns. CNN attempted to shame the White House, as a snarky reporter said the podium has gone dusty from lack of press briefings. A Michigan state legislator accused of offering to sell his vote over text says he should have phoned instead. He may not be getting the point. Bikers have embarked on a cross country National Veterans Awareness Ride. You know, on average, 23 veterans commit suicide every day. I have been more involved lately performing and welcoming home veterans from Honor Flights to Washington, D.C., which was originally for WWII vets, but has been expanded to Korean War and Vietnam War veterans. Thousands of people show up at the airport and the veterans seem to like the Elvis outfit. The College Board president who is now pushing for a new SAT testing policy was also the architect of the controversial Common Core program. A Tennessee death row inmate died in prison today, less than 3 months before his scheduled execution and less than a day after a fellow inmate was executed. He was pronounced dead of natural causes at age 64. A man has been sentenced for death threats to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his family over net neutrality rollback. The man in Wisconsin shooting faced drug charges as well. ICE is reportedly moving 225,000 illegals across the country. More will be coming to South Florida. On the heels of Alabama signing into law a total abortion ban, with no exceptions for incest or rape, Missouri is now closer to doing the same. There is a movement to kick Chicago out of Illinois? A one-armed man is suing police after they handcuffed his wrist to his ankle..

International News:

As the US moved a large aircraft carrier group into the Persian Gulf, Iran has issued a new threat to the US, escalating tensions further. Iran has told Middle East militias to prepare for proxy war. Iraq is once again also caught up in escalating those tensions. The Pentagon has deployed missiles that can ‘fry’ weapons. TA Chinese family who paid $6.5 million in college admissions scandal claims they were duped. Basque separatist chief has been jailed in France. Cuba is betting on tourism, as President Trump restrictions take hold. A new Chinese armored vehicle can now launch swarms of killer drones. Russia is hailing its new “science fiction” secret military lasers. The collapse of Venezuela’s government and economy is the worst outside of war in decades.

Florida:

If you are interested in seeing more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances (and I have been singing once or twice per week), there are many acts coming to Florida, perhaps when you will be visiting (I’ve added some concerts since the last Repo Commentary):

The Temptations-Fort Lauderdale, January 31
Don McLean-Immokalee, January 31
Michael Bolton-Fort Lauderdale, February 2
The Four Tops and the Temptations-West Palm Beach, February 2
Melissa Manchester-Aventura, February 8
Michael Bolton-West Palm Beach, February 8
The Commodores-Miami, February 9
Patti LaBelle-Fort Myers, February 11
Duran Duran-Miami Beach, February 12
Franki Valli & the Four Seasons, Hollywood, February 14
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 14
Dave Mason-Fort Lauderdale, February 15
Little River Band-Fort Myers, February 15
Michael Buble-Sunrise, February 16 (I would like to go)
Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, February 18
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes-Bonita Springs, February 20
Art Garfunkel-Fort Lauderdale, February 20
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
Sarah Brightman-Hollywood, February 20
PGA Honda Classic-PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, February 28-March 2
Pink-Sunrise-March 1 (it was fantastic!)
Sara Mclachlan-March 1, West Palm Beach
Paul Anka-Fort Lauderdale-March 4
Elton John-Sunrise, March 16
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band-Sunrise, March 17
Steve Miller Band-Hollywood, March 17
Tony Bennett-Miami, March 21
Palm Beach International Boat Show-West Palm Beach, March 28-March 31
Jackson Browne-West Palm Beach, April 3
Abba The Concert-Miami Beach, April 4
The Rolling Stones-Miami, April 20
Whitesnake-Fort Lauderdale, April 25
Slayer-West Palm Beach, May 11
Rascal Flatts-West Palm Beach, May 23
Ariana Grande-Orlando, May 29
Ozzie Osbourne & Megadeth-Sunrise, May 31
Hootie & the Blowfish-West Palm Beach, June 8
Florence and The Machine-Miami, June 9
Train & Goo Goo Dolls-West Palm Beach, July 6
Hugh Jackman-Sunrise, July 6
Jeff Lynnes’ Electric Light Orchestra-Sunrise, July 9
New Kids on the Block, Salt N Pepa, Naughty by Nature-Sunrise, July 14
Iron Maiden-Sunrise, July 18
Dave Matthews Band-West Palm Beach, July 26
Jennifer Lopez-Miami, July 26
Korn & Alice in Chains-West Palm Beach, July 28
Shawn Mendes-Miami, July 28
Queen & Adam Lambert-Sunrise, August 17
Florida Georgia Line-West Palm Beach, August 29
Peter Frampton-West Palm Beach, September 6
Dane Cook-Fort Lauderdale, September 28

Repo Commentary-2/27/19

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My Repo Commentary is posted on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed.

If you need to reach me, my cell is still 646-753-1300, my email for work is jeffkidwell82@gmail.com, and you can also hit me up on LinkedIn.

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

02/26 Holidays or Events:

• Carnival Day (not Mardi Gras yet)
• For Pete’s Sake Day
• Tell A Fairy Tale Day
• Thermos Bottle Day
• National Personal Chef Day
• National Pistachio Nut Day
• Levi Strauss Day
• World Spay Day
• Day of Remembrance for Victims of Khojaly Massacre (Azerbaijan)
• Liberation Day (Kuwait)
• Saviours’ Day (Nation of Islam)

Some Famous People Born 02/26 in History:

• 1564-Christopher Marlowe, English playwright and poet
• 1802-Victor Hugo, French author, poet, and playwright
• 1808-Honore Daumier, French painter, illustrator, and sculptor
• 1829-Levi Strauss, German-American fashion designer, founder of Levi Strauss & Co.
• 1846-Buffalo Bill, American soldier and hunter
• 1852-John Harvey Kellogg, American surgeon, co-created Corn Flakes
• 1866-Herbert Henry Dow, Canadian-American businessman, founded the Dow Chemical Company
• 1887-Grover Cleveland Alexander-American baseball player and coach
• 1893-Dorothy Whipple, English novelist
• 1908-Tex Avery, American animator, producer, and voice actor
• 1912-Dane Clark, American actor and director
• 1916-Jackie Gleason, American actor and singer
• 1920-Tony Randall, American actor, director, and producer
• 1921-Betty Hutton, American actress and singer
• 1928-Fats Domino, American singer-songwriter and pianist
• 1928-Ariel Sharon, Israeli general and PM
• 1932-Johnny Cash, American singer-songwriter, guitarist and actor
• 1939-Chuck Wepner, American boxer
• 1943-Paul Cotton, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
• 1953-Michael Bolton, American singer-songwriter and actor
• 1954-Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish President
• 1957-Joe Mullen, American ice hockey player and coach
• 1966-Marc Fortier, French-Canadian ice hockey player
• 1968-Tim Commerford, American bass player (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave)
• 1973-Marshall Faulk, American football player
• 1983-Pepe, Brazilian-Portuguese footballer

Fun Fact of the Day:

According to a new study, heavy marijuana smokers are at risk for some of the same health effects as cigarette smokers, like bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Crazy Horse saw history as integrated in the present, incorporated into daily life.”—Stephen Ambrose.

I picked this quote because I was just reading about how the memorial to Crazy Horse is coming along, now 70 years into the project. It is the world’s largest mountain carving, located in the Black Hills of Custer, County, South Dakota. The face of the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, is now done and, eventually, he will be depicted on a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial and planned Native American Museum of North America and Native American Cultural Center are about 17 miles from Mount Rushmore. Luther Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota elder, wrote to sculptor Gutzon Borgium, who was carving the heads of four American presidents at Mount Rushmore and suggested that it would be more fitting to have the face of Crazy Horse sculpted there, alongside Washington and Lincoln. The sculptor never responded to his letters, but sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who worked on Mount Rushmore, under Borgium, did respond and took on the commission. The memorial is a non-profit undertaking and the sculptor has reportedly turned down two offers of $10 million each from the US government.

International and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at $74.34/barrel on 10/5, $47.66/barrel on 12/23, $48.63 on 01/07, $52.31/barrel on 01/16, and $55.26/barrel on 2/3. It was not much different Monday, closing at $55.41/barrel. OPEC has its best start of any year, as its production has fallen. However, the price of gasoline at my new West Palm Beach station moved from $1.86/gallon on 01/07 to $1.97/gallon on 01/16, to $2.09/gallon on 2/9, and now $2.29/gallon on 2/25. What the heck! The USD has been taking a beating versus other currencies, due to the budget impasse and current US government shutdown. One USD versus the Yen was trading at 112.20 on 12/24, was 108.60 on 01/07, 109.07 on 01/16, and 103.18 on 02/03. It rebounded to 104.86 on 2/25. The USD was at $1.1426 versus the Euro on 12/24, but on 01/07 was at $1.1478, and a bit stronger on 01/16 at $1.1396. On 02/03 it is $1.2047, quite a bit weaker again. It drifted to $1.1955 on 2/25. The USD was at $1.2655 against the British Pound on 12/24, but on 01/07 was at $1.2770, and even weaker on 01/16 at $1.2880. It was even much weaker on 02/03 at $1.3758, and finally about the same, $1.3728 on 2/25. One USD versus the CAD was 1.3442 on 12/24, but at 1.3297 on 01/07, at 1.3255 on 01/16, and at 1.2492 on 2/03. On 2/25, it is unchanged. Gold closed 10/5 at $1204.10/ounce, 12/24 at $1256.70/ounce, 01/07 at $1288.85/ounce, 01/16 at $1293.50, 02/03 at $1,322.10, and 2/25 at $1330.20, reflecting the continued uncertainty (almost steady uncertainty) of the markets and flight to gold. Bitcoin was trading at $8,185.21 on 7/25, at $6,350 on 10/5, and $3,774.97 on 12/24. On 01/07 it was at at $3,7774.97. On 01/16, it took some more of a beating, down to $3,598.90. On 2/9 it was down to a paltry $3,421.10, but it rebounded by 2/25 to $3,826.44. PM May has surrendered to Remainers and agreed that Brexit can be delayed. The slowing economy in Europe has caused European businesses to borrow less and make gloomier predictions in recent surveys.

“U.S. opens anti-dumping probe into steel imports from China, Canada, Mexico -source: The U.S. Commerce Department announced Tuesday it will open a new anti-dumping probe to determine whether fabricated structural steel from Canada, China and Mexico is being sold at below fair value.” Reuters

“Canada threatens not to ratify USMCA until U.S. ends steel, aluminum tariffs: Canada is threatening to not ratify the renegotiated North American free-trade pact if U.S. President Donald Trump doesn’t first remove steel and aluminum tariffs, in a bid to restart serious talks over the punitive duties.” Globe and Mai

“Big decline in poverty rate offers good news to a government that desperately needs some: The number of Canadians in poverty is declining rapidly thanks to a strong labour market and an increase in child benefits, a new report from Statistics Canada says — a bit of good news for a Liberal government increasingly mired in controversy.” National Post

Global Financial News:

Citadel’s Ken Griffin predicts more market volatility in 2019. JPMorgan Chase’s president is warning of a trading revenue fall of high teen percentage. US cannabis law is helping Canada make money. German pharmaceutical company Merck says it wants to buy Arizona’s Versum Materials for $5.24 billion, abandoning a pending merger it had with another company. Tesla CEO Elon Musk continues to irk SEC with tweets last week, that a judge decided Tuesday violated an enforcement agreement he reached with the SEC last year. He has until 3/11 to reply. The House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a hearing to review the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on 3/7. SEC’s Jackson said that about 90% of known cyberattacks on public companies went unreported in 2018 and he is calling for clearer rules on cyberhack reporting. The GAO reports that the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is not doing enough to prevent examiners from being improperly influenced by major banks. The EU has agreed to allow financial industry 2 more years to transition to new regime for regional and foreign benchmarks, EONIA and EURIBOR, to the end of 2021. The European Court of Justice ruled that Latvia violated EU law when it barred its central bank chief from office over corruption allegations. JPMorgan will offer two new loan products to its existing credit card customers this year, My Chase Plan (with fixed monthly fee) and My Chase Loan (loans on unused portions of their credit card limits). The House Financial Services Committee says the credit reporting system is broken and changes are needed to protect consumers, while executives at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion said yesterday that changes have been made in recent years. The 12 largest investment banks showed commodity revenue increased 45% during 2018 to $3.6 billion. This is a complete reversal of 2017, when commodity revenue fell 42%, to the lowest level since 2006. Vanguard is pressing ahead with ETF fee reductions. A CME Group outage put a halt to trading for several hours on Tuesday.

US Market News:

The Dow Jones closed at 26,656.77 on 9/20, closed at 26,447.05 on 10/5, closed at 21,792.20 on 12/23, closed at 21,712.53 on 12/26, closed at 24,207.16 on 01/16, closed at 25,063.89 on 2/06, and closed at 26,106.47 on 2/25. It has nearly erased the full downtrade from 9/20. S&P 500 also gave up its all-time high on 9/20 of 2,930.66, closing on 10/5 at 2,885.58, then on 12/26 at 2,467.70, then on 1/7 at 2,549.69 close, then on 01/16 at 2,616.10, then on 2/06 at 2,706.53. It closed 2/25 at 2,799.34. It still has a way to go. Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28 high of 8,030.04, closing 10/5 at 7,788.45, then 12/26 at 6,554.36, then 01/07 at 6,823.47, then 01/16 at 7,034.70, then 2/06 at 7,263.87. it closed on 2/25 at 7,561.87.

US Treasury yields had gotten much higher on 9/20, in advance of the 9/26 FOMC meeting, rose still higher after the meeting and then plummeted with the drop in Equities, and have continued to drop and even invert since. On 10/5, 2years closed at 2.88%, closed 12/18 at 2.65%, closed 01/07 at 2.53%, closed 01/16 at 2.55%, closed 2/06 at 2.52%, and closed 2/22 at 2.48%; on 10/5, 3years closed at 2.99%, closed on 12/18 at 2.64%, closed 01/07 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years), closed 01/16 at 2.53%, still inverted, closed 2/06 at 2.50%, still inverted, and closed 2/22 at 2.46%; on 10/5, 5years closed at 3.07%, closed on 12/18 at 2.65%, closed 01/07 at 2.49%, closed 01/16 at 2.54%,closed 2/06 at 2.51%, and closed 2/22 at 2.47%; on 10/5, 7years closed at 3.18%, closed at 2.74% on 12/18, closed on 01/07 at 2.60%, closed 01/16 at 2.62%, closed 2/06 at 2.59%, and closed 2/22 at 2.55%; on 10/5, 10years closed at 3.23%, closed at 2.82% on 12/18, closed on 01/07 at 2.70%, closed 01/16 at 2.73%, closed 2/06 at 2.70%, and closed 2/22 at 2.65%; and on 10/5, 30years closed at 3.40%, closed at 3.07% on 12/18, closed at 2.99% on 01/07, closed at 3.07% on 01/16, closed 2/06 at 3.03%, and closed 2/22 at 3.02%.

Housing News:

Governors are now grappling with housing issues felt throughout the nation, particularly in states that now have a maximum mortgage deduction. Americans in rural and urban areas of the country are facing a housing affordability crisis. Rising percentage of housing devoted to rentals, increasing rental costs, and increasing housing costs (as the country is not building enough homes to meet demand), are making it very difficult on young families. In some states or even different areas of the same state, some builders say the rents are too high, so they can’t build new rentals which will go vacant, while in other areas, builders say the rent is too low, not adjusted for increase in costs to build. In Guam, where there is huge housing demand, they have another problem, as Homeland Security shut down the H-2B work visas for the Philippines, where Guam was sourcing most of its construction workers. The National Apartment Association estimates that the country will need another 4.6 million housing units by 2030, roughly 330,000 new developments each year. Meanwhile, as builders try to figure out which way the housing market, which has been wallowing recently, is going to go and whether to build rentals or homes, the cost of materials has spiked up behind them. Even regulations have taken a bite out of developers, taking up 32% of all development costs. After real estate agents leaked information about investors showing up in droves at open houses in Arlington, VA and Alexandria, VA in December, prices shot up and availability fell. It was all on speculation that Amazon was going to build its HQ2 in Virginia. In January, year/year, the number of homes on the market in Arlington dropped 38%. In Alexandria, its down 48% year/year. There are many activists now and some tech companies who believe that corporations in general, and the tech companies specifically, should contribute financially to fix the affordable housing problem in the US. I love it when I can tie two stories together like that! San Francisco’s real estate prices are now among the highest in the nation, partly due to 15,000 new tech jobs added in the city in 2016 and 2017 and housing supply only 25% of what is needed there. San Francisco’s median home values have doubled since 2010. Seattle is feeling similar impact of Amazon and Microsoft creating 33,000 new tech jobs there in the last two years. Apple is now impacting Austin. US Pending Home Sales were up for the first time in four months, by 1% in January, mostly because of the recent drop in mortgage rates.

Okay, I’ve been dying to report on this story for a week and now I don’t know where to put it. I guess it’s sort of housing news. A Texas man, Terry Robison, has figured out a unique retirement plan. It’s been shared over 200,000 times on Facebook already. Rather than going to a nursing home, he has decided to take a room at a Holiday Inn and calculated that he would save $100/day, plus have many perks that he wouldn’t get at the nursing home. The obvious perks are a friendly staff wanting to make your stay enjoyable (unlike some anecdotal reports of treatment at some nursing homes), maid service every day, and complimentary breakfasts, happy hour at the bar, pool, spa and gym facility. But, there are many other perks too, like unlimited shampoo/soap/razors/toothpaste, free TV and A/C, plenty of rooms for people to stay in when they come visit (and they can use the pool and facilities), laundry room and lounge, and he can travel from Holiday Inn to Holiday Inn and see the world. Meanwhile, the average nursing home costs $188/day and it could take months to secure a room, while the average Holiday Inn room is $59.23/day and you can call reservations right now. He figures he will save $128.77/day to spend on food and entertainment. Travel may be easier too, as many Holiday Inns have shuttle buses to downtown locations and airports. Plus, hotel staff will fix any issues from light bulbs to mattresses and apologize for the inconvenience. His point is, “They treat you like a customer, not a patient.” I wouldn’t be surprised, with all the social media attention to this story worth advertising millions, if he isn’t offered FREE stay at any Holiday Inn for the rest of his life.

Repo News:  

It was great seeing many of you at the 25th IMN Beneficial Owners’ International Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference 2/5-2/6 in Fort Lauderdale!

The focuses were on diversity and inclusion on Wall Street (we had really cool roundtable discussions that came up with several issues and solutions), peer-to-peer repo and lending efforts (it really shocked me how much it was discussed without my coaxing), financial technology and automation, repo cash and non-cash reinvestment (drilled down to the true opportunities and risks), what’s in store for 2019 and what the trends are, and regulatory reforms (especially SFTR, MiFID II, FSA Banking Union stuff, and those pesky liquidation holding periods) facing us. We got dirty in the data about our historic year ($10 billion+) in securities lending revenue, largest since the Financial Crisis, showed what was hot and what was not. We went deep into ETFs as securities lending clients and as investments.

I am doing a lot of follow ups with clients and have several new ideas. I am now again actively interviewing and hope to be back in the Securities Financing industry shortly, after my brief hiatus.

Let’s look forward in the regulatory crystal ball for 2019. So, after the Financial Crisis, and over 350 financial regulations initiated by Dodd-Frank, FSOC, FSB, G20, and other regulators, it seemed that things had cooled down on the regulatory front. But, things are heating up again. We just experienced the implementation of MiFID II and we have SFTR ahead of us to implement. SFTR, if you don’t know, is the FSB’s attempt again to address the elusive Shadow Banking, among other things. Most of the other regulatory initiatives now on the table to implement are related to Basel III and the completion of three major European projects: the Banking Union, the Capital Markets Union, and the Digital Single Market. We are also still addressing LIBOR replacement (particularly in the US with the development of SOFR) and reform of Euribor and Eonia reference indices (which the EU just decided to put off for 2 years). Of course, there is always fintech stuff to deal with and to regulate and, lest we forget, there is the mess of Brexit (or now potential for Brelay or Bremain). Financial regulation in 2008-2012 had a very unified global approach. But, that seems to have declined since, and jurisdictional differences are rearing up and making implementation more complicated. While the Banking Package in Europe has come along way regarding what are prudential measures and how to share risks in the banking industry for recovery and resolution, including backstop plans by the ECB and the EC, there has been little progress made on the Banking Union, except to establish a Single Resolution Fund through the ESM, but no agreement on the EDIS. Likewise, the Capital Markets Union effort has seen only small progress. Lastly, while the industry in 2018 saw consolidation of the digitalization of the financial sector, there has been no concrete regulatory framework negotiated to deal with the growing change. Plus, we still have that EU Reform deadline coming up 3/31, as iMoneyNet reminds me. So, until further notice, the Legal and Risk departments remain in charge.

I still see the Repo and Securities Lending market as having changed in many permanent ways. We traditionally had a credit intermediator, the broker/dealers (originally just the primary broker/dealers) and later prime brokers, who were the pipeline through their respective repo matched books for collateral providers to trade with cash providers, without the two sides ever knowing about each other or facing each other. That lack of knowledge of the other side of the repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis and the impact on some of the dealers that then cost their clients. Not knowing who the other clients were and who could bring down the intermediary dealers was costly for many clients. Clearly, with that pipeline of intermediation becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be found for cash provider and collateral provider clients. AVM’s Direct Repo™ was the first of one of such pathways. Since then, other pathways to these markets have been created, including: the Federal Reserve’s RRP program with cash providers, peer-to-peer financing as reported on Treasury OFR’s website between MMFs and Insurance Companies, As Agent repo through seclending agents and now some prime brokers, direct lending from beneficial owner to hedge funds who are short, indemnified As Agent repo, buyside to buyside Triparty Repo through two international clearing organizations of their custodial clients, electronic all-to-all repo on a few electronic trading platforms like Elixium, GLMX, Tradeweb, and BNY DBVX, FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products to entice certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, and other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (several still being worked on, particularly in Europe, like Eurex, LCH, OCC, etc.). I believe this evolution will continue and eventually we will see all of these pathways used, including the traditional pathway (to probably a lesser than historical degree) through the broker/dealers and prime brokers. Some of that balance sheet has returned, as I mentioned above, but may be for only select ‘platinum’ clients and may come at a higher bid/offer spread or in specific, more profitable products/securities.

Upcoming Repo Industry Conferences:
 

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream is held its annual conference this week in Luxembourg, which I attended last year.
• IMN 25th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference was held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/5-2/6. I was chosen as the Chairperson.
• Finadium held a new conference on the Business of Collateral Trading in Frankfurt, Germany on 2/21.
• IMN held its annual Fixed Income Investor Network in Las Vegas on 2/24.
• iMoneyNet will hold its annual MMExpo in Middleburg, VA 3/4-3/6.
• PASLA/RMA will hold its 16th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Sydney, Australia 3/5-3/7.
• GIOA will hold its 15th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/20-3/22.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/2-5/3.
• Securities Lending Times will hold its annual Securities Finance Technology Symposium in London on 5/9.
• IMN will hold its annual Global ABS conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/11-6/13.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Philadelphia, PA on 6/18-6/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/17-9/19.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 9/22-9/24.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe in London on 9/24.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Naples, FL on 10/6-10/9.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its Fixed Income Leaders conference in Barcelona on 10/7-10/9.
• RMA will hold its 37th annual Repo & Securities Lending Conference in Boca Raton, FL in October.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its annual conference in Boston, MA on 10/20-10/23.
• Risk.net will hold its 25th annual Risk USA conference in NYC in November.
• SIFMA will hold its annual Meeting in Washington, DC on 11/18-11/20.

Federal Reserve News:

Fed Funds, which trade mostly between some banks and GSEs, opened today at 2.40%, 10bp below the top of the target range.

The next FOMC meetings are: yesterday, 3/20/19, 5/1/19, 6/19/19, 7/31/19, 9/18/19, 10/30/19, 12/11/19, 1/29/20 (reflecting the Fed’s just announced tentative schedule for 2019).

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (16 banks, 14 GSEs, 101 money market funds from various fund families), is now set at the rate of 1.75%. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. Remember when RRP was trading at year-end for $465 billion? Well, on 5/15, there was only $20 million in bids submitted. MMF cash and GSE cash has moved out of the Fed’s RRP and into the Repo market, but it hasn’t really brought down the GC repo rate, which is strange.

If you are wondering about RRP, it is nearly extinct. In July, excluding month-end, volume averaged only $2.8 billion per day. It has just become a mechanism for the Fed to supply collateral when its scarce for money market funds on month-ends and quarter-ends, as dealer balance sheets dry up at those times.

But, at year-end, due to liquidity dislocation, particularly for cash providers, the Fed’s RRP program was tapped for $31 billion, coming back to life, if only temporarily.

According to FOMC members, the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise the benchmark Fed Funds rate to 2.50% at the December FOMC meeting, 3.00% in 2019, and 3.50% in 2020. If you are keeping score, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds target rate on these dates so far:

12/15/15 to 0.50%
12/14/16 to 0.75%
3/5/17 to 1.00%
6/14/17 to 1.25%
12/13/17 to 1.50%
3/21/18 to 1.75%
6/13/18 to 2.00%
9/26/18 to 2.25%
12/13/18 to 2.50%

Quantitative Easing was ‘tapered off’ in 2013. The Fed still had $4 trillion of debt in 2017 on its books from that QE. In October 2017, it began allowing those holdings to gradually decline. For fun, the Fed Funds target rate was 5.25% before the Fed cut of 9/18/2007.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is back on Capitol Hill to testify about the US economy, interest rate policy, and financial regulations. Meanwhile, Powell has told the Senate that the US economy will continue growing in 2019, but at a slower pace and that the central bank is in “no rush to make a judgment about changes in policy.”

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

The USGS updated its 2005 rankings of the 161 volcanoes that pose the most threat to American lives. Since 2005, that total number has dropped by 8. The 18 very highest threat volcanoes are in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. 39 other volcanoes are high threat, 49 are moderate, 34 are low, and 21 are very low threat. The United States is one of Earth’s most volcanically active countries. Since 1980, there have been 120 eruptions and 52 episodes of notable volcanic threat at 44 US volcanoes. Using 24 factors to determine the threat to people and evaluate the US volcanoes, the USGS came up with the entire list. Here are the 18 very highest threat volcanoes:
• Akutan Island-Alaska
• Augustine Volcano-Alaska
• Makushin-Alaska
• Redoubt Volcano-Alaska
• Mount Spur-Alaska
• Mount Baker-Washington
• Glacier Peak-Washington
• Mount Ranier-Washington
• Mount St. Helens-Washington
• Crater Lake-Oregon
• Mount Hood-Oregon
• Newberry Volcano-Oregon
• Three Sisters Volcano-Oregon
• Lassen volcanic center-California
• Long Valley Caldera-California
• Mount Shasta-California
• Kilauea-Hawaii
• Mauna Loa-Hawaii

Latest strong earthquakes (5.0 magnitude and above):

2/1/19 6.6 15km ENE of Puerto Madero, Mexico
2/4/19 5.3 32km SSE of Boca de Yuma, Dominican Republic
2/17/19 6.3 48km NW of Namatanai, Papua New Guinea
2/22/19 7.5 115km ESE of Palora, Ecuador

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. For 2018, Colorado State University experts had predicted an above average season of 14 named Tropical Storms, of which 7 would become Hurricanes. Both are above the averages of 12 and 6, respectively. But, there were 15 named Tropical Storms, of which 8 were hurricanes, and 2 of them major.

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/18 and ends 11/1/18.

As for the weather, the US has been dealing with a huge storm, Winter Storm Quiana, across the country, affecting some 150 million Americans. Parts of the country are seeing torrential rain, while other parts are getting heavy snow, and all parts seem to be getting very strong winds, some up over 75mph. Heavy rain and mountain snow continue in the West, moderate to locally heavy snows will impact much of the Great Lakes region, and portions of New York and New England will receive snow and ice, which could cause hazardous travel conditions.

Here in Florida, the weather has turned whacky, with record highs recorded, even into the 90s in Southern Florida, in February! We also have been getting a heavy dose of summer thunderstorm activity and oppressive humidity. One difference, is that we have had a steady diet of strong winds.

Sports News:

MLB:

The MLB regular season ended in November e with the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, fear not baseball fans, as the MLB has announced the earliest Opening Day ever for 2019, with all 30 teams playing on 3/28/19. They are not counting the first game of the season, between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, that will occur in Tokyo on March 20-21. The World Series Champion Boston Red Sox will play the Yankees in London, for the first-ever MLB games in Europe, on 6/29-6/30. Spring Training began 2/21 with the first game between the Mariners and the A’s in the Cactus League. The Grapefruit League kicked off 2/22 with a game between the Rays and the Phillies. The first game in West Palm Beach was 2/23 and the first game in Jupiter was 2/23.

Several of you have asked and, yes, I once again auditioned to sing the National Anthem for Spring Training, for Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach (Nationals and Astros) and Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter (Cardinals and Marlins). So far, I have been awarded the 3/9 Saturday game at Roger Dean Stadium between the Astros @ the Cardinals (with my harmony group), 3/12 Tuesday game at Roger Dean Stadium between the Mets @ Marlins (solo), 3/15 Friday game at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches between the Cardinals @ the Astros (with my harmony group), and 3/24 Sunday game at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches between the Nationals and the Astros (both the National Anthem and “God Bless America” solo). I may do one or two more games as well.

I have now sung for 133 MLB games (National Anthem and/or “God Bless America”), during the World Baseball Classic, Major League Spring Trainings, Major League seasons, and Minor League seasons. I have also sent my mp3 and resume out to MLB teams for regular season games, although I have reduced the number I send to from 30 to 8 (Red Sox, Marlins, Nationals, Reds, Indians, Mets, Orioles, and Cubs).

There was a lot of news about all the rule changes that the MLB is considering, like speeding up a play with a timeclock, allowing for more reviewable plays, and having the NL finally adopt the Designated Hitter. But, it doesn’t look like any of those rule changes will happen in 2019. Instead, they are going to try out the play clock during Spring Training, which was used for Minor League play last year. I heard the the biggest problem for speeding up play and why the average game time went from 2hours 47minutes in 1998 to over 5 hours in 2017, is because of pitch counts, and 50% of that problem is due to foul balls. Not much you can do about that, unless you adopt a Little League rule about maximum number of fouls per at bat. They announced that they will test “robot umpires” (that should be fun!). They will also test a longer distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate in the Atlantic League.

Many people were wondering whether Oklahoma QB and Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray, would choose MLB or NFL, after the A’s chose him with the No.9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and gave him a signing bonus of almost $5 million. Well, he has now declared for the NFL Draft and informed the A’s that he is going to concentrate on football. I think he’s making a big mistake, as baseball players tend to have longer careers and less concussions.

Giants ace, Madison Bumgarner, sent a text to his manager, after the team’s new president Farhan Zaidi, who had said to reporters in December that he could embrace an “opener” strategy, which said, “If you use an opener in my game, I’m walking out of the ballpark.” Apparently, the GM’s comments were based on the fact that the team’s other 3 starting pitchers have had respectively Derek Holland (4.20 ERA), Johnny Cueto (8.00 ERA), and Jeff Samardzija (9.00 ERA) in the first inning, so they may be candidates to come in to the game in the 2nd inning. I personally don’t think that Bumgarner is a candidate for an “opener” as he held opponents to a .193 batting average in their first plate appearance last year. The top 5 remaining free agents who aren’t Bryce Harper are reportedly: Gio Gonzalez, Marwin Gonzalez, Mike Moustakas, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel. The Yankees reportedly had offered Manny Machado a $220 million/8year deal. There were reports that he had gotten a $250 million/8year offer from the White Sox, but nothing had been verified. Then the Padres swooped in and agreed to pay him $300 million! The White Sox did verify that they offered a 7year/$175 million deal to Bryce Harper. Yankees ace CC Sabathia said that 2019 would be his last season before retirement. Rangers pitcher Doug Fister is also set to retire, his agent has announced. Phillies ace Jake Arrieta had knee surgery during the offseason. Yankees CF Jacoby Ellsbury will miss the beginning of the season with a foot injury. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen is 25lbs lighter. The Phillies and pitcher Aaron Nola have agreed to a new 4-year contract. The Royals still owe $20.25 million guaranteed to pitcher Yordano Ventura two years after his death, according to his agent. The Marlins have signed Rays 35-year-old reliever Sergio Romo for $2.5 million. However, the big Marlins news is that they finished the firesale of assets and traded away their last hero, J.T. Realmuto, to the Phillies. Although they did receive a fair amount in return, Marlins fans are already noting that he is part of a list of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich, who were already traded. The Angels think Shohei Ohtani could return in May from injury. Mets Jacob deGrom has set a 3/28 deadline for Mets to extend his contract. Ironically, former free agent ace Justin Verlander of the Astros, who received a $200 million contract, says the free agent system is “broken” as 100 free agents now sit on the market. Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez who was signed the last day of Spring Training last year for $110 million, agrees. Baseball revenues are way up and yet owners want to share less with players. The Red Sox have kept their World Series roster intact, except for one major player, their closer Craig Kimbrel, who wants 6years/$150 million at age 32. The Red Sox say they aren’t budging and may consider a closer-by-committee. There are still 79 major free agents left on the market, most notably Bryce Harper. The Rockies and Nolan Arenado agreed to an 8-year extension for $260 million. That gives him a record $32.5 million per year. Yankees SS Didi Gregorius has begun throwing during his injury rehab. The Astros and ace Gerrit Cole are going through an arbitration hearing. Infielder Brett Lawrie has signed with the Brewers. Mike Moustakas is now likely to return to the Brewers. Cardinals are reportedly signing catcher Matt Wieters to a minor league deal. The Yankees signed Aaron Hicks to a 7-year extension. Yankees pitcher Danny Farquhar threw a simulated game, 10 months after brain hemorrhage. Rockies and Bud Black agreed to a 3-year extension. Cardinals and pitcher Miles Mikolas agreed to a 4year/$68 million extension. The Angels are discussing a possible Long Beach waterfront ballpark. Panama beat Cuba for their first Caribbean Series title since 1950. Nevada has declined an MLB request to ban betting on Spring Training games.

The MLB announced the class of the six 2019 inductees into the Hall of Fame and they are: Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez (finally), Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, and Lee Smith. The ceremony will be on 7/21 in Cooperstown, NY. Baines and Smith were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game Era Committee. Baines, an ESPN analyst, will go in as a White Sox, Halladay will go in without a logo, Martinez will go in as a Mariner (kind of insuring that his fellow DH, David Ortiz, will make it too), Mussina will go in without a logo (I’m surprised), Rivera (the greatest reliever of all-time) will go in as a Yankee, and Smith (one of the greatest relievers of all-time) will go in as a Cub.

Golf:

The PGA Tour season began with its swing through Hawaii. Then they landed on the continent in California and moved over to Arizona, then stopped in Mexico, before this week’s Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Unfortunately, several top players chose to play in Mexico and blow off the Honda, like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Jordan Spieth. But, many of the others will be here, including last year’s winner, Justin Thomas. It does appear that this tournament got crunched by the PGA schedule, with only 3 of the top 10 and 6 of the top 25 joining. Four years ago, the Honda Classic drew 16 of the top 25. If you factor in how many of the top 25 players actually live nearby the PGA National course, Honda has to be thinking hard about their deal that ends in 2021 and these new WGC-Mexico and Austin tournaments. First, the WGC-Mexico Championship, where Tiger Woods had a solid 10th place finish and has moved up to the Official World Golf Ranking of No.12. Remember, he began this comeback ranked at No.668 in 2018. Anyway, Dustin Johnson crushed the field with a -21, easily holding of Rory McIlroy at -16. It was DJ’s 20th win on Tour. There was also a PGA Tour event, which confused me (I thought it was the web.com tour) in Puerto Rico, where Martin Trainer won his first. The Phoenix are golf courses were hit by a freak snowstorm this week. Brexit is now worrying the R&A and their Open Championship. The Tiger-Phil rivalry, luckily not the 5-hour boring just the two of them fiasco, resumes next week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

NCAA Basketball:

The college basketball season is closing in on March Madness, with only 2-3 games of a 32 game regular season left. The biggest news was that all-world star of Duke, Zion Williamson, sprained his knee when his Nike sneaker blew out completely on a skidding stop. His foot actually came right through the sole of the shoe. Already hyped as potentially the greatest NBA player of all time, while still a college freshman, he is definitely prime for a huge sneaker promotion contract when he does go to the NBA, because of his social media fame and basketball skills. But, while he may have garnered a contract of $10 million/year for that future promotion contract, now he stands to make even more. All of the companies will compete for him, Puma, Adidas, Reebok, etc. Puma already tweeted that “it wouldn’t have happened in a pair of Pumas.” Nike almost has to sign him for whatever amount he wants, or run the risk of everyone thinking he didn’t go with Nike because it was an inferior shoe. Anyway, enough about his money, regarding his injury, he is out now, but it’s not expected to be long. He is also expected to be selected No.1 in the 2019 NBA Draft. Interestingly, Duke could shut him down and let him focus on his pro career, but coach Kryzewski said the team isn’t considering that. Third biggest news of the week was Sunday’s upset by No.10 Michigan State over No.7 Michigan, to take the lead in the Big 10. They face each other again one more time at Michigan State. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim avoided a disabled car in the middle of the road at night in upstate New York, swerved and accidentally hit and killed the driver who was walking alongside the road. Several Ole Miss basketball players knelt during the National Anthem. Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer is taking a leave of absence. South Dakota’s Mike Daum passed the 3,000-point mark. Other recent games of note: Ohio State over Iowa 90-70, No.1 Duke lost to No.20 Virginia Tech 77-72 Tuesday night!, FSU beat Notre Dame, Kansas beat Kansas State, Xavier beat Villanova, Indiana beat No.19 Wisconsin, and Rutgers beat Minnesota. Here is the AP Poll as of 02/24/19 (which does not include the most recent upsets and has no movement in Top 6):

1. Gonzaga (27-2) up from No.2
2. Virginia (24-2) up from No.3
3. Duke (24-4) down from No.1
4. Kentucky (23-4)
5. North Carolina (22-5) up from No.8
6. Michigan State (23-6) up from No.10
7. Tennessee (24-3) down from No.5
8. Houston (26-1) up from No.9
9. Michigan (24-4) down from No.7
10. Marquette (23-4) up from No.11
11. Texas Tech (22-5) up from No.14
12. Nevada (25-2) down from No.6
13. LSU (22-5)
14. Purdue (20-7) up from No.15
15. Kansas (21-7) down from No.12
16. Kansas State (21-7) up from No.23
17. Maryland (21-7) up from No.24
18. FSU (22-6) down from No.16
19. Wisconsin (19-8) up from No.22
20. Virginia Tech (22-6)
21. Buffalo (25-3) up from No.25
22. Iowa (21-7) down from No.21
23. Cincinnati (23-4) up from unranked
24. Wofford (24-4) up from unranked
25. Washington (22-5) up from unranked

NFL:

The 99th NFL regular season ended with the New England Patriots beating the Los Angeles Rams in a defensive battle 13-3. Patriots owner Robert Kraft has made the news down here in southern Florida, where he owns a condo in Palm Beach, for allegedly soliciting twice at a massage parlor in Jupiter, FL. Several massage parlors were involved in the police sting which netted at least 105 ‘Johns’ and network of human trafficking. It’s disgusting behavior, if true, and will likely be met with NFL fines or sanctions. The Raiders have reached an agreement to play in Oakland next season. The Ravens are releasing veteran WR Michael Crabtree. Falcons owner Arthur Blank just bought a $180 million yacht, according to a report. Buccaneers RB Peyton Barber reportedly had his car broken into and his playbook stolen. The NFL is considering banning players from leaving sidelines to join celebrations. The Panthers have released defensive captain Munnerlyn and Mike Adams. Kyle Long tweeted “Bear for Life” after contract was reportedly restructured. Cowboys COO finally admitted in discussing coach Jason Garrett that “everybody’s back is against the wall.” Packers team president says QB Aaron Rodgers has to “embrace” change. Jets are reportedly interested in WR Donte Moncrief. NFL’s Randy Gregory has been suspended indefinitely for substance abuse violation.

Although the NFL season is over, the shortest season of the big 4 team sports in the US, the NFL has a new league, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) League, that has already started playing, which includes players who went undrafted, players trying to make a comeback, and players who are on NFL practice squads. The NFL hopes to make this league into kind of developmental league, like MLB’s minor leagues and NBA’s D-League. It was co-founded by Charlie Ebersol. Here are your AAF teams, who are heading into Week 4 (there are a total of 10 weeks plus playoffs, extending the season to 4/27):

Arizona Hotshots
Atlanta Legends
Birmingham Iron
Memphis Express
Orlando Apollos
Salt Lake Stallions
San Antonio Commanders
San Diego Fleet

The AAF is not to be confused with the XFL, which was launched 17 years ago, by Dick Ebersol of NBC, Charlie’s father. Former Seahawks QB Jim Zorn has been named coach and GM of Seattle’s XFL franchise.

Let’s look at the new NFL Hall of Fame class, which includes Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed, Kevin Mawae, Champ Bailey, Johnny Robinson, Pat Bowlen, Gil Brandt, and Ty Law.

NHL:

The puck dropped on the regular season, for some teams, on 10/3. We are well past the halfway point now, having played 61-63 games out of 82. The trade deadline was 2/25 and rumors were surrounding these 10 potential trade candidates: Sergei Bobrovsky (Blue Jackets), Cody Ceci (Senators), Artemi Panarin (Blue Jackets), Michael Ferland (Hurricanes), Gustav Nyquist (Red Wings), Kevin Hayes (Rangers), Dougie Hamilton (Hurricanes), Mats Zuccarello (Rangers), Wayne Simmonds (Flyers), and Matt Duchene (Senators). The Senators traded Mark Stone to the Golden Knights, probably the biggest ‘wow’ trade. Penguins acquired Erik Gudbranson from Canucks. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who has been suffering with vertigo for months, has finally been activated from the concussion protocol. The Sabres acquired Brandon Montour from Ducks. Zuccarello was just traded by Rangers to the Stars and was injured in the first game after trade and will be out 4 weeks. The Predators acquired Simmonds from the Flyers. The Rangers dealt Hayes to the Jets. Shane Doan has become the first player in Coyotes’ history to have number retired. The Blue Jackets acquired goalie Keith Kinkaid from the Devils. The Red Wings dealt Nyquist to the Sharks. Mikael Granlund was traded while his fiancée was giving birth.

At this point in the season: the Eastern Conference has the Lightning firmly in first place (winners of 8 in a row), followed by the surging Bruins, Islanders, Leafs, and Capitals; while the Western Conference has the Flames in first place, followed by the Sharks, Jets, and Predators.

NBA:

The NBA season officially began on 10/3 as well. We are around 59-61 games in of the 82-game season. The trading window is now over, so the talk is about buyout candidates to add to playoff contenders. The candidates this year include: Carmelo Anthony, Greg Monroe, Marcin Gortat, Alex Abrines, Robin Lopez, DeAndre Jordan, Dewayne Dedmon, and JR Smith. The Celtics have indicated that they are still interested in trading with the Pelicans for Anthony Davis. Last night, the Celtics suffered their worst loss of the season, at the hands of the Raptors. Timberwolves star, Karl-Anthony Towns is out of concussion protocol. As for the latest standings: Eastern Conference is led by Bucks, Raptors, Pacers, 76ers, and Celtics; the Western Conference is led by Warriors, Nuggets, Thunder, Blazers, and Rockets. Former NBA player Mike Bibby is under investigation after sex abuse charges. Warriors DeMarcus Cousins was given a technical foul for tossing opponent’s shoe into the stands. Trail Blazers players got stuck in an elevator for 30 minutes. Former NBA player Kenny Anderson has suffered a stroke.

Tennis:

After the Australian Open, Serena Williams made it back to the WTA top 10 for the first time as a mother. Meanwhile, she just narrated a new Nike “Just Do It” commercial and was a presenter at the Academy Awards. She was also at Princess Meghan Markle’s baby shower in NYC. World No.1 Naomi Osaka, who just won the Australian Open, after winning last year’s US Open (over Serena), has strangely decided to split from her coach Sascha Bajin. Bajin became the first recipient of the WTA Coach of the Year award after helping Osaka in her breakthrough year. 32-year-old Rafael Nadal wants to play at the Davis Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Andy Murray has undergone hip-resurfacing surgery. With Australian Open victory, Novak Djokovic is world No.1. it was his 7th Australian Open title (the most ever by one person) and 15th Grand Slam title.

MMA:

Legend Georges St-Pierre announced his retirement, but still left the door open for a UFC comeback. He had failed to secure a super-fight with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and decided to call it a career. Nurmagomedov is serving a 9-month suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his post-fight brawl following his UFC 229 victory over Conor McGregor in October. Nurmagomedov took to Twitter to try to dissuade St-Pierre from retirement and to offer to fight him in November. St-Pierre (26-2) turns 38 in May and holds the record for most welterweight title defenses in UFC history with 9 and is widely considered one of the greatest competitors in the sport’s history. In UFC 236, Israel Adesanya will fight Kelvin Gastelum for interim middleweight title. In UFC Phoenix, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez made his much heralded return, after a 31-month layoff for back surgery and the birth of his son. He came out strong in front of a rowdy crowd, missed two head kicks and a takedown, and took a short uppercut to the jaw, just as his knee buckled. Ngannou jumped on him and unleashed a series of hammerfists, and the return was over, after just 26 seconds. In Bellator 216, Michael ‘Venom’ Page got a unanimous decision over fellow Brit Paul Daley in a grudge match. Everyone expected a boxing match, but instead, a wrestling match broke out.

Racing:

Last year’s champion, his first, for the NASCAR Cup Series was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead. Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017. NASCAR’s 2019 season just started with Daytona 500 kicking it off, as it does every year. A big crash with 10 laps remaining, knocked out many of the frontrunners. No one was injured in the 18 car pileup, but Denny Hamlin came away with the win. We have also already run in Atlanta. Here is the schedule of races just released for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2019 (they don’t have the sponsors or formal names of all of them yet):

2/17 Daytona 500, won by Denny Hamlin
2/24 Atlanta, QuickTrip 500, won by Brad Keselowski
3/3 Las Vegas
3/10 ISM Raceway
3/17 Auto Club
3/24 Martinsville
3/31 Texas
4/7 Bristol
4/13 Richmond
4/28 Talladega
5/5 Dover
5/11 Kansas
5/18 All-Star Open Charlotte
5/26 Charlotte
6/2 Pocono
6/9 Michigan
6/23 Sonoma
6/30 Chicago
7/6 Daytona
7/13 Kentucky
7/21 New Hampshire
7/28 Pocono
8/4 Watkins Glen
8/11 Michigan
8/17 Bristol
9/1 Darlington
9/8 Indianapolis
9/15 Las Vegas playoff
9/21 Richmond playoff
9/29 Charlotte playoff
10/6 Dover playoff
10/13 Talladega playoff
10/20 Kansas playoff
10/27 Martinsville playoff
11/3 Texas playoff
11/10 ISM Raceway playoff
11/17 Miami-Homestead final playoff

Formula One begins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That is followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule 2/18-2/21 and 2/26-3/1, both in Catalunya, Spain. Here is the 2019 Formula One 21 Race calendar:

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne
3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir
4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000th Grand Prix)
4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku
5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona
5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco
6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal
6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet
6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg
7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone
7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim
8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest
9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa
9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza
9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore
9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi
10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka
10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City
11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX
11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo
12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island

Then, there is the IndyCar Racing circuit and its 2019 calendar (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):

3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
3/24 Circuit of the Americas
4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama
4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach
5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis
5/26 Indianapolis 500
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2
6/8 Texas Grand Prix
6/23 Road America
7/14 Honda Indy Toronto
7/20 Iowa 300
7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
8/18 Pocono Grand Prix
8/24 Gateway Grand Prix
9/1 Grand Prix of Portland
9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca

Travel News:

Dozens of people were killed in a fire at a Cairo train station triggered by a fuel take explosion on a speeding train. Travel has been a disaster in the US this week, due to storms that have impacted some 125 million Americans and caused thousands of flights to be cancelled. Grand Canyon National Park is turning 100-years-old. An Amtrak train was stranded in Oregon for 36 hours with all 183 people on board. A rare “ice tsunami” hit the coast of Lake Erie. There is a new service that lets you ship home items TSA won’t let you bring on your flight. The State Department has issued an update Bahamas travel advisory. Flights into Dallas were halted after reports of smoke at an FAA facility. TripAdvisor has named the world’s best beaches for 2019. Gale force winds in the northeast stranded a cruise ship off of NYC. An airline has sued a man who threw coins into a plane engine for good luck. One British man from a family of travelers was dubbed an “unruly tourist” and fled New Zealand using someone else’s passport. There is a warrant out for his arrest for fraud, assault with a weapon and reckless driving. Southwest flight cancellations continue amid escalating maintenance problems and computer outage. A Venetian resort town will become Italy’s first smoke-free beach. NTSB and other authorities continue to search for the black boxes from the B-767 cargo plane that plummeted into 4-feet of water off the Texas coast. A Japanese airport’s staff dressed up as ninjas for International Ninja Day. The Hollywood Walk of Fame has been named the worst tourist attraction in America. Some people have found cameras imbedded in their seatback TVs on some airplanes. Singapore Airlines is denying the allegations. The FAA has given the green light to Snohomish County Airport in Everett, WA to launch passenger flights in March. A drone sighting halted flights at Ireland’s Dublin Airport. China is closing Tibet to foreign visitors for 2 months. Yosemite’s Firefall was the brightest in recent years. The US just got a new National Park, Indiana Dunes National Park, right next to where my Dad was from. Ocean microphones may have recorded the lost Malaysian Flight 370 thousands of miles from the search locations, according to new research on the 2014 crash. In New York, two LIRR trains hit a car which ran the down gates, killing all 3 people, derailing the second car, and causing a fire. 7 of the over 900 people on both trains had to be hospitalized. It’s amazing that people still try to gate-crash railroad crossings. It’s a very frequent occurrence here in Florida.

Health News:

It appears that parents who were led to believe that vaccinations could cause all sorts of future problems for children, have allowed the mumps, which was eradicated years ago, to become a problem again in 11 states, per the have CDC. Scientists have now synthesized hachimoji DNA using four new nucleobases in addition to the four in natural DNA. Seasonal allergies are at an all-time high. I am suffering with this long-lasting common cold (the flu shot did not help this year), which has actually taken my voice, but luckily after the IMN Conference and my last gig on Valentine’s Day, and before my next gig 3/9. A recent study in BMJ Gut found that a high-fat diet is linked to unfavorable changes in the communities of bacteria in the gut. According to the CDC, influenza picked up again last week, hitting its second peak of the season, but that this season remains milder than last year. There have been up to 20.4 million reported cases of the flu in 48 states and Puerto Rico. The death toll is now 41. The recent craze about celery juice and the celeryjuicechallenge is part true and part fiction. There is research which says the phytochemicals in celery help to reduce blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and fight against oxidative stress. But, there is no research to substantiate that celery can fight infections and disease. Did you know that grapes that are microwaved spit plasma? A new review study finds that an at-home screening test for colorectal cancer may be just as good an option as a colonoscopy. The FDA is proposing new sunscreen regulations aimed at improving the safety and effectiveness of these products, after numerous studies showed that products’ SPF claims were way off. A woman has died and more than two dozen others are sick after eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain. Bayer said the number of plaintiffs suing over its weedkillers has risen by another 1900 over the last 3 months. Beijing has designed new rules for scientists who are editing human DNA, after a Chinese researcher sparked a global controversy last year, by claiming the birth of the first gene-edited babies. Seven drugmakers, representing $140 billion in US revenues, spent the day defending their pricing of drugs in a Senate hearing.

Animal News:

A rare black leopard was spotted (no pun intended) in Kenya, the first one in about 100 years! Biologists believe that the humpback whale that washed ashore in the Amazon jungle was likely sick. A fat rat was rescued after it got stuck in a manhole cover by German firefighters. For the past 150 years, scientists have been puzzled by a 480-million-year-old mystery creature, but have finally identified it from its preserved guts. The stunningly detailed fossils in Morocco were identified as stylophorans, types of echinoderms which were the ancient relatives of modern animals such as sea urchins, starfish, brittle stars, sea lilies, feather stars, and sea cucumbers. A tiny Cretaceous Period mammal, a kind of ‘night mouse’ lived among the northernmost dinosaurs on Earth, above the Arctic Circle. Paleontologists have discovered a new 69 million-year-old mammal species in the North Slope of Alaska too. Paleontologists believe that the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex began as a cute, deer-size dinosaur. The world’s biggest bee species had been feared extinct since it was last seen in 1981, but has been found again. The Wallace Giant Bee, an Indonesian species with a 2.5-inch wingspan and enormous mandibles was spotted in January and captured in February in North Maluku. A giant, unfinished ram-headed sphinx has been found in a quarry site near the Nile and is believed to have been abandoned by King Tut’s grandfather. Speaking of King Tut, I watched a show regarding the current forensic testing being done on the entire collection of artifacts, some 5,000 items, found in his tomb. Despite many world tours of the most famous Pharaoh, the public has only seen about 1/3rd of all the pieces found.

Entertainment News:

Billy Joel will be performing 12 times in the US in 2019. I thought he was retired? At the Super Bowl, Gladys Knight silenced all of her critics for her doing the National Anthem and not supporting Colin Kaepernick, by performing one of the best renditions of all time. And she was Pip-less. German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, best known for his work at Chanel, died at the age of 85. Last night, the Oscars (or Academy Awards) were held in Los Angeles, without a host. They actually went pretty smoothly. Best dressed was probably Jordin Sparks, who wore an amazing dress for her performance. Winner of Best Picture was GREEN BOOK. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY won in 4 categories. Spike Lee won his first Oscar. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga won the Oscar for best song from A STAR IS BORN and performed the song live, sparking rumors of an off-screen romance. The rumors were fanned by the recent announcement that Lady GaGa had called off her engagement to Taylor Kinney. Cooper’s girlfriend Irina Shayk unfollowed Lady Gaga on social media right before the Oscars. Bradley Cooper ex-wife, Jennifer Esposito, is slamming the “psychotic” controversy over her Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa “Ha” remark. Selma Blair stole the off-camera show, by standing (with cane) for cameras, for the first time since announcing in November that she has multiple sclerosis. Chip and Joanna Gaines, fresh off their reality fixer-upper show, are opening a coffee shop. Orlando Bloom proposed to Katy Perry in a helicopter. Pixar director John Lassiter, who was accused of dozens of accounts of inappropriate behavior towards women on his films, has been called about by two-time Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, who publicly walked off the film saying she would not work with such a man. Lindsay Lohan, Salma Hayek, and other celebrities sat in the front row at Saint Laurent Paris Fashion Week show. The Kardashians are “upset” Jordyn Woods is doing Red Table Talk interview, violating their NDA. DJ Khaled has chosen to host the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Zachary Quinto and Miles McMillan have “amicably” split after 6 years together. Well, if you thought Tyler Perry’s new movie about Madea at a funeral would be his last Madea play tour and movie, that’s not precisely correct. He will play a younger Madea in future projects, sort of prequels. John Legend is not done at being one of only 16 people to achieve EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) status, but says he also wants the title of “Sexiest Man Alive” to have an EGOTSMA. I watched The Voice last night, and for the first time, they let a family trio act through, who will be coached by Kelly Clarkson. Comedian Pete Davidson confronted a heckler during a live show and threatened to walk off stage. Netflix UK is being blasted by fans for altering the ending of a tearjerker movie. Some songs by Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande have dubbed “pornographic” and banned in Indonesia. Michael Jackson’s NEVERLAND Ranch has been re-listed for $31 million, 70% off the original asking price. Wrapper R Kelly was released on bond, after being arrested on three charges of sexual assault. Megyn Kelly is looking at an October return to TV to cover the 2020 Presidential race, after receiving a huge $30 million payout from NBC. Nicki Minaj denies that she “stole” Tracy Chapman’s 1988 hit “Baby Can I Hold You”, as the latter singer sues her for copyright infringement. Shares of Oprah Winfrey’s backed Weight Watchers dropped 32% after profit warning and the CEO says they may need to rebrand.

The 50th Anniversary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced its lineup for 2019. It begins on 4/25-28 and ends on 5/2-5/5. It’s a SICK list of entertainers:
• The Rolling Stones
• Dave Matthews Band
• Katy Perry
• Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band
• Chris Stapleton
• Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
• Pitbull
• Van Morrison
• Al Green
• Logic
• Earth, Wind & Fire
• J Balvin
• Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Nevilles
• Glady Knight
• The Revivalists
• Leon Bridges
• John Fogerty
• Chaka Khan
• Herbie Hancock
• Tank and the Bangas
• Tom Jones
• Bonnie Raitt
• Ciara
• Alanis Morissette
• Irma Thomas
• Gary Clark Jr.
• The O’Jays
• The Head and the Heart
• The Doobie Brothers
• Jimmy Cliff
• Ziggy Marley
• Aaron Neville
• Boz Scaggs
• Galctic
• Jerry Lee Lewis
• Indigo Girls
• Rebirth Brass Band
• Mavis Staples
• Los Lobos
• Ellis Marsalis Family with Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason with Ellis
• Big Freedia
• Kamasi Washington
• Rita Coolidge
• Buddy Guy
• Preservation Hall Jazz Band
• Better Than Ezra
• Taj Mahal & the Phantom Blues Band
• Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk
• Maze
• Ani DiFranco
• The Radiators
• Hurray for the Riff Raff
• Jonathan Butler and Gerald Albright
• Shirley Caesar
• Little Feat
• Gregory Porter
• Anders Osborne
• North Mississippi Allstars
• Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
• The Mavericks
• The Robert Cray Band
• The Subdudes
• Samantha Fish
• Jupiter & Okwess of Congo
• Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers
• Big Sam’s Funky Nation
• Sweet Crude
• Naturally 7
• The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
• The Rance Allen Band
• Boyfriend
• Regina Carter’s Southern Comfort
• Terrence Blanchard
• The Bahamas Revue Band
• Cecile McLorin Salvant
• Marc Broussard
• And about 60 others

2018 was a record year at the domestic box office. Ticket sales were almost $11.9 billion, of which Disney pulled in a record $3.092 billion with BLACK PANTHER ($700mm), AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ($678.8mm), and INCREDIBLES 2($608.6mm). JURASSIC WORLD 2 pulled in $417.7mm and AQUAMAN pulled in $320mm.

This past week’s box-office was stronger than expected. HOS TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3 debuted with an impressive $55.5 million to capture No.1 (it was the largest debut of 2019, surpassing GLASS by $15 million); ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL fell to No.2 with $12.3 million in its second week; THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART came in at No.3, with $9.7 million (total now of $83.3 million), in its 3rd week; FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY stayed at No.4, with $7.8 million in its 2nd week; ISN’T IT ROMANTIC fell from No.3 to No.5, with $7.1 million in its 2nd week. The only other notable debuts were RUN THE RACE at No.10 and TOTAL DHAMAAL at No.14. if you are wondering what the top total grossing films are so far in 2019, they are:

1. AQUAMAN $332.9 million
2. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY $213.1 million
3. A STAR IS BORN $210.8 million
4. RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET $199.9 million
5. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE $184.9 million
Thank goodness I finally bought No.2 and No.3, as I missed them at the box-office and they were extraordinarily good.

The number of movies coming out this week is very low, with: GRETA, TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL, APOLLO 11, CLIMAX, FURIE, MAPPLETHORPE, SAINT JUDY, STYX, TRANSIT, and THE WEDDING GUEST.

Technology & Space News:

Virgin Galactic just took its first test passenger into space. Russia will fly two space tourists to the ISS in late 2021. A 12-year-old kid in Tennessee built a nuclear fusion reactor in his family’s playroom. Japan just shot a fake asteroid with a space bullet, in the name of science. China has built the world’s first robotic, partially submersible boat for launching sounding rockets that will help meteorologists understand the atmosphere over Earth’s oceans. A new device has been built, portable enough for use in space, which produces a beam of laser light that changes less over time than any other laser built by humans thus far. The tech industry has shifted focus to Toronto, which is luring some of the best people. British chipmaker, ARM Holdings is warning the delay in 5G in Europe would hurt countries’ GDP, as the debate over Chinese supplier Huawei continues.

US News:

The erroneous missile alert about a nuclear attack sent to Hawaii residents and the ensuing confusion and hysteria revealed that Americans are not prepared for what to do in a nuclear attack. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who is being grilled by Congress today, has been disbarred in New York. A body found stuffed in a suitcase in San Francisco Bay was hanged and drugged, according to police. A father and daughter were fined for stealing a $12.5 million Lotto ticket. A new bill in Florida would strip the school sheriff’s deputy in Parkland of his retirement benefits. The House climate-change hearing had to adjourn because not enough Democrats showed up. The new “tax cuts” are surprising some taxpayers and actually raising payments for 11 million of them. Forbes’ list of billionaires showed a $1 trillion loss from the 2018 stock market correction. Los Angeles just had the coldest February in 60 years. Meanwhile, the Sierra Mountains may get a record total of 10 feet of snow, due to this new atmospheric river. A mysterious ‘pillar of light’ was spotted over Pittsburgh. Prosecutors are seeking a long prison term for the Vatican’s former chief of finance, Cardinal George Pell, who was convicted of sexually abusing two choir boys. In a historic Mayoral race, Chicago will have a black woman mayor, as the two frontrunners of a record 14 candidates face off in April.

“Michael Cohen to Say Trump Learned of WikiLeaks Plans Early, Committed Crimes While in Office: Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, plans on Wednesday for the first time to publicly accuse the president of engaging—while in office—in criminal conduct related to a hush-money payment to a porn star, according to the opening statement he will deliver before Congress.” Wall Street Journal

International News:

A fire in the historic district of Dhaka, Bangladesh, killed at least 80 people. A suicide bombing near Pulwanna, in Indian-administered Kashmir, killed 40 security personnel. The Battle of Baghuz Fawquani, part of the Syrian Civil War, continues to rage since February 9th, along the eastern banks of the Middle Euphrates River Valley. The battle marks the last stand of ISIS in eastern Syria as the Syrian Democratic Forces, assisted by American-led Coalition airstrikes, artillery and military advisers, began their thrust into the last enclave. Protests continue in Sudan, raging since December 19th, when the National Congress Party headquarters in Atbara was burned down. Public discontent is fueling calls for President Omar al-Bashir to step down. Protesters have been fired on with tear gas and live ammunition. The whole thing started when the Sudanese government started austerity measure as part of its efforts to apply economic reform as recommended by the IMF. Venezuela continues to have a crisis as to who is the legitimate President. On January 10th, the opposition-majority National Assembly declared that the incumbent Maduro’s 2018 reelection was invalid and that its president, Guaido was acting president. Mass demonstrations occurred after the pro-Maduro Supreme Tribunal of Justice said the National Assembly’s declaration was unconstitutional. Maduro’s government claims the crisis is really a coup d’etat led by the United States to topple him and control the country’s oil reserves. The second summit between North Korea’s Kim Jung Un and President Trump has begun in Vietnam. President Trump flew by plane to the summit, while the North Korean leader took an armored train through China to the summit. Pakistan military reports shooting down two Indian warplanes over Kashmir. Iran’s president is blocking his FM’s resignation. Nigerian president won a second term, after a contentious vote.

Florida:

If you are interested in seeing more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances (or Spring Training National Anthems), there are many coming to Florida, perhaps when you will be visiting (I’ve added some concerts since the last Repo Commentary):

The Temptations-Fort Lauderdale, January 31
Don McLean-Immokalee, January 31
Michael Bolton-Fort Lauderdale, February 2
The Four Tops and the Temptations-West Palm Beach, February 2
Melissa Manchester-Aventura, February 8
Michael Bolton-West Palm Beach, February 8
The Commodores-Miami, February 9
Patti LaBelle-Fort Myers, February 11
Duran Duran-Miami Beach, February 12
Franki Valli & the Four Seasons, Hollywood, February 14
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 14
Dave Mason-Fort Lauderdale, February 15
Little River Band-Fort Myers, February 15
Michael Buble-Sunrise, February 16 (I would like to go)
Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, February 18
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes-Bonita Springs, February 20
Art Garfunkel-Fort Lauderdale, February 20
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
Sarah Brightman-Hollywood, February 20
PGA Honda Classic-PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, February 28-March 2
Pink-Sunrise-March 1 (I might have to go)
Sara Mclachlan-March 1, West Palm Beach
Paul Anka-Fort Lauderdale-March 4
Elton John-Sunrise, March 16
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band-Sunrise, March 17
Steve Miller Band-Hollywood, March 17
Palm Beach International Boat Show-West Palm Beach, March 28-March 31
Jackson Browne-West Palm Beach, April 3
The Rolling Stones-Miami, April 20
Ariana Grande-Orlando, May 29
Train & Goo Goo Dolls-West Palm Beach, July 6
Queen & Adam Lambert-Sunrise, August 17

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My Repo Commentary is posted on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed.

If you need to reach me, my cell is still 646-753-1300, my email for work is jeffkidwell82@gmail.com, and you can also hit me up on LinkedIn.

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

02/26 Holidays or Events:

• Carnival Day (not Mardi Gras yet)
• For Pete’s Sake Day
• Tell A Fairy Tale Day
• Thermos Bottle Day
• National Personal Chef Day
• National Pistachio Nut Day
• Levi Strauss Day
• World Spay Day
• Day of Remembrance for Victims of Khojaly Massacre (Azerbaijan)
• Liberation Day (Kuwait)
• Saviours’ Day (Nation of Islam)

Some Famous People Born 02/26 in History:

• 1564-Christopher Marlowe, English playwright and poet
• 1802-Victor Hugo, French author, poet, and playwright
• 1808-Honore Daumier, French painter, illustrator, and sculptor
• 1829-Levi Strauss, German-American fashion designer, founder of Levi Strauss & Co.
• 1846-Buffalo Bill, American soldier and hunter
• 1852-John Harvey Kellogg, American surgeon, co-created Corn Flakes
• 1866-Herbert Henry Dow, Canadian-American businessman, founded the Dow Chemical Company
• 1887-Grover Cleveland Alexander-American baseball player and coach
• 1893-Dorothy Whipple, English novelist
• 1908-Tex Avery, American animator, producer, and voice actor
• 1912-Dane Clark, American actor and director
• 1916-Jackie Gleason, American actor and singer
• 1920-Tony Randall, American actor, director, and producer
• 1921-Betty Hutton, American actress and singer
• 1928-Fats Domino, American singer-songwriter and pianist
• 1928-Ariel Sharon, Israeli general and PM
• 1932-Johnny Cash, American singer-songwriter, guitarist and actor
• 1939-Chuck Wepner, American boxer
• 1943-Paul Cotton, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
• 1953-Michael Bolton, American singer-songwriter and actor
• 1954-Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish President
• 1957-Joe Mullen, American ice hockey player and coach
• 1966-Marc Fortier, French-Canadian ice hockey player
• 1968-Tim Commerford, American bass player (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave)
• 1973-Marshall Faulk, American football player
• 1983-Pepe, Brazilian-Portuguese footballer

Fun Fact of the Day:

According to a new study, heavy marijuana smokers are at risk for some of the same health effects as cigarette smokers, like bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Crazy Horse saw history as integrated in the present, incorporated into daily life.”—Stephen Ambrose.

I picked this quote because I was just reading about how the memorial to Crazy Horse is coming along, now 70 years into the project. It is the world’s largest mountain carving, located in the Black Hills of Custer, County, South Dakota. The face of the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, is now done and, eventually, he will be depicted on a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial and planned Native American Museum of North America and Native American Cultural Center are about 17 miles from Mount Rushmore. Luther Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota elder, wrote to sculptor Gutzon Borgium, who was carving the heads of four American presidents at Mount Rushmore and suggested that it would be more fitting to have the face of Crazy Horse sculpted there, alongside Washington and Lincoln. The sculptor never responded to his letters, but sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who worked on Mount Rushmore, under Borgium, did respond and took on the commission. The memorial is a non-profit undertaking and the sculptor has reportedly turned down two offers of $10 million each from the US government.

International and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at $74.34/barrel on 10/5, $47.66/barrel on 12/23, $48.63 on 01/07, $52.31/barrel on 01/16, and $55.26/barrel on 2/3. It was not much different Monday, closing at $55.41/barrel. OPEC has its best start of any year, as its production has fallen. However, the price of gasoline at my new West Palm Beach station moved from $1.86/gallon on 01/07 to $1.97/gallon on 01/16, to $2.09/gallon on 2/9, and now $2.29/gallon on 2/25. What the heck! The USD has been taking a beating versus other currencies, due to the budget impasse and current US government shutdown. One USD versus the Yen was trading at 112.20 on 12/24, was 108.60 on 01/07, 109.07 on 01/16, and 103.18 on 02/03. It rebounded to 104.86 on 2/25. The USD was at $1.1426 versus the Euro on 12/24, but on 01/07 was at $1.1478, and a bit stronger on 01/16 at $1.1396. On 02/03 it is $1.2047, quite a bit weaker again. It drifted to $1.1955 on 2/25. The USD was at $1.2655 against the British Pound on 12/24, but on 01/07 was at $1.2770, and even weaker on 01/16 at $1.2880. It was even much weaker on 02/03 at $1.3758, and finally about the same, $1.3728 on 2/25. One USD versus the CAD was 1.3442 on 12/24, but at 1.3297 on 01/07, at 1.3255 on 01/16, and at 1.2492 on 2/03. On 2/25, it is unchanged. Gold closed 10/5 at $1204.10/ounce, 12/24 at $1256.70/ounce, 01/07 at $1288.85/ounce, 01/16 at $1293.50, 02/03 at $1,322.10, and 2/25 at $1330.20, reflecting the continued uncertainty (almost steady uncertainty) of the markets and flight to gold. Bitcoin was trading at $8,185.21 on 7/25, at $6,350 on 10/5, and $3,774.97 on 12/24. On 01/07 it was at at $3,7774.97. On 01/16, it took some more of a beating, down to $3,598.90. On 2/9 it was down to a paltry $3,421.10, but it rebounded by 2/25 to $3,826.44. PM May has surrendered to Remainers and agreed that Brexit can be delayed. The slowing economy in Europe has caused European businesses to borrow less and make gloomier predictions in recent surveys.

“U.S. opens anti-dumping probe into steel imports from China, Canada, Mexico -source: The U.S. Commerce Department announced Tuesday it will open a new anti-dumping probe to determine whether fabricated structural steel from Canada, China and Mexico is being sold at below fair value.” Reuters

“Canada threatens not to ratify USMCA until U.S. ends steel, aluminum tariffs: Canada is threatening to not ratify the renegotiated North American free-trade pact if U.S. President Donald Trump doesn’t first remove steel and aluminum tariffs, in a bid to restart serious talks over the punitive duties.” Globe and Mai

“Big decline in poverty rate offers good news to a government that desperately needs some: The number of Canadians in poverty is declining rapidly thanks to a strong labour market and an increase in child benefits, a new report from Statistics Canada says — a bit of good news for a Liberal government increasingly mired in controversy.” National Post

Global Financial News:

Citadel’s Ken Griffin predicts more market volatility in 2019. JPMorgan Chase’s president is warning of a trading revenue fall of high teen percentage. US cannabis law is helping Canada make money. German pharmaceutical company Merck says it wants to buy Arizona’s Versum Materials for $5.24 billion, abandoning a pending merger it had with another company. Tesla CEO Elon Musk continues to irk SEC with tweets last week, that a judge decided Tuesday violated an enforcement agreement he reached with the SEC last year. He has until 3/11 to reply. The House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a hearing to review the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on 3/7. SEC’s Jackson said that about 90% of known cyberattacks on public companies went unreported in 2018 and he is calling for clearer rules on cyberhack reporting. The GAO reports that the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is not doing enough to prevent examiners from being improperly influenced by major banks. The EU has agreed to allow financial industry 2 more years to transition to new regime for regional and foreign benchmarks, EONIA and EURIBOR, to the end of 2021. The European Court of Justice ruled that Latvia violated EU law when it barred its central bank chief from office over corruption allegations. JPMorgan will offer two new loan products to its existing credit card customers this year, My Chase Plan (with fixed monthly fee) and My Chase Loan (loans on unused portions of their credit card limits). The House Financial Services Committee says the credit reporting system is broken and changes are needed to protect consumers, while executives at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion said yesterday that changes have been made in recent years. The 12 largest investment banks showed commodity revenue increased 45% during 2018 to $3.6 billion. This is a complete reversal of 2017, when commodity revenue fell 42%, to the lowest level since 2006. Vanguard is pressing ahead with ETF fee reductions. A CME Group outage put a halt to trading for several hours on Tuesday.

US Market News:

The Dow Jones closed at 26,656.77 on 9/20, closed at 26,447.05 on 10/5, closed at 21,792.20 on 12/23, closed at 21,712.53 on 12/26, closed at 24,207.16 on 01/16, closed at 25,063.89 on 2/06, and closed at 26,106.47 on 2/25. It has nearly erased the full downtrade from 9/20. S&P 500 also gave up its all-time high on 9/20 of 2,930.66, closing on 10/5 at 2,885.58, then on 12/26 at 2,467.70, then on 1/7 at 2,549.69 close, then on 01/16 at 2,616.10, then on 2/06 at 2,706.53. It closed 2/25 at 2,799.34. It still has a way to go. Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28 high of 8,030.04, closing 10/5 at 7,788.45, then 12/26 at 6,554.36, then 01/07 at 6,823.47, then 01/16 at 7,034.70, then 2/06 at 7,263.87. it closed on 2/25 at 7,561.87.

US Treasury yields had gotten much higher on 9/20, in advance of the 9/26 FOMC meeting, rose still higher after the meeting and then plummeted with the drop in Equities, and have continued to drop and even invert since. On 10/5, 2years closed at 2.88%, closed 12/18 at 2.65%, closed 01/07 at 2.53%, closed 01/16 at 2.55%, closed 2/06 at 2.52%, and closed 2/22 at 2.48%; on 10/5, 3years closed at 2.99%, closed on 12/18 at 2.64%, closed 01/07 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years), closed 01/16 at 2.53%, still inverted, closed 2/06 at 2.50%, still inverted, and closed 2/22 at 2.46%; on 10/5, 5years closed at 3.07%, closed on 12/18 at 2.65%, closed 01/07 at 2.49%, closed 01/16 at 2.54%,closed 2/06 at 2.51%, and closed 2/22 at 2.47%; on 10/5, 7years closed at 3.18%, closed at 2.74% on 12/18, closed on 01/07 at 2.60%, closed 01/16 at 2.62%, closed 2/06 at 2.59%, and closed 2/22 at 2.55%; on 10/5, 10years closed at 3.23%, closed at 2.82% on 12/18, closed on 01/07 at 2.70%, closed 01/16 at 2.73%, closed 2/06 at 2.70%, and closed 2/22 at 2.65%; and on 10/5, 30years closed at 3.40%, closed at 3.07% on 12/18, closed at 2.99% on 01/07, closed at 3.07% on 01/16, closed 2/06 at 3.03%, and closed 2/22 at 3.02%.

Housing News:

Governors are now grappling with housing issues felt throughout the nation, particularly in states that now have a maximum mortgage deduction. Americans in rural and urban areas of the country are facing a housing affordability crisis. Rising percentage of housing devoted to rentals, increasing rental costs, and increasing housing costs (as the country is not building enough homes to meet demand), are making it very difficult on young families. In some states or even different areas of the same state, some builders say the rents are too high, so they can’t build new rentals which will go vacant, while in other areas, builders say the rent is too low, not adjusted for increase in costs to build. In Guam, where there is huge housing demand, they have another problem, as Homeland Security shut down the H-2B work visas for the Philippines, where Guam was sourcing most of its construction workers. The National Apartment Association estimates that the country will need another 4.6 million housing units by 2030, roughly 330,000 new developments each year. Meanwhile, as builders try to figure out which way the housing market, which has been wallowing recently, is going to go and whether to build rentals or homes, the cost of materials has spiked up behind them. Even regulations have taken a bite out of developers, taking up 32% of all development costs. After real estate agents leaked information about investors showing up in droves at open houses in Arlington, VA and Alexandria, VA in December, prices shot up and availability fell. It was all on speculation that Amazon was going to build its HQ2 in Virginia. In January, year/year, the number of homes on the market in Arlington dropped 38%. In Alexandria, its down 48% year/year. There are many activists now and some tech companies who believe that corporations in general, and the tech companies specifically, should contribute financially to fix the affordable housing problem in the US. I love it when I can tie two stories together like that! San Francisco’s real estate prices are now among the highest in the nation, partly due to 15,000 new tech jobs added in the city in 2016 and 2017 and housing supply only 25% of what is needed there. San Francisco’s median home values have doubled since 2010. Seattle is feeling similar impact of Amazon and Microsoft creating 33,000 new tech jobs there in the last two years. Apple is now impacting Austin. US Pending Home Sales were up for the first time in four months, by 1% in January, mostly because of the recent drop in mortgage rates.

Okay, I’ve been dying to report on this story for a week and now I don’t know where to put it. I guess it’s sort of housing news. A Texas man, Terry Robison, has figured out a unique retirement plan. It’s been shared over 200,000 times on Facebook already. Rather than going to a nursing home, he has decided to take a room at a Holiday Inn and calculated that he would save $100/day, plus have many perks that he wouldn’t get at the nursing home. The obvious perks are a friendly staff wanting to make your stay enjoyable (unlike some anecdotal reports of treatment at some nursing homes), maid service every day, and complimentary breakfasts, happy hour at the bar, pool, spa and gym facility. But, there are many other perks too, like unlimited shampoo/soap/razors/toothpaste, free TV and A/C, plenty of rooms for people to stay in when they come visit (and they can use the pool and facilities), laundry room and lounge, and he can travel from Holiday Inn to Holiday Inn and see the world. Meanwhile, the average nursing home costs $188/day and it could take months to secure a room, while the average Holiday Inn room is $59.23/day and you can call reservations right now. He figures he will save $128.77/day to spend on food and entertainment. Travel may be easier too, as many Holiday Inns have shuttle buses to downtown locations and airports. Plus, hotel staff will fix any issues from light bulbs to mattresses and apologize for the inconvenience. His point is, “They treat you like a customer, not a patient.” I wouldn’t be surprised, with all the social media attention to this story worth advertising millions, if he isn’t offered FREE stay at any Holiday Inn for the rest of his life.

Repo News:  

It was great seeing many of you at the 25th IMN Beneficial Owners’ International Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference 2/5-2/6 in Fort Lauderdale!

The focuses were on diversity and inclusion on Wall Street (we had really cool roundtable discussions that came up with several issues and solutions), peer-to-peer repo and lending efforts (it really shocked me how much it was discussed without my coaxing), financial technology and automation, repo cash and non-cash reinvestment (drilled down to the true opportunities and risks), what’s in store for 2019 and what the trends are, and regulatory reforms (especially SFTR, MiFID II, FSA Banking Union stuff, and those pesky liquidation holding periods) facing us. We got dirty in the data about our historic year ($10 billion+) in securities lending revenue, largest since the Financial Crisis, showed what was hot and what was not. We went deep into ETFs as securities lending clients and as investments.

I am doing a lot of follow ups with clients and have several new ideas. I am now again actively interviewing and hope to be back in the Securities Financing industry shortly, after my brief hiatus.

Let’s look forward in the regulatory crystal ball for 2019. So, after the Financial Crisis, and over 350 financial regulations initiated by Dodd-Frank, FSOC, FSB, G20, and other regulators, it seemed that things had cooled down on the regulatory front. But, things are heating up again. We just experienced the implementation of MiFID II and we have SFTR ahead of us to implement. SFTR, if you don’t know, is the FSB’s attempt again to address the elusive Shadow Banking, among other things. Most of the other regulatory initiatives now on the table to implement are related to Basel III and the completion of three major European projects: the Banking Union, the Capital Markets Union, and the Digital Single Market. We are also still addressing LIBOR replacement (particularly in the US with the development of SOFR) and reform of Euribor and Eonia reference indices (which the EU just decided to put off for 2 years). Of course, there is always fintech stuff to deal with and to regulate and, lest we forget, there is the mess of Brexit (or now potential for Brelay or Bremain). Financial regulation in 2008-2012 had a very unified global approach. But, that seems to have declined since, and jurisdictional differences are rearing up and making implementation more complicated. While the Banking Package in Europe has come along way regarding what are prudential measures and how to share risks in the banking industry for recovery and resolution, including backstop plans by the ECB and the EC, there has been little progress made on the Banking Union, except to establish a Single Resolution Fund through the ESM, but no agreement on the EDIS. Likewise, the Capital Markets Union effort has seen only small progress. Lastly, while the industry in 2018 saw consolidation of the digitalization of the financial sector, there has been no concrete regulatory framework negotiated to deal with the growing change. Plus, we still have that EU Reform deadline coming up 3/31, as iMoneyNet reminds me. So, until further notice, the Legal and Risk departments remain in charge.

I still see the Repo and Securities Lending market as having changed in many permanent ways. We traditionally had a credit intermediator, the broker/dealers (originally just the primary broker/dealers) and later prime brokers, who were the pipeline through their respective repo matched books for collateral providers to trade with cash providers, without the two sides ever knowing about each other or facing each other. That lack of knowledge of the other side of the repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis and the impact on some of the dealers that then cost their clients. Not knowing who the other clients were and who could bring down the intermediary dealers was costly for many clients. Clearly, with that pipeline of intermediation becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be found for cash provider and collateral provider clients. AVM’s Direct Repo™ was the first of one of such pathways. Since then, other pathways to these markets have been created, including: the Federal Reserve’s RRP program with cash providers, peer-to-peer financing as reported on Treasury OFR’s website between MMFs and Insurance Companies, As Agent repo through seclending agents and now some prime brokers, direct lending from beneficial owner to hedge funds who are short, indemnified As Agent repo, buyside to buyside Triparty Repo through two international clearing organizations of their custodial clients, electronic all-to-all repo on a few electronic trading platforms like Elixium, GLMX, Tradeweb, and BNY DBVX, FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products to entice certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, and other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (several still being worked on, particularly in Europe, like Eurex, LCH, OCC, etc.). I believe this evolution will continue and eventually we will see all of these pathways used, including the traditional pathway (to probably a lesser than historical degree) through the broker/dealers and prime brokers. Some of that balance sheet has returned, as I mentioned above, but may be for only select ‘platinum’ clients and may come at a higher bid/offer spread or in specific, more profitable products/securities.

Upcoming Repo Industry Conferences:
 

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream is held its annual conference this week in Luxembourg, which I attended last year.
• IMN 25th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference was held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/5-2/6. I was chosen as the Chairperson.
• Finadium held a new conference on the Business of Collateral Trading in Frankfurt, Germany on 2/21.
• IMN held its annual Fixed Income Investor Network in Las Vegas on 2/24.
• iMoneyNet will hold its annual MMExpo in Middleburg, VA 3/4-3/6.
• PASLA/RMA will hold its 16th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Sydney, Australia 3/5-3/7.
• GIOA will hold its 15th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/20-3/22.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/2-5/3.
• Securities Lending Times will hold its annual Securities Finance Technology Symposium in London on 5/9.
• IMN will hold its annual Global ABS conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/11-6/13.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Philadelphia, PA on 6/18-6/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/17-9/19.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 9/22-9/24.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe in London on 9/24.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Naples, FL on 10/6-10/9.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its Fixed Income Leaders conference in Barcelona on 10/7-10/9.
• RMA will hold its 37th annual Repo & Securities Lending Conference in Boca Raton, FL in October.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its annual conference in Boston, MA on 10/20-10/23.
• Risk.net will hold its 25th annual Risk USA conference in NYC in November.
• SIFMA will hold its annual Meeting in Washington, DC on 11/18-11/20.

Federal Reserve News:

Fed Funds, which trade mostly between some banks and GSEs, opened today at 2.40%, 10bp below the top of the target range.

The next FOMC meetings are: yesterday, 3/20/19, 5/1/19, 6/19/19, 7/31/19, 9/18/19, 10/30/19, 12/11/19, 1/29/20 (reflecting the Fed’s just announced tentative schedule for 2019).

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (16 banks, 14 GSEs, 101 money market funds from various fund families), is now set at the rate of 1.75%. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. Remember when RRP was trading at year-end for $465 billion? Well, on 5/15, there was only $20 million in bids submitted. MMF cash and GSE cash has moved out of the Fed’s RRP and into the Repo market, but it hasn’t really brought down the GC repo rate, which is strange.

If you are wondering about RRP, it is nearly extinct. In July, excluding month-end, volume averaged only $2.8 billion per day. It has just become a mechanism for the Fed to supply collateral when its scarce for money market funds on month-ends and quarter-ends, as dealer balance sheets dry up at those times.

But, at year-end, due to liquidity dislocation, particularly for cash providers, the Fed’s RRP program was tapped for $31 billion, coming back to life, if only temporarily.

According to FOMC members, the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise the benchmark Fed Funds rate to 2.50% at the December FOMC meeting, 3.00% in 2019, and 3.50% in 2020. If you are keeping score, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds target rate on these dates so far:

12/15/15 to 0.50%
12/14/16 to 0.75%
3/5/17 to 1.00%
6/14/17 to 1.25%
12/13/17 to 1.50%
3/21/18 to 1.75%
6/13/18 to 2.00%
9/26/18 to 2.25%
12/13/18 to 2.50%

Quantitative Easing was ‘tapered off’ in 2013. The Fed still had $4 trillion of debt in 2017 on its books from that QE. In October 2017, it began allowing those holdings to gradually decline. For fun, the Fed Funds target rate was 5.25% before the Fed cut of 9/18/2007.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is back on Capitol Hill to testify about the US economy, interest rate policy, and financial regulations. Meanwhile, Powell has told the Senate that the US economy will continue growing in 2019, but at a slower pace and that the central bank is in “no rush to make a judgment about changes in policy.”

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

The USGS updated its 2005 rankings of the 161 volcanoes that pose the most threat to American lives. Since 2005, that total number has dropped by 8. The 18 very highest threat volcanoes are in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. 39 other volcanoes are high threat, 49 are moderate, 34 are low, and 21 are very low threat. The United States is one of Earth’s most volcanically active countries. Since 1980, there have been 120 eruptions and 52 episodes of notable volcanic threat at 44 US volcanoes. Using 24 factors to determine the threat to people and evaluate the US volcanoes, the USGS came up with the entire list. Here are the 18 very highest threat volcanoes:
• Akutan Island-Alaska
• Augustine Volcano-Alaska
• Makushin-Alaska
• Redoubt Volcano-Alaska
• Mount Spur-Alaska
• Mount Baker-Washington
• Glacier Peak-Washington
• Mount Ranier-Washington
• Mount St. Helens-Washington
• Crater Lake-Oregon
• Mount Hood-Oregon
• Newberry Volcano-Oregon
• Three Sisters Volcano-Oregon
• Lassen volcanic center-California
• Long Valley Caldera-California
• Mount Shasta-California
• Kilauea-Hawaii
• Mauna Loa-Hawaii

Latest strong earthquakes (5.0 magnitude and above):

2/1/19 6.6 15km ENE of Puerto Madero, Mexico
2/4/19 5.3 32km SSE of Boca de Yuma, Dominican Republic
2/17/19 6.3 48km NW of Namatanai, Papua New Guinea
2/22/19 7.5 115km ESE of Palora, Ecuador

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. For 2018, Colorado State University experts had predicted an above average season of 14 named Tropical Storms, of which 7 would become Hurricanes. Both are above the averages of 12 and 6, respectively. But, there were 15 named Tropical Storms, of which 8 were hurricanes, and 2 of them major.

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/18 and ends 11/1/18.

As for the weather, the US has been dealing with a huge storm, Winter Storm Quiana, across the country, affecting some 150 million Americans. Parts of the country are seeing torrential rain, while other parts are getting heavy snow, and all parts seem to be getting very strong winds, some up over 75mph. Heavy rain and mountain snow continue in the West, moderate to locally heavy snows will impact much of the Great Lakes region, and portions of New York and New England will receive snow and ice, which could cause hazardous travel conditions.

Here in Florida, the weather has turned whacky, with record highs recorded, even into the 90s in Southern Florida, in February! We also have been getting a heavy dose of summer thunderstorm activity and oppressive humidity. One difference, is that we have had a steady diet of strong winds.

Sports News:

MLB:

The MLB regular season ended in November e with the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, fear not baseball fans, as the MLB has announced the earliest Opening Day ever for 2019, with all 30 teams playing on 3/28/19. They are not counting the first game of the season, between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, that will occur in Tokyo on March 20-21. The World Series Champion Boston Red Sox will play the Yankees in London, for the first-ever MLB games in Europe, on 6/29-6/30. Spring Training began 2/21 with the first game between the Mariners and the A’s in the Cactus League. The Grapefruit League kicked off 2/22 with a game between the Rays and the Phillies. The first game in West Palm Beach was 2/23 and the first game in Jupiter was 2/23.

Several of you have asked and, yes, I once again auditioned to sing the National Anthem for Spring Training, for Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach (Nationals and Astros) and Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter (Cardinals and Marlins). So far, I have been awarded the 3/9 Saturday game at Roger Dean Stadium between the Astros @ the Cardinals (with my harmony group), 3/12 Tuesday game at Roger Dean Stadium between the Mets @ Marlins (solo), 3/15 Friday game at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches between the Cardinals @ the Astros (with my harmony group), and 3/24 Sunday game at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches between the Nationals and the Astros (both the National Anthem and “God Bless America” solo). I may do one or two more games as well.

I have now sung for 133 MLB games (National Anthem and/or “God Bless America”), during the World Baseball Classic, Major League Spring Trainings, Major League seasons, and Minor League seasons. I have also sent my mp3 and resume out to MLB teams for regular season games, although I have reduced the number I send to from 30 to 8 (Red Sox, Marlins, Nationals, Reds, Indians, Mets, Orioles, and Cubs).

There was a lot of news about all the rule changes that the MLB is considering, like speeding up a play with a timeclock, allowing for more reviewable plays, and having the NL finally adopt the Designated Hitter. But, it doesn’t look like any of those rule changes will happen in 2019. Instead, they are going to try out the play clock during Spring Training, which was used for Minor League play last year. I heard the the biggest problem for speeding up play and why the average game time went from 2hours 47minutes in 1998 to over 5 hours in 2017, is because of pitch counts, and 50% of that problem is due to foul balls. Not much you can do about that, unless you adopt a Little League rule about maximum number of fouls per at bat. They announced that they will test “robot umpires” (that should be fun!). They will also test a longer distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate in the Atlantic League.

Many people were wondering whether Oklahoma QB and Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray, would choose MLB or NFL, after the A’s chose him with the No.9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and gave him a signing bonus of almost $5 million. Well, he has now declared for the NFL Draft and informed the A’s that he is going to concentrate on football. I think he’s making a big mistake, as baseball players tend to have longer careers and less concussions.

Giants ace, Madison Bumgarner, sent a text to his manager, after the team’s new president Farhan Zaidi, who had said to reporters in December that he could embrace an “opener” strategy, which said, “If you use an opener in my game, I’m walking out of the ballpark.” Apparently, the GM’s comments were based on the fact that the team’s other 3 starting pitchers have had respectively Derek Holland (4.20 ERA), Johnny Cueto (8.00 ERA), and Jeff Samardzija (9.00 ERA) in the first inning, so they may be candidates to come in to the game in the 2nd inning. I personally don’t think that Bumgarner is a candidate for an “opener” as he held opponents to a .193 batting average in their first plate appearance last year. The top 5 remaining free agents who aren’t Bryce Harper are reportedly: Gio Gonzalez, Marwin Gonzalez, Mike Moustakas, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel. The Yankees reportedly had offered Manny Machado a $220 million/8year deal. There were reports that he had gotten a $250 million/8year offer from the White Sox, but nothing had been verified. Then the Padres swooped in and agreed to pay him $300 million! The White Sox did verify that they offered a 7year/$175 million deal to Bryce Harper. Yankees ace CC Sabathia said that 2019 would be his last season before retirement. Rangers pitcher Doug Fister is also set to retire, his agent has announced. Phillies ace Jake Arrieta had knee surgery during the offseason. Yankees CF Jacoby Ellsbury will miss the beginning of the season with a foot injury. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen is 25lbs lighter. The Phillies and pitcher Aaron Nola have agreed to a new 4-year contract. The Royals still owe $20.25 million guaranteed to pitcher Yordano Ventura two years after his death, according to his agent. The Marlins have signed Rays 35-year-old reliever Sergio Romo for $2.5 million. However, the big Marlins news is that they finished the firesale of assets and traded away their last hero, J.T. Realmuto, to the Phillies. Although they did receive a fair amount in return, Marlins fans are already noting that he is part of a list of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich, who were already traded. The Angels think Shohei Ohtani could return in May from injury. Mets Jacob deGrom has set a 3/28 deadline for Mets to extend his contract. Ironically, former free agent ace Justin Verlander of the Astros, who received a $200 million contract, says the free agent system is “broken” as 100 free agents now sit on the market. Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez who was signed the last day of Spring Training last year for $110 million, agrees. Baseball revenues are way up and yet owners want to share less with players. The Red Sox have kept their World Series roster intact, except for one major player, their closer Craig Kimbrel, who wants 6years/$150 million at age 32. The Red Sox say they aren’t budging and may consider a closer-by-committee. There are still 79 major free agents left on the market, most notably Bryce Harper. The Rockies and Nolan Arenado agreed to an 8-year extension for $260 million. That gives him a record $32.5 million per year. Yankees SS Didi Gregorius has begun throwing during his injury rehab. The Astros and ace Gerrit Cole are going through an arbitration hearing. Infielder Brett Lawrie has signed with the Brewers. Mike Moustakas is now likely to return to the Brewers. Cardinals are reportedly signing catcher Matt Wieters to a minor league deal. The Yankees signed Aaron Hicks to a 7-year extension. Yankees pitcher Danny Farquhar threw a simulated game, 10 months after brain hemorrhage. Rockies and Bud Black agreed to a 3-year extension. Cardinals and pitcher Miles Mikolas agreed to a 4year/$68 million extension. The Angels are discussing a possible Long Beach waterfront ballpark. Panama beat Cuba for their first Caribbean Series title since 1950. Nevada has declined an MLB request to ban betting on Spring Training games.

The MLB announced the class of the six 2019 inductees into the Hall of Fame and they are: Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez (finally), Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, and Lee Smith. The ceremony will be on 7/21 in Cooperstown, NY. Baines and Smith were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game Era Committee. Baines, an ESPN analyst, will go in as a White Sox, Halladay will go in without a logo, Martinez will go in as a Mariner (kind of insuring that his fellow DH, David Ortiz, will make it too), Mussina will go in without a logo (I’m surprised), Rivera (the greatest reliever of all-time) will go in as a Yankee, and Smith (one of the greatest relievers of all-time) will go in as a Cub.

Golf:

The PGA Tour season began with its swing through Hawaii. Then they landed on the continent in California and moved over to Arizona, then stopped in Mexico, before this week’s Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Unfortunately, several top players chose to play in Mexico and blow off the Honda, like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Jordan Spieth. But, many of the others will be here, including last year’s winner, Justin Thomas. It does appear that this tournament got crunched by the PGA schedule, with only 3 of the top 10 and 6 of the top 25 joining. Four years ago, the Honda Classic drew 16 of the top 25. If you factor in how many of the top 25 players actually live nearby the PGA National course, Honda has to be thinking hard about their deal that ends in 2021 and these new WGC-Mexico and Austin tournaments. First, the WGC-Mexico Championship, where Tiger Woods had a solid 10th place finish and has moved up to the Official World Golf Ranking of No.12. Remember, he began this comeback ranked at No.668 in 2018. Anyway, Dustin Johnson crushed the field with a -21, easily holding of Rory McIlroy at -16. It was DJ’s 20th win on Tour. There was also a PGA Tour event, which confused me (I thought it was the web.com tour) in Puerto Rico, where Martin Trainer won his first. The Phoenix are golf courses were hit by a freak snowstorm this week. Brexit is now worrying the R&A and their Open Championship. The Tiger-Phil rivalry, luckily not the 5-hour boring just the two of them fiasco, resumes next week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

NCAA Basketball:

The college basketball season is closing in on March Madness, with only 2-3 games of a 32 game regular season left. The biggest news was that all-world star of Duke, Zion Williamson, sprained his knee when his Nike sneaker blew out completely on a skidding stop. His foot actually came right through the sole of the shoe. Already hyped as potentially the greatest NBA player of all time, while still a college freshman, he is definitely prime for a huge sneaker promotion contract when he does go to the NBA, because of his social media fame and basketball skills. But, while he may have garnered a contract of $10 million/year for that future promotion contract, now he stands to make even more. All of the companies will compete for him, Puma, Adidas, Reebok, etc. Puma already tweeted that “it wouldn’t have happened in a pair of Pumas.” Nike almost has to sign him for whatever amount he wants, or run the risk of everyone thinking he didn’t go with Nike because it was an inferior shoe. Anyway, enough about his money, regarding his injury, he is out now, but it’s not expected to be long. He is also expected to be selected No.1 in the 2019 NBA Draft. Interestingly, Duke could shut him down and let him focus on his pro career, but coach Kryzewski said the team isn’t considering that. Third biggest news of the week was Sunday’s upset by No.10 Michigan State over No.7 Michigan, to take the lead in the Big 10. They face each other again one more time at Michigan State. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim avoided a disabled car in the middle of the road at night in upstate New York, swerved and accidentally hit and killed the driver who was walking alongside the road. Several Ole Miss basketball players knelt during the National Anthem. Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer is taking a leave of absence. South Dakota’s Mike Daum passed the 3,000-point mark. Other recent games of note: Ohio State over Iowa 90-70, No.1 Duke lost to No.20 Virginia Tech 77-72 Tuesday night!, FSU beat Notre Dame, Kansas beat Kansas State, Xavier beat Villanova, Indiana beat No.19 Wisconsin, and Rutgers beat Minnesota. Here is the AP Poll as of 02/24/19 (which does not include the most recent upsets and has no movement in Top 6):

1. Gonzaga (27-2) up from No.2
2. Virginia (24-2) up from No.3
3. Duke (24-4) down from No.1
4. Kentucky (23-4)
5. North Carolina (22-5) up from No.8
6. Michigan State (23-6) up from No.10
7. Tennessee (24-3) down from No.5
8. Houston (26-1) up from No.9
9. Michigan (24-4) down from No.7
10. Marquette (23-4) up from No.11
11. Texas Tech (22-5) up from No.14
12. Nevada (25-2) down from No.6
13. LSU (22-5)
14. Purdue (20-7) up from No.15
15. Kansas (21-7) down from No.12
16. Kansas State (21-7) up from No.23
17. Maryland (21-7) up from No.24
18. FSU (22-6) down from No.16
19. Wisconsin (19-8) up from No.22
20. Virginia Tech (22-6)
21. Buffalo (25-3) up from No.25
22. Iowa (21-7) down from No.21
23. Cincinnati (23-4) up from unranked
24. Wofford (24-4) up from unranked
25. Washington (22-5) up from unranked

NFL:

The 99th NFL regular season ended with the New England Patriots beating the Los Angeles Rams in a defensive battle 13-3. Patriots owner Robert Kraft has made the news down here in southern Florida, where he owns a condo in Palm Beach, for allegedly soliciting twice at a massage parlor in Jupiter, FL. Several massage parlors were involved in the police sting which netted at least 105 ‘Johns’ and network of human trafficking. It’s disgusting behavior, if true, and will likely be met with NFL fines or sanctions. The Raiders have reached an agreement to play in Oakland next season. The Ravens are releasing veteran WR Michael Crabtree. Falcons owner Arthur Blank just bought a $180 million yacht, according to a report. Buccaneers RB Peyton Barber reportedly had his car broken into and his playbook stolen. The NFL is considering banning players from leaving sidelines to join celebrations. The Panthers have released defensive captain Munnerlyn and Mike Adams. Kyle Long tweeted “Bear for Life” after contract was reportedly restructured. Cowboys COO finally admitted in discussing coach Jason Garrett that “everybody’s back is against the wall.” Packers team president says QB Aaron Rodgers has to “embrace” change. Jets are reportedly interested in WR Donte Moncrief. NFL’s Randy Gregory has been suspended indefinitely for substance abuse violation.

Although the NFL season is over, the shortest season of the big 4 team sports in the US, the NFL has a new league, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) League, that has already started playing, which includes players who went undrafted, players trying to make a comeback, and players who are on NFL practice squads. The NFL hopes to make this league into kind of developmental league, like MLB’s minor leagues and NBA’s D-League. It was co-founded by Charlie Ebersol. Here are your AAF teams, who are heading into Week 4 (there are a total of 10 weeks plus playoffs, extending the season to 4/27):

Arizona Hotshots
Atlanta Legends
Birmingham Iron
Memphis Express
Orlando Apollos
Salt Lake Stallions
San Antonio Commanders
San Diego Fleet

The AAF is not to be confused with the XFL, which was launched 17 years ago, by Dick Ebersol of NBC, Charlie’s father. Former Seahawks QB Jim Zorn has been named coach and GM of Seattle’s XFL franchise.

Let’s look at the new NFL Hall of Fame class, which includes Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed, Kevin Mawae, Champ Bailey, Johnny Robinson, Pat Bowlen, Gil Brandt, and Ty Law.

NHL:

The puck dropped on the regular season, for some teams, on 10/3. We are well past the halfway point now, having played 61-63 games out of 82. The trade deadline was 2/25 and rumors were surrounding these 10 potential trade candidates: Sergei Bobrovsky (Blue Jackets), Cody Ceci (Senators), Artemi Panarin (Blue Jackets), Michael Ferland (Hurricanes), Gustav Nyquist (Red Wings), Kevin Hayes (Rangers), Dougie Hamilton (Hurricanes), Mats Zuccarello (Rangers), Wayne Simmonds (Flyers), and Matt Duchene (Senators). The Senators traded Mark Stone to the Golden Knights, probably the biggest ‘wow’ trade. Penguins acquired Erik Gudbranson from Canucks. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who has been suffering with vertigo for months, has finally been activated from the concussion protocol. The Sabres acquired Brandon Montour from Ducks. Zuccarello was just traded by Rangers to the Stars and was injured in the first game after trade and will be out 4 weeks. The Predators acquired Simmonds from the Flyers. The Rangers dealt Hayes to the Jets. Shane Doan has become the first player in Coyotes’ history to have number retired. The Blue Jackets acquired goalie Keith Kinkaid from the Devils. The Red Wings dealt Nyquist to the Sharks. Mikael Granlund was traded while his fiancée was giving birth.

At this point in the season: the Eastern Conference has the Lightning firmly in first place (winners of 8 in a row), followed by the surging Bruins, Islanders, Leafs, and Capitals; while the Western Conference has the Flames in first place, followed by the Sharks, Jets, and Predators.

NBA:

The NBA season officially began on 10/3 as well. We are around 59-61 games in of the 82-game season. The trading window is now over, so the talk is about buyout candidates to add to playoff contenders. The candidates this year include: Carmelo Anthony, Greg Monroe, Marcin Gortat, Alex Abrines, Robin Lopez, DeAndre Jordan, Dewayne Dedmon, and JR Smith. The Celtics have indicated that they are still interested in trading with the Pelicans for Anthony Davis. Last night, the Celtics suffered their worst loss of the season, at the hands of the Raptors. Timberwolves star, Karl-Anthony Towns is out of concussion protocol. As for the latest standings: Eastern Conference is led by Bucks, Raptors, Pacers, 76ers, and Celtics; the Western Conference is led by Warriors, Nuggets, Thunder, Blazers, and Rockets. Former NBA player Mike Bibby is under investigation after sex abuse charges. Warriors DeMarcus Cousins was given a technical foul for tossing opponent’s shoe into the stands. Trail Blazers players got stuck in an elevator for 30 minutes. Former NBA player Kenny Anderson has suffered a stroke.

Tennis:

After the Australian Open, Serena Williams made it back to the WTA top 10 for the first time as a mother. Meanwhile, she just narrated a new Nike “Just Do It” commercial and was a presenter at the Academy Awards. She was also at Princess Meghan Markle’s baby shower in NYC. World No.1 Naomi Osaka, who just won the Australian Open, after winning last year’s US Open (over Serena), has strangely decided to split from her coach Sascha Bajin. Bajin became the first recipient of the WTA Coach of the Year award after helping Osaka in her breakthrough year. 32-year-old Rafael Nadal wants to play at the Davis Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Andy Murray has undergone hip-resurfacing surgery. With Australian Open victory, Novak Djokovic is world No.1. it was his 7th Australian Open title (the most ever by one person) and 15th Grand Slam title.

MMA:

Legend Georges St-Pierre announced his retirement, but still left the door open for a UFC comeback. He had failed to secure a super-fight with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and decided to call it a career. Nurmagomedov is serving a 9-month suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his post-fight brawl following his UFC 229 victory over Conor McGregor in October. Nurmagomedov took to Twitter to try to dissuade St-Pierre from retirement and to offer to fight him in November. St-Pierre (26-2) turns 38 in May and holds the record for most welterweight title defenses in UFC history with 9 and is widely considered one of the greatest competitors in the sport’s history. In UFC 236, Israel Adesanya will fight Kelvin Gastelum for interim middleweight title. In UFC Phoenix, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez made his much heralded return, after a 31-month layoff for back surgery and the birth of his son. He came out strong in front of a rowdy crowd, missed two head kicks and a takedown, and took a short uppercut to the jaw, just as his knee buckled. Ngannou jumped on him and unleashed a series of hammerfists, and the return was over, after just 26 seconds. In Bellator 216, Michael ‘Venom’ Page got a unanimous decision over fellow Brit Paul Daley in a grudge match. Everyone expected a boxing match, but instead, a wrestling match broke out.

Racing:

Last year’s champion, his first, for the NASCAR Cup Series was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead. Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017. NASCAR’s 2019 season just started with Daytona 500 kicking it off, as it does every year. A big crash with 10 laps remaining, knocked out many of the frontrunners. No one was injured in the 18 car pileup, but Denny Hamlin came away with the win. We have also already run in Atlanta. Here is the schedule of races just released for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2019 (they don’t have the sponsors or formal names of all of them yet):

2/17 Daytona 500, won by Denny Hamlin
2/24 Atlanta, QuickTrip 500, won by Brad Keselowski
3/3 Las Vegas
3/10 ISM Raceway
3/17 Auto Club
3/24 Martinsville
3/31 Texas
4/7 Bristol
4/13 Richmond
4/28 Talladega
5/5 Dover
5/11 Kansas
5/18 All-Star Open Charlotte
5/26 Charlotte
6/2 Pocono
6/9 Michigan
6/23 Sonoma
6/30 Chicago
7/6 Daytona
7/13 Kentucky
7/21 New Hampshire
7/28 Pocono
8/4 Watkins Glen
8/11 Michigan
8/17 Bristol
9/1 Darlington
9/8 Indianapolis
9/15 Las Vegas playoff
9/21 Richmond playoff
9/29 Charlotte playoff
10/6 Dover playoff
10/13 Talladega playoff
10/20 Kansas playoff
10/27 Martinsville playoff
11/3 Texas playoff
11/10 ISM Raceway playoff
11/17 Miami-Homestead final playoff

Formula One begins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That is followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule 2/18-2/21 and 2/26-3/1, both in Catalunya, Spain. Here is the 2019 Formula One 21 Race calendar:

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne
3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir
4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000th Grand Prix)
4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku
5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona
5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco
6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal
6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet
6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg
7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone
7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim
8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest
9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa
9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza
9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore
9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi
10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka
10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City
11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX
11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo
12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island

Then, there is the IndyCar Racing circuit and its 2019 calendar (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):

3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
3/24 Circuit of the Americas
4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama
4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach
5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis
5/26 Indianapolis 500
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2
6/8 Texas Grand Prix
6/23 Road America
7/14 Honda Indy Toronto
7/20 Iowa 300
7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
8/18 Pocono Grand Prix
8/24 Gateway Grand Prix
9/1 Grand Prix of Portland
9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca

Travel News:

Dozens of people were killed in a fire at a Cairo train station triggered by a fuel take explosion on a speeding train. Travel has been a disaster in the US this week, due to storms that have impacted some 125 million Americans and caused thousands of flights to be cancelled. Grand Canyon National Park is turning 100-years-old. An Amtrak train was stranded in Oregon for 36 hours with all 183 people on board. A rare “ice tsunami” hit the coast of Lake Erie. There is a new service that lets you ship home items TSA won’t let you bring on your flight. The State Department has issued an update Bahamas travel advisory. Flights into Dallas were halted after reports of smoke at an FAA facility. TripAdvisor has named the world’s best beaches for 2019. Gale force winds in the northeast stranded a cruise ship off of NYC. An airline has sued a man who threw coins into a plane engine for good luck. One British man from a family of travelers was dubbed an “unruly tourist” and fled New Zealand using someone else’s passport. There is a warrant out for his arrest for fraud, assault with a weapon and reckless driving. Southwest flight cancellations continue amid escalating maintenance problems and computer outage. A Venetian resort town will become Italy’s first smoke-free beach. NTSB and other authorities continue to search for the black boxes from the B-767 cargo plane that plummeted into 4-feet of water off the Texas coast. A Japanese airport’s staff dressed up as ninjas for International Ninja Day. The Hollywood Walk of Fame has been named the worst tourist attraction in America. Some people have found cameras imbedded in their seatback TVs on some airplanes. Singapore Airlines is denying the allegations. The FAA has given the green light to Snohomish County Airport in Everett, WA to launch passenger flights in March. A drone sighting halted flights at Ireland’s Dublin Airport. China is closing Tibet to foreign visitors for 2 months. Yosemite’s Firefall was the brightest in recent years. The US just got a new National Park, Indiana Dunes National Park, right next to where my Dad was from. Ocean microphones may have recorded the lost Malaysian Flight 370 thousands of miles from the search locations, according to new research on the 2014 crash. In New York, two LIRR trains hit a car which ran the down gates, killing all 3 people, derailing the second car, and causing a fire. 7 of the over 900 people on both trains had to be hospitalized. It’s amazing that people still try to gate-crash railroad crossings. It’s a very frequent occurrence here in Florida.

Health News:

It appears that parents who were led to believe that vaccinations could cause all sorts of future problems for children, have allowed the mumps, which was eradicated years ago, to become a problem again in 11 states, per the have CDC. Scientists have now synthesized hachimoji DNA using four new nucleobases in addition to the four in natural DNA. Seasonal allergies are at an all-time high. I am suffering with this long-lasting common cold (the flu shot did not help this year), which has actually taken my voice, but luckily after the IMN Conference and my last gig on Valentine’s Day, and before my next gig 3/9. A recent study in BMJ Gut found that a high-fat diet is linked to unfavorable changes in the communities of bacteria in the gut. According to the CDC, influenza picked up again last week, hitting its second peak of the season, but that this season remains milder than last year. There have been up to 20.4 million reported cases of the flu in 48 states and Puerto Rico. The death toll is now 41. The recent craze about celery juice and the celeryjuicechallenge is part true and part fiction. There is research which says the phytochemicals in celery help to reduce blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and fight against oxidative stress. But, there is no research to substantiate that celery can fight infections and disease. Did you know that grapes that are microwaved spit plasma? A new review study finds that an at-home screening test for colorectal cancer may be just as good an option as a colonoscopy. The FDA is proposing new sunscreen regulations aimed at improving the safety and effectiveness of these products, after numerous studies showed that products’ SPF claims were way off. A woman has died and more than two dozen others are sick after eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain. Bayer said the number of plaintiffs suing over its weedkillers has risen by another 1900 over the last 3 months. Beijing has designed new rules for scientists who are editing human DNA, after a Chinese researcher sparked a global controversy last year, by claiming the birth of the first gene-edited babies. Seven drugmakers, representing $140 billion in US revenues, spent the day defending their pricing of drugs in a Senate hearing.

Animal News:

A rare black leopard was spotted (no pun intended) in Kenya, the first one in about 100 years! Biologists believe that the humpback whale that washed ashore in the Amazon jungle was likely sick. A fat rat was rescued after it got stuck in a manhole cover by German firefighters. For the past 150 years, scientists have been puzzled by a 480-million-year-old mystery creature, but have finally identified it from its preserved guts. The stunningly detailed fossils in Morocco were identified as stylophorans, types of echinoderms which were the ancient relatives of modern animals such as sea urchins, starfish, brittle stars, sea lilies, feather stars, and sea cucumbers. A tiny Cretaceous Period mammal, a kind of ‘night mouse’ lived among the northernmost dinosaurs on Earth, above the Arctic Circle. Paleontologists have discovered a new 69 million-year-old mammal species in the North Slope of Alaska too. Paleontologists believe that the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex began as a cute, deer-size dinosaur. The world’s biggest bee species had been feared extinct since it was last seen in 1981, but has been found again. The Wallace Giant Bee, an Indonesian species with a 2.5-inch wingspan and enormous mandibles was spotted in January and captured in February in North Maluku. A giant, unfinished ram-headed sphinx has been found in a quarry site near the Nile and is believed to have been abandoned by King Tut’s grandfather. Speaking of King Tut, I watched a show regarding the current forensic testing being done on the entire collection of artifacts, some 5,000 items, found in his tomb. Despite many world tours of the most famous Pharaoh, the public has only seen about 1/3rd of all the pieces found.

Entertainment News:

Billy Joel will be performing 12 times in the US in 2019. I thought he was retired? At the Super Bowl, Gladys Knight silenced all of her critics for her doing the National Anthem and not supporting Colin Kaepernick, by performing one of the best renditions of all time. And she was Pip-less. German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, best known for his work at Chanel, died at the age of 85. Last night, the Oscars (or Academy Awards) were held in Los Angeles, without a host. They actually went pretty smoothly. Best dressed was probably Jordin Sparks, who wore an amazing dress for her performance. Winner of Best Picture was GREEN BOOK. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY won in 4 categories. Spike Lee won his first Oscar. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga won the Oscar for best song from A STAR IS BORN and performed the song live, sparking rumors of an off-screen romance. The rumors were fanned by the recent announcement that Lady GaGa had called off her engagement to Taylor Kinney. Cooper’s girlfriend Irina Shayk unfollowed Lady Gaga on social media right before the Oscars. Bradley Cooper ex-wife, Jennifer Esposito, is slamming the “psychotic” controversy over her Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa “Ha” remark. Selma Blair stole the off-camera show, by standing (with cane) for cameras, for the first time since announcing in November that she has multiple sclerosis. Chip and Joanna Gaines, fresh off their reality fixer-upper show, are opening a coffee shop. Orlando Bloom proposed to Katy Perry in a helicopter. Pixar director John Lassiter, who was accused of dozens of accounts of inappropriate behavior towards women on his films, has been called about by two-time Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, who publicly walked off the film saying she would not work with such a man. Lindsay Lohan, Salma Hayek, and other celebrities sat in the front row at Saint Laurent Paris Fashion Week show. The Kardashians are “upset” Jordyn Woods is doing Red Table Talk interview, violating their NDA. DJ Khaled has chosen to host the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Zachary Quinto and Miles McMillan have “amicably” split after 6 years together. Well, if you thought Tyler Perry’s new movie about Madea at a funeral would be his last Madea play tour and movie, that’s not precisely correct. He will play a younger Madea in future projects, sort of prequels. John Legend is not done at being one of only 16 people to achieve EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) status, but says he also wants the title of “Sexiest Man Alive” to have an EGOTSMA. I watched The Voice last night, and for the first time, they let a family trio act through, who will be coached by Kelly Clarkson. Comedian Pete Davidson confronted a heckler during a live show and threatened to walk off stage. Netflix UK is being blasted by fans for altering the ending of a tearjerker movie. Some songs by Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande have dubbed “pornographic” and banned in Indonesia. Michael Jackson’s NEVERLAND Ranch has been re-listed for $31 million, 70% off the original asking price. Wrapper R Kelly was released on bond, after being arrested on three charges of sexual assault. Megyn Kelly is looking at an October return to TV to cover the 2020 Presidential race, after receiving a huge $30 million payout from NBC. Nicki Minaj denies that she “stole” Tracy Chapman’s 1988 hit “Baby Can I Hold You”, as the latter singer sues her for copyright infringement. Shares of Oprah Winfrey’s backed Weight Watchers dropped 32% after profit warning and the CEO says they may need to rebrand.

The 50th Anniversary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced its lineup for 2019. It begins on 4/25-28 and ends on 5/2-5/5. It’s a SICK list of entertainers:
• The Rolling Stones
• Dave Matthews Band
• Katy Perry
• Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band
• Chris Stapleton
• Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
• Pitbull
• Van Morrison
• Al Green
• Logic
• Earth, Wind & Fire
• J Balvin
• Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Nevilles
• Glady Knight
• The Revivalists
• Leon Bridges
• John Fogerty
• Chaka Khan
• Herbie Hancock
• Tank and the Bangas
• Tom Jones
• Bonnie Raitt
• Ciara
• Alanis Morissette
• Irma Thomas
• Gary Clark Jr.
• The O’Jays
• The Head and the Heart
• The Doobie Brothers
• Jimmy Cliff
• Ziggy Marley
• Aaron Neville
• Boz Scaggs
• Galctic
• Jerry Lee Lewis
• Indigo Girls
• Rebirth Brass Band
• Mavis Staples
• Los Lobos
• Ellis Marsalis Family with Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason with Ellis
• Big Freedia
• Kamasi Washington
• Rita Coolidge
• Buddy Guy
• Preservation Hall Jazz Band
• Better Than Ezra
• Taj Mahal & the Phantom Blues Band
• Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk
• Maze
• Ani DiFranco
• The Radiators
• Hurray for the Riff Raff
• Jonathan Butler and Gerald Albright
• Shirley Caesar
• Little Feat
• Gregory Porter
• Anders Osborne
• North Mississippi Allstars
• Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
• The Mavericks
• The Robert Cray Band
• The Subdudes
• Samantha Fish
• Jupiter & Okwess of Congo
• Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers
• Big Sam’s Funky Nation
• Sweet Crude
• Naturally 7
• The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
• The Rance Allen Band
• Boyfriend
• Regina Carter’s Southern Comfort
• Terrence Blanchard
• The Bahamas Revue Band
• Cecile McLorin Salvant
• Marc Broussard
• And about 60 others

2018 was a record year at the domestic box office. Ticket sales were almost $11.9 billion, of which Disney pulled in a record $3.092 billion with BLACK PANTHER ($700mm), AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ($678.8mm), and INCREDIBLES 2($608.6mm). JURASSIC WORLD 2 pulled in $417.7mm and AQUAMAN pulled in $320mm.

This past week’s box-office was stronger than expected. HOS TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3 debuted with an impressive $55.5 million to capture No.1 (it was the largest debut of 2019, surpassing GLASS by $15 million); ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL fell to No.2 with $12.3 million in its second week; THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART came in at No.3, with $9.7 million (total now of $83.3 million), in its 3rd week; FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY stayed at No.4, with $7.8 million in its 2nd week; ISN’T IT ROMANTIC fell from No.3 to No.5, with $7.1 million in its 2nd week. The only other notable debuts were RUN THE RACE at No.10 and TOTAL DHAMAAL at No.14. if you are wondering what the top total grossing films are so far in 2019, they are:

1. AQUAMAN $332.9 million
2. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY $213.1 million
3. A STAR IS BORN $210.8 million
4. RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET $199.9 million
5. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE $184.9 million
Thank goodness I finally bought No.2 and No.3, as I missed them at the box-office and they were extraordinarily good.

The number of movies coming out this week is very low, with: GRETA, TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL, APOLLO 11, CLIMAX, FURIE, MAPPLETHORPE, SAINT JUDY, STYX, TRANSIT, and THE WEDDING GUEST.

Technology & Space News:

Virgin Galactic just took its first test passenger into space. Russia will fly two space tourists to the ISS in late 2021. A 12-year-old kid in Tennessee built a nuclear fusion reactor in his family’s playroom. Japan just shot a fake asteroid with a space bullet, in the name of science. China has built the world’s first robotic, partially submersible boat for launching sounding rockets that will help meteorologists understand the atmosphere over Earth’s oceans. A new device has been built, portable enough for use in space, which produces a beam of laser light that changes less over time than any other laser built by humans thus far. The tech industry has shifted focus to Toronto, which is luring some of the best people. British chipmaker, ARM Holdings is warning the delay in 5G in Europe would hurt countries’ GDP, as the debate over Chinese supplier Huawei continues.

US News:

The erroneous missile alert about a nuclear attack sent to Hawaii residents and the ensuing confusion and hysteria revealed that Americans are not prepared for what to do in a nuclear attack. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who is being grilled by Congress today, has been disbarred in New York. A body found stuffed in a suitcase in San Francisco Bay was hanged and drugged, according to police. A father and daughter were fined for stealing a $12.5 million Lotto ticket. A new bill in Florida would strip the school sheriff’s deputy in Parkland of his retirement benefits. The House climate-change hearing had to adjourn because not enough Democrats showed up. The new “tax cuts” are surprising some taxpayers and actually raising payments for 11 million of them. Forbes’ list of billionaires showed a $1 trillion loss from the 2018 stock market correction. Los Angeles just had the coldest February in 60 years. Meanwhile, the Sierra Mountains may get a record total of 10 feet of snow, due to this new atmospheric river. A mysterious ‘pillar of light’ was spotted over Pittsburgh. Prosecutors are seeking a long prison term for the Vatican’s former chief of finance, Cardinal George Pell, who was convicted of sexually abusing two choir boys. In a historic Mayoral race, Chicago will have a black woman mayor, as the two frontrunners of a record 14 candidates face off in April.

“Michael Cohen to Say Trump Learned of WikiLeaks Plans Early, Committed Crimes While in Office: Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, plans on Wednesday for the first time to publicly accuse the president of engaging—while in office—in criminal conduct related to a hush-money payment to a porn star, according to the opening statement he will deliver before Congress.” Wall Street Journal

International News:

A fire in the historic district of Dhaka, Bangladesh, killed at least 80 people. A suicide bombing near Pulwanna, in Indian-administered Kashmir, killed 40 security personnel. The Battle of Baghuz Fawquani, part of the Syrian Civil War, continues to rage since February 9th, along the eastern banks of the Middle Euphrates River Valley. The battle marks the last stand of ISIS in eastern Syria as the Syrian Democratic Forces, assisted by American-led Coalition airstrikes, artillery and military advisers, began their thrust into the last enclave. Protests continue in Sudan, raging since December 19th, when the National Congress Party headquarters in Atbara was burned down. Public discontent is fueling calls for President Omar al-Bashir to step down. Protesters have been fired on with tear gas and live ammunition. The whole thing started when the Sudanese government started austerity measure as part of its efforts to apply economic reform as recommended by the IMF. Venezuela continues to have a crisis as to who is the legitimate President. On January 10th, the opposition-majority National Assembly declared that the incumbent Maduro’s 2018 reelection was invalid and that its president, Guaido was acting president. Mass demonstrations occurred after the pro-Maduro Supreme Tribunal of Justice said the National Assembly’s declaration was unconstitutional. Maduro’s government claims the crisis is really a coup d’etat led by the United States to topple him and control the country’s oil reserves. The second summit between North Korea’s Kim Jung Un and President Trump has begun in Vietnam. President Trump flew by plane to the summit, while the North Korean leader took an armored train through China to the summit. Pakistan military reports shooting down two Indian warplanes over Kashmir. Iran’s president is blocking his FM’s resignation. Nigerian president won a second term, after a contentious vote.

Florida:

If you are interested in seeing more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances (or Spring Training National Anthems), there are many coming to Florida, perhaps when you will be visiting (I’ve added some concerts since the last Repo Commentary):

The Temptations-Fort Lauderdale, January 31
Don McLean-Immokalee, January 31
Michael Bolton-Fort Lauderdale, February 2
The Four Tops and the Temptations-West Palm Beach, February 2
Melissa Manchester-Aventura, February 8
Michael Bolton-West Palm Beach, February 8
The Commodores-Miami, February 9
Patti LaBelle-Fort Myers, February 11
Duran Duran-Miami Beach, February 12
Franki Valli & the Four Seasons, Hollywood, February 14
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 14
Dave Mason-Fort Lauderdale, February 15
Little River Band-Fort Myers, February 15
Michael Buble-Sunrise, February 16 (I would like to go)
Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, February 18
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes-Bonita Springs, February 20
Art Garfunkel-Fort Lauderdale, February 20
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
Sarah Brightman-Hollywood, February 20
PGA Honda Classic-PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, February 28-March 2
Pink-Sunrise-March 1 (I might have to go)
Sara Mclachlan-March 1, West Palm Beach
Paul Anka-Fort Lauderdale-March 4
Elton John-Sunrise, March 16
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band-Sunrise, March 17
Steve Miller Band-Hollywood, March 17
Palm Beach International Boat Show-West Palm Beach, March 28-March 31
Jackson Browne-West Palm Beach, April 3
The Rolling Stones-Miami, April 20
Ariana Grande-Orlando, May 29
Train & Goo Goo Dolls-West Palm Beach, July 6
Queen & Adam Lambert-Sunrise, August 17

Repo Commentary-02/03/19

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I am honored to have been selected to be the Chairperson of the upcoming 25th (Silver Anniversary) IMN Beneficial Owners’ International Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference 2/5-2/6 in Fort Lauderdale at the Ritz-Carlton, and to add my disruptive touch to make it fresh again. I hope to see all of you readers there, particularly all of the customers, who can attend for FREE. It is less than a week away, so you are running out of time to register and escape the bitter cold weather up north!

The focuses (or foci) will be on women on Wall Street, alternative repo efforts, financial technology, repo reinvestment (not just securities lending), and regulatory reforms (not only the ones approved after the Financial Crisis by the G20, FSB, and FSOC, but also new ones that have emerged in the last year, like SFTR, MiFID II, etc.)

My Repo Commentary is posted on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed.

If you need to reach me, my cell is still 646-753-1300, my email for work is jeffkidwell82@gmail.com, and you can also hit me up on LinkedIn.

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

02/03 Holidays or Events:

• Day of the Virgin of Suyapa (Honduras)
• Four Chaplains Day (US Episcopal Church)
• Communist Party of Vietnam Foundation Anniversary
• Heroes’ Day in Mozambique
• Martyr’s Day (Sao Tome and Principe)
• Setsubun (Japan)
• Veterans’ Day (Thailand)
• Dump Your Significant Jerk Day
• Elmo’s Birthday
• National Cordova Ice Worm Day
• National Patient Recognition Day
• National Carrot Cake Day
• National Missing Persons Day
• National Wedding Ring Day
• National Women Physicians Day
• Take a Cruise Day
• The The Music Died
• Super Chicken Wing Day
• Popcorn Day
• Feed the Birds Day

Some Famous People Born 02/03 in History:

• 1338-Joanna of Bourbon
• 1809-Felix Mendelssohn, German pianist, composer, conductor
• 1857-Giuseppe Moretti, Italian sculptor
• 1859-Hugo Junkers, German engineer who invented the Junkers aircraft used in WWII
• 1874-Gertrude Stein, American novelist, poet, playwright
• 1894-Norman Rockwell, American painter and illustrator
• 1904-Pretty Boy Floyd, American gangster
• 1907-James Michener, American author and philanthropist
• 1914-Mary Carlisle, American actress, singer, and dancer
• 1918-Joey Bishop, American actor and producer
• 1920-Henry Heimlich, American physician and author and inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver
• 1940-Fran Tarkenton, American NFL player
• 1943-Blythe Danner, American actress and mother of Gwyneth Paltrow
• 1945-Bob Griese, American NFL player
• 1949-Jim Thorpe, American golfer
• 1950-Morgan Fairchild, American actress
• 1952-Fred Lynn, American MLB player
• 1956-Nathan Lane, American actor and comedian
• 1965-Maura Tierney, American actress and producer
• 1966-Vlade Divac, Serbian-American NBA player
• 1969-Retief Goosen, South African golfer

Fun Fact of the Day:

The South Pacific (and seismically very active) island of Vanuatu banned the imports of Western junk food, as a way to combat future health problems.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”—Pablo Picasso

International and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at $74.34/barrel on 10/5, $47.66/barrel on 12/23, $48.63 on 01/07, $52.31/barrel on 01/16, and $55.26 on 2/3. The price of gasoline at my new West Palm Beach station moved from $1.86/gallon on 01/07 to $1.97/gallon on 01/16 and now to $2.09. The USD has been taking a beating versus other currencies, due to the budget impasse and current US government shutdown. versus the Yen was trading at $112.20 on 12/24, was $108.60 on 01/07, 109.07 on 01/16, and 103.18 on 02/03. The USD was at $1.1426 versus the Euro on 12/24, but on 01/07 was at $1.1478, and a bit stronger on 01/16 at $1.1396. On 02/03 it is $1.2047, quite a bit weaker again. The USD was at $1.2655 against the British Pound on 12/24, but on 01/07 was at $1.2770, and even weaker on 01/16 at $1.2880. It is even much weaker on 02/03 at $1.3758. The USD versus the CAD was $1.3442 on 12/24, but at $1.3297 on 01/07, and at $1.3255 on 01/16. It is much weaker on 02/03 at $1.2492. Gold closed 10/5 at $1204.10/ounce, 12/24 at $1256.70/ounce, 01/07 at $1288.85/ounce, 01/16 at $1293.50, and 02/03 at $1,322.10, reflecting the continued uncertainty of the markets and flight to gold. Bitcoin was trading at $8,185.21 on 7/25, at $6,350 on 10/5, and $3,774.97 on 12/24. On 01/07 it was at at $3,7774.97. On 01/16, it took some more of a beating, down to $3,598.90. Today, it is down more, to $3,421.10. So, it appears that PM May is now facing a potential historic defeat on Brexit and the EU is telling her that “time is almost up.” EU has expressed horror that UK Parliament defeated the Brexit deal agreed to by May in a new Brexit vote and has refused to renegotiate the deal. Analysts and the EU fear that the likelihood of the UK just ‘tumbling’ out of the EU without a negotiated deal is a higher prospect now. High-level talks between the US and China are reportedly “going well”, but there won’t be a deal until the two leaders meet, according to President Trump. They have to come up with some deal before March 1, when US tariffs on Chinese goods will increase to 25%. Meanwhile, the DOJ has charged the CFO and daughter rof CEO of Hauwe of illegally doing business with Iran, ignoring US sanctions, as well as copyright infringement.

Global Financial News:

Some headlines just write themselves (this to the several journalists who read the Repo Commentary), as “General Electric Says It Sees A Brighter Future For The Company”. A light bulb just blinked ‘on’ over my head. CEO Larry Culp delivered the good news, while delivering the weak Q4 profit news. The company is still in the middle of a $30 billion turnaround plan. In order to raise more cash, the Financial Times says GE will sell its stake in oil company Baker Hughes, as well as selling almost half of its healthcare business. I’m just noting that this turnaround plan has seen a lot of selling off of a lot of other businesses that were very different from the key businesses of the industrial giant, kind of a counterpoint to the answer is to always diversify revenue sources I guess. I saw on Bloomberg yesterday that a good friend of mine and former colleague, Bob Hershy, has just retired after 30 years at Morgan Stanley. I remember the day he started. I’m jealous! Goldman Sachs executives could lose $millions in bonuses over Malaysia scandal.

US Market News:

The Dow Jones closed at 26,656.77 on 9/20, closed at 26,447.05 on 10/5, closed at 21,792.20 on 12/23, closed at 21,712.53 on 12/26, closed at 24,207.16 on 01/16, and closed Friday at 25,063.89, still roaring back. S&P 500 also gave up its all-time high on 9/20 of 2,930.66, closing on 10/5 at 2,885.58, then on 12/26 at 2,467.70, then on 1/7 at 2,549.69 close, then on 01/16 at 2,616.10. It closed Friday at 2,706.53. Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28 high of 8,030.04, closing 10/5 at 7,788.45, then 12/26 at 6,554.36, then 01/07 at 6,823.47, then 01/16 at 7,034.70. It closed Friday at 7,263.87.

US Treasury yields had gotten much higher on 9/20, in advance of the 9/26 FOMC meeting, rose still higher after the meeting and then plummeted with the drop in Equities, and have continued to drop and even invert since. On 10/5, 2years closed at 2.88%, closed 12/18 at 2.65%, closed 01/07 at 2.53%, closed 01/16 at 2.55%, and Friday at 2.52%; on 10/5, 3years closed at 2.99%, closed on 12/18 at 2.64%, closed 01/07 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years), closed 01/16 at 2.53%, still inverted, and closed Friday at 2.50%, still inverted; on 10/5, 5years closed at 3.07%, closed on 12/18 at 2.65%, closed 01/07 at 2.49%, closed 01/16 at 2.54%, and closed Friday at 2.51%; on 10/5, 7years closed at 3.18%, closed at 2.74% on 12/18, closed on 01/07 at 2.60%, closed 01/16 at 2.62%, and closed Friday at 2.59%; on 10/5, 10years closed at 3.23%, closed at 2.82% on 12/18, closed on 01/07 at 2.70%, closed 01/16 at 2.73%, and closed Friday at 2.70%; and on 10/5, 30years closed at 3.40%, closed at 3.07% on 12/18, closed at 2.99% on 01/07, closed at 3.07% on 01/16, and closed Friday at 3.03%.

Housing News:

US Home Sales plummeted in December by almost 11% and the annual price growth rate showed the smallest increase in 6 years, according to data from Redfin. Inventories are starting to increase and buyers are taking more time and clearly now have the upper hand. One possible silver lining which could help going forward, is that 30-year mortgage rates peaked in November at 4.94%, up a full percentage point since the beginning of 2018, but have since fallen to 4.45%. Perhaps, with lower mortgage rates, affordability will increase and lead to higher demand. The most expensive home in US history, called a “billionaire’s bunker”, has just been purchased for $238 million, in NYC. The four-story condo was purchased by a hedge fund manager, Ken Griffin, on Central Park South. He also owns a $58.75 million condo in Chicago, a $60 million penthouse at Faena House in Miami, $250 million worth of land in Palm Beach, and a $122 million mansion in London. His neighbors to the massive 24,000-square-foot apartment, in the same building, will be Sting and Trudie Styler. If you are in the market to buy a new home, experts at Realtor.com say you should watch for 7 red flags in a neighborhood:

1. Too many houses are on the market on the same street.
2. The schools are enrolling fewer students.
3. The area is leaning towards industrial.
4. There are many empty storefronts.
5. The houses are all identical, even down to the decorative details.
6. There’s no parking.
7. The surrounding homes are not well-maintained.

Repo News:  

A little more about year-end 2018. I didn’t bring it up this time. It turns out that the Financial Times did a piece today on the implications of the year-end funding squeeze of 2018, and I am honored that they used my Repo Commentary quotes to kick off a very deep discussion about regulatory impact and alternative repo impact on GSIBs’ opportunistic use of excess liquidity. The author does a great job of describing how GSIBs now can become proxy central banks in these moments, mostly because of the regulations forced on them (an intended or unintended consequence of regulators) and dole out cash as they see fit (not necessarily at IOER or at Fed target rates) when rates get high enough to make it profitable. I had been addressing liquidity, instigated by Steve Malekian’s article on how banks were now doling out liquidity to ‘platinum’ customers. So, even though liquidity was greater, the mechanism had changed for who gets the liquidity. The FT author, Izabella Kaminska (she’s also quite a good writer), addressed the limits on liquidity from the banks’ perspective. The FT article is worth a read “Don’t fear the year-end funding squeeze” at https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2019/01/29/1548762302000/Don-t-fear-the-year-end-funding-squeeze/

I’ve been writing that it has been a sign that liquidity is not necessarily as great or as ‘normal’ as it was reported to be, and that both cash providers and collateral providers found themselves having a difficult time getting their jobs done on year-end. You would think only one side would have a problem, usually the collateral provider, which is why rates spiked to 6.125%. Year-end Turn was quoted a week before as 12/31-1/2 at 3.10%/3.00%. It was higher than GC was trading on 12/24 at 2.60%, but not ridiculously higher. We hadn’t seen a major year-end spike since the Financial Crisis of 2008. Broker/dealers had plenty of cash around to finance themselves and to finance collateral providers, it seemed. But, when this year-end arrived, that cash quickly evaporated and rates shot up. In the old days, and remember I’ve been doing this since 1982 when we had year-ends of 20.00% rates, rates spiked on year-end, because broker/dealers wanted to “dress up their balance sheets” for their annual financials and for regulators. Now, with pressure from new Basel III and GSIB regulations, “window dressing” may be more important, basically the reduction of balance sheet and trading book for a ‘snapshot’, to prove that they can operate with less capital and to boost returns to shareholders.

It was an unusual year-end, because while some collateral providers found cash from some broker/dealers, who were opportunistically doling it out, rates stayed high because others were unable to find cash. Also, SOFR rate stayed low, as did the offering rates of collateral to cash providers from banks, pushing some of the Money Funds to take collateral from the previously almost dormant Fed’s RRP program, at even lower rates. Rates were volatile and disjointed, partly because of the monopoly on liquidity by a few GSIB banks and partly because of the increase in alternative repo mechanisms (Direct Repo, CCPs, sponsored repo, peer-to-peer repo, etc.). There are a lot of dynamics in play and it will be interesting to see how they work themselves out. I am still curious to see how SOFR can be tweaked to better represent actual overnight repo rates and not just overnight triparty repo rates from a few dealers.

I’m hearing from several sources that the sponsored repo program at FICC, Direct Repo at AVM, Elixium electronic platform, GLMX electronic platform, Wematch.com, HQLX, EUREX CCP, peer-to-peer OTC financing, and BONY’s DBVX are all making headway and volumes are up, although still below 5% of the overall European and US repo markets. I don’t think these alternative repo platforms are going away, as I think this will become a permanent part of the landscape, although there may be some further consolidation and also some new entrants, with whom I am speaking. Of course, you know that this has been my main thrust since 2008, and I hope to return to the market in some fashion soon to see it through.

Let’s look forward in the regulatory crystal ball for 2019. So, after the Financial Crisis, and over 350 financial regulations initiated by Dodd-Frank, FSOC, FSB, G20, and other regulators, it seemed that things had cooled down on the regulatory front. But, things are heating up again. We just experienced the implementation of MiFID II and we have SFTR ahead of us to implement. SFTR, if you don’t know, is the FSB’s attempt again to address the elusive Shadow Banking, among other things. Most of the other regulatory initiatives now on the table to implement are related to Basel III and the completion of three major European projects: the Banking Union, the Capital Markets Union, and the Digital Single Market. We are also still addressing LIBOR replacement (particularly in the US with the development of SOFR) and reform of Euribor and Eonia reference indices. Of course, there is always fintech stuff to deal with and to regulate and, lest we forget, there is the mess of Brexit. Financial regulation in 2008-2012 had a very unified global approach. But, that seems to have declined since, and jurisdictional differences are rearing up and making implementation more complicated. While the Banking Package in Europe has come along way regarding what are prudential measures and how to share risks in the banking industry for recovery and resolution, including backstop plans by the ECB and the EC, there has been little progress made on the Banking Union, except to establish a Single Resolution Fund through the ESM, but no agreement on the EDIS. Likewise, the Capital Markets Union effort has seen only small progress. Lastly, while the industry in 2018 saw consolidation of the digitalization of the financial sector, there has been no concrete regulatory framework negotiated to deal with the growing change. Plus, we still have that EU Reform deadline coming up 3/31, as iMoneyNet reminds me.

Securities Lending Times reports that my old buddy, David Raccat, will oversee the entire Wematch offering for EMEA. They also just reported a shuffling today for EquiLend, in which newly hired Paul Lynch, formerly of eSeclending, has been appointed global head of products. Global Investor Group announced that Pirum has added US triparty repo connectivity. Also, LSE has taken a stake in Euroclear. I see that the former international head of securities lending, Sunil Daswani, has taken a position at TRAX, which is part of MarketAxess, which just moved into its new headquarters at 55 Hudson Yards.

I still see the Repo and Securities Lending market as having changed in many permanent ways. We traditionally had a credit intermediator, the broker/dealers (originally just the primary broker/dealers) and later prime brokers, who were the pipeline through their respective repo matched books for collateral providers to trade with cash providers, without the two sides ever knowing about each other or facing each other. That lack of knowledge of the other side of the repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis and the impact on some of the dealers that then cost their clients. Not knowing who the other clients were and who could bring down the intermediary dealers was costly for many clients. Clearly, with that pipeline of intermediation becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be found for cash provider and collateral provider clients. AVM’s Direct Repo™ was the first of one of such pathways. Since then, other pathways to these markets have been created, including: the Federal Reserve’s RRP program with cash providers, peer-to-peer financing as reported on Treasury OFR’s website between MMFs and Insurance Companies, As Agent repo through seclending agents and now some prime brokers, direct lending from beneficial owner to hedge funds who are short, indemnified As Agent repo, buyside to buyside Triparty Repo through two international clearing organizations of their custodial clients, electronic all-to-all repo on a few electronic trading platforms like Elixium, GLMX, Tradeweb, and BNY DBVX, FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products to entice certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, and other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (several still being worked on, particularly in Europe, like Eurex, LCH, OCC, etc.). I believe this evolution will continue and eventually we will see all of these pathways used, including the traditional pathway (to probably a lesser than historical degree) through the broker/dealers and prime brokers. Some of that balance sheet has returned, as I mentioned above, but may be for only select ‘platinum’ clients and may come at a higher bid/offer spread or in specific, more profitable products/securities.

Upcoming Repo Industry Conferences:
 

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream is holding its annual conference this week in Luxembourg, which I attended last year.
• IMN 25th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/5-2/6. I have been chosen as the Chairperson.
• Finadium will hold a new conference on the Business of Collateral Trading in Frankfurt, Germany on 2/21.
• IMN will hold its annual Fixed Income Investor Network in Las Vegas on 2/24.
• iMoneyNet will hold its annual MMExpo in Middleburg, VA 3/4-3/6.
• PASLA/RMA will hold its 16th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Sydney, Australia 3/5-3/7.
• GIOA will hold its 15th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/20-3/22.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/2-5/3.
• Securities Lending Times will hold its annual Securities Finance Technology Symposium in London on 5/9.
• IMN will hold its annual Global ABS conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/11-6/13.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Philadelphia, PA on 6/18-6/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/17-9/19.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 9/22-9/24.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe in London on 9/24.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Naples, FL on 10/6-10/9.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its Fixed Income Leaders conference in Barcelona on 10/7-10/9.
• RMA will hold its 37th annual Repo & Securities Lending Conference in Boca Raton, FL in October.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its annual conference in Boston, MA on 10/20-10/23.
• Risk.net will hold its 25th annual Risk USA conference in NYC in November.
• SIFMA will hold its annual Meeting in Washington, DC on 11/18-11/20.

Federal Reserve News:

Fed Funds, which trade mostly between some banks and GSEs, opened today at 2.40%, 10bp below the top of the target range.

The next FOMC meetings are: yesterday, 3/20/19, 5/1/19, 6/19/19, 7/31/19, 9/18/19, 10/30/19, 12/11/19, 1/29/20 (reflecting the Fed’s just announced tentative schedule for 2019).

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (16 banks, 14 GSEs, 101 money market funds from various fund families), is now set at the rate of 1.75%. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. Remember when RRP was trading at year-end for $465 billion? Well, on 5/15, there was only $20 million in bids submitted. MMF cash and GSE cash has moved out of the Fed’s RRP and into the Repo market, but it hasn’t really brought down the GC repo rate, which is strange.

If you are wondering about RRP, it is nearly extinct. In July, excluding month-end, volume averaged only $2.8 billion per day. It has just become a mechanism for the Fed to supply collateral when its scarce for money market funds on month-ends and quarter-ends, as dealer balance sheets dry up at those times.

But, at year-end, due to liquidity dislocation, particularly for cash providers, the Fed’s RRP program was tapped for $31 billion, coming back to life, if only temporarily.

According to FOMC members, the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise the benchmark Fed Funds rate to 2.50% at the December FOMC meeting, 3.00% in 2019, and 3.50% in 2020. If you are keeping score, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds target rate on these dates so far:

12/15/15 to 0.50%
12/14/16 to 0.75%
3/5/17 to 1.00%
6/14/17 to 1.25%
12/13/17 to 1.50%
3/21/18 to 1.75%
6/13/18 to 2.00%
9/26/18 to 2.25%
12/13/18 to 2.50%

Quantitative Easing was ‘tapered off’ in 2013. The Fed still had $4 trillion of debt in 2017 on its books from that QE. In October 2017, it began allowing those holdings to gradually decline. For fun, the Fed Funds target rate was 5.25% before the Fed cut of 9/18/2007.

The FOMC met 1/30/19. They kept the Fed Funds target rate at 2.25-2.50%, as expected. They also released a statement and held a press conference that clearly show a pivot towards a more dovish stance, which appears to be all about supporting the stock market.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

The USGS updated its 2005 rankings of the 161 volcanoes that pose the most threat to American lives. Since 2005, that total number has dropped by 8. The 18 very highest threat volcanoes are in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. 39 other volcanoes are high threat, 49 are moderate, 34 are low, and 21 are very low threat. The United States is one of Earth’s most volcanically active countries. Since 1980, there have been 120 eruptions and 52 episodes of notable volcanic threat at 44 US volcanoes. Using 24 factors to determine the threat to people and evaluate the US volcanoes, the USGS came up with the entire list. Here are the 18 very highest threat volcanoes:
• Akutan Island-Alaska
• Augustine Volcano-Alaska
• Makushin-Alaska
• Redoubt Volcano-Alaska
• Mount Spur-Alaska
• Mount Baker-Washington
• Glacier Peak-Washington
• Mount Ranier-Washington
• Mount St. Helens-Washington
• Crater Lake-Oregon
• Mount Hood-Oregon
• Newberry Volcano-Oregon
• Three Sisters Volcano-Oregon
• Lassen volcanic center-California
• Long Valley Caldera-California
• Mount Shasta-California
• Kilauea-Hawaii
• Mauna Loa-Hawaii

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began Friday, June 1st and ended November 30th. For 2018, Colorado State University experts had predicted that this season would be a busy, above average hurricane season. They had predicted 14 named Tropical Storms, of which 7 would become Hurricanes. Both are above the averages of 12 and 6, respectively. There were 15 named Tropical Storms, of which 8 were hurricanes, and 2 of them major. In 2017, they were way off the wrong way as well, with way more storms. They had predicted 11 Tropical Storms, of which 4 would be Hurricanes. Instead, we had 17 Tropical Storms and had 10 Hurricanes. Here were the 2018 Storm names:

Alberto done
Beryl done
Chris done
Debby done
Ernesto done
Florence done
Gordon done
Helene done
Isaac done
Joyce done
Kirk done
Leslie done
Michael done
Nadine done
Oscar done
Patty
Rafael
Sara
Tony
Valerie
William

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/18 and ended 11/1/18. Okay, that’s the last Repo Commentary with the hurricane data, because even I get tired of seeing it.

As for the weather, we have a major, deadly polar vortex swooping down from Canada and bringing temperatures in the majority of the country down to record lows, below freezing, with windchills that could cause frostbite in 3-10 minutes, depending on where you live. I am looking at a live camera view of the Chicago River, which is completely frozen over and the temperatures is -16 degrees with a windchill of -40 degrees! Along with the arctic bitter cold, snow arrived to many parts of the Midwest, MidAtlantic, and Northeast too. Many roads are icy throughout the country, causing very dangerous travel conditions and closing many businesses, schools and offices. 15 different major cities suspended delivery by United Postal Service workers, something that almost never happens (through rain, sleet, snow, etc.). Many colleges in the Midwest have cancelled classes because of the danger of frostbite for students. Airports have massive delays and cancellations. Even Florida has been unusually cold, down in the 40s at night and 50s and 60s during the day. Yet, the temperature differential between South Florida and Minnesota hit 123 degrees yesterday morning, as it was -58 degrees in Minnesota and 65 degrees in Florida. The National Weather Service issued a Warning for Life-Threatening Wind Chills to continue across the North and Central US. Temperatures are averaging 20-45 degrees below average over the Upper Midwest and into the Ohio Valley. Wind chill values are 25-55 degrees below zero in portions of the Upper Midwest and Ohio Valley. Lake effect snow will be very heavy east of the Great Lakes. In California, major rain is moving in on Thursday morning from the coast and will head to parts of the Southwest by Friday. According to NOAA, as of 1/31/19, Lake Michigan was 40% frozen over. Saturday morning, in Chicago, Lake Michigan had a fog over it, which meteorologists call ‘ice smoke’. As of this morning, 2/1/19, 21 people have died because of the Polar Vortex in the US, which has affected 120 million people, cancelled or delayed over 6,000 flights, burst pipes in Chicago O’Hare Airport, and brought record low temperatures to over 100 cities. It has warmed up slightly on Friday and is expected to continue to warm up on Saturday and Sunday. In fact, the warmup itself may be a record temperature SWING, as much as 100 degrees warmer in Chicago (from -58 degrees to +42 degrees) and New York possibly hitting as high as 60 degrees OVER zero by Monday or Tuesday. Florida is continuing to get warmer as well, moving from 40s and 50s to now 70s, but is still plagued by frequent waves of thunderstorms. You’ll see in the picture gallery that this morning’s temperature (without windchill was -13 degrees in Detroit, exactly the same temperature as in Antarctica. Now, I am not wading into the long-standing debate about Global Warming, but the President and others have said that the Polar Vortex proves that Global Warming isn’t as bad as conservationists claim, while conservationists claim that Global Warming is precisely why the Polar Vortex weakened and travelled South instead of staying put in Canada. I have no idea.

Okay, now on to REAL weather, Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, on 2/2 did NOT see his shadow. That is supposed to mean that we are in for an early Spring (as opposed to six more weeks of wintry weather). This is only the 19th time, out of 123 times in recorded history, that Phil hasn’t been able to find his shadow. There were 10 years where no records were found though. Typically, the rodent is wrong, and after this week’s Polar Vortex, most meteorologists are ignoring him. Meanwhile, it pains me to report this, because I’ve not been a huge fan of this guy since he purports himself to be a national meteorologist, but is technically merely a weather reporter with a journalism degree, Al Roker of NBC is tangling with a Governor over whether windchilll and cold temperatures should necessitate closing schools. I have to agree with Al that this Governor has no idea what he is talking about and when windchills get to the point of frostbite in minutes for children, that someone should be in charge and closing those schools. He should have had enough sense to do it without being lectured by a non-meteorologist like me, or Al.

Sports News:

MLB:

The MLB regular season ended in November with the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, fear not baseball fans, as the MLB has announced the earliest Opening Day ever for 2019, with all 30 teams playing on 3/28/19. They are not counting the first game of the season, between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, that will occur in Tokyo on March 20-21. The World Series Champion Boston Red Sox will play the Yankees in London, for the first-ever MLB games in Europe, on 6/29-6/30. Spring Training will begin 2/21 with the first game between the Mariners and the A’s in the Cactus League. The Grapefruit League kicks off 2/22 with a game between the Rays and the Phillies.

Several of you have asked and, yes, I am once again auditioning to sing the National Anthem for Spring Training, this Saturday 2/2, for Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach (Nationals and Astros) and Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter (Cardinals and Marlins). I have now sung for 133 MLB games (National Anthem and/or “God Bless America”), during WBC, Spring Trainings, Major League seasons, and Minor League seasons. I am also going to once again send my mp3 and resume out to MLB teams for regular season games, although I am reducing the number I send from 30 to 9 now (Red Sox, Marlins, Nationals, Reds, Indians, Mets, Orioles, Pirates, and Cubs).

Many people are wondering whether Oklahoma QB and Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray, will choose MLB or NFL, after the A’s chose him with the No.9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and gave him a signing bonus of almost $5 million. Well, he has now declared for the NFL Draft. I think he’s making a big mistake, as baseball players tend to have longer careers and less concussions. The top 5 remaining free agents who aren’t Bryce Harper or Manny Machado are reportedly: Gio Gonzalez, Marwin Gonzalez, Mike Moustakas, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel. Dodgers’ Joc Pederson reportedly has “a number of teams” wanting to deal for him. He was compared by Don Mattingly and others to baseball greats and has had moments of briliiance, even record moments like in the postseason. Yet, he has been inconsistent and just signed a one-year deal for $5 million with the Dodgers to avoid arbitration. The Dodgers just signed A. J. Pollock, another center fielder, in free agency. I don’t think I remember a team since 1964 that has had more center fielders in the last decade than the Dodgers. Speaking of the Dodgers, but this time the Brooklyn Dodgers, superstar, Jackie Robinson’s, 100th birthday just passed. Red Sox No.2 starter David Price has changed his jersey number from No.24 to No.10 this season, fueling rumors that the Red Sox are going to finally retire Dwight Evans’ No.24. Five teams are still in the running for Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto, one of the last good assets to be sold off. I can’t tell you how angry Marlins fans are at new management, after Loria fleeced the city of Miami for $600 million in taxes when he sold the team and then Jeter and the other owners traded away all of the best players, like Giancarlo Stanton. I know it’s a business, but Florida, aside from the Dolphins, doesn’t really have native fans. Everyone moved here from somewhere North and keeps routing for those teams of childhood (like I do). The Rockies signed Nolan Arenado to a record $26 million deal in arbitration. Astros sign starter Wade Miley to a 1year deal. The Padres and Bryce Harper have reportedly set a meeting. The Padres are also in the mix for Manny Machado and Mike Moustakas. HOFer Frank Robinson is reportedly in “failing” health. Unsigned free agent, 40-year-old Peter Moylan, is ripping Red Sox minor-league deal for formerly banned rhp Jenrry Mejia of the Mets. “How’s my offseason going? This guy had a lifetime ban and still signed before me!!!” Moylan wrote. Blue Jays signed SS Freddy Galvis to a one-year deal. The Rangers agreed to one year contract with A’s rival pitcher Shawn Kelley.

The MLB announced the class of the six 2019 inductees into the Hall of Fame and they are: Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez (finally), Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, and Lee Smith. The ceremony will be on 7/21 in Cooperstown, NY. Baines and Smith were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game Era Committee. Baines, an ESPN analyst, will go in as a White Sox, Halladay will go in without a logo, Martinez will go in as a Mariner (kind of insuring that his fellow DH, David Ortiz, will make it too), Mussina will go in without a logo (I’m surprised), Rivera (the greatest reliever of all-time) will go in as a Yankee, and Smith (one of the greatest relievers of all-time) wil go in as a Cub.

Soccer:

In soccer/football, the AFC Asian Cup ended with Qatar beating Japan in the Final.

Golf:

The PGA Tour season began with its swing through Hawaii. Then they landed on the continent in California and have since moved over to Arizona, playing the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Branden Grace had a hole-in-one on the 193-yard 7th hole on Friday (with a 7-iron!). He changed clubs at the last minute from an 8-iron. He added an eagle and 5 birdies, to jump on top of the leaderboard after two rounds. Archie Bradley, a reliever for the Arizona Diamondbacks, has played in the Phoenix Open pro-am for a few years, but this year, someone stole his clubs. The Phoenix Open is known to get wild crowds. Do you remember last year, when a man went streaking across the 17th hole during the Wednesday pro-am round? The drunk 24-year-old said it was totally worth it, even after getting fired from his job as an area bartender. Meanwhile, the European Tour is playing the Royal Greens Golf and CC for the Saudi International. Dustin Johnson is atop the leaderboard there. The Web.com tour is playing the Bogota Open in Colombia. The Sunshine Tour is playing the Eye of Africa PGA Championship. Alice Dye, the First Lady of golf course architecture, has died at age 91.

NCAA Basketball:

The college basketball season is starting to look ahead to March Madness (well, at least fans are looking ahead), as we are about 20-22 games into a 32(?) game season. Kansas Silvio De Sousa has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA until after next season. There were no significant upsets Thursday night. However, Wednesday night, Rutgers beat Indiana, unranked Texas beat No.11 Kansas, Virginia snuck by NC State, Wisconsin surprised Nebraska, and UNLV lost to Nevada. Of course, the upset of note for me was Purdue beating Michigan State. Here is the AP Poll as of 01/27/19 (which does not include the most recent upsets and has no movement in Top 6):

1. Tennessee (19-1)
2. Duke (18-2)
3. Virginia (19-1)
4. Gonzaga (20-2)
5. Michigan (20-1)
6. Michigan State (18-3)
7. Kentucky (17-3) up from No.8
8. Nevada (20-1) down from No.7
9. North Carolina (16-4) up from No.11
10. Marquette (19-3) up from No.12
11. Kansas (16-5) down from No.9
12. Virginia Tech (17-3) down from No.10
13. Houston (21-1) way up from No.17
14. Villanova (17-4) way up from No.18
15. Louisville (16-5) way way up from No.23
16. Texas Tech (17-4) down from No.14
17. Purdue (15-6) way up from unranked
18. Buffalo (19-2) way down from No.14
19. LSU (17-3) way up form No.25
20. Iowa State (16-5) way up from No.24
21. Maryland (17-5) way way down from No.13
22. Mississippi State (15-5)
23. NC State (16-5) down from No.21
24. Wisconsin (15-6) up from unranked
25. FSU (15-5) up from unranked

NCAA Football:

College football season kickoff was on 8/25 finally ended with the upset in the CFP Championship by No.2 Clemson over No.1 Alabama, 44-16. Although it’s not professional sports, the SEC distributed $43.1 million to each member school for 2017-18, up more than $2 million from last year. Missouri has been banned from any bowl game next year, after an NCAA probe. Maryland president has reversed his retirement decision, apparently didn’t like golf all that much, and will remain. USC has hired another former Texas Tech QB as offensive coordinator. Shilo Sanders, Deion’s son, has committed to South Carolina. QB Josh Jackson has joined the Virginia Tech exodus, saying he felt “disrespected”. A former Utah State football player convicted of sexually assaulting 6 women. Oklahoma transfer QB Austin Kendall enrolled at WVU.

AP released the final poll on 1/7/19:

1. Clemson (15-0) up from No.2
2. Alabama (14-1) down from No.1
3. Ohio State (13-1) up from No.5
4. Oklahoma (12-2)
5. Notre Dame (12-1) down from No.3
6. LSU (10-3) up from No.11
7. Georgia (11-3) down from No.6
8. Florida (10-3) up from No.10
9. Texas (10-4) up from No.14
10. Washington State (11-2) up from No.12
11. UCF (12-1) down from No.7
12. Kentucky (10-3) up from No.16
13. Washington (10-4) down from No.9
14. Michigan (10-3) down from No.8
15. Syracuse (10-3) up from No.17
16. Texas A&M (9-4) up from No.21
17. Penn State (9-4) down from No.13
18. Fresno State (12-2) up from No.19
19. Army West Point (11-1) up from No.22
20. West Virginia (8-4) down from No.15
21. Northwestern (9-5) up from unranked
22. Utah State (11-2) up from unranked
23. Boise State (10-3)
24. Cincinnati (11-2) up from unranked
25. Iowa (9-4) up from unranked

NFL:

The 99th NFL regular season is nearing its end, as this Sunday is the 53rd Super Bowl in Atlanta, GA. Unexpectedly, the New England Patriots beat the favored Chiefs in OT to become the AFC participant, sending QB Tom Brady to his NFL record 9th Super Bowl. Also, in the NFC Championship, the referees missed 4 penalties on one play near the end of the game between the Rams and the Saints, sending it into OT, where the Rams unexpectedly prevailed. So, the Patriots face the Rams, who the Patriots beat in 2001, to start their long dynasty in the Super Bowl. In Las Vegas, the Patriots opened up as 1 point underdogs, but that has quickly flopped and by Friday morning were now 4 point favorites. After much deliberation (I have about a dozen jerseys), I have decided to go with the throwback red Gronkowski jersey and throwback white with red brim and old logo hat for Sunday. Gladys Knight said she is very excited to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, despite many people criticizing her for doing so. Somehow, I guess she was supposed to boycott singing our National Anthem, as some solidarity for Colin Kaepernick? Did you know that of the 28 franchises that have played in a Super Bowl, 20 have actually won the game? The Steelers have won the most, with 6, and the Patriots, Cowboys, and 49ers each have won 5. The Bills and the Vikings have the dubious distinction of both being 0-4 in Super Bowls. The Patriots are appearing in their 10th Super Bowl, the most of any NFL team. This will be QB Tom Brady’s 9th Super Bowl and 40th playoff game, of which he has won 29. He has also passed for 73 TDs in the playoffs, well ahead of No.2 Joe Montana with 45. I love weird facts: Brady threw his latest TD pass to Phillip Dorsett in the AFC Championship game and Dorsett was just 9-years-old when Brady won his first Super Bowl! The University of Georgia is well-represented in the Super Bowl this year, with Rams RB Todd Gurley and Patriots RB Sony Michel. Okay, I wrote this all Friday-Sunday, but here is am near midnight to give you the update: THE PATRIOTS WON THEIR RECORD 6th SUPER BOWL, 13-3, OVER THE RAMS, WHO THEY BEAT FOR THEIR FIRST SUPER BOWL IN 2001. IT WAS NOT PRETTY AND A HUGE DEFENSIVE BATTLE THAT CERTAINLY DIDN’T LIVE UP TO THE 54-POINT OVER/UNDER, BUT IT WAS A WIN. TECHNICALLY, BOSTON BEAT LOS ANGELES FOR THE SECOND TIME IN A WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 3 MONTHS APART, TWO OF FOUR MAJOR SPORTS! WR JASON EDELMAN WON THE MVP TROPHY FOR HIS CLUTCH 10 RECEPTIONS AND TOM BRADY GOT HIS SIXTH RING. IF YOU ARE KEEPING COUNT, BOSTON HAS WON SINCE 2001, 6 NFL CHAMPIONSHIPS, 4 MLB CHAMPIONSHIPS, 1 NBA CHAMPIONSHIP, and 1 NHL CHAMPIONSHIP FOR A TOTAL OF 12 CHAMPIONSHIPS IN 18 YEARS. WE HAVE BEEN VERY FORTUNATE.

So, Kyler Murray, who was chosen by the A’s in the first round (9th overall) of the MLB Draft and given a signing bonus of $5 million, has registered for the NFL Draft too, and doesn’t seem to know which way he is going to go. When pressed about it by Dan Patrick on ESPN, he was very awkward in the interview. On this day, 2/1, the Seahawks blew Super Bowl 49 to the Patriots on the final play, by trying to pass for 2 yards instead of running with the leading NFL rusher that year. They were intercepted. Steelers legend Hines Ward blames coach Mike Tomlin for team’s “circus of woes.” Panthers star, Julius Peppers, has retired after 17 NFL seasons. Rick Smith, who took leave as Texans GM, lost his wife, Tiffany, to cancer. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says he’s not on “shaky ground” but the Cowboys have said they have no plans to extend his contract. A judge has rejected Saints fans’ class-action lawsuit to replay the end of the Rams game, after the referees missed 4 penalties on one play. The Saints say that commissioner Roger Goodell lied about talking to them regarding blown call. Did you know that since 1980, the underdog NFL team has beaten the spread in 52% of all NFL games? Okay, he may not be in the Super Bowl, yet, but QB Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs was named the AP MVP Saturday night and NFL offensive player of the year. He is really something to see and I think will be a huge star in the NFL. The Governors of California and Massachusetts have made a friendly wager on the Super Bowl, in which the official whose team loses (along with his staff) has to do a community service project while wearing the winning team’s jersey. By the way, it is estimated that more than 17 million people will miss work on Monday, the day after the Super Bowl, costing the US economy $4 billion.

Let’s look at the new Hall of Fame class, which includes Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed, Kevin Mawae, Champ Bailey, Johnny Robinson, Pat Bowlen, Gil Brandt, and Ty Law.

NHL:

The puck dropped on the regular season, for some teams, on 10/3. We are past the halfway point now, having played 48-51 games out of 82. The NHL will mark Black History Month for the first time, with special initiatives and museum tour. My Bruins need to get rid of 6’9” defenseman Zdeno Chara, who once was great, but now looks like a cone with a stick, as skaters blow by him and score. It’s said when a truly great player stays in the game too long and takes a spot that could yield another Torey Krug. Tuesday night, he single-handedly cost the Bruins a win in regulation against the Jets. He followed up Thursday night by doing exactly the same thing against the Flyers. NHL teams are drooling over US National Team Development Program’s Jack Hughes, the top prospect in the NHL Draft, considered a potential franchise superstar. Both of his parents were star hockey players. His brother, Quinn Hughes, was picked 7th overall in the NHL Draft by the Canucks. His younger brother, Luke, has committed to play hockey for Michigan. The Penguins sent Derick Brassard to the Panthers in a 4-player deal. Blackhawks Antoine Vermette, 36, has retired after a 14-season NHL career. Predators forward Austin Watson has been suspended indefinitely for alcohol abuse. The Hurricanes signed Jordan Martinook to a 2year extension. The NBC hired Kendall Coyne Schofield after NHL All-Star Skills Challenge. Maple Leafs acquired defensemen Jake Muzzin from Kings. The Stars acquired Jamie Okeksiak from Penguins for 2019 draft pick.

At this point in the season: the Eastern Conference has the Lightning firmly in first place (way ahead of every team in the NHL), followed by the Islanders, Leafs, and Bruins/Canadiens; while the Western Conference has the Flames in first place, followed by the Jets, Sharks, and Predators.

NBA:

The NBA season officially began on 10/3 as well. We are around 43-45 games in of the 82-game season. Pelicans’ Anthony Davis boldly declared that he wanted to be traded, as they are going nowhere and unlikely to pay his megacontract when he is eligible in a year. It turns out that that’s ‘tampering’ and he got a $50,000 fine from the NBA. The Celtics say they have “little to no concern” that star Kyrie Irving will leave for the Lakers, despite LeBron’s wooing. Irving has said that he would be open to re-signing with Boston, but another report said that he would be open to rejoining his pal LeBron too. Now, why is Anthony Davis saying he wants to be traded ‘tampering’, but LeBron picking out players on other teams that he wants to come to the Lakers not ‘tampering’? And then, LeBron James sends a fake Instagram post about Anthony Davis trade to Lakers, and ESPN falls for it. Actually, the team that worries the Celtics about Irving is the Knicks. The Knicks are pressing hard on getting Kevin Durant, which might encourage Irving to join him. I used to think Free Agency was good, give the players what they deserve and give them a chance to get on a better team. But, the way it’s evolved into 2 or 3 superstars colluding and going to a team to make it a championship team seems to have tainted the intent. It’s so obvious and rampant that I don’t even have to give you an example, without you thinking of 3 or 4 yourselves. Draymond Green, always a class act after joining the NBA (see kicking people in groin), is now mocking Rudy Gobert for crying about being snubbed for the NBA All-Star Game. Speaking of which, the NBA All-Star Game rosters were just released yesterday. Mike Budenholzer will coach Team Giannis vs Team LeBron. I’m guessing the over-under must be like 270 points. As we slide into NBA Free Agency, the Bulls waived Carmelo Anthony (didn’t everyone want him a couple of years ago?). Social media is punishing the Knicks for trading franchise-caliber player, Kristaps Porzingis, to Mavericks. I’m sure it’s botching that name though, since most people on social media can’t get ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ right. The Nuggets are off to their best 50-game start since joining the NBA. The Warriors say their 11-game winning streak come to an end Thursday against the 76ers. I forgot to mention that King James is back from his 16-game disabled list stint. Of course, he flirted with a triple-double in his first game back. Clippers and Nets are expected to pursue Jimmy Butler. Celtics’ Jabari Bird faces more charges from alleged domestic assault. So, after 50-53 games of an 82-game regular season, the Eastern Conference is led by the Bucks, then the Raptors, then the 76ers, then the Pacers tied with the Celtics; while the Western Conference is led by the Warriors, then closely the Nuggets, then the Thunder, then the Blazers and Spurs. The Knicks are 10-40 and in the cellar in the East and the Suns are 11-42 and in the cellar in the West.

Tennis:

The first Grand Slam of the season has completed down under, with the Australian Open. Although Serena Williams knocked off the No.1 seed, Halep (who fell to No.3), she did not make it to the Finals. Shockingly, Roger Federer was knocked out in an early round. His world ranking has now dropped to No.6. Novak Djokovic won his record 7th Australian Open beating nemesis Rafael Nadal in the Finals. On the women’s side, soon-to-be No.1 Naomi Osaka won over No.2 Petra Kvitova in a very close match. That was Osaka’s 2nd Grand Slam in a row, after winning the US Open over Serena Williams. Herbert and Mahut completed a career Slam by winning the Australian Open doubles. The Connecticut Open is officially moving to Zhengzhou City, China. Hmmm…HOLA! Magazine revealed that Rafael Nadal is engaged to his girlfriend of 14 years, Maria Francisca Perello, and he is apparently really mad about the leak. Really? After 14 years?

Boxing:

Boxer Carmine Tommasone proposed in the ring. Nice touch. Unfortunately, he waited until after he suffered a TKO loss to Oscar Valdez. It was his first loss, to his credit. Still, post-victory proposals usually are the norm, but his girlfriend said ‘yes’ to the loser. Hey, I don’t write this, it writes itself.

Racing:

Last year’s champion, his first, for the NASCAR Cup Series was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead. Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017. NASCAR’s 2019 season is about to start with Daytona 500 to kick it off, as it does every year. Here is the schedule of races just released for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2019 (they don’t have the sponsors or formal names of all of them yet):

2/17 Daytona 500 at Daytona International in Florida
2/24 Atlanta
3/3 Las Vegas
3/10 ISM Raceway
3/17 Auto Club
3/24 Martinsville
3/31 Texas
4/7 Bristol
4/13 Richmond
4/28 Talladega
5/5 Dover
5/11 Kansas
5/18 All-Star Open Charlotte
5/26 Charlotte
6/2 Pocono
6/9 Michigan
6/23 Sonoma
6/30 Chicago
7/6 Daytona
7/13 Kentucky
7/21 New Hampshire
7/28 Pocono
8/4 Watkins Glen
8/11 Michigan
8/17 Bristol
9/1 Darlington
9/8 Indianapolis
9/15 Las Vegas playoff
9/21 Richmond playoff
9/29 Charlotte playoff
10/6 Dover playoff
10/13 Talladega playoff
10/20 Kansas playoff
10/27 Martinsville playoff
11/3 Texas playoff
11/10 ISM Raceway playoff
11/17 Miami-Homestead final playoff

Formula One begins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That is followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule 2/18-2/21 and 2/26-3/1, both in Catalunya, Spain. Here is the 2019 Formula One 21 Race calendar:

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne
3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir
4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000th Grand Prix)
4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku
5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona
5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco
6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal
6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet
6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg
7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone
7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim
8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest
9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa
9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza
9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore
9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi
10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka
10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City
11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX
11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo
12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island

Then, there is the IndyCar Racing circuit and its 2019 calendar (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):

3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
3/24 Circuit of the Americas
4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama
4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach
5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis
5/26 Indianapolis 500
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2
6/8 Texas Grand Prix
6/23 Road America
7/14 Honda Indy Toronto
7/20 Iowa 300
7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
8/18 Pocono Grand Prix
8/24 Gateway Grand Prix
9/1 Grand Prix of Portland
9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca

Travel News:

January 28th marked the anniversary of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, which exploded on re-entry, killing all 7 astronauts, including teacher Christine McAuliffe. As I listen to fighter jet flyovers here in Palm Beach, as President Trump is scheduled to touch down here and go to Mar-a-Lago, a small aircraft just crashed 23 miles off of Palm Beach moments ago. I wasn’t sure where to put this, but LEGO seems to pop up in weird places all over the world. Their promotions are unique. They have a LEGO installation of a replica Queen Mary ON the Queen Mary. There is a replica LEGO windmill in the offices of wind turbine company Vestas. Most of the installations are actually artwork. Apparently, they now have a pop-up bar in London. Whatever you do, don’t have a pint and then step on a LEGO! There are currently 28 countries that the US does not want you to visit. Carnival just introduced a new giant ship, the Mardi Gras. Boeing is seeing more airplane buyers paying cash and financing than ever before. Disneyland has closed off iconic Space Mountain (indoor roller coaster) ride, after a visitor jumped off mid-ride. Disneyland Paris will host official LGBTO Pride celebration, a first for Disney parks. A flight made an emergency landing after cabin pressure left a passenger bleeding from the ears.

Health News:

The silence may be deafening on this one, but controversial e-cigarette maker Juul Labs made crossed the $1 billion in revenue mark in 2018. How impressive is that? Well, it had revenue of about $200 million in 2017. The controversy is heating up though, as only half of the states that have raised the age to purchase cigarettes to 21-years-old have raised the age to purchase e-cigarettes from 18-years-old. Some states, including Florida, are now preparing bills to ban e-cigarette smoking in the workplace and at restaurants (except in already designated smoking areas). In somewhat related news, noticing the trend, Marlboro manufacturer Altria (oddly similar to altruistic) bought a 35% stake in the e-cigarette maker in December. If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em. Pizza Hut is apparently READY for the Super Bowl. The chain plans to expand its new BEER delivery service. It will be available, along with Pizza delivery, by this coming summer at 1,000 stores! It’s currently available at 300 stores in 7 states. Ah, the millennial demand for convenience…actually, you can get food from any restaurant here from GoCrazy, Delivery Dudes, UberEats and others, groceries from Whole Foods via Amazon Prime, groceries from Publix via Shipt, and liquor from ABC Liquors via Shipt. Or, so I heard, ahem, since I am clearly NOT a millennial. A TSA agent died on Friday after jumping from a Hyatt Hotel into the atrium area of the Orlando airport. He was alive when transported to the hospital, but died thereafter. Authorities are looking at his death as an apparent suicide. As you’ve no doubt read, US birth rate has plummeted to the lowest point in 30 years and the fertility rate in the US has declined for the 7th year in a row. What you may not have known is that we are 16% below the level needed for the US population to replace itself. Scientists now believe a big factor in our infertility is economic stress. OMG, I’m getting old! I just deleted what I thought was a hysterical rejoinder about obvious scientific studies and realized it was kind of like saying “get off of my lawn!” According to USA Today, the worst foods for you during Super Bowl are: the fatty sauce on Buffalo Wings, Meat Lover’s Pizza from Pizza Hut at 440 calories a slice, pigs-in-a-blanket, chips and dip, brownies, and craft beers. Okay, I guess I won’t have anything. No, wait, another article I read listed the keto diet friendly foods you could have at your Super Bowl party, and they are: skewers of meat or cheese (rather than on bread), chili, naked chicken wings, chicken fingers with almond flour breading, taco lettuce wraps, cauliflower hummus, Portobello mushroom crust pizza, almond flour (again) brownies, and clear cocktails, A recent study found that people who lived in areas with higher amounts of 2 types of pollution were more likely to have sleep apnea and bad moods. General Mills has recalled flour over a salmonella concern. In a recent study, researchers believe that muscle memory is real. Don’t you love when they announce findings of a 10-year, $50 million study that you know already through common sense? Okay, well maybe this study was worth SOME money… researchers at the University of Bristol assessed airborne survival of bacteria in aerosol droplets from coughs and sneezes and found the average sneeze or cough can send about 100,000 contagious germs into the air at speeds up to 100mph. Those germs, which included viruses such as influenza, RSV, adenoviruses, bacteria, streptococcus pneumonia, haemophilus influenzae, etc. are spread within the first few minutes after a sneeze or cough occurs. Given the small size of the droplets (some less than the width of a human hair), they can remain suspended in the air for seconds to weeks. Scientists have now designed a new device, CELEBS, to study these droplets. The FDA warned Costco and Walmart shoppers about a Listeria fruit recall. There’s a new debate about birth control regarding whether or not women should still take placebos for a week while taking daily birth control pills. I think I noticed sometime in the 90s or 00s that the packets had placebo pills. A measles outbreak has again appearing in a US region, the Northwest, despite the fact that the CDC declared it “eliminated”. Indiana attorney general is calling New York’s planned extreme pro-abortion law, in which the fetus can be aborted in a very late term, as backward and barbaric. This happens too often, a McDonald’s customer called 911, after an employee put onions on his Big Mac, and when police arrived, they arrested the customer. Burger King is now trolling McDonald’s with a new menu featuring “Not Big Macs”. The CDC says young kids are overusing toothpaste.

Animal News:

I thought the cheetah, with bursts up to 70 mph, was the fastest animal in the world. I’m sure most of you don’t know, but I grew up wanting to be a zoologist. It turns out that scientists now believe the tiny Dracula ant has set the record for the fastest known animal movement. A dolphin has received the first spinal tap for a dolphin. Paleontologists now believe that there was an actual “lizard king”, an iguana-sized reptile, that ruled Antarctica 250 million years ago, during the Triassic epoch, before dinosaurs. A new study shows that sonar can actually scare whales to death. Denmark is building a $12 million border wall for wild pigs and boars, to keep them out. Trevor, the only duck on the small west Pacific island of Niue (population of 1600 humans) has been found dead, alone, as he lived his life. Speaking of sharks, 2018 had only 66 documented unprovoked shark bites on humans, down from 88 in 2017. Scientists are no longer sure what the largest dinosaur was. A rare fish sighting in Japan has sparked earthquake fears. SeaWorld is “deeply saddened” and PETA is outraged by the death of beloved Kayla the orca (killer whale). She was 30-years-old and had become sick over the weekend. She was the first killer whale born in captivity at SeaWorld in San Antonio, TX in 1988 and was the second-oldest orca born in captivity. Her calf, Halyn, was just 3-years-old when she died in 2008. Wild orcas can live up to 80 or 90 years, which leads to PETA’s outrage, where a baby dies at 3 and her young mom dies at 30. SeaWorld stopped its orca breeding program in 2016, after pressure from animal rights groups, following the documentary BLACKFISH in 2013. The documentary was about the life of Tilikum, an orca that killed its trainer during a performance in Orlando in 2010. Tilikum died in 2017 at only 33-years-old. Kayla was one of the last orcas at SeaWorld’s Orlando park, there are only 5 left there, 5 in San Antonio, and 10 in San Diego. The Heathrow Airport hawk has been stolen outside the hotel it was calling home. In Alabama, a hunter fired 2 rounds at a buck merely a few yards from a fisherman. In Minnesota, officials had to shoot a mule deer who was exhibiting “strange behavior.” An Alaska fisherman was attacked by a sea lion and nearly dragged into water. I hate these news items: a woman was bitten by a 5-foot snake while on the toilet. The snake was a carpet python and the location was Brisbaine, Australia. A handler came and removed the snake and it is fine. A South Carolina fisherman hooked a massive great white shark and said, “It’s like hooking an elephant.” A Maryland fisherman broke a state record last week, by reeling in a 17.9-pound longnose gar. He was actually fishing for blue catfish. After getting an official weigh-in, the fisherman kept the gar alive for two days and returned it to the water. Longnose gar typically grow to about 4 feet. The world record was set in Mississippi, with a gar that was 60 inches long and weighed 48 pounds. Select canned dog food has been recalled over vitamin D levels, per the FDA, who is now fully back to work.

Entertainment News:

There are something like 36-40 major entertainment awards shows and I think we are in the middle of it, having just had the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the Peoples Choice Awards. Super Bowl ads are the big topic this week. Michelob apparently has experimented with autonomous sensory meridian responses, the tingly feeling some people get when they hear certain sounds, and will incorporate them in an ad during the Super Bowl. It is supposed to affect a pleasure area of the brain. Cardi B has been spotted with Offset at a Super Bowl party (which hasn’t happened yet) after confirming they’re “working it out”. I’m sorry, but are these actually names of people? Oprah Winfrey was handing out tequila shot on a cruise in her pajamas. I might have had a similar odd dream. Rami Malek, the star of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, which I finally saw and I give it a 9 out of 10 for awesomeness, says the experience working with Bryan Singer on the movie was “not pleasant”. Okay, this is odd. Singer was fired by the film’s studio, Twentieth Century Fox, in December 2017 during filming for his “unexpected unavailability”, but there were rumors of sexual misconduct at the time. Wait, I just want to go back to ‘unexpected unavailability’ which is a really cool way of saying ‘not showing up for work’, isn’t it? 31-year-old rapper, Bow Wow (here we go with weird names again), was arrested on suspicion of Battery Substantial Harm in a fight with a woman. Luke Wilson says he is ready to reunite with Reese Witherspoon in LEGALLY BLONDE 3. Wait, I love Reese Witherspoon, and actually met her in L.A., but do we really need a 3rd instalment of that movie? Is there no NEW creativity in Hollywood anymore? Olympian Aly Reisman supports The Bachelor contestant Caelynn but she is not watching her ex, Colton Underwood’s, season. 20-year-old Paris Jackson denies reports that she had a “meltdown” during Michael Jackson documentary controversy. I believe this is the 5-hour documentary being featured at the Sundance Film Festival that was done by the two kids who accused MJ of sexual abuse and lost, so they made a movie? Sharna Burgess is honored to be joining Australia’s Dancing With the Stars as a judge. Roger Mathews (missing a T) proposed a “truce” to Jenni ‘JWoww’ (ugh, here we go again, it’s like onomatopoeia) Farley. Lily Adlridge welcomed a second child with Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill. Hmm, that would have been more interesting than Kidwell. In an interview, singer Josh Groban said, when asked about his early fame, that he should have had a shrink. Packers great QB Brett Favre surprised a Marine veteran with Super Bowl tickets. Empire’s Jussie Smollett was attacked in some kind of alleged hate crime incident. Jerry Seinfeld is being sued over the sale of a $1.5 million 1958 Porsche which is now alleged to be fake. A porn star has been fined for filming a threesome on a London subway train. Lenny Kravitz, not known for shying away from controversy himself, has made some comments on daughter Zoe’s racy nude Instagram photo. Pete Davidson and Kate Beckinsale were spotted leaving an LA comedy club together after the comedian’s performance. Johnny Cash’s former property, featured in the movie WALK THE LINE, is selling for $3.95 million. I can’t believe that I have 2 news items about Al Roker in the same Repo Commentary! Jillian Michaels has called out Andy Cohen and Al Roker over keto diet feud. Justin Bieber fans are upset over price of his clothing line. Designers for upcoming New York Fashion Week are being urged not to hire minors.

The 50th Anniversary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced its lineup for 2019. It begins on 4/25-28 and ends on 5/2-5/5. It’s a SICK list of entertainers:
• The Rolling Stones
• Dave Matthews Band
• Katy Perry
• Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band
• Chris Stapleton
• Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
• Pitbull
• Van Morrison
• Al Green
• Logic
• Earth, Wind & Fire
• J Balvin
• Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Nevilles
• Glady Knight
• The Revivalists
• Leon Bridges
• John Fogerty
• Chaka Khan
• Herbie Hancock
• Tank and the Bangas
• Tom Jones
• Bonnie Raitt
• Ciara
• Alanis Morissette
• Irma Thomas
• Gary Clark Jr.
• The O’Jays
• The Head and the Heart
• The Doobie Brothers
• Jimmy Cliff
• Ziggy Marley
• Aaron Neville
• Boz Scaggs
• Galctic
• Jerry Lee Lewis
• Indigo Girls
• Rebirth Brass Band
• Mavis Staples
• Los Lobos
• Ellis Marsalis Family with Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason with Ellis
• Big Freedia
• Kamasi Washington
• Rita Coolidge
• Buddy Guy
• Preservation Hall Jazz Band
• Better Than Ezra
• Taj Mahal & the Phantom Blues Band
• Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk
• Maze
• Ani DiFranco
• The Radiators
• Hurray for the Riff Raff
• Jonathan Butler and Gerald Albright
• Shirley Caesar
• Little Feat
• Gregory Porter
• Anders Osborne
• North Mississippi Allstars
• Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
• The Mavericks
• The Robert Cray Band
• The Subdudes
• Samantha Fish
• Jupiter & Okwess of Congo
• Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers
• Big Sam’s Funky Nation
• Sweet Crude
• Naturally 7
• The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
• The Rance Allen Band
• Boyfriend
• Regina Carter’s Southern Comfort
• Terrence Blanchard
• The Bahamas Revue Band
• Cecile McLorin Salvant
• Marc Broussard
• And about 60 others

2018 was a record year at the domestic box office. Ticket sales were almost $11.9 billion, of which Disney pulled in a record $3.092 billion with BLACK PANTHER ($700mm), AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ($678.8mm), and INCREDIBLES 2($608.6mm). JURASSIC WORLD 2 pulled in $417.7mm and AQUAMAN pulled in $320mm.

This past week’s box-office was really weak. GLASS stayed at No.1 with $18.9mm in its second week; THE UPSIDE stayed at No.2 with $11.9mm in its third week; AQUAMAN stayed at No.3 in its sixth week with $7.3mm (total of $316.4mm); THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING debuted at No.4 with $7.2mm; and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, in its 7th week, held on to No.5, with another $6.1 million (total $169 million on budget of $90 million). SERENITY debuted at No.9 and BTS WORLD TOUR: LOVE YOURSELF SEOUL debuted at No.13.

The number of movies coming out this week is very low, with: MISS DALA, ARCTIC, ST. BERNARD SYNDICATE, and THE WILD PEAR TREE.

Technology & Space News:

I guess this is a Public Service Announcement, I was told by Google today that, pursuant to their December 2018 public announcement, Google will be shutting down Google+ for consumers in April 2019, “due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations.” This will affect any content (like photos and videos) you may have in your Album Archive. NASA satellites first spotted a volcanic island forming a few years ago, but most ‘newborn’ islands are washed away in a matter of month. But, this one has survived long enough that scientist went and visited it. Apple says it has fixed the Group FaceTime bug. Foxconn recommitted to $10 billion Wisconsin plant after a call from President Trump. Facebook removed accounts of fake news group in Indonesia. Samsung is going to sell 1 TB smartphones. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ private investigators are questioning mistress’ brother over leaked texts. Safety groups are urging caution as yet another possibly unconscious driver in moving Tesla was caught on camera. Elon Musk may make a cameo appearance in the upcoming Star Wars TV show. Musk says a Nevada-built Tesla Model Y is coming in 2020.

US News:

The longest US government shutdown in history is now temporarily over, as they agreed to kick the can down the road for 3 weeks. Meanwhile, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, re-invited President Trump (after dis-inviting him) to give his State of the Union Address to Congress on 2/5. A 31-year-old Louisiana motorcycle policeman who survived being shot in the face last year was just killed in a collision Friday escorting a funeral procession. $2 million worth of drugs were seized in Arizona. 9/11’s youngest victim would be 20-years-old now and there is optimism about justice for him. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s yearbook photo has caused an enormous amount of backlash, including the Virginia lieutenant governor and President Trump. Speaking of President Trump, he is at Mar-a-Lago, here in Palm Beach this weekend and already golfed Saturday with Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. A high school basketball team bus flipped over, but all aboard were not badly hurt. Meth and marijuana worth $2 million were seized in an Arizona drug bust. An Iowa crowd’s rendition of the National Anthem at a high school basketball game has gone viral. In Ohio, a sheriff’s deputy was killed, another one was injured in a police standoff, and the 23-year-old suicidal suspect is in custody. A teenager told Siri that he wanted to shoot up a school and was arrested. In the “El Chapo” trial, evidence has been presented that he drugged and raped girls as young as 13, whom he picked from a catalog of photos.

International News:

Two bombs at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Philippines, killed at least 20 people and left more than 100 more injured. The top Venezuela general has rejected Maduro’s legitimacy and thrown his support behind the interim President. Archaeologists say some ancient carved “drums” give exact Stonehenge measurements, adding another mystery on top of the long-standing mystery. Plans have been laid for the evacuation of Queen Elizabeth and the royal family, should Brexit unrest break out. The Pope has arrived in the United Arab Emirates for the first-ever visit by a Pope. Nissan is having second thoughts about a UK-made SUV, due to Brexit worry, and has scrapped the plan. Senior US and South Korean officials met Sunday to discuss expected second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Australia announced today that the last child refugees held on the Pacific atoll of Nauru will soon be sent to the US, ending the banishment of children under the harsh asylum-seeker policy of the country. Australian police disabled and arrested a man in an airport standoff. He claimed to have a bomb and was menacing a woman with a knife. A former French lawmaker’s defamation lawsuit against 6 women who accused him of sexual misconduct and 4 journalists who reported the allegations is going to trial. The head of Ukraine’s new Orthodox Church has assumed office. Israel has started reinforcing its border fence with the Gaza Strip, erecting a galvanized steel barrier 20 feet high that will run the entire length of the territory. Syria says a US-led coalition hit its forces in the Eastern part of Syria. Nordic nations have swept the top 4 prizes at the world’s most prestigious culinary competition in France. Team Denmark took the gold medal. Iran’s space research center had a fire which killed 3 scientists. A bus crash south of Moscow killed 7 people and injured 32 others. Heavy snow in Germany forced the World Cup to cancel the last race before the World Championships. The death toll from the collapse of a dam holding back mining waste in southeastern Brazil has risen to 121 people. Another 226 people are missing. The US, and now Russia, have pulled out of a decades-old INF nuclear arms pact, but Russia will only deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles if the US does so in Europe. 14 armed groups have reached a peace deal with the Central African Republic government, ending years of conflict. Italy’s main Alpine highway into Austria, Germany and other areas of northern Europe has been hit by heavy snow, creating a 7.5-mile-long traffic jam.

Florida:

If you are interested in seeing more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances (or Spring Training National Anthems), there are many coming to Florida, perhaps when you will be visiting (I’ve added some concerts since the last Repo Commentary):

The Temptations-Fort Lauderdale, January 31
Don McLean-Immokalee, January 31
Michael Bolton-Fort Lauderdale, February 2
The Four Tops and the Temptations-West Palm Beach, February 2
Melissa Manchester-Aventura, February 8
Michael Bolton-West Palm Beach, February 8
The Commodores-Miami, February 9
Patti LaBelle-Fort Myers, February 11
Duran Duran-Miami Beach, February 12
Franki Valli & the Four Seasons, Hollywood, February 14
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 14
Dave Mason-Fort Lauderdale, February 15
Little River Band-Fort Myers, February 15
Michael Buble-Sunrise, February 16 (I would like to go)
Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, February 18
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes-Bonita Springs, February 20
Art Garfunkel-Fort Lauderdale, February 20
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
Sarah Brightman-Hollywood, February 20
PGA Honda Classic-PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, February 28-March 2
Pink-Sunrise-March 1 (I might have to go)
Sara Mclachlan-March 1, West Palm Beach
Paul Anka-Fort Lauderdale-March 4
Elton John-Sunrise, March 16
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band-Sunrise, March 17
Steve Miller Band-Hollywood, March 17
Palm Beach International Boat Show-West Palm Beach, March 28-March 31
Jackson Browne-West Palm Beach, April 3
The Rolling Stones-Miami, April 20
Ariana Grande-Orlando, May 29
Train & Goo Goo Dolls-West Palm Beach, July 6
Queen & Adam Lambert-Sunrise, August 17

Repo Commentary-01/16/19


I announced in my 12/24/18 Repo Commentary that I am honored to have been selected to be the Chairperson of the upcoming 25th (Silver Anniversary) IMN Beneficial Owners’ International Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference 2/5-2/6 in Fort Lauderdale at the Ritz-Carlton, and to add my disruptive touch to make it fresh again.

We are already shaking it up and including many more sectors of clients to participate, including pension funds, municipalities, money funds, hedge funds, asset managers, and GSEs. If you have not yet registered, you need to do so soon! I am hoping to see many of my clients there.

The focuses will be on alternative repo efforts, fintech, repo reinvestment AND securities lending, and women in the securities financing industry. Did you see that Citigroup became the first US bank to publish an “unadjusted” gender pay gap, showing that its female employees earn 29% less than men do? I hope to see all of you there and I’ll be reaching out to many of you to participate, as it is less than a month away!

I am very interested in adding 3 hedge fund panelists to join a large Pension Plan to a panel being moderated by a prime broker, to discuss the demands in the hedge fund industry for borrowing securities from third-party lenders and their beneficial owners (like Pension Plans).

My Repo Commentary is posted on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed.

If you need to reach me, my cell is still 646-753-1300, my email for work is jeffkidwell82@gmail.com, and you can also hit me up on LinkedIn.

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

01/16 Holidays or Events:

• National Religious Freedom Day in the US
• Teacher’s Day in Myanmar
• Teachers’ Day in Thailand (they must have better English teachers)
• National Fig Newton Day (love ‘em)
• Book Publishers Day
• International Hot and Spicy Food Day
• National Good Teen Day
• National Nothing Day
• Appreciate a Dragon Day
• National Without a Scalpel Day
• Psychiatric Technician’s Day
• Prohibition Remembrance Day

Some Famous People Born 01/16 in History:

• 972-Sheng Zong, emperor of the Liao Dynasty
• 1853-Andre Michelin, French businessman, co-founded the Michelin Tyre Company
• 1878-Harry Carey-American actor, director, producer, screenwriter
• 1882-Margaret Wilson, American author
• 1894-Irving Mills, American publisher
• 1900-Edith Frank, German-Dutch mother of Anne Frank
• 1901-Fulgencio Batista, Cuban colonel and politician, 9th President of Cuba
• 1908-Ethel Merman, American actress and singer
• 1917-Carl Karcher, American businessman, founded Carl’s Jr.
• 1932-Dian Fossey, American zoologist and anthropologist
• 1933-Susan Sontag, American novelist and critic
• 1934-Bob Bogle, American rock guitarist and bass player
• 1935-A.J. Foyt, American race car driver
• 1942-Rene Angelil, Canadian singer and manager/husband of Celine Dion
• 1942-Barbara Lynn, American singer-songwriter, guitarist
• 1943-Ronnie Milsap, American singer and pianist
• 1944-Jim Stafford, American singer-songwriter and actor
• 1948-John Carpenter, American director, producer, screenwriter, and composer
• 1950-Debbie Allen, American actress, dancer, and choreographer
• 1950-Robert Schimmel, American comedian, actor and producer
• 1952-Fuad II, King of Egypt
• 1952-L. Blaine Hammond, American colonel, pilot and astronaut
• 1959-Sade, Nigerian-English singer-songwriter and producer
• 1962-Maxine Jones, American R&B singer-songwriter and actress
• 1966-Jack McDowell, American baseball player
• 1969-Roy Jones Jr., American boxer
• 1974-Kate Moss, English model and fashion designer
• 1980-Albert Pujols, Dominican-American baseball player
• 1985-Joe Flacco, American football player
• 1986-Mark Trumbo, American baseball player

This Day in History (01/16):

• 27 BC-Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus is granted the title Augustus by the Roman Senate, marking the beginning of the Roman Empire.
• 378-General Siyaj K’ak’ conquers Tikai, enlarging the domain of King Spearthrower Owl of Teotihuacan. I later usurped that title.
• 550-Gothic War: the Ostrogoths, under King Totila, conquer Rome after a long siege, by bribing the Isaurian garrison.
• 1120-the Council of Nablus is held, establishing the earliest surviving written laws of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.
• 1362-a storm tide in the North Sea ravages the East coast of England and destroys the German city of Rungholt on the island of Strand.
• 1412-the Medici family is appointed the official banker of the Papacy.
• 1492-just as Columbus lands elsewhere, the first grammar of the Spanish language is presented to Queen Isabella I. It is Castillian, by the way.
• 1547-Grand Duke Ivan IV of Muscovy becomes the first Tsar of Russia, replacing the 264-year-old Grand Duchy of Moscow with the Tsardom of Russia.
• 1556-Philip II becomes King of Spain.
• 1572-Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, is tried for treason for his part in the Ridolfi plot to restore Catholicism in England.
• 1605-the first edition of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (Book One of Don Quixote) by Miguel de Cervantes is published in Madrid, Spain.
• 1707-the Scottish Parliament ratifies the Act of Union, paving the way for the creation of Great Britain.
• 1757-forces of the Maratha Empire defeat a 5,000-strong army of the Durrani Empire in the Battle of Narnia, sorry, Narela.
• 1780-American Revolutionary War: Battle of Cape St. Vincent.
• 1786-Virginia enacts the Statute for Religious Freedom authored by Thomas Jefferson.
• 1809-Penisular War: the British defeat the French at the Battle of La Coruna.
• 1847-John C. Fremont is appointed Governor of the new California territory.
• 1862-Hartley Colliery disaster: 204 men and boys killed in a mining disaster, prompted a change in UK law which henceforth required all collieries to have at least two independent means of escape. I learn something new every day, I never knew this term for coal mine.
• 1878-Russo-Turkish War: Battle of Philippopolis: Captain Aleksandr Burago with a squadron of Russian Imperial army dragoons liberates Plovdiv from Ottoman rule.
• 1883-the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, establishing the United States Civil Service, is passed.
• 1900-the United States Senate accepts the Anglo-German treaty of 1899 in which the United Kingdom renounces its claim to the Samoan islands.
• 1909-Ernest Shakleton’s expedition finds the magnetic South Pole. Quite a story!
• 1919-the United States ratifies the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, requiring Prohibition in the United States one year after ratification.
• 1920-Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc was founded on the campus of Howard University.
• 1920-the League of Nations holds its first council meeting in Paris, France.
• 1942-crash of TWA Flight 3, killing all 22 aboard, including film star Carole Lombard.
• 1945-Adolf Hitler moves into his underground bunker, the so-called Fuhrerbunker.
• 1964-okay this is freaky! I bet you didn’t know this when you heard that Carol Channing had died yesterday? “Hello, Dolly!” opened on Broadway, beginning a run of 2,844 performances, with Carol Channing as the lead. Perhaps, she has another opening night tonight in Heaven.
• 1969-Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 perform the first-ever docking of manned spacecraft in orbit and the first-ever transfer of crew from one space vehicle to another, and the only time such transfer was done by a space walk.
• 1979-the last Iranian Shah flees Iran with his family for good and relocates to Egypt.
• 1991-Coalition Forces go to war with Iraq, beginning the Gulf War.
• 1992-El Salvador officials and rebel leaders sign the Chapultepec Peace Accords in Mexico City, Mexico, ending the 12-year Salvadoran Civil War that claimed at least 75,000 lives.
• 2001-US President Bill Clinton awards former President Theodore Roosevelt a posthumous Medal of Honor for his service in the Spanish-American War.
• 2002-the UN Security Council unanimously establishes an arms embargo and the freezing of assets of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and the remaining members of the Taliban.
• 2003-the Space Shuttle Columbia takes off for mission STS-107 which would be its final one. It disintegrated 16 days later on re-entry, killing all on board.
• 2006-Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is sworn in as Liberia’s new President. She becomes Africa’s first female elected as head of state.
• 2016-33 out of 126 freed hostages are injured and 23 killed in terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on a hotel and a nearby restaurant.

Fun Fact of the Day:

There are more possible moves in a game of chess (Claude Shannon estimate) than the number of atoms in the observable universe.—Victor Allis

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Without deep reflection, one knows from daily life that one exists for other people.”—Albert Einstein

International and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at $74.34/barrel on 10/5, $47.66/barrel on 12/23, $48.63 on 01/07, and $52.31/barrel on 01/16 (yesterday). The price of gasoline at my new West Palm Beach station moved from $1.86/gallon on 01/07 to $1.97/gallon on 01/16. The USD has been taking a beating versus other currencies, due to the budget impasse and current US government shutdown. versus the Yen was trading at $112.20 on 12/24, was $108.60 on 01/07, and now is up a bit to 109.07 on 01/16. The USD was at $1.1426 versus the Euro on 12/24, but on 01/07 was at $1.1478, and a bit stronger on 01/16 at $1.1396. The USD was at $1.2655 against the British Pound on 12/24, but on 01/07 was at $1.2770, and is now even weaker on 01/16 at $1.2880. The USD versus the CAD was $1.3442 on 12/24, but at $1.3297 on 01/07, and now at $1.3255 on 01/16. Gold closed 10/5 at $1204.10/ounce, 12/24 at $1256.70/ounce, 01/07 at $1288.85/ounce, and 01/16 at $1293.50, reflecting the continued uncertainty of the markets and flight to gold. Bitcoin was trading at $8,185.21 on 7/25, at $6,350 on 10/5, and $3,774.97 on 12/24. On 01/07 it was at at $3,7774.97. On 01/16, it took some more of a beating, down to $3,598.90. Litecoin founder is stoking a debate over ‘Bitcoin Extremists’ Tweets. UK Crypto Exchange Coinfloor will launch trading of physically delivered Bitcoin Futures. Somehow, that strikes me as ironic. Argentina says the NEM Foundation will develop a blockchain-powered copyright system for journalists. In India, a fourth suspect has been arrested following an alleged $71.6 million crypto scam. A Paris “Treasure Hunt” has a Bitcoin prize worth $1000 up for grabs in a wall mural. A Hong Kong entrepreneur has been accused of cheating investors in a crypto mining investment scheme. The CEO of Epic Games, which owns Fortnite, said the Fortnite store’s acceptance of altcoin Monero was accidental. Japan is gauging interest in a Bitcoin ETF. Nevada has issued almost 1,000 digital Marriage Certificates on Ethereum, proactively using blockchain technology, but government acceptance varies across different agencies. In 2017, Nevada became the first state to exempt blockchain transactions from tax obligations. Yesterday, cryptocurrency hardware wallet firm, Ledger, unveiled a new Bluetooth-based wallet. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security reportedly raided the office of a Michigan-based science and tech center last month during a crypto-related investigation. So, it appears that PM May is now facing a potential historic defeat on Brexit and the EU is telling her that “time is almost up.” EU has expressed horror that UK Parliament defeated the Brexit deal agreed to by May in a new Brexit vote and has refused to renegotiate the deal. Analysts and the EU fear that the likelihood of the UK just ‘tumbling’ out of the EU without a negotiated deal is a higher prospect now.

Global Financial News:

PG&E, responsible for providing power to the San Francisco area, says it will file Chapter 11 bankruptcy, to avoid scores of lawsuits being filed against them, claiming faulty equipment caused many of the wildfires, like the Paradise devastation. The State has already said they will not step in to bail the company out. Several banks have released their Q4 earnings and Bank of America announced record profits, up 25%, on interest rate increases and corporate tax benefits, sending the stock soaring already 5% this morning. It was the firm’s highest annual profit, $28.1 billion, since 2006, when it was up $21.1 billion. Citigroup kicked off the banks that were reporting, when is announced a profit of $4.3 billion, compared with a loss of $18.9 billion a year ago, when it took a charge for the corporate tax reduction. This morning, Wells Fargo announced that it had a $6.1 billion profit, down 1% from a year ago, as it continues to struggle with the unauthorized accounts scandal. It also disclosed which types of jobs it will cut next at the bank. As I reported in the last Repo Commentary, Morgan Stanley is set to cut sales & trading jobs soon. At the same time, they are in the midst of announcing bonuses and promotions to the rest of their staff. They announced that they were promoting 145 people from Executive Director to Managing Director today. Today, JPMorgan Chase reported record profits of $7.1 billion, up 67% from a year ago. The biggest surprise, besides BOA’s and JPMorgan’s earnings, though, was probably news that Bank of NY was cutting some 10% of the workforce globally, along with a tough earnings call today. EPS was down 22%, but due in part to “a series of notable items.” Total revenue was up 7%. Goldman Sachs reported that M&A fees were up 56%, to the highest in more than a decade, in the dealmaking boom, and that that offset poor results in trading, worse results since the Global Financial Crisis. Fixed income trading, in particular, was down 18%, worse than analysts expected. Although revenue fell 1% at the bank, the firm cut its compensation costs by 11%. Four Chinese tycoons just transferred $17 billion of their money to trusts. Fiserve bought First Data for $22 billion. Moody’s said that the partial US government shutdown could create problems for the bond market, causing “liquidity strains.” The People’s Bank of China has injected a record $83 billion into the nation’s economy through reverse repurchase transactions, according to Reuters. Banco Santander is no longer hiring Andrea Orcel as CEO.

US Market News:

The Dow Jones closed at 26,656.77 on 9/20, closed at 26,447.05 on 10/5, closed at 21,792.20 on 12/23, closed at 21,712.53 on 12/26. When we last chatted, on 01/08, it was nearing 24,000. On 01/16, it closed at 24,207.16, still roaring back. S&P 500 also gave up its all-time high on 9/20 of 2,930.66, closing on 10/5 at 2,885.58, then on 12/26 at 2,467.70, in bear market territory. Yet, as of 1/7, it had rebounded to 2,549.69 close. It closed on 01/16 at 2,616.10. Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28 high of 8,030.04, closing 10/5 at 7,788.45, then 12/26 at 6,554.36. Yet, as of 01/07, it too had rebounded to close at 6,823.47. On 01/16, it closed at 7,034.70.

US Treasury yields had gotten much higher on 9/20, in advance of the 9/26 FOMC meeting, rose still higher after the meeting and then plummeted with the drop in Equities, and have continued to drop and even invert since. On 10/5, 2years closed at 2.88%, closed 12/18 at 2.65%, closed 01/07 at 2.53%, and closed 01/16 at 2.55%; on 10/5, 3years closed at 2.99%, closed on 12/18 at 2.64%, and closed 01/07 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years), and then closed 01/16 at 2.53%, still inverted; on 10/5, 5years closed at 3.07%, closed on 12/18 at 2.65%, closed 01/07 at 2.49%, and closed 01/16 at 2.54%; on 10/5, 7years closed at 3.18%, closed at 2.74% on 12/18, and closed on 01/07 at 2.60%, and 01/16 at 2.62%; on 10/5, 10years closed at 3.23%, closed at 2.82% on 12/18, closed on 01/07 at 2.70%, and closed 01/16 at 2.73%; and on 10/5, 30years closed at 3.40%, closed at 3.07% on 12/18, closed at 2.99% on 01/07, and closed at 3.07% on 01/16.

Housing News:

By all measurements, the housing market cooled in 2018, and 2019 looks like it may be a difficult year for both buyers and sellers, according to analysts. Most analysts are predicting higher interest rates (although as we just saw above with Treasury yields, they have dramatically dropped since October, some down nearly ½%) and higher home prices, mainly because of less supply and higher labor and material costs. Both of those would be difficult for the housing market, but expected continued economic growth and increase in employment are supposed to prop up demand. I guess, if the housing market gets too unpredictable, that probably helps the renovation of existing homes and the various industries that support that. Analysts say, despite the delay following the Great Recession, the Millenials are now the biggest homebuyer group, particularly for entry-level homes, although supply is very limited. One thing homebuyers should be considering, says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is that they have a total debt-to-income ratio below 43%, when all is said and done. I think one thing to watch is the continued move from ownership to renting, houses and condos, as home price increases are likely to advance faster than wage growth. As 2018 ends, with lower existing and new home sales, as well as home prices, analysts still see the slowdown stopping short of a crash. Figures released Wednesday by the US Census Bureau show that almost 2.5 million people have moved to the state of Florida since 2010, up 13.3% in population. Florida remains the country’s 3rd most populous state. Florida’s growth rate in the last year was 1.5%, only surpassed by Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona.

US Home Sales plummeted in December by almost 11% and the annual price growth rate showed the smallest increase in 6 years, according to data from Redfin. Inventories are starting to increase and buyers are taking more time and clearly now have the upper hand. One possible silver lining which could help going forward, is that 30-year mortgage rates peaked in November at 4.94%, up a full percentage point since the beginning of 2018, but have since fallen to 4.45%. Perhaps, with lower mortgage rates, affordability will increase and lead to higher demand.

“Canada’s commercial property market is set for another blockbuster year.” National Post

Repo News:  

When I last wrote before Christmas, the repo market was showing resilience after yet another Fed tightening, with GC Overnight trading well-below the expected 2.60% rate, probably due to some GSE cash still being in the system. At the time, we were heading into year-end and were seeing some minor year-end balance sheet and funding pressures. Scott Skyrm saw the Turn at the time as 12/31-1/2 at 3.10%/3.00%.

Well, things didn’t TURN out that way at all. Liquidity, which everyone said was in abundance, shriveled up. Somehow, it shriveled up BOTH ways. Broker/dealers had difficulty financing and the O/N GC rate went north of 6.00%, and collateral providers struggled to find balance sheet at broker/dealers. But, somehow, at the same time, cash providers couldn’t find enough collateral at the broker/dealers and were forced to absorb rates that were so low, hundreds of bp away from 6.00%, that they actually went to the Fed’s dormant RRP program (averaging $11 billion and frequently near zero) and took down a hefty $43 billion at sub-repo rates. We haven’t seen such a disjointed year-end in years. And, it’s ironic that it came right after the regulators and the media went on about how liquidity had returned to the Repo market and everything was fine now.

Remember, on 12/24, I wrote this in the Repo Commentary, which now is prescient of what happened at year-end, and possibly what now actually exists:

“I will say that I saw a provocative piece by my old friend, Steve Malekian, regarding Liquidity Assumptions in the Repo Market. I have been seeing several articles about how 10 years now from the events of the Financial Crisis or Great Recession, we have now returned to some kind of ‘normalcy’. The banks are much better capitalized, forced to be so by over 300 regulations slapped on them and forced deleveraging to all market participants. Many people have been remarking how liquidity has returned to the market and is in abundant supply now. Now, I don’t know about you, but I see deleveraging and increased liquidity as an issue in semantics and timing. If you force people to slash their use of liquidity by as much as 60%, and it is still technically there, then there’s sort of more liquidity.

On the counterparty credit risk side, regulators certainly got things more transparent and eased questions about bank solvency, although the ‘too big to fail’ thing still lurks. There are less participants and the larger ones have crowded out some of the smaller ones. But, at what price was counterparty credit risk at banks reduced? Concentrating that risk into one, two, or three CCPs, may have reduced one counterparty credit risk, just to increase credit risk and concentration risk among only a few institutions. I remember one of the smartest money funds had told me that they now look at the CCPs’ membership lists and their waterfall provisions very carefully.

Anyway, Steve points out that bank balance sheets were slashed and client coverage was culled. As bank capital has been reallocated now back to the Repo Desks, for their smooth revenue stream, its allocation among clients is very different than it used to be. So, if you happened to be a client in the rare category of platinum (in terms of size and doing many of the product lines of that bank), you now are seeing more liquidity from that bank. But, if you are smaller or only doing repo or only doing thinner bid/offer spread repo, you are not receiving the prior liquidity or you are seeing much wider bid/offer spreads.

Remember that liquidity and balance sheet are fickle things that can change pretty suddenly. So, is liquidity overall up? Or, is this time different?

Anyway, I’ve paraphrased Steve, perhaps not perfectly, and added some of my own thoughts just to provoke discussion.”

Well, that’s scary, even to me! The problem seems to be that the Fed added all of these tools to provide liquidity but only to take cash out of the system with their RRP, not ADD cash to the system to keep rates down and to provide liquidity to collateral providers or to broker/dealers. Maybe, the liquidity really has moved to just the Platinum customers. I would also like to know more about how SOFR, a median of Triparty Repo rates from broker/dealers to cash providers missed by so much the actual average repo rate of the market? Is it because it missed the bilateral trades or is it because it only focuses on the Offer Side of the market, or both?

I’m hearing from several sources that the sponsored repo program at FICC, Direct Repo at AVM, Elixium electronic platform, GLMX electronic platform, EUREX CCP, peer-to-peer OTC financing, and BONY’s DBVX are all making headway and volumes are up, although still below 5% of the overall European and US repo markets. I’ll give you more of my thoughts on all that in the next Repo Commentary (otherwise, I’ll never finish this and all the other news will be old!). But, in the meantime, Risk ran an interesting article on a survey of banks that were hesitating to sign on to vendors who offered connections to electronic trading platforms because they don’t want additional services, such as order routing and analytics, which are often bundled in. Bloomberg had an interesting article about the video game Fortnite, saying that “huge multiplayer games are true economic exchanges.” I think that is very interesting, seeing the video game as a digital exchange for the future of global trading. Ah, I keep thinking of a Repo Exchange…

I see the Repo and Securities Lending market as having changed in many permanent ways. We traditionally had a credit intermediator, the broker/dealers (originally just the primary broker/dealers) and later prime brokers, who were the pipeline through their respective repo matched books for collateral providers to trade with cash providers, without the two sides ever knowing about each other or facing each other. That lack of knowledge of the other side of the repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis and the impact on some of the dealers that then cost their clients. Clearly, with that pipeline becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be found for cash provider and collateral provider clients. AVM’s Direct Repo™ was the first of one of such pathways. Since then, other pathways to these markets have been created, including: the Federal Reserve’s RRP program with cash providers, peer-to-peer financing as reported on Treasury OFR’s website between MMFs and Insurance Companies, As Agent repo through seclending agents and now some prime brokers, direct lending from beneficial owner to hedge funds who are short, indemnified As Agent repo, buyside to buyside Triparty Repo through two international clearing organizations, electronic all-to-all repo on a few electronic trading platforms like Elixium and BNY DBVX, FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products to entice certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, and other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (several still being worked on, particularly in Europe). I believe this evolution will continue and eventually we will see all of these pathways used, including the traditional pathway (to probably a lesser than historical degree) through the broker/dealers and prime brokers.

Upcoming Repo Industry Conferences:
 

• Finadium will hold a webinar on moving to SOFR, SONIA, and ESTER, the three principal LIBOR alternatives, on 1/15.
• IMN 25th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/5-2/6. I have been chosen as the Chairperson.
• Finadium will hold a new conference on the Business of Collateral Trading in Frankfurt, Germany on 2/21.
• IMN will hold its annual Fixed Income Investor Network in Las Vegas on 2/24.
• iMoneyNet will hold its annual MMExpo in Middleburg, VA 3/4-3/6.
• RMA will hold its 16th annual PASLA/RMA Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Sydney, Australia on 3/5-3/7.
• GIOA will hold its 15th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/20-3/22.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/2-5/3.
• IMN will hold its annual Global ABS conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/11-6/13.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Philadelphia, PA on 6/18-6/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/17-9/19.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 9/22-9/24.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe in London on 9/24.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Naples, FL on 10/6-10/9.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its Fixed Income Leaders conference in Barcelona on 10/7-10/9.
• RMA will hold its 37th annual Repo & Securities Lending Conference in Boca Raton, FL in October.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its annual conference in Boston, MA on 10/20-10/23.
• Risk.net will hold its 25th annual Risk USA conference in NYC in November.
• SIFMA will hold its annual Meeting in Washington, DC on 11/18-11/20.

Federal Reserve News:

Fed Funds, which trade mostly between some banks and GSEs, opened today at 2.50%, where it had been set on 12/13 FOMC meeting tightening of 25bp.

The next FOMC meetings are: 1/30/19, 3/20/19, 5/1/19, 6/19/19, 7/31/19, 9/18/19, 10/30/19, 12/11/19, 1/29/20 (reflecting the Fed’s just announced tentative schedule for 2019).

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (16 banks, 14 GSEs, 101 money market funds from various fund families), is now set at the rate of 1.75%. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. Remember when RRP was trading at year-end for $465 billion? Well, on 5/15, there was only $20 million in bids submitted. MMF cash and GSE cash has moved out of the Fed’s RRP and into the Repo market, but it hasn’t really brought down the GC repo rate, which is strange.

If you are wondering about RRP, it is nearly extinct. In July, excluding month-end, volume averaged only $2.8 billion per day. It has just become a mechanism for the Fed to supply collateral when its scarce for money market funds on month-ends and quarter-ends, as dealer balance sheets dry up at those times.

According to FOMC members, the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise the benchmark Fed Funds rate to 2.50% at the December FOMC meeting, 3.00% in 2019, and 3.50% in 2020. If you are keeping score, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds target rate on these dates so far:

12/15/15 to 0.50%
12/14/16 to 0.75%
3/5/17 to 1.00%
6/14/17 to 1.25%
12/13/17 to 1.50%
3/21/18 to 1.75%
6/13/18 to 2.00%
9/26/18 to 2.25%
12/13/18 to 2.50%

Quantitative Easing was ‘tapered off’ in 2013. The Fed still had $4 trillion of debt in 2017 on its books from that QE. In October 2017, it began allowing those holdings to gradually decline. For fun, the Fed Funds target rate was 5.25% before the Fed cut of 9/18/2007.

The Federal Reserve will propose a rule this year to simplify the stress tests for regional banks and to reduce their frequency, per Randal Quarles. The rule would apply to banks with $100 billion-$250 billion in assets. Nellie Lang, a former economist at the Fed, has withdrawn from consideration to be a governor at the Fed.

“Kansas City Fed’s Esther George Says Central Bank Can Pause Rate Increases: One of the Federal Reserve’s most consistent supporters of raising interest rates said the central bank could refrain from more increases for the time being while it studies the effects of its previous steps to withdraw economic stimulus.” Wall Street Journal

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

The USGS updated its 2005 rankings of the 161 volcanoes that pose the most threat to American lives. Since 2005, that total number has dropped by 8. The 18 very highest threat volcanoes are in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. 39 other volcanoes are high threat, 49 are moderate, 34 are low, and 21 are very low threat. The United States is one of Earth’s most volcanically active countries. Since 1980, there have been 120 eruptions and 52 episodes of notable volcanic threat at 44 US volcanoes. Using 24 factors to determine the threat to people and evaluate the US volcanoes, the USGS came up with the entire list. Here are the 18 very highest threat volcanoes:
• Akutan Island-Alaska
• Augustine Volcano-Alaska
• Makushin-Alaska
• Redoubt Volcano-Alaska
• Mount Spur-Alaska
• Mount Baker-Washington
• Glacier Peak-Washington
• Mount Ranier-Washington
• Mount St. Helens-Washington
• Crater Lake-Oregon
• Mount Hood-Oregon
• Newberry Volcano-Oregon
• Three Sisters Volcano-Oregon
• Lassen volcanic center-California
• Long Valley Caldera-California
• Mount Shasta-California
• Kilauea-Hawaii
• Mauna Loa-Hawaii

I was looking at the USGS latest map on the largest earthquakes since 01/08, and they have mostly occurred in a ring around the Pacific Ocean. The latest earthquakes:

1/17/19 5.3 133km WSW of La Libertad, Mexico
1/17/19 5.1 Carlsberg Ridge
1/17/19 5.2 57km SSW of Sola, Vanuatu
1/17/19 5.4 133km ESE of Moehan, India
1/16/19 5.1 215km NNE of Tobelo, Indonesia
1/16/19 5.4 205km NNE of Tobelo, Indonesia
1/16/19 5.1 Southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge
1/16/19 5.0 101km NNE of Hihifo, Tonga
1/16/09 5.4 111km E of Tadine, New Caledonia
1/16/19 5.1 158km ESE of Tadine, New Caledonia
1/15/19 5.2 51km W of Puerto Santa, Peru
1/15/19 5.8 98km SE of Pondaguitan, Philippines
1/15/19 6.6 96km NW of Sola, Vanuatu
1/15/19 5.3 56km SSW of Masachapu, Nicaragua
1/14/19 5.0 77km SW of Kaktovik, Alaska
1/13/19 5.0 168km SSE of Ohonua, Tonga
1/13/19 5.0 15km NW of Anchorage, Alaska
1/13/19 5.3 72km WNW of Kirakira, Solomon Islands
1/13/19 5.1 225km NNE of Tobelo, Indonesia
1/12/19 5.0 238km WNW of Saumlaki, Indonesia
1/12/19 5.3 164km S of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea
1/12/19 5.1 153km SSW of Kotaagung, Indonesia
1/12/19 5.0 43km E of Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka
1/12/19 5.2 South of Tonga
1/12/19 5.3 39km NW of Kashi, China
1/11/19 5.4 116km WNW of Bengkulu, Indonesia
1/11/19 5.2 105km E of Ohonua, Tonga
1/10/19 5.0 75km SSE of Palaikastron, Greece
1/10/19 5.8 South of Tonga
1/10/19 5.2 172km ESE of Raoul Island, New Zealand
1/08/19 6.3 16km SSE of Nishinoomote, Japan

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began Friday, June 1st and ended November 30th. For 2018, Colorado State University experts had predicted that this season would be a busy, above average hurricane season. They had predicted 14 named Tropical Storms, of which 7 would become Hurricanes. Both are above the averages of 12 and 6, respectively. There were 15 named Tropical Storms, of which 8 were hurricanes, and 2 of them major. In 2017, they were way off the wrong way as well, with way more storms. They had predicted 11 Tropical Storms, of which 4 would be Hurricanes. Instead, we had 17 Tropical Storms and had 10 Hurricanes. Here were the 2018 Storm names:

Alberto done
Beryl done
Chris done
Debby done
Ernesto done
Florence done
Gordon done
Helene done
Isaac done
Joyce done
Kirk done
Leslie done
Michael done
Nadine done
Oscar done
Patty
Rafael
Sara
Tony
Valerie
William

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/18 and ended 11/1/18. Okay, that’s the last Repo Commentary with the hurricane data, because even I get tired of seeing it.

As for the weather, we have a cool front in Florida, with sunny days and temperatures in the 60s in the morning and 70s in the afternoon, dropping to the 50s at night. We are likely to get some rain this weekend, as temperatures begin to climb. There is a national weather alert for a major storm which will pound California, with the last and strongest in a week-long period of Pacific storms hitting California with heavy rainfall, mountain snow, and flooding near recent wildfire regions. Meanwhile, a weaker, progressive system may produce light snow from the Ohio Valley into the northern Mid-Atlantic region into the early weekend. For the weekend, expect a major winter storm to develop from an upper level trough over the western US, which will move eastward over the High Plains by Friday, then take freezing rain, heavy snow, and heavy rain through the central US and eastern US over the next few days. The Gulf Coast region is likely to see heavy thunderstorm activity. After this large storm, an arctic surface high will plunge down from Canada and bring frigid temperatures across the Plains and the Upper Midwest, bringing temperatures down 15-25 degrees below normal.

Sports News:

MLB:

The MLB regular season ended in November with the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, fear not baseball fans, as the MLB has announced the earliest Opening Day ever for 2019, with all 30 teams playing on 3/28/19. They are not counting the first game of the season, between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, that will occur in Tokyo on March 20-21. The World Series Champion Boston Red Sox will play the Yankees in London, for the first-ever MLB games in Europe, on 6/29-6/30. Spring Training will begin 2/21 with the first game between the Mariners and the A’s in the Cactus League. The Grapefruit League kicks off 2/22 with a game between the Rays and the Phillies. The World Champion Red Sox will be visiting the White House, as a complete team, on 2/15. Yankees’ beloved Mel Stottlemyre has died at age 77.

Sporting News announced its MLB Player of the Year as Red Sox Mookie Betts. The Red Sox promptly agreed to extend his contract another year in arbitration for $20 million. LHP Derek Holland is re-signing with the Giants. The offseason Free Agency Hot Stove has begun in full force. The two biggest star free agents and likely largest contracts are Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Manny Machado has reportedly received an 8-year contract offer from the White Sox. The Phillies are still hoping to sign him though. The Yankees were also interested. Rumor is that if Machado signs elsewhere, the White Sox and Phillies would be interested in Mike Moustakas. The Phillies are leading the sweepstakes for Bryce Harper, after meeting with him, although the White Sox are also competing with them on him. Rockies’ Nolan Arenado reportedly turned down $24 million in arbitration. He wanted $30 million for the 2019 season. The record arbitration was $23 million that Josh Donaldson received with the Blue Jays in 2018. The Padres have reportedly explored a 3-team trade, which would send Indians’ ace Corey Kluber to the Reds. D-Backs’ ace Patrick Corbin has signed a mega deal of 6years/$140 million with Nationals. The Giants are shopping 28-year-old infielder Joe Panik. The Brewers are supposedly interested. The Yankees are still discussing trading starter Sonny Gray to at least 6 teams. The Yankees are reportedly close to a 2-year/$24 million deal with DJ LeMahieu. The Yankees re-signed reliever Zach Britton. The Braves are interested in A.J. Pollock. The Phillies signed former Yankees reliever David Robertson as a ‘relief ace’ for 2years/$23 million. The Mariners landed Japan baseball starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi for 3years/$43 million. The Twins signed slugger Nelson Cruz for one year/$14 million. The A’s signed reliever Joakim Soria for 2years/$15 million. The Cardinals are reportedly close to signing reliever Andrew Miller. Don’t get me started on Miller, who pitched horrendously for the Red Sox, but terrifically for the Yankees and Indians. Starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, also a former Red Sox, reportedly will stay in the NL East, with the Nationals, signing a 2year/$19 million deal. The Angels added starter Trevor Cahill to the t Lowrie for 2years/$20 million. 33-year-old former star, Daniel Murphy, will be joining the Rockies for 2years/$24 million. Controversial starter, Matt Harvey, will go to the Angels for one year/$11 million. Meanwhile, another former Met, Jeurys Familia, will return to the Mets for 3years/$30 million. The Nationals and Brian Dozier reportedly agreed to a 1-year deal/$9 million. The Brewers signed Yasmani Grandal for one year/$18.25 million. The Yankees re-signed 36-year-old J.A. Happ for 2years/$34 million. The Mets signed catcher Wilson Ramos for 2years/$19.5 million. The Rays added starter Charlie Morton for 2years/$30 million. Brian McCann returned to the Braves, after lackluster stints with the Yankees and Astros, for one year/$2 million. The Braves also signed 3B Josh Donaldson for one year/$23 million. Former MLB closer John Wetteland has been arrested on child sex abuse charges.

Many people are wondering whether Oklahoma QB and Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray, will choose MLB or NFL, after the A’s chose him with the No.9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and gave him a signing bonus of almost $5 million. Well, yesterday, he declared for the NFL Draft. I think he’s making a big mistake, as baseball players tend to have longer careers and less concussions. Unless, he becomes a Tom Brady, Brett Favre, or Drew Brees and plays into his 40s.

Astros’ 3B Alex Bregman has undergone elbow surgery. Anaheim and Angels hope to buy more time for stadium-lease talks.

Golf:

The PGA Tour season began with its swing through Hawaii. They played the Sentry Tournament of Champions event at Kapalua in Maui. It was won by Xander Schauffele, with an astounding 62 on Sunday. This past weekend they played the Sony Open in Oahu in Honolulu at the Waialae CC, and it was won by Matt Kuchar, who ran away with it, 4 strokes ahead of Putnam. Now, the PGA moves to the Desert Classic this week at PGA West and La Quinta, with first round tomorrow. If you are wondering when Tiger Woods is playing, since he had such a successful 2018 comeback (ranked No.13 in world now, won the Tour Championship, finished 2nd in the FedEx Cup, and contended in 2 major championships), the 43-year-old said he is still trying to figure that out. We can already guess that he will play all 4 majors, if able, since he has won majors at 3 of the courses: Augusta National (Masters), my old Bethpage Black (PGA), and Pebble Beach (US Open). He will probably play a little less, not the 18 official worldwide events he played in 2018, the most he had played since 2013, since you could tell he was pretty worn out by the Ryder Cup. He played in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he hadn’t played since 2005. He will likely play in the Farmers Insurance Open next week, since it was always his launching point. His foundation runs the Genesis Open at Riviera 2/14-17, so he has to play there. I think he will play the Honda Classic here in Palm Beach Gardens, since it’s right down the street from his house, but analysts think he won’t. If he doesn’t play the Honda Classic, he may play the WGC-Mexico Championship (2/21-2/24), since he now qualifies for WGC events and there is no cut. It’s hard to imagine that he would skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational (3/7-3/10) since he has won at Bay Hill 8 times and tied for 5th in 2018. Then, it will be the Players Championship (3/14-3/17), as this was moved up from May to March. That’s all I’m guessing so far. I truly hopes he plays the Honda in his hometown, so we all can get to see him here. The European Tour is arguably the most innovative golf tour, trying out everything from night golf to shot clocks to even a rooftop tee box in recent years. But, this week, may top the innovations, as the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship has a landfill hole! It probably wasn’t the original plan, but the 5th hole has a large landfill with plenty of household junk and furniture thrown in it, that players will have to navigate. Do you take a stroke penalty from a drop from patio furniture? Ian Poulter grabbed the early lead on Wednesday with a blistering 66 after 34 hours of travel. The Web.com tour season is underway in the Bahamas and Zecheng Dou is leading by 3. I actually watched some of that Great Exuma Classic tournament yesterday being played at the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort. Over on the LPGA, the season is also starting, at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, where Rolex World No.1 Ariya Jutanugarn will actually be playing against her sister.

NCAA Basketball:

The college basketball season is nearly at its halfway point, about 15-17 games in. Friday, Maryland shocked No.22 Indiana. On Saturday, more upsets occurred, with No.12 UNC getting crushed by unranked Louisville, Kansas State edged No.20 Iowa State, No.14 Mississippi State fell to unranked rival Ole Miss, No.1 Duke eked by No.13 FSU with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win by 2pts, No.16 Ohio State was stunned by unranked Iowa, No.24 St. John’s was upset by old rival DePaul, and No.18 Kentucky had trouble with unranked Vanderbilt. Sunday, saw no upsets, with No.6 Michigan State crushing Penn State and No.2 Michigan crushing Northwestern. But, Monday, was the real shocker, when unranked Syracuse defeated No.1 Duke in OT. Unranked Pitt also upset No.11 FSU and No.25 Indiana was crushed by unranked Nebraska. Last night, the shockers were: No.11 NC State lost to unranked Wake Forest, No.4 Virginia crushed No.9 Virginia Tech, No.16 Ole Miss lost again this time to unranked LSU, and No.10 Nevada squeaked by by a point over unranked Boise State. Duke guard Tre Jones is out indefinitely after suffering shoulder injury against Syracuse. Duke star Zion Williamson missed the entire second half of the Duke vs FSU game. Star USC freshman Kevin Porter Jr. has ben suspended indefinitely, future is unclear. The son of Scottie Pippen, Scotty, has committed to Vanderbilt. Here is the AP Poll as of 01/13/19 (which does not include Monday’s upsets and has no movement in Top 10):

1. Duke (14-2)
2. Michigan (17-0)
3. Tennessee (14-1)
4. Virginia (15-0)
5. Gonzaga (16-2)
6. Michigan State (15-2)
7. Kansas (15-2)
8. Texas Tech (15-1)
9. Virginia Tech (14-1)
10. Nevada (16-1)
11. FSU (13-4) up from No.13
12. Kentucky (12-3) up from No.18
13. UNC (12-4) down from No.12
14. Auburn (12-3) down from No.11
15. Marquette (14-3) up from No.21
16. Buffalo (15-1) up from No.19
17. NC State (14-2) down from No.15
18. Mississippi (13-2) up from unranked
19. Maryland (15-3) up from unranked
20. Oklahoma (13-3) up from No.23
21. Houston (16-1) down from No.17
22. Villanova (13-4) up from unranked
23. Iowa (14-3) up from unranked
24. Mississippi State (12-3) way down from No.14
25. Indiana (12-5) down from No.22

On the women’s side, UConn women fell to Baylor in their first regular-season loss since 2014.

NCAA Football:

College football season kickoff was on 8/25 and is finally over with last night’s upset in the CFP Championship by No.2 Clemson over No.1 Alabama, 44-16. Alabama was just no match for the offense of Clemson and Alabama’s QB Tua threw 2 crucial interceptions that led to 14 points. I watched the game and many of the bowl games. Most of the bowl games were actually boring, low-scoring affairs.

AP finally released the final poll on 1/7/19:

1. Clemson (15-0) up from No.2
2. Alabama (14-1) down from No.1
3. Ohio State (13-1) up from No.5
4. Oklahoma (12-2)
5. Notre Dame (12-1) down from No.3
6. LSU (10-3) up from No.11
7. Georgia (11-3) down from No.6
8. Florida (10-3) up from No.10
9. Texas (10-4) up from No.14
10. Washington State (11-2) up from No.12
11. UCF (12-1) down from No.7
12. Kentucky (10-3) up from No.16
13. Washington (10-4) down from No.9
14. Michigan (10-3) down from No.8
15. Syracuse (10-3) up from No.17
16. Texas A&M (9-4) up from No.21
17. Penn State (9-4) down from No.13
18. Fresno State (12-2) up from No.19
19. Army West Point (11-1) up from No.22
20. West Virginia (8-4) down from No.15
21. Northwestern (9-5) up from unranked
22. Utah State (11-2) up from unranked
23. Boise State (10-3)
24. Cincinnati (11-2) up from unranked
25. Iowa (9-4) up from unranked

Here were the results of your 2018-19 College Football Playoff and Bowl schedule:

12/29 4:00pm College Football Playoff Semifinal
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No.2 Clemson vs. No.3 Notre Dame

12/29 8:00pm College Football Playoff Semifinal
Capital One Orange Bowl
No.1 Alabama vs No.4 Oklahoma

01/07 8:00pm College Football Playoff National Championship
Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA

12/15
Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl
North Carolina A&T 24
Alcorn State 22

New Mexico Bowl by Progressive
Utah State 52
North Texas 13

AutoNation Cure Bowl
Tulane 41
Louisiana 24

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
Fresno State 31
Arizona State 20

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Georgia Southern 23
Eastern Michigan 21

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Appalachian State 45
Middle Tennessee 13

12/18
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl
UAB 37
Northern Illinois 13

12/19
DXL Frisco Bowl
Ohio 27
San Diego State 0

12/20
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Marshall 38
South Florida 20

12/21
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl
FIU 35
Toledo 32

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
BYU 49
Western Michigan 18

12/22
Jared Birmingham Bowl
Wake Forest 37
Memphis 34

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Army 70
Houston 14

Dollar General Bowl
Troy 42
Buffalo 32

SoFi Hawai’I Bowl
Louisiana Tech 31
Hawaii 14

12/26
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
Boston College vs. Boise State
CANCELLED BECAUSE OF LIGHTNING

Quick Lane Bowl
Minnesota 34
Georgia Tech 10

Cheez-It Bowl
TCU 10 (OT)
California 7

12/27
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
Duke 56
Temple 27

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Wisconsin 35
Miami 3

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Baylor 45
Vanderbilt 38

12/28
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Auburn 63
Purdue 14

Camping World Bowl
Syracuse 34
West Virginia 18

Valero Alamo Bowl
Washington State 28
Iowa State 26

12/29
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No.10 Florida 41
No.7 Michigan 15

Belk Bowl
Virginia 28
South Carolina 0

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Nevada 16 (OT)
Arkansas State 13

CFP Semifinal Cotton Bowl
No.2 Clemson 30
No.3 Notre Dame 3

CFP Semifinal Orange Bowl
No.1 Alabama 45
No.4 Oklahoma 34

12/31
Military Bowl by Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati 35
Virginia Tech 31

Hyundai Sun Bowl
Stanford 14
Pittsburgh 13

Redbox Bowl
Oregon 7
Michigan State 6

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Oklahoma State 38
Missouri 33

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Northwestern 31
Utah 20

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Texas A&M 52
NC State 13

O1/01
Outback Bowl
Iowa 27
Mississippi State 22

VRBO Citrus Bowl
Kentucky 27
Penn State 24

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
No.11 LSU 40
No.8 UCF 32

Rose Bowl presented by NWML
No.6 Ohio State 28
Washington 23

Allstate Sugar Bowl
No.15 Texas 28
No.5 Georgia 21

01/07
CFP National Championship
No.2 Clemson 44
No.1 Alabama 16

NFL:

The 99th NFL regular season is nearing its end, as we just completed the Wild Card playoffs last weekend, which weren’t very exciting, frankly. Then, we had the Divisional Playoffs this past weekend, which were more exciting.

On Saturday, the Chiefs fairly easily beat the Colts in blizzard conditions 31-13. Later that day, the Rams and Cowboys played a sloppy game, and the Rams managed to hold on to beat the Cowboys 30-22. On Sunday, the Patriots dominated the Chargers on all fronts 41-28, and the Saints battled for a win over the Eagles 20-14.

Coming up this Sunday:

For the AFC Championship, the Patriots will visit the Chiefs, and Chiefs are 3 point favorites.

For the NFC Championship, the Saints will host the Rams, and the Saints are 3 ½ point favorites.

Winners of the two games will face each other in Super Bowl 53.

There were 8 NFL head coaches that lost their jobs this season. Patriots OC Josh McDaniels says he is staying in New England this time. Jags’ Jalen Ramsey mocked the Panthers hiring of former Jags coach Perry Fewell. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has decided to retire. The Cardinals have already hired a new head coach in Kliff Kingsbury. The Bucs are focused on Bruce Arians as next head coach. A report says that Freddie Kitchens has “good chance of being Browns’ next coach. The Broncos have narrowed their coach search down to 2 candidates. The Jets stole coach Adam Gase from the Dolphins as their new head coach. Apparently, they were intrigued by his 23-25 record with the Dolphins. But, the Jets aren’t done there, also finalizing a contract with former Browns’ interim coach, Gregg Williams, to be their Defensive Coordinator. The Eagles continue to say that they are committed to Carson Wentz as their starting QB, despite the fact that last year QB Nick Foles led them to, and won the Super Bowl (Wentz was out with a torn ACL) and won Super Bowl MVP, and this year into the playoffs (Wentz out with stress fracture in back). In fact, the Eagles head coach bizarrely decided to announce, yesterday, that Wentz will be the starting QB in 2019 season, way ahead of when they needed to disclose that. This may lead to Nick Foles becoming the staring QB for another team in 2019, who values the work he has done. So, where is superstar WR Antonio Brown going to play in 2019? It looks like the 49ers and Broncos may be among the possibilities. The NFL players voted Saquon Barkley as Sporting News rookie of the year for 2018. Don’t forget, there is still a Pro Bowl to be played, the NFL’s version of the All-Star Game, but not in the middle of the season like the other 3 major sports, and not featuring the best players, but at least the 3rd and 4th best teams’ players. Because of the potential for injuries in this dangerous sport, the 2 teams vying for the Super Bowl will not send players the week before to the Pro Bowl and possibly lose them before the bigger game. Also, because of injuries, several players who were chosen for the Pro Bowl rosters are being replaced. The Chargers lead with 7 Pro Bowl players and the Chiefs and Steelers are tied for second with 6 players each. However, if the Chiefs beat the Patriots this weekend, they will not be sending QB Patrick Mohomes to the Pro Bowl. If it goes the other way around, the Pats will not send QB Tom Brady, who has been named to his 14th Pro Bowl, tying him with Peyton Manning, Bruce Matthews, Merlin Olsen, and Tony Gonzalez. If the Pats go to the Super Bowl, it would be Brady’s 9th time in the Super Bowl, so that means he would have missed all but 5 of those 14 Pro Bowls. The AFC was supposed to have at QB, Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers, and Tom Brady, but as I said, either Mahomes or Brady won’t be there, and now Rivers is nursing an injury, so Andrew Luck of the Colts will be replacing him. On the NFC side, at QB, Aaron Rodgers will play, but either Rams Jared Goff or Saints Drew Brees won’t be there. Colts GM said that a trade offer for backup QB Jacoby Brissett, former backup for the Patriots, would have to “blow me away”. Saints RB Mark Ingram said he is “not looking just to leave”.

Okay, without thinking too much ahead or counting chickens that haven’t even hatched yet, since Saints QB Drew Brees turned 40-years-old on Tuesday, IF the Saints happen to face the Patriots in the Super Bowl, yet another record will fall, the total ages of the two QBs, at 81-years-old combined.

NHL:

The puck dropped on the regular season, for some teams, on 10/3. We are just past the halfway point now, 47/48 games out of 82. The Sharks are seeking their 8th straight victory tonight, playing the Coyotes. The Bruins will try to continue their dominance of the Flyers tonight, as they are 6-0-2 against Philly in last 8 games, and 12-1-3 in the last 16 games against Philly. Predators Viktor Arvidsson and Sharks Tomas Hertl were the latest hat trick scorers, the 54th and 55th hat tricks of the 2018-19 season, the most through this point in the season since 1992-93, when there were 65. The Senators get Duchene and Chabot back today of DL. Pettersson may be returning to the Canucks. Canadiens Paul Byron will have a hearing with the NHL over his actions against the Panthers. Harrison Browne, the first transgender athlete in professional hockey (NWHL), dropped the ceremonial puck as the New York Rangers celebrated Pride Night. The NHL has revealed the All-Star Game rosters for 1/26 game in San Jose. Veteran Cogliano has been traded by Ducks to the Stars for Shore. The Ducks have lost 11 straight games. Joe Thornton scored in his 1,000th game with Sharks in win over Penguins. Here is how the standings look so far: in the Eastern Conference, the Lightning lead the NHL with 74 points, way ahead of Blue Jackets (59), Capitals (59), Leafs (58), Bruins (57), and Canadiens (57), with the Senators in the cellar at 17-24-5; and in the Western Conference, the Flames (64) have a close battle with the Sharks (63), Jets (62), Predators (60), and Knights (60), with the Kings in the cellar at 18-25-4.

NBA:

The NBA season officially began on 10/3 as well. We are around 43-45 games in of the 82-game season. Nike unveiled their newest self-tying laces basketball sneakers, which you can adjust with your smartphone, and cost ONLY $350/pair. This was supposed to be the season of new Laker, LeBron James, and it certainly has an impact on the team he left, the Cavaliers, and their dreadful season, in dead last place. But, James im pact on the Lakers has been underwhelming, as he is on the disabled list with a major groin injury. Former teammate on the Heat, Dwyane Wade says he is “enjoying the process” in his final season of his career. Turkey is seeking an arrest warrant for Knicks’ Enes Kanter, for his outspoken criticism of Turkish President Erdogan. They are accusing Kanter of membership in a terror organization. I guess the Knicks have been called worse. Celtics in-fighting seems to be getting worse, as they seem to be underperforming, despite their cornucopia of talented players. Despite going 7 games in the NBA Finals last year, they are among 5 teams vying for the top 4 spots in the East.

The current standings are: in the East, the Raptors still have first place clenched in their Jurassic jaws, 1 game ahead of the Bucks, 3 games ahead of the Pacers, 4 games ahead of the Sixers, and now 7 games ahead of the Celtics, with LeBron’s old team the Cavs in the cellar at 9-35, 23 ½ games back; in the West, the Warriors are leading by ½ game over the Nuggets, 3 ½ games over the Thunder, 4 ½ games over the Rockets and Blazers, with the Suns in the cellar at 11-34, 19 ½ games back.

Tennis:

The first Grand Slam of the season has begun down under, with the Australian Open. Serena and Venus won their first matches.

Racing:

Last year’s champion, his first, for the NASCAR Cup Series was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead. Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017. NASCAR’s 2019 season is about to start with Daytona 500 to kick it off, as it does every year. Stewart-Hass Racing has signed Daniel Suarez to drive No.41 car. Dale Earnhardt Jr. still has “the itch to race.” Kurt Busch signed with Chip Ganassi Racing after leaving Stewart-Haas. Here is the schedule of races just released for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2019 (they don’t have the sponsors or formal names of all of them yet):

2/17 Daytona 500 at Daytona International in Florida
2/24 Atlanta
3/3 Las Vegas
3/10 ISM Raceway
3/17 Auto Club
3/24 Martinsville
3/31 Texas
4/7 Bristol
4/13 Richmond
4/28 Talladega
5/5 Dover
5/11 Kansas
5/18 All-Star Open Charlotte
5/26 Charlotte
6/2 Pocono
6/9 Michigan
6/23 Sonoma
6/30 Chicago
7/6 Daytona
7/13 Kentucky
7/21 New Hampshire
7/28 Pocono
8/4 Watkins Glen
8/11 Michigan
8/17 Bristol
9/1 Darlington
9/8 Indianapolis
9/15 Las Vegas playoff
9/21 Richmond playoff
9/29 Charlotte playoff
10/6 Dover playoff
10/13 Talladega playoff
10/20 Kansas playoff
10/27 Martinsville playoff
11/3 Texas playoff
11/10 ISM Raceway playoff
11/17 Miami-Homestead final playoff

Formula One begins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That is followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule 2/18-2/21 and 2/26-3/1, both in Catalunya, Spain. Here is the 2019 Formula One 21 Race calendar:

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne
3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir
4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000th Grand Prix)
4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku
5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona
5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco
6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal
6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet
6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg
7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone
7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim
8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest
9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa
9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza
9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore
9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi
10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka
10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City
11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX
11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo
12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island

Then, there is the IndyCar Racing circuit and its 2019 calendar (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):

3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
3/24 Circuit of the Americas
4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama
4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach
5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis
5/26 Indianapolis 500
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2
6/8 Texas Grand Prix
6/23 Road America
7/14 Honda Indy Toronto
7/20 Iowa 300
7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
8/18 Pocono Grand Prix
8/24 Gateway Grand Prix
9/1 Grand Prix of Portland
9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca

Travel News:

Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson”, when Captain Sullenberg saved 155 lives by landing his airplane in the Hudson River. US Airways hosted a party for the passengers and the Captain complete with champagne. A scary moment at the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta yesterday, as a Delta passenger accidentally managed to get a loaded pistol on an airplane to Tokyo. He realized it in-flight and reported it to the crew. But, the major concern, of all of us, is that the government shutdown, which is hitting TSA hard, may lead to breaks in security. These are just the sort of breaks that terrorists are likely closely watching for. Atlanta has now closed 6 security lines due to the government shutdown, so I would plan at least another half an hour to clear security there. In related news, Delta CEO said that the government shutdown has cost the airline $25 million. He also said that the shutdown may delay Delta’s first Airbus A220 flights. Allegiant is adding 16 new routes, including its first-ever Alaska flights. United Airlines’ new Polaris Lounge at LAX is basically a spa, but with tacos and wine. Palau’s famous lake filled with thousands of Golden jellyfish has finally reopened and tourists are allowed to swim with them again. I know you are wondering, so I’m here to help. You want to know how long you can keep up the Christmas decorations, given what a nightmare they were to put up. Most people would say that the 12 Days of Christmas, actual feasts in orthodox forms of Christianity, are a good guideline. But, then there is the Panhandle of Florida, where in many cases, Christmas lights stay up year-round. So, if it helps, Queen Elizabeth leaves her Christmas decorations up until February. WOW Air has launched its most affordable flights to Europe, with flights as low as $49 one-way. However, the airline has reduced its US cities to just 4. Spirit is making Raleigh-Durham its newest destination. Richard Branson, fresh after selling Virgin America to Alaska Airlines and buying a stake in Brightline Trains, is embarking on a cruise line with massive suites. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, with 561 passengers (and 31 crew) sick from norovirus has returned home to Port Canaveral. And, that was just after the cruise industry released figures on how norovirus was down this year. Oceania Cruises has ordered 2 new ships. Carnival is now delaying plans to cut free room service. Southwest Airlines had to cancel and delay flights amid Baltimore computer glitch for 4 hours at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. A 16-year-old passenger apparently slipped off Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas (sister ship to Oasis) ship’s balcony and fell on to a pier in Haiti. The French teenager apparently didn’t have his room card and attempted to enter his 8th-floor room from an adjacent balcony, slipped, and fell to his death. Scientists have created bendable concrete, which could be coming to building in an earthquake zone or to a road with severe winters.

Health News:

A biotech company’s pig vaccine is leading to a new Alzheimer’s disease approach. In Ohio, Mason schools will start 30 minutes later next school year, to boost students’ mental health. New measles outbreaks are putting kids at risk in many states and doctors are urging parents to vaccinate younger kids. There’s a growing amount of evidence that shows exercising in cold temperatures can burn more calories. Researchers say blood pressure and cholesterol drugs are showing promise in the treatment of Bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. In a new hormone replacement therapy study on blood clot risks, HRT tablets showed significantly more risk for women, than patches or gels. A recent study found that 1 in 10 adults have a food allergy, but more than 2 in 10 think that they do. This might be good for me: surgeons say a Calypso device may help relieve pain for people with osteoarthritis in their inner-knee region and eliminate the need for some knee replacement surgery. Researchers looking at “slow-wave sleep” said that its lack may cause a buildup of tau proteins in the brain and that the risk of Alzheimer’s may be higher in older adults with such sleep problems. The FDA, who is back at work, at least here in Florida, recently found one fifth of the avocados they tested were contaminated with dangerous bacteria. Experts say that children can suffer serious side effects from antipsychotic medications. Cervical cancer screening rate is low and experts believe that the screenings need to be made more convenient. Researchers are investigating an alpha-lipoic acid to see if it can help multiple sclerosis patients with gait and balance. Another one for me, possibly, a gel eye drop under development could reduce potentially sight-damaging scarring of the cornea caused by infection or injury. Eating breakfast every day can lower your risk for Type 2 Diabetes. There is a way you can help science, by becoming an “Immortal Corpse”—the Visible Human Project is looking for volunteers to donate their bodies to be sliced up into thousands of digital images for research. Tuberculosis kills 1.6 million people every year, more than HIV/AIDS and malaria, combined. But because other diseases keep grabbing the headlines, the chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson is helping drive an effort to change that.

Animal News:

Disney World’s Animal Kingdom has welcomed a new baby giraffe. In Charleston, SC, 10 German Shepherds rescued from an animal cruelty case have been adopted. Scientists are surprised by the complete fossil of Orobates pabsti found in Germany. The creature, about the size of a small dog, roamed Earth 300 million years ago. What is weird is that they have well-preserved fossil skeletons and fossilized footprints, so scientists have been able to re-create through computer simulation and using a real-life robot, what the animal’s gait would have been, and are astonished to find that it walked upright, like a caiman, very differently from the way other animals of this time walked more like salamanders. So, this represents advanced locomotion that has been for decades associated only with animals evolving millions of years later. The Animal Welfare Institute points out that shark fin is banned in 12 US states, but it’s still on the menu.

Entertainment News:

There are something like 36-40 major entertainment awards shows and I think we are in the middle of it, having just had the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the Peoples Choice Awards. When did they ever have so many ties? I said the exact same thing about this year’s NFL season. Alicia Keys was just named the host of the upcoming Grammy Awards. Maroon 5 finally committed to being the lead act at the Super Bowl halftime show. Broadway legend Carol Channing died 1/15 at age 97, 16 days before her 98th birthday. Famous for her Tony-award winning role in “Hello Dolly!”, which she portrayed almost 5,000 times, she was often on TV and in nightclubs, and for a long time partnered with comedian George Burns on national tours. She won 3 Tony Awards. Steven Spielberg has found a 17-year-old singer to play the role of Maria in his remake of WEST SIDE STORY. Former ESPN President, John Skipper, wants to build the Netflix of Sports and beat his old company at its own game. NBC’s star sportscaster, Bob Costas, announced that his NBC career is over, after reaching an agreement with the network, according to the NY Post. He intends to continue doing work for the MLB Network. In 2016, Costas stepped down from his iconic role as host of Olympic Game coverage, giving way to Mike Tirico, who joined NBC from ESPN. Costas has also stepped away from his role in NBC’s NFL coverage in Football Night in America. Saying that his role with NBC was “no longer a fit”, Costas negotiated out of the contract that ran through 2021. Michael Strahan says he wants to treat the National Champion Clemson football team to lobster, after President Trump served them fast food at the White House. Paris Jackson says she’s “feeling better than ever” after entering a treatment facility. Julia Roberts said she will not be returning for Season 2 of Homecoming. Ewan McGregor’s daughter Clara is calling him out on Instagram for leaving her mom Eve Mavrakis. Katharine McPhee is trying on wedding dresses, as she is engaged to David Foster. Kim Kardashian’s 1-year-old daughter, Chicago, just received a Mercedes G-Class that matches her mom’s, as a birthday gift from Aunt Kourtney Kardashian. Are these people for real? The Tonight Show heads to Puerto Rico with Lin-Manual Miranda and performances of “Hamilton”. Chris Pratt is engaged to Katherine Schwarzenegger. This is just weird, the former To Catch A Predator host, Chris Hansen, has been ARRESTED for a bounced $13,000 check.

The 50th Anniversary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced its lineup for 2019, on Tuesday. It begins on 4/25-28 and ends on 5/2-5/5. It’s a SICK list of entertainers:
• The Rolling Stones
• Dave Matthews Band
• Katy Perry
• Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band
• Chris Stapleton
• Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
• Pitbull
• Van Morrison
• Al Green
• Logic
• Earth, Wind & Fire
• J Balvin
• Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Nevilles
• Glady Knight
• The Revivalists
• Leon Bridges
• John Fogerty
• Chaka Khan
• Herbie Hancock
• Tank and the Bangas
• Tom Jones
• Bonnie Raitt
• Ciara
• Alanis Morissette
• Irma Thomas
• Gary Clark Jr.
• The O’Jays
• The Head and the Heart
• The Doobie Brothers
• Jimmy Cliff
• Ziggy Marley
• Aaron Neville
• Boz Scaggs
• Galctic
• Jerry Lee Lewis
• Indigo Girls
• Rebirth Brass Band
• Mavis Staples
• Los Lobos
• Ellis Marsalis Family with Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason with Ellis
• Big Freedia
• Kamasi Washington
• Rita Coolidge
• Buddy Guy
• Preservation Hall Jazz Band
• Better Than Ezra
• Taj Mahal & the Phantom Blues Band
• Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk
• Maze
• Ani DiFranco
• The Radiators
• Hurray for the Riff Raff
• Jonathan Butler and Gerald Albright
• Shirley Caesar
• Little Feat
• Gregory Porter
• Anders Osborne
• North Mississippi Allstars
• Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
• The Mavericks
• The Robert Cray Band
• The Subdudes
• Samantha Fish
• Jupiter & Okwess of Congo
• Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers
• Big Sam’s Funky Nation
• Sweet Crude
• Naturally 7
• The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
• The Rance Allen Band
• Boyfriend
• Regina Carter’s Southern Comfort
• Terrence Blanchard
• The Bahamas Revue Band
• Cecile McLorin Salvant
• Marc Broussard
• And about 60 others

Tom Cruise’s latest MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: SKYFALL movie has made $791 million, so it’s no surprise that he announced that there will be another one coming out in Summer 2021, but it was a surprise that he announced another one will also be coming out in Summer 2022. The franchise has totaled globally $3.57 billion.

This week’s box-office was weak, perhaps due to the holiday at $102.4 million, down from last year’s $168.1 million. THE UPSIDE debuted and unseated AQUAMAN, making $20.4 million on a budget of $37.5 million; AQUAMAN, in its 4th week, managed to stay in the No.2 spot, making another $17.4 million (total now of an astounding $288 million); No.3 was the debut of A DOG’S WAY HOME (I must see this), which made $11.3 million (not bad for a budget of $18 million); No.4 was a return to the top 4 by SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, in its 5th week, with another $9 million (total $147.8 million on budget of $90 million); followed by No.5 ESCAPE ROOM, tumbling from No.2, with just $9 million in its 2nd week (but it has made $32.4 million on a $9 million budget).

The number of movies coming out this week is much lower, despite the holiday weekend: GLASS (which I want to see), AN ACCEPTABLE LOSS, ADULT LIFE SKILLS, DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY, THE HEIRESSES.

Technology & Space News:

According to NASA, 1/21 will be one of the sky’s “most dazzling shows, as the moon will be full and be at its closest point to Earth, making it a “Supermoon” (about 20% larger than normal). But, more importantly, it will also be a full lunar eclipse, something we haven’t seen in about 3 years, and because of the closeness to earth, it will appear reddish. Add to that, that it’s the full moon of January, which means it’s referred to as a “wolf moon”, and you have all the ingredients of a good Stephen King novel, a Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse. The spectacular event will be visible at 12:12 ET to people in North and South America, as well as people in western parts of Europe and Africa. Figures for overall sales this holiday season were just released and set a six-year high. US online gambling which seemed like a ‘sure bet’ a few months ago, hit a bad string of luck, as the Justice Department just reversed its 2011 interpretation of Federal law. Lotteries and online gambling companies are now being forced to handicap the impact. The US DOJ now says that the 1961 U.S. Wire Act bars all internet gambling that involves interstate transactions, reversing its call in 2011 that only sports betting was prohibited 50 years ago. So, how would an online gambling company know whether payments were routed through banks in another state? This will likely impact states that sell lottery tickets online and casinos that offer online gambling. And, we still haven’t gotten to the sports betting that seems to be a popular political topic in each state. Uber and other tech companies may have some issues with issuing IPOs, with the new state rules. What’s the next big thing…foldable smartphones! What? It has been about 10 years since the Razr was a popular device, but it is having a resurgence and now costs…$1500! Uh, oh…a medium-sized black hole actually casually wandered through the Milky Way galaxy?

US News:

Navajo Code Talker, Alfred K. Newman, has died at age 94, in New Mexico. President Trump has ordered thousands of federal employees, of the more than 800,000 impacted, back to work without pay to blunt shutdown disruption, representing about 25% of all US government workers. Congress is looking at blocking that by using the Amendment prohibiting “Indentured Servants”. The shutdown is having monumental ripple effects, including food banks being set up for Coast Guard bases and TSA employees at airports. Canadian air traffic controllers have been sending pizza to American air traffic controllers who aren’t getting paid. If you are keeping ‘score’, the shutdown began on 12/22, when the US Congress and President Trump could not agree on an appropriations bill to fund the operations of the Federal government for fiscal year 2019, or agree on a temporary resolution that would extend the deadline for passing such a bill (see ‘kicking the can down the road’). President Trump demanded $5.6 billion in federal funds to build a US/Mexico border wall. In December, Republican-controlled Senate passed an appropriations bill unanimously without Wall funding, and the bill appeared like it would be approved by then Republican-controlled House of Representatives. However, the House passed an appropriations bill, instead, with Wall funding, but the Senate never voted on it, with not enough support. Then, in January, the now Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the appropriations bill without Wall funding that the Senate had passed in December, but President Trump maintains that he will veto any bill without funding for the Wall. So, the Senate is not even considering the bill, even though it had originally passed it. We are now in our 26th day of shutdown, surpassing the 21-day shutdown of 1995-96, becoming the longest shutdown in US history.

International News:

Four Americans were reportedly killed in Islamic State attack in Syria. Yes, we have not yet pulled out of Syria. At least 14 people were killed in a terrorist attack within a Nairobi hotel by the militant group Al-Shabaab. In Poland, Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz died after being stabbed on stage at a charity concert. 15 people were killed when a Saha Airlines B-707 crashed on landing at Fath Air Base in Iran. In the midst of an ongoing constitutional crisis in Venezuela, the National Assembly is disputing incumbent President Nicolas Maduro’s victory in the May 2018 election and is declaring Juan Guaido as the acting President. Cape Town still has a major water crisis, one year later, as the underlying problems remain.

Florida:

Accused Parkland, FL school mass shooter was in court today. A Boca Raton woman called in a mass shooting threat for the K-9 Cigo memorial service attended by hundreds of police officers. The Breakers of Palm Beach is celebrating its 123rd birthday. If you are interested in seeing more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances, there are many coming to Florida, perhaps when you will be visiting (I’ve added a lot of concerts since the last Repo Commentary):

Air Supply-Pompano, FL, January 11
Franki Valli and the Four Seasons-Fort Myers, January 11
New Order-Miami Beach, January 12
Englebert Humperdinck-Fort Myers, January 15
Bernadette Peters-Naples, January 16
Memories of Elvis-Fort Myers, January 17
Righteous Brothers-Fort Lauderdale, January 17
Rick Springfield-Coconut Creek, January 18
Cher and Chic-Sunrise, January 19
Arlo Guthrie-Fort Lauderdale, January 19
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 14 (saw it, was awesome)
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
Tony Orlando-Stuart, January 23
Gladys Knight-Fort Lauderdale, January 24
America-Fort Lauderdale, January 24
Smokey Robinson-Hollywood, January 25
Peter Cetera and Blood, Sweat, and Tears-Miami, January 26
Marc Anthony-Orlando, January 27
Toni Braxton-Hollywood, January 29
The Temptations-Fort Lauderdale, January 31
Don McLean-Immokalee, January 31
Michael Bolton-Fort Lauderdale, February 2
The Four Tops and the Temptations-West Palm Beach, February 2
Melissa Manchester-Aventura, February 8
Michael Bolton-West Palm Beach, February 8
The Commodores-Miami, February 9
Patti LaBelle-Fort Myers, February 11
Duran Duran-Miami Beach, February 12
Franki Valli & the Four Seasons, Hollywood, February 14
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 14
Dave Mason-Fort Lauderdale, February 15
Little River Band-Fort Myers, February 15
Michael Buble-Sunrise, February 16 (I would like to go)
Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, February 18
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes-Bonita Springs, February 20
Art Garfunkel-Fort Lauderdale, February 20
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
Sarah Brightman-Hollywood, February 20
PGA Honda Classic-PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, February 28-March 2
Pink-Sunrise-March 1 (I might have to go)
Sara Mclachlan-March 1, West Palm Beach
Paul Anka-Fort Lauderdale-March 4
Elton John-Sunrise, March 16
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band-Sunrise, March 17
Steve Miller Band-Hollywood, March 17
Palm Beach International Boat Show-West Palm Beach, March 28-March 31
Jackson Browne-West Palm Beach, April 3
The Rolling Stones-Miami, April 20
Ariana Grande-Orlando, May 29
Train & Goo Goo Dolls-West Palm Beach, July 6
Queen & Adam Lambert-Sunrise, August 17

Repo Commentary-1/08/2019

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Happy New Year, everyone!

Okay, it’s time to focus back on work and the markets.

I announced in my 12/24/18 Repo Commentary that I am honored to have been selected to be the Chairman of the upcoming 25th (Silver Anniversary) IMN Beneficial Owners’ International Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference 2/5-2/6 in Fort Lauderdale and to add my touch to make it fresh again. We are already shaking it up and including many more sectors of clients to participate, including pension funds, municipalities, money funds, hedge funds, asset managers, and GSEs. The focuses will be on alternative repo efforts, fintech, repo reinvestment AND securities lending, and women in the securities financing industry (although not necessarily in that order). I hope to see all of you there and I’ll be reaching out to many of you to participate, as it is less than a month away! I am very interested in adding 3 hedge fund panelists and a prime broker to a panel being moderated by a large Pension Plan, to discuss the demands in the hedge fund industry for borrowing securities from third-party lenders and their beneficial owners (like Pension Plans).

I was just informed that ISF Magazine put out an article on my Chairing the conference this morning on their website with a nice bio. Thank yuh very much!

My Repo Commentary is posted on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed.

If you need to reach me, my cell is still 646-753-1300, my email for work is jeffkidwell82@gmail.com, and you can also hit me up on LinkedIn.

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

01/08 Holidays or Events:

• Argyle Day
• Bubble Bath Day
• Earth’s Rotation Day
• National English Toffee Day
• National JoyGerm Day
• National Man Watcher’s Day
• National Poetry at Work Day
• Show and Tell Day at Work Day
• National Winter Skin Relief Day
• National Shop for Travel Day
• War on Poverty Day
• World Typing Day
• Midwife’s Day or Women’s Day
• Commonwealth Day in Northern Mariana Islands

I swear this is just a coincidence that I decided to write a Repo Commentary on what would have been Elvis Aaron Presley’s 84th Birthday and I happen to be an Elvis Tribute Artist since 1989. Pure coincidence! Elvis was born as a twin, with his brother Aaron dying during childbirth. You probably know that he was in 31 movies, has 711 recorded songs, sung nearly every genre from Gospel to Soul to Folk to Rock to Rock-a-billy to Opera to Country to Funk to Holiday, etc., had 18 No.1 hits (tying him with Madonna for the most), had 58 Gold or Platinum Records, and died at age 42 after accomplishing so much.

But, I just found out yesterday myself, from a very close musician friend who was in Gypsy Kings and was the lead guitarist for Jose Feliciano, that Elvis’s mother, Gladys, who he dearly loved, came from the Romani Smiths and the German Presslers, and when Roma first entered America, in fear of persecution, they called themselves the Black Dutch. So, Elvis has Gypsy blood in him on his mother’s side, which would explain his love for dance, his charm, his looks, his originality, and his Gypsy soul. It turns out that there have been many famous celebrities of Gypsy Romani blood, including actor Michael Caine, Charlie Chaplin, actor Yul Brynner, actor Bob Hoskins, painter Pablo Picasso, and Rita Hayworth.

Here are 6 other facts that you probably didn’t know about Elvis Presley:
• He failed his music class at Humes High School, but became the first person in his family to graduate high school, in 1953.
• Elvis had sandy blonde hair, which he began dyeing black in his late teens. Originally, he died it with black shoe polish, but when he came into stardom, began using a combination of Mink Brown by Paramount and Miss Clairol 51D Black Velvet.
• Elvis was only 22-years-old when he purchased Graceland, his Memphis mansion, for $102,500.
• During his lifetime, heavy-handed manager, Colonel Parker, allowed Elvis to only make one commercial endorsement, which was a 1954 ad for Southern Donuts. His close friend, Johnny Cash, also endorsed the donuts.
• Despite worldwide acclaim and global satellite-relayed concerts, like the Aloha Concert in 1973, Elvis never performed outside of the US during his career. The reason was that Colonel Parker wouldn’t allow him to, as Parker was afraid that he himself would not be allowed back into the US, as he was not a legal resident.
• The members of Led Zeppelin were huge Elvis fans and finally got to meet him in 1973 in Los Angeles. Bassist John Paul Jones and the rest of the band were speechless, so he complimented Elvis on his watch. Elvis responded by giving Jones the $5,000 watch and trading it for Jones’ watch, which was a Mickey Mouse watch that sold for about $5.

Some Famous People Born 01/08 in History:

• 1037-Su Dongpo, Chinese calligrapher and poet
• 1360-Ulrich von Jungingen, German Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights
• 1587-Johannes Fabricius, German astronomer and academic
• 1589-Ivan Gundulic, Croatian poet and playwright
• 1638-Elisabetta Sirani, Italian painter
• 1680-Sebastiano Conca, Italian painter
• 1735-John Carroll, American archbishop, founder of Georgetown University
• 1786-Nicholas Biddle, American banker
• 1792-Lowell Mason, American composer and educator
• 1812-Sigismond Thalberg, Swiss pianist and composer
• 1823-Alfed Russel Wallace, Welsh-English geographer, biologist, explorer
• 1824-Wilkie Collins, English novelist, playwright
• 1824-Francisco Gonzalez Bocanegra, Mexican poet and composer
• 1830-Hans von Bulow, German pianist and composer
• 1852-James Milton Carroll, American pastor and author
• 1854-Fanny Bullock Workman, American mountaineer, geographer, and cartographer
• 1860-Emma Booth, English author
• 1862-Frank Nelson Doubleday, American publisher
• 1865-Winnaretta Singer, American philanthropist
• 1867-Emily Greene Balch, American economist and author, Nobel Prize laureate
• 1879-Charles Bryant, English-American actor and director
• 1883-Pavel Filonov, Russian painter and poet
• 1885-John Curtin, Australian journalist and politician, PM
• 1891-Walther Bothe, German physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate
• 1894-Maximillian Kolbe, Polish martyr and saint
• 1896-Arthur Ford, American psychic, founded the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship
• 1897-Dennis Wheatley, English soldier and author
• 1900-Merlyn Myer, Australian philanthropist
• 1904-Tampa Red, American guitarist and songwriter
• 1908-William Hartnell, English actor
• 1909-Ashapoorna Devi, Indian author and poet
• 1909-Evelyn Wood, American author and educator, founder of speed reading
• 1911-Gypsy Rose Lee, American actress, dancer, and author
• 1912-Jose Ferrer, Puerto Rican-American actor and director
• 1915-Walker Cooper, American baseball
• 1917-Peter Matthew Hillsman Taylor, American novelist and playwright
• 1920-Richard Benedict, American actor and director
• 1923-Larry Storch, American actor and comedian
• 1923-Giorgio Tozzi, American opera singer and actor
• 1923-Johnny Wardle, English cricketer
• 1924-Ron Moody, English actor and singer
• 1925-Mohan Rakesh, Indian author and playwright
• 1926-Hanae Mori, Japanese fashion designer
• 1926-Soupy Sales, American comedian and actor
• 1928-Luther Perkins, American country guitarist
• 1933-Charles Osgood, American soldier and journalist
• 1934-Gene Freese, American baseball player and manager
• 1934-Roy Kinnear, British actor
• 1935-Lewis H. Lapham, American publisher
• 1935-Elvis Presley, American singer, guitarist, and actor
• 1937-Shirley Bassey, Welsh singer
• 1938-Bob Eubanks, American game show host and producer
• 1939-Carolina Herrera, Venezuelan-American fashion designer
• 1940-Cristy Lane, American country and gospel singer
• 1942-Stephen Hawking, English physicist, futurist, and author
• 1946-Robby Krieger, American guitarist and songwriter
• 1947-David Bowie, English singer, songwriter, producer, and actor
• 1953-Bruce Sutter, American baseball player
• 1955-Mike Reno, Canadian singer and drummer
• 1959-Mike Harwood, Australian golfer
• 1959-Paul Hester, Australian drummer
• 1967-R. Kelly, American singer-songwriter, record producer, and former pro basketball player
• 1970-Rachel Friend, Australian actress and journalist
• 1971-Jason Giambi, American baseball player
• 1972-Paul Clement, English footballer, coach, and manager
• 1972-Giuseppe Favalli, Italian footballer
• 1973-Mike Cameron, American baseball player
• 1973-Henning Solberg, Norwegian race car driver
• 1973-Jason Stevens, Australian rugby league player and sportscaster
• 1976-Carl Pavano, American baseball player
• 1979-Sarah Polley, Canadian actress, director, and screenwriter
• 1982-Gaby Hoffmann, American actress
• 1984-Kim Jong-un, North Korean Supreme Leader
• 1986-David Silva, Spanish footballer
• 1992-Koke, Spanish footballer
• 2000-Noah Cyrus, American actress and singer

This Day in History (01/08):

• 307-Jin Huidi, Chinese emperor of the Jin Dynasty, is poisoned and succeeded by Jin Huaidi.
• 387-Siyaj K’ak’ conquers Waka.
• 871-Alfred the Great leads a West Saxon army to repel an invasion by Danelaw Vikings.
• 1297-Francois Grimaldi, disguised as a monk, lead his men to capture the fortress protecting the Rock of Monaco, establishing his family as the rulers of Monaco.
• 1454-the papal bull Romanus Pontifex awards the Kingdom of Portugal exclusive trade and colonization rights to all of Africa south of Cape Bojador.
• 1499-Louis XII of France marries Anne of Brittany in accordance with a law set by his predecessor, Charles VIII.
• 1547-the first Lithuanian-language book, “Simple Words of Catechism”, is published in Konigsberg.
• 1735-premiere performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Ariodante” at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
• 1746-in the Second Jacobite rising: Bonnie Prince Charlie occupies Stirling.
• 1790-George Washington delivers the first State of the Union address in NYC.
• 1806-Cape Colony becomes a British colony.
• 1811-an unsuccessful slave revolt is led by Charles Deslondes in St. Charles and St. James, Louisiana.
• 1815-in the War of 1812: Battle of New Orleans-Andrew Jackson leads American forces in victory over the British.
• 1816-Sophie Germain wins the Paris Academy of Sciences’ Grand Prize for her mathematical work on Elasticity (physics).
• 1828-the Democratic Party of the United States is organized.
• 1835-the United States national debt is zero for the only time.
• 1863-American Civil War: Second Battle of Springfield.
• 1867-African American men are granted the right to vote in Washington, D.C.
• 1877-Crazy Horse and his warriors fight their last battle against the United States Cavalry at Wolf Mountain, Montana Territory.
• 1889-Herman Hollerith is issued US patent #395,791 for the “Art of Applying Statistics”-his punched card calculator.
• 1904-the Blackstone Library is dedicated, marking the beginning of the Chicago Public Library system.
• 1912-the African National Congress is founded.
• 1918-US President Woodrow Wilson announces his “Fourteen Points” for the aftermath of WWI.
• 1920-the steel strike of 1919 ends in a complete failure for the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers labor union.
• 1925-the All-Woman Supreme Court met for the first time in Texas, the first all-female supreme court in the history of the US.
• 1926-Crown Prince Nguyen Phuc Vinh Thuy ascends to the throne, the last monarch of Vietnam.
• 1926-Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud was crowned King of Hejaz.
• 1936-Kashf-e hijab decree is enforced by Reza Shah ordering the police to physically remove the Hijab from any woman in public.
• 1940-WWII: Britain introduces food rationing.
• 1945-WWII: Philippine Commonwealth troops under the Philippine Commonwealth Army units enter the province of Ilocos Sur in Northern Luzon and attack Japanese Imperial forces.
• 1956-Operation Auca: five US missionaries are killed by the Huarorani of Ecuador shortly after making contact with them.
• 1961-in France, a referendum supports Charles de Gaulle’s policies in Algeria.
• 1963-Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is exhibited in the US for the first time, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
• 1964-President Lyndon B. Johnson declares a “War of Poverty” in the United States.
• 1972-bowing to international pressure, President of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto releases Bengali leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from prison, who had been arrested after declaring the independence of Bangladesh.
• 1973-Soviet space mission Luna 21 is launched.
• 1973-Watergate scandal: the trial of 7 men accused of illegal entry into Democratic Party headquarters at Watergate begins.
• 1975-Ella T. Grasso becomes Governor of Connecticut, the first woman to serve as a Governor in the US other than by succeeding her husband.
• 1977-three bombs explode in Moscow, Russia, Soviet Union, within 37 minutes, killing seven. The bombings were attributed to an Armenian separatist group.
• 1979-Password Plus debuts on NBC.
• 1981-a local farmer reports a UFO sighting in Trans-en-Provence, France, claimed to be “perhaps the most completely and carefully documented sighting of all time.”
• 1982-the Breakup of the Bell System: AT&T agrees to divest itself of 22 subdivisions.
• 1989-Kegworth air disaster: British Midland Flight 92, a Boeing 737-400 crashes into the M1 motorway, killing 47 of the 126 people on board.
• 1994-Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov on Soyuz TM-18 leaves for Mir. He would stay on the space station until March 22, 1995, for a record 437 days in space.
• 1996-an Anotove An-32 cargo aircraft crashes into a crowded market in Kinshasa, Zaire, killing up to 223 on the ground and two of six crew members.
• 2002-President George W. Bush signs into law the No Child Left Behind Act.
• 2003-Turkish Airlines Flight 634 crashes near Diyarbakir Airport, Turkey, killing the entire crew and 70 of the 75 passengers.
• 2003-Air Midwest Flight 5481 crashes at Charlotte-Douglas Airport, Charlotte, NC, killing all 21 people on board.
• 2004-the RMS Queen Mary 2, the largest ocean liner ever built, is christened by her namesake’s granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II.
• 2005-the nuclear sub USS San Francisco collides at full speed with an undersea mountain south of Guam, killing one man. The sub surfaces and is repaired.
• 2009-a 6.1-magnitude earthquake in northern Costa Rica kills 15 people and injures 32.
• 2010-gunmen from an offshoot the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda attack a bus carrying the Togo national football team on its way to the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, killing three.
• 2011-the attempted assassination of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and subsequent shooting in Casas Adobes, AZ, in which 5 people were shot dead.
• 2016-Joaquin Guzman, widely regarded as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker, is recaptured following his escape from a maximum security prison in Mexico.

Fun Fact of the Day:

In 2007, Mark Zuckerberg commissioned American street artist, David Choe, to paint murals for their office. Although he thought the Facebook business model was “ridiculous and pointless,” Choe, an avid gambler, chose to receive stock in lieu of cash. His shares of stock were valued at $200 million by the time of Facebook’s IPO in 2012.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“There are only two occasions when Americans respect privacy, especially in Presidents. Those are prayer and fishing.”—President Herbert Hoover

International and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices on 10/5 closed at $74.34/barrel, $47.66/barrel on 12/23, and $48.63 yesterday (01/07). Although up about $1/barrel since Christmas, it still remains very low. The price of gasoline at my new West Palm Beach station, which was $2.02/gallon on 12/24, versus 10/5’s $2.77/gallon, was $1.86/gallon on 01/07! The USD has been taking a beating versus other currencies, due to the budget impasse and current US government shutdown. versus the Yen was trading at $112.20 on 12/24, but now is $108.60, much weaker. The USD was at $1.1426 versus the Euro on 12/24, but yesterday was at $1.1478, a bit stronger. The USD was at $1.2655 against the British Pound on 12/24, but now is at $1.2770, weaker. The USD versus the CAD was $1.3442 on 12/24, and is now at $1.3297, weaker. Gold closed 10/5 at $1204.10/ounce, 12/24 at $1256.70/ounce, and yesterday (01/07) at $1288.85/ounce, reflecting the continued uncertainty of the markets and flight to gold. Bitcoin was trading at $8,185.21 on 7/25, at $6,350 on 10/5, and $3,774.97 on 12/24. Now, it is at $4,109.96. and was still above the magic $6000 figure at $6,350 on 10/5. Well, that apparently has broken through, trading yesterday at $3,7774.97. Litecoin founder is stoking a debate over ‘Bitcoin Extremists’ Tweets. UK Crypto Exchange Coinfloor will launch trading of physically delivered Bitcoin Futures. Somehow, that strikes me as ironic. Argentina says the NEM Foundation will develop a blockchain-powered copyright system for journalists. In India, a fourth suspect has been arrested following an alleged $71.6 million crypto scam. A Paris “Treasure Hunt” has a Bitcoin prize worth $1000 up for grabs in a wall mural. A Hong Kong entrepreneur has been accused of cheating investors in a crypto mining investment scheme. The CEO of Epic Games, which owns Fortnite, said the Fortnite store’s acceptance of altcoin Monero was accidental. Japan is gauging interest in a Bitcoin ETF. Nevada has issued almost 1,000 digital Marriage Certificates on Ethereum, proactively using blockchain technology, but government acceptance varies across different agencies. In 2017, Nevada became the first state to exempt blockchain transactions from tax obligations. Yesterday, cryptocurrency hardware wallet firm, Ledger, unveiled a new Bluetooth-based wallet. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security reportedly raided the office of a Michigan-based science and tech center last month during a crypto-related investigation.

Global Financial News:

Although the newly sworn-in, Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, agreed on a new US budget last week, the stalemate between President Trump and the Republican Party versus the congressional democrats has continued into its 17th day, making this the 3rd-longest government shutdown in US history (so far). Congress is out of session until today (01/08). President Trump said he was prepared to continue the partial government shutdown for “months or even years” over a spending package to fund 9 government agencies, unless he gets more than $5 billion toward the construction of a barrier wall along the U.S. and Mexico border. President Trump also says that he now wants a “steel barrier”, rather than the concrete wall he had been asking for. Ironically, the Office of Management and Budget, on Sunday, said that the amount of money requested to build such a steel barrier would only fund about 234 miles of the nearly 2,000-mile border. President Trump confirmed to reporters in the Rose Garden on Friday that he had considered using extraordinary powers of the Presidency, such as declaring a national emergency, to redirect money for the Defense Department to the wall construction. As the shutdown drags on, more than 420,000 employees are working without a paycheck and 380,000 more have been furloughed from their departments, including NASA, FDA and the Commerce Department. These numbers do not include the 4.1 million government contractors (2017 figure), who also are impacted. Citadel is expanding its real estate in Park Avenue office tower, per the NY Post. Neiman Marcus settled their 2013 data breach case that affected thousands of customers for $1.5 million. Negotiators have decided to extend the US-Chinese trade talks for a third day. There is reportedly some progress in the talks, which is helping rally global stocks. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon sees the US economy slowing, but recession not looming. Federal Reserve’s December FOMC meeting minutes will be released today and heavily scrutinized. US Banks are beginning to issue contactless cards, which are common in other parts of the world. JPMorgan Chase says all its credit and debit cards will be contactless by year-end. Russell 2000 small-cap index is expected to see growth of nearly 16% in Q1 2019, compared with the same period last year, far ahead of S&P 500, according to data by Refinitiv and reported by WSJ. The index had a major, perhaps indiscriminate, pullback in December. It’s all the non-humans’ fault! Well, at least, that’s what an FT article purports, in saying that high-frequency trading without human intervention and perspective exacerbates market volatility, according to its active managers. JPMorgan Chase says that only about 10% of US trades are executed traditionally. World Bank says that India will remain the fastest-growing economy. GDP is forecast to expand 7.3% during this fiscal year and 7.5% in the following year, per its Global Economic Prospects report. After 2 years of significant catastrophic weather events in the US, investor appetite for catastrophe bonds appears to be waning, per the WSJ. The Supreme Court’s view on the Emulex case could set new M&A standards.

US Market News:

The Dow Jones closed at 26,656.77 on 9/20, closed at 26,447.05 on 10/5, and closed at 21,792.20 on 12/23. The slide continued, after I wrote the last Repo Commentary and as the US Government went into shutdown and the FOMC raised the Fed Funds target rate, hitting a low of 21,712.53 on 12/26. Since then, there have been some startling rebounds. On 12/27, it closed at 23,138.82, up the most I’ve ever seen it. It closed yesterday 1/7 at about 23,530, sort of finding some equilibrium. As I write this though, I see that the Dow is up 260 points today (1/8), Nasdaq is up 65 points today (1/8), and S&P 500 is up 20 points today (1/8). S&P 500 also gave up its all-time high on 9/20 of 2,930.66, closing on 10/5 at 2,885.58, then on 12/26 at 2,467.70, in bear market territory. Yet, as of yesterday, 1/7, it had rebounded to 2,549.69 close. Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28 high of 8,030.04, closing 10/5 at 7,788.45, then 12/26 at 6,554.36. Yet, as of yesterday (1/7), it too had rebounded to close at 6,823.47. US Treasury yields had gotten much higher on 9/20, in advance of the 9/26 FOMC meeting, rose still higher after the meeting and then plummeted with the drop in Equities, and have continued to drop and even invert since. On 10/5, 2years closed at 2.88%, closed 12/18 at 2.65%, and closed yesterday at 2.53%; on 10/5, 3years closed at 2.99%, closed on 12/18 at 2.64%, and closed yesterday at 2.47% (inverted to 2years); on 10/5, 5years closed at 3.07%, closed on 12/18 at 2.65%, and closed yesterday at 2.49%; on 10/5, 7years closed at 3.18%, closed at 2.74% on 12/18, and closed yesterday at 2.60%; on 10/5, 10years closed at 3.23%, closed at 2.82% on 12/18, and just closed yesterday at 2.70%; and on 10/5, 30years closed at 3.40%, closed at 3.07% on 12/18, and just closed yesterday at 2.99%. I can’t believe how flat the curve is now with 2years-30years at 46bp.

Housing News:

By all measurements, the housing market cooled in 2018, and 2019 looks like it may be a difficult year for both buyers and sellers, according to analysts. Most analysts are predicting higher interest rates (although as we just saw above with Treasury yields, they have dramatically dropped since October, some down nearly ½%) and higher home prices, mainly because of less supply and higher labor and material costs. Both of those would be difficult for the housing market, but expected continued economic growth and increase in employment are supposed to prop up demand. I guess, if the housing market gets too unpredictable, that probably helps the renovation of existing homes and the various industries that support that. Analysts say, despite the delay following the Great Recession, the Millenials are now the biggest homebuyer group, particularly for entry-level homes, although supply is very limited. One thing homebuyers should be considering, says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is that they have a total debt-to-income ratio below 43%, when all is said and done. I think one thing to watch is the continued move from ownership to renting, houses and condos, as home price increases are likely to advance faster than wage growth. As 2018 ends, with lower existing and new home sales, as well as home prices, analysts still see the slowdown stopping short of a crash. Figures released Wednesday by the US Census Bureau show that almost 2.5 million people have moved to the state of Florida since 2010, up 13.3% in population. Florida remains the country’s 3rd most populous state. Florida’s growth rate in the last year was 1.5%, only surpassed by Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona.

Repo News:  

When I last wrote before Christmas, the repo market was showing resilience after yet another Fed tightening, with GC Overnight trading well-below the expected 2.60% rate, probably due to some GSE cash still being in the system. At the time, we were heading into year-end and were seeing some minor year-end balance sheet and funding pressures. Scott Skyrm saw the Turn at the time as 12/31-1/2 at 3.10%/3.00%.

Well, things didn’t TURN out that way at all. Liquidity, which everyone said was in abundance, shriveled up. Somehow, it shriveled up BOTH ways. Broker/dealers had difficulty financing and the O/N GC rate went north of 6.00%, and collateral providers struggled to find balance sheet at broker/dealers. But, somehow, at the same time, cash providers couldn’t find enough collateral at the broker/dealers and were forced to absorb rates that were so low, hundreds of bp away from 6.00%, that they actually went to the Fed’s dormant RRP program (averaging $11 billion and frequently near zero) and took down a hefty $43 billion at sub-repo rates. We haven’t seen such a disjointed year-end in years. And, it’s ironic that it came right after the regulators and the media went on about how liquidity had returned to the Repo market and everything was fine now.

Remember, on 12/24, I wrote this in the Repo Commentary, which now is prescient of what happened at year-end, and possibly what now actually exists:

“I will say that I saw a provocative piece by my old friend, Steve Malekian, regarding Liquidity Assumptions in the Repo Market. I have been seeing several articles about how 10 years now from the events of the Financial Crisis or Great Recession, we have now returned to some kind of ‘normalcy’. The banks are much better capitalized, forced to be so by over 300 regulations slapped on them and forced deleveraging to all market participants. Many people have been remarking how liquidity has returned to the market and is in abundant supply now. Now, I don’t know about you, but I see deleveraging and increased liquidity as an issue in semantics and timing. If you force people to slash their use of liquidity by as much as 60%, and it is still technically there, then there’s sort of more liquidity.

On the counterparty credit risk side, regulators certainly got things more transparent and eased questions about bank solvency, although the ‘too big to fail’ thing still lurks. There are less participants and the larger ones have crowded out some of the smaller ones. But, at what price was counterparty credit risk at banks reduced? Concentrating that risk into one, two, or three CCPs, may have reduced one counterparty credit risk, just to increase credit risk and concentration risk among only a few institutions. I remember one of the smartest money funds had told me that they now look at the CCPs’ membership lists and their waterfall provisions very carefully.

Anyway, Steve points out that bank balance sheets were slashed and client coverage was culled. As bank capital has been reallocated now back to the Repo Desks, for their smooth revenue stream, its allocation among clients is very different than it used to be. So, if you happened to be a client in the rare category of platinum (in terms of size and doing many of the product lines of that bank), you now are seeing more liquidity from that bank. But, if you are smaller or only doing repo or only doing thinner bid/offer spread repo, you are not receiving the prior liquidity or you are seeing much wider bid/offer spreads.

Remember that liquidity and balance sheet are fickle things that can change pretty suddenly. So, is liquidity overall up? Or, is this time different?

Anyway, I’ve paraphrased Steve, perhaps not perfectly, and added some of my own thoughts just to provoke discussion.”

Well, that’s scary, even to me! The problem seems to be that the Fed added all of these tools to provide liquidity but only to take cash out of the system with their RRP, not ADD cash to the system to keep rates down and to provide liquidity to collateral providers or to broker/dealers. Maybe, the liquidity really has moved to just the Platinum customers. I would also like to know more about how SOFR, a median of Triparty Repo rates from broker/dealers to cash providers missed by so much the actual average repo rate of the market? Is it because it missed the bilateral trades or is it because it only focuses on the Offer Side of the market, or both?

I’m hearing from several sources that the sponsored repo program at FICC, Direct Repo at AVM, Elixium electronic platform, GLMX electronic platform, EUREX CCP, peer-to-peer OTC financing, and BONY’s DBVX are all making headway and volumes are up, although still below 5% of the overall European and US repo markets. I’ll give you more of my thoughts on all that in the next Repo Commentary (otherwise, I’ll never finish this and all the other news will be old!). But, in the meantime, Risk ran an interesting article on a survey of banks that were hesitating to sign on to vendors who offered connections to electronic trading platforms because they don’t want additional services, such as order routing and analytics, which are often bundled in.

I see the Repo and Securities Lending market as having changed in many permanent ways. We traditionally had a credit intermediator, the broker/dealers (originally just the primary broker/dealers) and later prime brokers, who were the pipeline through their respective repo matched books for collateral providers to trade with cash providers, without the two sides ever knowing about each other or facing each other. That lack of knowledge of the other side of the repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis and the impact on some of the dealers that then cost their clients. Clearly, with that pipeline becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be found for cash provider and collateral provider clients. AVM’s Direct Repo™ was the first of one of such pathways. Since then, other pathways to these markets have been created, including: the Federal Reserve’s RRP program with cash providers, peer-to-peer financing as reported on Treasury OFR’s website between MMFs and Insurance Companies, As Agent repo through seclending agents and now some prime brokers, direct lending from beneficial owner to hedge funds who are short, indemnified As Agent repo, buyside to buyside Triparty Repo through two international clearing organizations, electronic all-to-all repo on a few electronic trading platforms like Elixium and BNY DBVX, FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products to entice certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, and other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (several still being worked on, particularly in Europe). I believe this evolution will continue and eventually we will see all of these pathways used, including the traditional pathway (to probably a lesser than historical degree) through the broker/dealers and prime brokers.

Upcoming Repo Industry Conferences:
 

• Finadium will hold a webinar on moving to SOFR, SONIA, and ESTER, the three principal LIBOR alternatives, on 1/15.
• IMN 25th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/5-2/6. I have been chosen as the Chairman.
• Finadium will hold a new conference on the Business of Collateral Trading in Frankfurt, Germany on 2/21.
• IMN will hold its annual Fixed Income Investor Network in Las Vegas on 2/24.
• RMA will hold its 16th annual PASLA/RMA Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Sydney, Australia on 3/5-3/7.
• GIOA will hold its 15th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/20-3/22.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/2-5/3.
• IMN will hold its annual Global ABS conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/11-6/13.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Philadelphia, PA on 6/18-6/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/17-9/19.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 9/22-9/24.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe in London on 9/24.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Naples, FL on 10/6-10/9.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its Fixed Income Leaders conference in Barcelona on 10/7-10/9.
• RMA will hold its 37th annual Repo & Securities Lending Conference in Boca Raton, FL in October.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its annual conference in Boston, MA on 10/20-10/23.
• Risk.net will hold its 25th annual Risk USA conference in NYC in November.
• SIFMA will hold its annual Meeting in Washington, DC on 11/18-11/20.

Federal Reserve News:

Fed Funds, which trade mostly between some banks and GSEs, opened today at 2.50%, where it had been set on 12/13 FOMC meeting tightening of 25bp.

The next FOMC meetings are: 1/30/19, 3/20/19, 5/1/19, 6/19/19, 7/31/19, 9/18/19, 10/30/19, 12/11/19, 1/29/20 (reflecting the Fed’s just announced tentative schedule for 2019).

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (16 banks, 14 GSEs, 101 money market funds from various fund families), is now set at the rate of 1.75%. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. Remember when RRP was trading at year-end for $465 billion? Well, on 5/15, there was only $20 million in bids submitted. MMF cash and GSE cash has moved out of the Fed’s RRP and into the Repo market, but it hasn’t really brought down the GC repo rate, which is strange.

If you are wondering about RRP, it is nearly extinct. In July, excluding month-end, volume averaged only $2.8 billion per day. It has just become a mechanism for the Fed to supply collateral when its scarce for money market funds on month-ends and quarter-ends, as dealer balance sheets dry up at those times.

According to FOMC members, the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise the benchmark Fed Funds rate to 2.50% at the December FOMC meeting, 3.00% in 2019, and 3.50% in 2020. If you are keeping score, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds target rate on these dates so far:

12/15/15 to 0.50%
12/14/16 to 0.75%
3/5/17 to 1.00%
6/14/17 to 1.25%
12/13/17 to 1.50%
3/21/18 to 1.75%
6/13/18 to 2.00%
9/26/18 to 2.25%
12/13/18 to 2.50%

Quantitative Easing was ‘tapered off’ in 2013. The Fed still had $4 trillion of debt in 2017 on its books from that QE. In October 2017, it began allowing those holdings to gradually decline. For fun, the Fed Funds target rate was 5.25% before the Fed cut of 9/18/2007.

The Federal Reserve will propose a rule this year to simplify the stress tests for regional banks and to reduce their frequency, per Randal Quarles. The rule would apply to banks with $100 billion-$250 billion in assets. Nellie Lang, a former economist at the Fed, has withdrawn from consideration to be a governor at the Fed.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

I was looking at the USGS latest map on the largest earthquakes of the last 30 days, and they have mostly occurred in a ring around the Pacific Ocean. The latest earthquakes:

1/08/19 6.3 16km SSE of Nishinoomote, Japan
1/06/19 6.6 151km WNW of Tobelo, Indonesia
1/05/19 6.8 89km W of Taruaca, Brazil
1/01/19 5.0 11km NNW of Anchorage, Alaska
12/29/18 7.0 83km ESE of Pndaguitan, Philippines
12/27/18 4.9 17km NW of Anchorage, Alaska
12/27/18 5.5 5km ENE of San Diego, Venezuela
12/26/18 5.0 2km ENE of Trecastagni, Italy
12/23/18 6.4 94km N of Nuku’alofa, Tonga

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began Friday, June 1st and ended November 30th. For 2018, Colorado State University experts had predicted that this season would be a busy, above average hurricane season. They had predicted 14 named Tropical Storms, of which 7 would become Hurricanes. Both are above the averages of 12 and 6, respectively. There were 15 named Tropical Storms, of which 8 were hurricanes, and 2 of them major. In 2017, they were way off the wrong way as well, with way more storms. They had predicted 11 Tropical Storms, of which 4 would be Hurricanes. Instead, we had 17 Tropical Storms and had 10 Hurricanes. Here were the 2018 Storm names:

Alberto done
Beryl done
Chris done
Debby done
Ernesto done
Florence done
Gordon done
Helene done
Isaac done
Joyce done
Kirk done
Leslie done
Michael done
Nadine done
Oscar done
Patty
Rafael
Sara
Tony
Valerie
William

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/18 and ended 11/1/18.

As for the weather, those of you who are visiting Florida for the holidays have missed our brief two one-day cold fronts, which brought temps down to the 50s and 60s and had everyone here scurrying for ski clothes. Last week, we broke record highs, with temps in the mid-80s. This week, temperatures have returned to the high 70s and the wind has diminished quite a bit. However, we have 3 mini-cold fronts coming, starting tomorrow, which could bring the temps down to the 40s at night. The National Weather Service is calling for heavy snow for northern New England through tomorrow, along with very cold temperatures. You apparently have a ‘complex cyclonic vortex’ There is another disturbance coming from the Great Lakes eastward. Meanwhile, another very large and powerful Pacific Storm is expected to impact the West with more heavy rain, mountain snow, and gusty winds. Over the central part of the country, Chinook winds will bring a quick warm up in the northern High Plains. Moisture will gather across Texas and move into Oklahoma. Weather forecasting has been impacted by the US government shutdown, reducing all non-essential personnel at NOAA and at the National Weather Service, and blocking all the data that they would be collecting.

Sports News:

MLB:

The MLB regular season ended in November with the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, fear not baseball fans, as the MLB has announced the earliest Opening Day ever for 2019, with all 30 teams playing on 3/28/19. They are not counting the first game of the season, between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, that will occur in Tokyo on March 20-21. The World Series Champion Boston Red Sox will play the Yankees in London, for the first-ever MLB games in Europe, on 6/29-6/30. Spring Training will begin 2/21 with the first game between the Mariners and the A’s in the Cactus League. The Grapefruit League kicks off 2/22 with a game between the Rays and the Phillies.

Sporting News announced its MLB Player of the Year as Red Sox Mookie Betts. The offseason Free Agency Hot Stove has begun in full force. The two biggest star free agents and likely largest contracts are Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

Two-time Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber, is all over the news in trade rumors from the Indians to as many as 5 teams, including the Yankees, Padres, Braves, Dodgers, and still the Indians. Are the Indians really going to trade an ace, like Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer? Nats free agent pitcher Kelvin Herrera has agreed to a deal with the White Sox. The White Sox also reportedly signed Manny Machado’s close friend Jon Jay. The White Sox are one of the teams to have a deal on the table for Manny Machado in the $220-270 million range. Is Manny Machado ever going to pick a team? The Phillies and Bryce Harper will meet face-to-face in Las Vegas. Is Bryce Harper ever going to get the money he thinks he deserves from the Phillies, Dodgers, White Sox, or Cubs? The Giants and Brewers are reportedly talking about a deal for Madison Bumgarner. The Mets sent catcher Kevin Plawecki to the Indians. There are many teams that would love Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto and he wants to leave Miami, but the marlins don’t want him to go. It appears that Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel is becoming a little more reasonable and has stopped asking for a 6year/$100 million contract. MLB is partnering with DAZN to create live look-in show for baseball fans. David Wright will now join Mets front office as special adviser. The ballots have been cast by eligible BBWAA members by 12/31/18 for the Hall of Fame and we will find out the results on 1/22/19. Many people are wondering whether Oklahoma QB and Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray, will choose MLB or NFL, after the A’s chose him with the No.9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and gave him a signing bonus of almost $5 million.

Golf:

Golf Digest has released its latest list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses. Stephen Curry’s golf event next fall has been scrapped by the PGA Tour, citing too short a timeframe to find a title sponsor. Vijay Singh has finally settled his lawsuit with the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour season began with its swing through Hawaii. They just played the Sentry Tournament of Champions event at Kapalua in Maui. It was won by Xander Schauffele, with an astounding 62 on Sunday. This week they play the Sony Open in Oahu in Honolulu at the Waialae CC. Padraig Harrington has been chosen as Europe captain for 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, WI.

NCAA Basketball:

The college basketball season is nearly at its halfway point, about 13-15 games in. UNC’s Cameron Johnson left the game vs NC State with an injury. Former Arizona assistant Book Richardson reached a plea deal in bribery case. Kansas is considering pulling redshirt off of 4-star freshman Ochai, as Kansas center Udoka Azubuike will miss the rest of the season with a hand injury. Duke’s Zion Williamson rates his crazy 360-degree dunk this week as just a ’7 or 8’. No.6 Nevada was routed by unranked New Mexico in first loss of season. No.5 Kansas was stunned by unranked Iowa State. Powerful UCLA boosters want Rick Pitino as coach. UCLA fired basketball coach Steve Alford. Former USC assistant Tony Bland entered guilty plea. A TCU basketball game was canceled after the death of a player on the schedule opponent team. Larry Brown has parted ways with the Italian professional team. Purdue paid tribute to late superfan Tyler Trent with emotional video. No.18 Arizona State handed No.1 Kansas its first loss. No.19 Kentucky beat No.9 UNC. Here is the AP Poll as of 01/06/19 (which does not include Michigan State’s drubbing of Purdue last night, or UNC’s beating of rival NC State last night):

1. Duke (13-1)
2. Michigan (15-0)
3. Tennessee (13-1)
4. Virginia (13-0)
5. Gonzaga (14-2) up from No.7
6. Michigan State (14-2) up from No.8
7. Kansas (12-2) down from No.5
8. Texas Tech (14-1) up from No.11
9. Virginia Tech (13-1) up from No.10
10. Nevada (14-1) up from No.6
11. Auburn (11-2) up from No.12
12. North Carolina (12-3) up from No.15
13. FSU (12-2) down from No.9
14. Mississippi State (12-2) up from No.17
15. NC State (13-2) up from No.18
16. Ohio State (12-2) down from No.14
17. Houston (15-0) up from No.19
18. Kentucky (11-3) down from No.13
19. Buffalo (14-1) up from No.20
20. Iowa State (12-3) up from unranked
21. Marquette (12-3) down from No.18
22. Indiana (12-3) down from No.21
23. Oklahoma (12-3)
24. St. John’s (14-2) up from unranked
25. TCU (12-1) up from unranked
On the women’s side, UConn women fell to Baylor in their first regular-season loss since 2014.

NCAA Football:

College football season kickoff was on 8/25 and is finally over with last night’s upset in the CFP Championship by No.2 Clemson over No.1 Alabama, 44-16. Alabama was just no match for the offense of Clemson and Alabama’s QB Tua threw 2 crucial interceptions that led to 14 points. I watched the game and many of the bowl games. Most of the bowl games were actually boring, low-scoring affairs.

As of 12/1, the official AP Poll is (they have not produced the final poll yet):

1. Alabama (13-0)
2. Clemson (13-0)
3. Notre Dame (12-0)
4. Oklahoma (12-1)
5. Ohio State (12-1)
6. Georgia (11-2)
7. UCF (12-0)
8. Michigan (10-2)
9. Washington (10-3)
10. Florida (9-3)
11. LSU (9-3)
12. Washington State (10-2)
13. Penn State (9-3)
14. Texas (9-4)
15. West Virginia (8-3)
16. Kentucky (9-3)
17. Syracuse (9-3)
18. Mississippi State (8-4)
19. Fresno State (12-2)
20. Utah (9-4)
21. Texas A&M (8-4)
22. Army (10-2)
23. Boise State (10-3)
24. Missouri (8-4)
25. Iowa State (8-4)

Here is your 2018-19 College Football Playoff and Bowl schedule:

12/29 4:00pm College Football Playoff Semifinal
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No.2 Clemson vs. No.3 Notre Dame

12/29 8:00pm College Football Playoff Semifinal
Capital One Orange Bowl
No.1 Alabama vs No.4 Oklahoma

01/07 8:00pm College Football Playoff National Championship
Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA

12/15
Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl
North Carolina A&T 24
Alcorn State 22

New Mexico Bowl by Progressive
Utah State 52
North Texas 13

AutoNation Cure Bowl
Tulane 41
Louisiana 24

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
Fresno State 31
Arizona State 20

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Georgia Southern 23
Eastern Michigan 21

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Appalachian State 45
Middle Tennessee 13

12/18
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl
UAB 37
Northern Illinois 13

12/19
DXL Frisco Bowl
Ohio 27
San Diego State 0

12/20
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Marshall 38
South Florida 20

12/21
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl
FIU 35
Toledo 32

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
BYU 49
Western Michigan 18

12/22
Jared Birmingham Bowl
Wake Forest 37
Memphis 34

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Army 70
Houston 14

Dollar General Bowl
Troy 42
Buffalo 32

SoFi Hawai’I Bowl
Louisiana Tech 31
Hawaii 14

12/26
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
Boston College vs. Boise State
CANCELLED BECAUSE OF LIGHTNING

Quick Lane Bowl
Minnesota 34
Georgia Tech 10

Cheez-It Bowl
TCU 10 (OT)
California 7

12/27
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
Duke 56
Temple 27

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Wisconsin 35
Miami 3

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Baylor 45
Vanderbilt 38

12/28
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Auburn 63
Purdue 14

Camping World Bowl
Syracuse 34
West Virginia 18

Valero Alamo Bowl
Washington State 28
Iowa State 26

12/29
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No.10 Florida 41
No.7 Michigan 15

Belk Bowl
Virginia 28
South Carolina 0

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Nevada 16 (OT)
Arkansas State 13

CFP Semifinal Cotton Bowl
No.2 Clemson 30
No.3 Notre Dame 3

CFP Semifinal Orange Bowl
No.1 Alabama 45
No.4 Oklahoma 34

12/31
Military Bowl by Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati 35
Virginia Tech 31

Hyundai Sun Bowl
Stanford 14
Pittsburgh 13

Redbox Bowl
Oregon 7
Michigan State 6

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Oklahoma State 38
Missouri 33

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Northwestern 31
Utah 20

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Texas A&M 52
NC State 13

O1/01
Outback Bowl
Iowa 27
Mississippi State 22

VRBO Citrus Bowl
Kentucky 27
Penn State 24

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
No.11 LSU 40
No.8 UCF 32

Rose Bowl presented by NWML
No.6 Ohio State 28
Washington 23

Allstate Sugar Bowl
No.15 Texas 28
No.5 Georgia 21

01/07
CFP National Championship
No.2 Clemson 44
No.1 Alabama 16

NFL:

The 99th NFL regular season is nearing its end, as we just completed the Wild Card playoffs weekend. They weren’t very exciting, frankly.

On Saturday, the Colts continued their hot streak, beating the Texans 21-7 in the AFC. Later that day, the Cowboys squeaked out a victory 24-22 over the Seahawks in the NFC. On Sunday, the Chargers held off the Ravens for a 23-17 victory in the AFC. Later that day, the Bears were stunned by the Super Bowl Champion Eagles 16-15 in the NFC, as the Bears’ kicker, Cody Parker, donked his 6th field goal attempt off the upright this season, which would have been the last second game-winner. That must be some kind of record?

Coming up this weekend:
On Saturday, the Colts will play at the Chiefs in the AFC and the Cowboys will play at the Rams in the NFC.
On Sunday, the Chargers will play at the Patriots in the AFC and the Eagles will play at the Saints in the NFC.
The winners of these 4 games will go to the AFC Championship and NFC Championship to decide the two teams for the Super Bowl. Rams RB Todd Gurley is still nursing a knee injury but is expected to play against Cowboys. Sarah Thomas will become the first woman NFL referee to ref a playoff game, in the Chargers vs. Patriots game.

There were 8 NFL head coaches that lost their jobs this season. Patriots OC Josh McDaniels says he is staying in New England this time. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has decided to retire. The Cardinals have already hired a new head coach in Kliff Kingsbury. The Bucs are focused on Bruce Arians as next head coach. A report says that Freddie Kitchens has “good chance of being Browns’ next coach. The Broncos have narrowed their coach search down to 2 candidates. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones reportedly just splurged on a $250 million superyacht. Jadeveon Clowney says he wants to remain a Texan. Texas WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey has decided to forgo his senior season and go into the NFL Draft. Steelers’ WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has replaced WR Antonio Brown in the Pro Bowl. Because of the early season trade with the Raiders, the Bears’ loss gave the Raiders a better first-round draft pick.

NHL:

The puck dropped on the regular season, for some teams, on 10/3. We are just past the halfway point now. Nick Schmaltz of the Coyotes will be out for the rest of the season. Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson is out with an MCL sprain. Penguins’ star Sidney Crosby rewarded heckling fan with a signed hockey stick. The NHL announced today that Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevkiy, who has been out a month with a foot injury and returned, will replace Canadiens goalie Carey Price in the 2019 All-Star Game in San Jose, CA. Alex Ovechkin says he will skip the All-Star game. The NHL and NHLPA will meet this week to discuss CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). At the 2019 World Under-20 Juniors, one team was decidedly missing from the medal stand, Canada. They won the gold medal last year. This year, Finland rallied with a tying goal in the final minute of regulation and a winning goal in OT to eliminate Canada in Vancouver. It marked the first time that Team Canada did not earn a medal in the 13 times they have hosted the popular event. In the last 10 years, Canada has only won gold twice, while the Russians and Americans have won gold 5 times and 4 times respectively, and are still in the mix for a medal this year. Top-seeded Sweden was also upset, by Switzerland. In case you missed New Year’s Day’s Winter Classic outdoor game between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks at Notre Dame Stadium, the stadium ran out of food and beer during the game. Huge lack of preparation, eh? They had a sellout crowd of 76,126 fans, who ran out of provisions after the first intermission, between periods 1 and 2. By the way, my Bruins won.

Looking at the current, just past halfway standings, in the Eastern Conference: the Lightning continue to run away with it, followed by the Leafs, Capitals, and Bruins/Penguins; and in the Western Conference: it’s the Flames, followed by the Knights, Predators, and Sharks. The cellars are occupied by the Senators and the Kings.

NBA:

The NBA season officially began on 10/3 as well and it has been all about LeBron James’ debut with the Lakers. The NBA trade deadline is 2/7. Free Agency is upon us now though. Teams have inquired about 76ers star Jimmy Butler. Cavs Kevin Love says he doesn’t want to be traded. The Raptors approached Thunder about DeMar DeRozan-Paul George trade last offseason. Celtics Jayson Tatum is being talked about in a trade to the Pelicans. Stephen Curry was called for a ‘traveling violation’ for a James Harden-like stepback into a 3-pointer, Harden’s signature move that never gets called. Meanwhile, James Harden has been red hot. Kyrie Irving is happy to be back playing for the Celtics. The Bulls waived Michael Carter-Williams after acquiring him from the Rockets. Mutliple teams have inquired about Knicks Enes Kanter. Cavs waived Patrick McCaw. Next year, the Nets and Lakers will play preseason games in China. We are almost halfway through the season and currently the Eastern Conference is led by the Bucks, then Raptors, Pacers, and 76ers; while the Western Conference is led by the Nuggets, Warriors, Thunder, and Clippers. The two cellars are occupied by the Cavaliers (shocking!) and Suns. The Cavs have lost 9 games in a row.
Darts:

In darts, Michael van Gerwen defeated Michael Smith to win the PDC World Championship. I watched a bit of that.

Racing:

Last year’s champion, his first, for the NASCAR Cup Series was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead. Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017. NASCAR’s 2019 season is about to start with Daytona 500 to kick it off, as it does every year. Stewart-Hass Racing has signed Daniel Suarez to drive No.41 car. Dale Earnhardt Jr. still has “the itch to race.” Kurt Busch signed with Chip Ganassi Racing after leaving Stewart-Haas. Here is the schedule of races just released for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2019 (they don’t have the sponsors or formal names of all of them yet):

2/17 Daytona 500 at Daytona International in Florida
2/24 Atlanta
3/3 Las Vegas
3/10 ISM Raceway
3/17 Auto Club
3/24 Martinsville
3/31 Texas
4/7 Bristol
4/13 Richmond
4/28 Talladega
5/5 Dover
5/11 Kansas
5/18 All-Star Open Charlotte
5/26 Charlotte
6/2 Pocono
6/9 Michigan
6/23 Sonoma
6/30 Chicago
7/6 Daytona
7/13 Kentucky
7/21 New Hampshire
7/28 Pocono
8/4 Watkins Glen
8/11 Michigan
8/17 Bristol
9/1 Darlington
9/8 Indianapolis
9/15 Las Vegas playoff
9/21 Richmond playoff
9/29 Charlotte playoff
10/6 Dover playoff
10/13 Talladega playoff
10/20 Kansas playoff
10/27 Martinsville playoff
11/3 Texas playoff
11/10 ISM Raceway playoff
11/17 Miami-Homestead final playoff

Formula One begins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That is followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule 2/18-2/21 and 2/26-3/1, both in Catalunya, Spain. Here is the 2019 Formula One 21 Race calendar:

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne
3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir
4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000th Grand Prix)
4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku
5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona
5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco
6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal
6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet
6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg
7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone
7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim
8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest
9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa
9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza
9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore
9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi
10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka
10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City
11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX
11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo
12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island

Then, there is the IndyCar Racing circuit and its 2019 calendar (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):

3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
3/24 Circuit of the Americas
4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama
4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach
5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis
5/26 Indianapolis 500
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2
6/8 Texas Grand Prix
6/23 Road America
7/14 Honda Indy Toronto
7/20 Iowa 300
7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
8/18 Pocono Grand Prix
8/24 Gateway Grand Prix
9/1 Grand Prix of Portland
9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca

Travel News:

A train accident on the Great Belt Fixed Link in Denmark killed 8 passengers. Another drone has disrupted flights at another UK airport. Gatwick and Heathrow say they will now deploy anti-drone technology. Scientists believe that our Milky Way galaxy is on a course to collide with another galaxy, the Large Magellenic Cloud (is there no protocols for naming galaxies?), which will cause “cosmic fireworks”. If you are setting your watch for the event, that will be in 2 billion years, give or take. There is a South African Airbnb where you can sleep surrounded by over 70 lions. The cheapest ticket to Disneyland is now over $100, thanks to an unexpected price increase. Flights to Canada are about to get much cheaper. Flying is expected to get more dangerous, according to the Pilots Association, during the US government shutdown. Many of the TSA employees are now working without pay, and some of them are refusing to work, which should make security at airports more difficult. American Airlines somehow put people back on the same airplane after a mid-air electrical malfunction and then flew it again. Real Housewives of New York’s star Bethenny Frankel’s severe fish allergy forced a flight to turn around. Herb Kelleher, the beloved founder of Southwest Airlines, has died at age 87. A dream job is up for grabs to run an island off the coast of San Francisco for $130,000/year. The world’s largest truck stop is an oasis in Iowa. Hawaiian Airlines has dro0pped the Boeing 767. United Airlines is now flying the Boeing 787-10. Sun Country is expanding its routes by 19 and 7 cities. Oceania Cruises has ordered 2 new ships. Good news, stomach bug outbreaks, like Norovirus, are near a multiyear low. EDM cruise passengers were arrested on drug charges. Joshua Tree National Park will completely shut down during US government shutdown.

Health News:

Lessie Brown, the oldest person in the US, has died at age 114. She had attributed her longevity to eating a sweet potato nearly every single day of her life. Cancer killed fewer people in the US. We have had 25 straight years of falling cancer death rates. Doctors believe that the steady decline has been helped by anti-smoking campaigns, early detection protocols, and new treatment methods. One piece of bad news is that prostate cancer death rates, which had been also declining for two decades, have leveled off. Does that have anything to do with the 2011 health officials decision to stop recommending routine testing of men using the PSA blood test? The first child death from the flu has been reported in New Jersey. NYC has guaranteed health care for all its residents. The plan will not be funded by a tax increase and is not health care insurance. It plans to reduce costs by reducing emergency room visits and will focus on services such as geriatrics, pediatrics, OBGYN, and mental-health care. Reuters had a report that your insurance premiums may be going up due to climate change. I learned from a Millennial two weeks ago that they have changed the term “swingers” to “poly-amorous”. Somehow, he thought that was more socially acceptable sounding. Obesity surgery, according to a new study, has led to the emergence of new microbial strains. Researchers have discovered supplementing a normal, carbohydrate-rich diet with specific ketogenic agents may significantly delay tonic-clonic seizures. Researchers have now proven that the myth of Mona Lisa’s gaze, the Mona Lisa Effect, in which there is an impression that the eyes of the person portrayed in an image seem to follow the viewer as they move in front of the picture, is not true. A new study conducted on laboratory animals shows that exposure to cannabis and stress during adolescence may lead to long-term anxiety disorders in adulthood. Researchers report that adding a lysophospholipid form of EPA (LPC-EPA) to the diet can increase levels of EPA (Omega 3 Fatty Acid) level in the brain 100 times. Researchers have created a wireless, battery-free, biodegradable blood flow sensor. Academics have found that low functional connectivity of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex that is associated with the tendency to smoke is associated with increased impulsiveness and has high connectivity to another area of the brain, the reward-related medial orbitofrontal cortex, which in drinkers may increase the tendency to consume alcohol. A behavioral intervention procedure including the computer game Tetris could help people with PTSD. Costco is now selling a tub of Nutella that weighs almost 7 pounds, which you can store in your pantry next to the 5-gallon mustard. On the other side of the debate, minimalists like Marie Kondo say that cleaning out clutter and stuff is healthful, and most psychologists tend to agree. The first nudist restaurant in Paris, which just opened, is already clothing down. Herbalife’s stock plunged after CEO resigned. Oral-B Glide dental floss has been linked to toxic PFAS chemicals, per a new study. The US military is hoping that 3-D printing of bones can help injured veterans.

Animal News:

A new analysis of a nearly 200-million-year-old Jurassic-period sea-monster skull has surprised scientists because of the enormous size of its teeth and its apparent fake bones. Thousands of female penguins are being stranded in South America, washing up on the shores from Antarctica. A rare flying reptile (pterosaur) with a mouthful fangs trolled the Jurassic period skies, according to scientists. Scientists found the fossil of a dinosaur-era shark who had nabbed a flying reptile and lost a tooth in the encounter. Japan plans to leave the International Whaling Commission so that it can resume commercially hunting whales again, according to several news sources. The bee mite arrival in Hawaii is causing pathogen changes in honeybee predators. Scientists have also found the elusive mutation in honeybees that turns them from altruistic helpers to selfish behavior, called thelytoky syndrome. The CRISPR-based method is effectively sterilizing male insects. CRISPR is a revolutionary gene editing technique that may be helpful in combating some human diseases, such as muscular dystrophy. There is a new bat-borne virus related to Ebola. A new study suggests that surface mining of mountaintops in Appalachia also removes timber rattlesnakes’ habitat. A new species of treefrog was discovered at a remote mountain in the Ecuadorian Andes that has an extraordinary characteristic: claw-like appendages. An extensive social study has shown that human contact with monkeys and apes has a spillover effect to humans’ health through animal diseases. In other news, the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla has recently lost genetic diversity and has experienced an increase in harmful mutations, say researchers who have sequenced 11 genomes. A new study of interbreeding between two species of howler monkeys in Mexico is yielding insights into the forces that drive new species formation.

Entertainment News:

I still have not seen A STAR IS BORN, FIRST MAN, or BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, but I did see the Golden Globes on Sunday night, or at least part of it. Pete Davidson appears to have moved on to Kate Beckingsale. NBC will be airing a 50th anniversary special to commemorate Elvis Presley’s famous ’68 Comeback Special aired on NBC in 1968. This show will be hosted by Blake Shelton and will air on 2/17. Yes, today is Elvis Presley’s birthday, but it is also the birthday of singers Shirley Bassey and David Bowie. You can now enjoy some of Bowie’s previously unreleased songs on a “new” box set that features 9 songs Bowie recorded in the 1960s. At the National Board of Review awards in NY, best actress winner Lady Gaga revealed about re-opening old wounds of personal trauma that drove her role in A STAR IS BORN. After 3 women had come forward to report that super-chef Mario Batali sexually assaulted them years ago at 2 Manhattan restaurants where he was an owner or an investor, police are said to close the sexual allegations of the chef, because police could not find enough evidence to make an arrest, per the NYPD yesterday. As you’ve probably noticed, the new mini-season has begun on network TV, so the shows that ended for the summer, have come back. I’m getting frustrated with Manifest, as it appears that the writers are deliberately trying to be evasive about everything, to the point that it never seems to move forward. Plus, the messed up relationships are also stuck in neutral, never resolving themselves. I’ve tried to watch The Rock’s new Titan Games but it’s just too much like American Ninja, which wore me out with repeats and different iterations. Below Deck Caribbean (which is actually in Tahiti this season) has been entertaining, but I had a conversation with a real superyacht Captain, who said that stuff would never happen on a real yacht. There is no drama and everyone is professional or they are replaced. So, the TV boat is a made-for-TV experience filled with drama and poorly-trained professionals. So far, I’ve steered clear of all of the Housewives series, catching pieces of the Reunion shows and some of Vanderpump Rules. I seem to be watching a lot more of the Iron Chef shows, Chopping Block, Flip or Stay, and Million Dollar Listings of L.A. I did try to keep up with Chicago Med, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Fire, but moving them all to Wednesday night and not having them crossover much, wreaked havoc. So, I only see one of them every now and then. About the only things, besides NFL, news, and college basketball, that I’ve been following well have been 20/20, Entertainment Tonight, and Dateline. Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds and wife are “rebuilding” their marriage after split. Jamie Lee Curtis is blasting Fiji Water for their Golden Globes promotions, which included having one particular model with bottles photo-bombing nearly every celebrity photo. By the way, those were fake flu shots that the Golden Globe hosts were distributing to the audience. Kim Kardashian just spent $9000 on Louis Vuitton bags for her babies. Sumner Redstone has reached a settlement with former live-in girlfriend. Longtime Cosmopolitan publisher, Donna Kalagian Lagani, is stepping down to take Hearst Foundations post. Gannett is looking outside the newspaper industry for a new CEO. I’m right here! Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” was the bestselling hardcover book in 2018. The Stan Lee “Excelsior!” tribute, hosted by Kevin Smith, will take place 1/30 at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre. CardiB and Drake are dominating the iHeartRadio Music Awards nominations. Ivanka Trump was once asked to be The Bachelorette. Jordan Peele’s film US will premiere as the opening film at SXSW.

This week’s box-office was weak, perhaps due to the holiday hangover. AQUAMAN, in its 3rd week, retained the No.1 spot, making another $31 million (total now of an astounding $260 million); No.2 was the debut of ESCAPE ROOM, which made $18.2 million (not bad for a budget of $9 million); No.3 was MARY POPPINS RETURNS, in its 3rd week, pulling in another $15.9 million (total of $138.8 million so far, just clearing its $130 million budget); No.4 was BUMBLEBEE, dropping from No.3, in its 3rd week, taking in another $13.2 million (total of $97.6 million on a budget of $135 million); and No.5 was SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, in its 4th week, taking in another $13.1 million (total of $134 million on budget of $90 million). At his first fashion show in Rome, Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott paid homage to the films of director Federico Fellini. PATRIOT’S DAY, the movie starring Mark Wahlberg about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing received a $16 million subsidy from the State of Massachusetts, new records show. The state issued nearly $90 million film tax subsidies in 2016, a new record. After Friars Club raid, executive director has pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns. Bob Saget and John Stamos went on a double date in West Hollywood.

The number of movies coming out this week picks up from the number the last 2 weeks: PETTA, MODEST HEROES, A DOG’S WAY HOME (I’m going to have to see), AGAINST THE CLOCK, ALONE IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT, ASHES IN THE SNOW, DO DOONI PANJ, DRY BLOOD, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, JACK EM POPDY, ON THE BASIS OF SEX (looks interesting), PERFECTOS DESCONOCIDOS, PLEDGE, REPLICAS, SGT. WILL GARDNER, TALL TALES, THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER, THE ASPERN PAPERS, THE UNTOLD STORY, THE UPSIDE, URI, WHAT MEN WANT, and F2: FUN AND FRUSTRATION.

Technology & Space News:

Elon Musk has broken ground at Tesla’s new Shanghai Gigafactory. Apple has cut its Q1 iPhone production by 10%. A new walking vehicle, called Elevate, has been unveiled at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics trade show, which is a 4-wheel drive vehicle that can drive autonomously and also walk on four wheels over rough terrain, perhaps to be used for emergency vehicles. It is still a concept car, only in its 3rd phase, at this time. Space X, last week, launched 3 more satellites for the US Air Force from NASA’s Cape Canaveral. The U.S. is currently experiencing one of the tightest labor markets in history, with unusually low unemployment rate (lowest in 50 years), and many say, a skills gap. Americans also quit their jobs last year at the highest rate since 2001. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. currently has over 7 million unfilled jobs. This has forced some companies to become more open-minded about hiring candidates. Companies, including Google, Apple, IBM, and Bank of America no longer require applicants to have a college degree. Tech companies, in particular are rather shifting towards a focus on skills. LinkedIn, after analyzing hundreds of thousands of job postings, said that these are the top 10 soft skills and hard skills in demand for 2019 (LinkedIn is also matching these skills with LinkedIn Learning courses for the month of January):

Top 5 Soft Skills:
1. Creativity
2. Persuasion
3. Collaboration
4. Adaptability
5. Time Management

Top 5 Hard Skills:
1. Cloud Computing
2. Artificial Intelligence
3. Analytical Reasoning
4. People Management
5. UX Design

WalletHub recently compared 182 cities, including the 150 most populated in the U.S. and at least 2 of the most populated in each state, across 30 job market and socioeconomic variables, to rank the 10 best places to find a job in 2019:
1. Scottsdale, AZ
2. Columbia, MD
3. Orlando, FL
4. San Francisco, CA
5. Colorado Springs, CO
6. Portland, ME
7. Plano, TX
8. Washington, D.C.
9. Boston, MA
10. Chandler, AZ

I think I wrote about the “Amazon effect” in the Repo Commentary before, if not, maybe it was in the book I just wrote. Anyway, in a weirdly related story, Google has turned an old shopping mall into an office. Amazon has been blamed by the media for killing brick-and-mortar stores and shopping malls, with its online shopping and acquisitions. It would be interesting if it or its tech giant brethren find a creative way to turn those empty shopping malls into their offices. There are now bounty hunters to find lost cellphones? The China National Space Administration’s Chang’e 4 became the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon. Ah, the romance of the technology age, as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie announced their divorce on Twitter.

US News:

President Trump issued an executive order last Friday that froze federal workers’ salaries for 2019. On 01/02/19, a single person in Glen Head, Long Island, NY won the Mega Millions’ jackpot of $425 million. That person gets to choose between taking the annuity spread over 30 years or a lump sum of $254.6 million. Of course, they will have to pay Federal tax withholding of 24% ($61.1 million) and NY State tax of 8.82% ($22.5 million). And, come next year’s tax time, the winner will owe an additional 13% Federal Tax (as they withheld 24% this year and the top tax rate is 37%). Altogether, the tax crunch will take more than 45% of the amount, unless they employ certain tax strategies. Speaking of taxes, a White House official said that, despite the current US government shutdown, tax refunds WILL be sent out. President Trump was on TV last night from the Oval Office to speak with the public about the need for a border wall. Newly sworn-in CA governor Newsom proposed $105 million in new spending to prevent, fight, and escape wildfires, following one of the state’s worst fire seasons. Judge Brett Kavanaugh issued his first (unanimous) opinion in an obscure arbitration case. A teacher seen dragging a boy with autism through Wurtland Elementary School has been fired. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is leaving his post at the Department of Justice. A second man has now been charged in the drive-by shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes, who was laid to rest yesterday. Police believe the shooting may have been a case of ‘mistaken identity’. Sears stores will stay open another week, as a late deal staved off the threat of liquidation, but the auction is set for Monday. The company’s chairman has an opportunity to sweeten his $4.4 billion offer to keep 400 stores operating and buy the company. A Rhode Island discount retailer, Job Lot, is doing well and is now taking over 7 former Toys R’ Us sites in Pennsylvania. A rare 1943 Lincoln penny was found in a Massachusetts school cafeteria more than 70 years ago by a teenager, who recently died, and is expected to fetch $1.7 million at auction. It was one of only 20 pennies accidentally minted in copper that year, during the war effort. All of the other pennies that year were made of zinc-coated steel, to preserve copper for shell casings and other WWII implements. In Phoenix, police are seeking DNA samples from workers at a facility where a woman in a coma gave birth. The house of the gunman in the Las Vegas mass shooting has sold for $425,000.

International News:

Seven people are dead in a shooting at a Mexican bar in Playa del Carmen. Otto Warmbler’s parents have won their $500 million Wrongful Death lawsuit against North Korea for their son’s 2017 death after finally being released from captivity and torture. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to force North Korea to pay them. However, the Warmblers could go after North Korea’s assets in the US. It currently does have $63 million in assets frozen in the US. It may also have assets abroad through one of its clandestine trading methods in a country that is friendly to the US. In 2015, a US judge awarded $330 million to the family of missionary Rev. Kim Dong-Shik, who was tortured and killed in North Korea, and the family went after North Korea’s international assets, like shipping vessels that had been confiscated by Mexico and Panama. Another way that the Warmblers could get paid is by appealing to the US Department of Justice, which has a Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which compensates families of victims of state terror. It is made up of fines imposed on financial institutions who continued to do business with countries that the US has sanctioned. But, that would only cover the compensatory damages, of $21 million, not punitive damages. A “fatberg” made up of wet wipes, grease, and oil, some 200 feet in length, is blocking a sewer in a seaside town in England. Saudi woman who is seeking asylum might find it in Australia. Secretary of State Pompeo made a surprise stop in Iraq. Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the ongoing schism within Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Moshe Arens, Israeli statesman and ex-defense minister, has died at age 93. The FBI revealed that the viral online footage showing “El Chapo” grilling a man chained to a pole about his competitors is indeed Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the cartel boss, helping solidify the case against him. The video was first uploaded to LiveLeak.com in 2015. Ironically, the interrogation was also caught on an FBI digital wiretap, as someone nearby attempted to place a call, and the recording of that call matches the video word for word. There have been no assurances from Turkey on safety of Kurdish allies in Syria, as the US plans to remove its troops from Syria. A new Saudi Arabia law requires women to be notified if their husbands divorce them. Thai police say they won’t deport Saudi teenager barricaded in hotel. Gabon has foiled an attempted military coup and arrested 4 military officers. An Escape Room fire killed 5 teenage girls in Poland. Hackers have posted personal information about hundreds of German politicians on Twitter. A Chinese “Jack the Ripper” has been executed for murdering 11 girls and women. Emotional and Psychological Abuse are now crimes in Ireland. Saudi Arabia says that 5 suspects now face the death penalty in Jamal Khashoggi killing.

Florida:

If you are interested in seeing more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances, there are many coming to Florida, perhaps when you will be visiting:

Air Supply-Pompano, FL, January 11
Franki Valli and the Four Seasons-Fort Myers, January 11
New Order-Miami Beach, January 12
Englebert Humperdinck-Fort Myers, January 15
Bernadette Peters-Naples, January 16
Memories of Elvis-Fort Myers, January 17
Righteous Brothers-Fort Lauderdale, January 17
Rick Springfield-Coconut Creek, January 18
Cher and Chic-Sunrise, January 19
Arlo Guthrie-Fort Lauderdale, January 19
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 14 (saw it, was awesome)
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
Tony Orlando-Stuart, January 23
Gladys Knight-Fort Lauderdale, January 24
America-Fort Lauderdale, January 24
Smokey Robinson-Hollywood, January 25
Peter Cetera and Blood, Sweat, and Tears-Miami, January 26
Toni Braxton-Hollywood, January 29
The Temptations-Fort Lauderdale, January 31
Don McLean-Immokalee, January 31
Michael Bolton-Fort Lauderdale, February 2
The Four Tops and the Temptations-West Palm Beach, February 2
Melissa Manchester-Aventura, February 8
Michael Bolton-West Palm Beach, February 8
The Commodores-Miami, February 9
Patti LaBelle-Fort Myers, February 11
Duran Duran-Miami Beach, February 12
Franki Valli & the Four Seasons, Hollywood, February 14
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 14
Dave Mason-Fort Lauderdale, February 15
Little River Band-Fort Myers, February 15
Michael Buble-Sunrise, February 15
Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, February 18
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes-Bonita Springs, February 20
Art Garfunkel-Fort Lauderdale, February 20
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
Sarah Brightman-Hollywood, February 20
PGA Honda Classic-PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, February 28-March 2
Pink-Sunrise-March 1 (I might have to go)
Paul Anka-Fort Lauderdale-March 4
Elton John-Sunrise, March 16
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, March 17
Palm Beach International Boat Show-West Palm Beach, March 28-March 31
The Rolling Stones-Miami, April 20
Train & Goo Goo Dolls-West Palm Beach, July 6
Queen & Adam Lambert-Sunrise, August 17

Repo Commentary-12/21/18

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Hello everyone! I hope you are all enjoying this holiday season! Happy Hannukah (since it passed while I was on hiatus), Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year!

It’s been about 2 months since I wrote the last Repo Commentary (10/7/18). During that time, I saw many of you at the RMA Repo & Securities Lending Conference in October in Key Biscayne and others of you at the Finadium Rates & Repo Conference in November in NYC. I also ghostwrote a 220-page self-help/memoir book (first draft manuscript) for a paying associate in that 8-week hiatus from the Repo Commentary. None of you are in THIS one and it’s not about our industry. So, although I was busy on projects, I have also been keeping in touch with many of you and been lightly exploring job opportunities, itching to get back into the Repo market. My 36th anniversary of being in the Securities Finance market and on Wall Street passed 12/6/18. Oh, and I’ve been singing up a storm in the Elvis jumpsuits, as this is our busiest time of year. I have been singing concerts 2 or 3 times per week with my 5-part harmony group, Generation Gap, which recently was voted Best Harmony Group in Florida by InTouch Magazine. Next gigs are tonight at Tiramisu in Jupiter, FL, Saturday at Cucina Cabana in North Palm Beach, FL, and New Year’s Eve at Brookdale Assisted Living (my biggest fans) in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

I am honored to announce that I’ve been selected to be the Chairman of the upcoming 25th (Silver Anniversary) IMN Beneficial Owners’ International Securities Finance & Collateral Management Conference 2/5-2/6 in Fort Lauderdale and to add my touch to make it fresh again. We are already shaking it up and including many more sectors of clients to participate, including pension funds, municipalities, money funds, hedge funds, asset managers, and GSEs. The focuses will be on alternative repo efforts, fintech, repo reinvestment and securities lending, and women in the securities financing industry. I hope to see all of you there and I’ll be reaching out to many of you to participate.

Enough about me, I would also like to hear from all of you about what you’ve been up to since October or May?

My Repo Commentary is posted on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and I believe on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed.

If you need to reach me, my cell is still 646-753-1300, my email for work is jeffkidwell82@gmail.com, and you can also hit me up on LinkedIn.

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

12/20/18 Holidays or Events:

• Cathode-Ray Tube Day
• Dot Your I’s Day
• Games Day
• Go Caroling Day
• Mudd Day (Dr. Samuel Mudd harbored President Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, in his home, but “your name is mud” did not come from Dr. Mudd, although that is the popular story)
• International Human Solidarity Day
• Sacagawea Day
• National Regifting Day
• National Sangria Day
• Free Shipping Day at Participating Retail Stores
• Poet Laureate Day
• World Day of Prayer and Action for Children
• Abolition of Slavery Day in Reunion and French Guiana
• Bo Aung Kyaw Day in Myanmar
• Yalda in Iran
• Macau Special Administrative Region Establishment Day
• Tomorrow, Friday at 5:23pm, is the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (beginning of Winter) and Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere (beginning of Summer)

If you are like me, you are probably wondering why the US flags are currently at half staff. They will remain at half staff until sunset on 12/30/2018, in honor of recently departed President George H. W. Bush. You can always check for half staff proclamations at http://www.halfstaff.org.

Some Famous People Born 12/20 in History:

• 1868-Harvey Samuel Firestone-founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
• 1881-Branch Rickey-MLB
• 1898-Irene Dunne-American actress and singer
• 1908-Dennis Morgan-American actor and singer
• 1924-Charlie Callas-American actor and comedian
• 1927-Jim Simpson-American sportscaster
• 1939-Kim Weston-American soul singer
• 1940-Pat Chapman-English chef and author
• 1942-Bob Hayes-American track star and NFL player
• 1945-Peter Criss-American singer/songwriter/drummer/producer
• 1946-Uri Geller-Israeli-English magician and psychic
• 1946-Dick Wolf-American director/producer/screenwriter
• 1948-Alan Parsons-English keyboard player and producer-Alan Parsons Project
• 1949-Oscar Gamble-MLB
• 1956-Anita Ward-American disco/R&B singer
• 1957-Billy Bragg-English singer/songwriter/guitarist
• 1958-Doug Nordquist-American high jumper
• 1959-Jackie Fox-The Runaways
• 1959-Trent Tucker-NBA
• 1965-Rich Gannon-NFL
• 1981-James Shields-MLB
• 1982-David Cook-American singer/songwriter/guitarist-American Idol
• 1983-Jonah Hill-American actor/producer/screenwriter
• 1990-JoJo-American singer and actress

This Day in History (12/20):

• AD 69-Vespasian, formerly a general under Nero, enters Rome to claim the title of Emperor.
• 1192-Richard I of England is captured and imprisoned by Leopold V of Austria on his way home to England after the Third Crusade.
• 1334-Pope Benedict XII is elected.
• 1522-Siege of Rhodes: Suleiman the Magnificent accepts the surrender of the surviving Knights of Rhodes, who are allowed to evacuate. They eventually settle on Malta and become known as the Knights of Malta.
• 1606-The Virginia Company loads three ships with settlers and sets sail to establish Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.
• 1803-the Louisiana Purchase is completed at a ceremony in New Orleans.
• 1808-Peninsular War: the Siege of Zaragoza begins.
• 1832-HMS Ciio under the command of Captain Onslow arrives at Port Egmont under orders to take possession of the Falkland Islands.
• 1860-South Carolina becomes the first state to attempt to secede from the United States.
• 1915-WWI: the last Australian troops are evacuated from Gallipoli.
• 1917-Cheka, the first Soviet secret police force, is founded.
• 1924-Adolf Hitler is released from Landesberg Prison.
• 1941-WWII: first battle of the American Volunteer Group, better known at the “Flying Tigers” in Kunming, China.
• 1942-WWII: Japanese air forces bomb Calcutta, India.
• 1946-the popular Christmas movie, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, is first released in NYC.
• 1948-Indonesian National Revolution: the Dutch military captures Yogyakarta, the temporary capital of the newly-formed Republic of Indonesia.
• 1951-the EBR-1 in Arco, Idaho become the first nuclear power plant to generate electricity. The electricity only powered 4 light bulbs.
• 1952-a US Air Force C-124 crashes and burns in Moses Lake, WA, killing 87.
• 1955-Cardiff is proclaimed the capital city of Wales, United Kingdom.
• 1957-the initial production version of the Boing 707 makes its first flight.
• 1967-a Pennsylvania Railroad Budd Metroliner exceeds 155 mph on their New York Division, also present day Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
• 1968-the Zodiac Killer kills Betty Lou Jenson and David Farraday in Vallejo, CA.
• 1971-the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders is founded by Bernard Kouchner and a group of journalists in Paris, France.
• 1973-the PM of Spain, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, is assassinated by a car bomb attack in Madrid.
• 1984-the Summit Tunnel Fire, one of the largest transportation tunnel fires in history, burns after a freight train carrying over one million liters of gasoline derails near the town of Todmorden, England in the Pennines.
• 1985-Pope John Paul II announces the institution of World Youth Day.
• 1987-in the worst peacetime sea disaster, the passenger ferry Dona Paz sinks after colliding with the oil tanker Vector in the Tablas Strait in the Philippines, killing an estimated 4,000 people.
• 1989-the United States invasion of Panama deposes Manuel Noriega.
• 1991-a Missouri court sentences the Palestinian militant Zein isa and his wife Maria to death for the honor killing of their daughter Palestina.
• 1995-NATO begins peacekeeping in Bosnia.
• 1995-American Airlines Flight 965, a B-757, crashes into a mountain 50 km north of Cali, Colombia, killing 159.
• 1999-Macau is handed over to China by Portugal.
• 2004-a gang of thieves steal GBP 26.6 million worth of currency from the Donegall Square West headquarters of Northern Bank in Belfast, North Ireland, United Kingdom, one of the largest bank robberies in British history.
• 2007-Elizabeth II becomes the oldest monarch of the United Kingdom, surpassing Queen Victoria, who lived for 81 years, 7 months, and 29 days.
• 2007-the Portrait of Suzanne Bloch (1904), by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, and O Lavrador de Café by Brazilian modernist painter Candido Portinari, are stolen from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art.

Fun Fact of the Day:

“Yellow Journalism” was an 1890’s term for journalism that presented little or no legitimately researched news and instead used eye-catching headlines, sensationalism, and scandal-mongering. Kind of like “fake news” today.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.”—Barbara Bush

International and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices on 10/5 closed at $74.34/barrel. Yesterday, Oil was trading at $47.66/barrel. Although up over $1/barrel on the day, much much lower than where it was when Iast wrote the Repo Commentary. That would explain a lot, like the price of gasoline at my new West Palm Beach station, which today was $2.02/gallon, versus 10/5’s $2.77/gallon! Trade war escalation and imminent US Government shutdown (that oil has been kicked down the road again to now), have wreaked havoc on global stock markets, bond markets, and currencies. The USD versus the Yen was trading at $113.77 on 10/5, and now is trading at $112.20, weaker. The USD was at $1.1524 versus the Euro on 10/5, and yesterday it was at $1.1426, stronger. The USD was at $1.3117 against the GBP on 10/5, and yesterday was at $1.2655, weaker. The USD versus the CAD was $1.2948 on 10/5, and is now at $1.3442, weaker. Gold closed 10/5 at $1204.10/ounce, but yesterday closed at $1256.70/ounce, reflecting the uncertainty of the markets. Bitcoin was trading at $8185.21 on 7/25, and was still above the magic $6000 figure at $6,350 on 10/5. Well, that apparently has broken through, trading yesterday at $3,7774.97. I hope all those people that I like sold it at $19000 when it was briefly there. The Brexit crisis has deepened, as British PM’s party is attempting now to oust her from power. European stocks tumbled almost 1.5% Thursday, on the heels of the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate increase. French, German, and UK benchmarks reaching the lowest points since late 2016. China will release its 2019 economic plan today.

Global Financial News:

With the tumble in oil prices over the last 2 months, energy stock prices are down 23% since early October, and investors say companies are acting like the industry will not improve soon. Some firms are down 40% in 2018, as crude broke the $50/barrel support for the first time in over a year. States and cities issuing bonds will ask Congress to bring back advance refundings in 2019. The possible US government shutdown has Wall Street analysts concerned about the impact on the US dollar and US Treasuries. It does not bode well for debt-ceiling talks in March, which could cause problems for the Treasury Department. A new report by the SEC shows that US credit rating agencies are improving procedures, but they still have instances when they don’t follow any of their rules or other rating criteria. The SEC announced that its examinations and inspections of financial professional in 2019 will give a high priority to cybersecurity, critical market structure, and individual investors. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says the market reaction to the Fed rate hike is overblown and markets were needlessly “disappointed” when Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated the Fed would raise rates at least twice in 2019, when they originally said they would raise rates at least thrice.

“What to Expect When Expecting a Government Shutdown…The specter of a shutdown is once again lurking in the nation’s capital, just in time for the holidays. Congress has until midnight Friday to avert a partial shutdown by passing either a series of appropriations bills to fund the Department of Homeland Security and eight other federal agencies, or a stopgap spending measure to keep the agencies funded at current levels for a short period.” New York Times 

“Booming job market can’t fill retirement shortfall…For older Americans, the last few years of work can be a vital chance to patch up thin savings or pay down debt to ease their way into retirement. Many aren’t getting that opportunity.” WSJ

“Bankruptcy business booms…Record debt burdens, rising borrowing costs and, in some cases, bigger payday loans are driving many Canadians to seek relief, according to several licensed insolvency trustees who spoke to Bloomberg. They say November was their busiest on record, and December — typically a slow time of year in the insolvency trade — hasn’t let up.”National Post

US Market News:

The Dow Jones closed at 26,656.77 on 9/20, and closed on 10/5 at 26,447.05, as it fell 180 points on the day. It was hovering around its all-time high, but like I said, global trade wars and uncertainty crushed the Dow the last 2 weeks, so that it was trading yesterday at 23,955.34, after taking another 200 point beating on Tuesday. The bull rally is technically still intact and the longest one we’ve seen. But, it becomes a correction if the Dow slips 20% from its all-time and recent high, so that’s about 5,400 points. It’s currently down about 2,700 points, so about halfway there, likely a Fibonacci technical support. As I write this, I see that the Dow is down another 650 points, for a more than 900-point decline in 2 days and 1,900-point decline in 5 days. Today’s losses are being blamed on the aggressive tightening of interest rates by the Fed yesterday, Rep. Paul Ryan’s announcement that President Trump would not sign a temporary government funding resolution, along with losses at Amazon and Apple bringing down the Nasdaq and S&P 500, which are down 2.6% and 2.4% respectively today. S&P 500 also gave up its all-time high on 9/20 of 2,930.66, closing at 10/5 at 2,885.58. Yesterday, it was trading at 2,570.53. Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28 high of 8,030.04, closing 10/5 at 7,788.45. Yesterday, it traded at 6,832.25. With today’s losses, Nasdaq has almost entered bear market territory, down 18.2% from the record high, only needing to be down 20% to achieve bear market territory. Wow, what did you guys do to the market while I was away? With today’s activity, the Dow has hit a 14-month low and is closer to marking a bear market. US Treasury yields had gotten much higher on 9/20, in advance of the 9/26 FOMC meeting. Following that meeting, on 10/5: 2years closed at 2.88% and closed 12/18, according to the US Treasury at 2.65%, plummeting 18bp over the last 2 weeks; 3years closed at 2.99% and just closed on 12/18 at 2.64, a full 20bp drop in 2 weeks; 5years closed on 10/5 at 3.07%, and closed 12/18 at 2.65%, down 18bp in last 2 weeks; 7years closed at 3.18% on 10/5, and closed at 2.74% on 12/18, down 16bp in 2 weeks; 10years closed at 3.23% on 10/5, and just closed at 2.82% on 12/18, down 16bp in 2 weeks; and 30years closed at 3.40% on 10/5, and just closed at 3.07% on 12/18, down 20bp in 2 weeks and nearly breaking through 3% again. I can’t believe how flat the curve is now with 2years-30years at 42bp. Worth noting, while I was off writing, in November, Unemployment hit a 50-year low and wages rose 3.1% over the prior year, the fastest pace since April 2009.

Housing News:

By all measurements, the housing market cooled in 2018, and 2019 looks like it may be a difficult year for both buyers and sellers, according to analysts. Most analysts are predicting higher interest rates (although as we just saw above with Treasury yields, they have dramatically dropped since October, some down nearly ½%) and higher home prices, mainly because of less supply and higher labor and material costs. Both of those would be difficult for the housing market, but expected continued economic growth and increase in employment are supposed to prop up demand. I guess, if the housing market gets too unpredictable, that probably helps the renovation of existing homes and the various industries that support that. Analysts say, despite the delay following the Great Recession, the Millenials are now the biggest homebuyer group, particularly for entry-level homes, although supply is very limited. One thing homebuyers should be considering, says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is that they have a total debt-to-income ratio below 43%, when all is said and done. I think one thing to watch is the continued move from ownership to renting, houses and condos, as home price increases are likely to advance faster than wage growth. As 2018 ends, with lower existing and new home sales, as well as home prices, analysts still see the slowdown stopping short of a crash. Figures released Wednesday by the US Census Bureau show that almost 2.5 million people have moved to the state of Florida since 2010, up 13.3% in population. Florida remains the country’s 3rd most populous state. Florida’s growth rate in the last year was 1.5%, only surpassed by Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona.

Repo News:  

As it seems every other global market and US market took yesterday’s FOMC move to tighten rather badly, the repo market showed resilience today and even less funding pressure than expected. GC Overnight traded well-below the expected 2.60% rate, probably due to some GSE cash still being in the system. That will be leaving by Friday, so rates will likely increase on Monday and next week. Obviously, we are heading into year-end and are seeing year-end balance sheet and funding pressures. Scott Skyrm sees the Turn right now 12/31-1/2 at 3.10%/3.00%.
I’m hearing from several sources that the sponsored repo program at FICC, Direct Repo at AVM, Elixium electronic platform, GLMX electronic platform, EUREX CCP, peer-to-peer OTC financing, and BONY’s DBVX are all making headway and volumes are up, although still below 5% of the overall European and US repo markets. I’ll give you more of my thoughts on all that in the next Repo Commentary (otherwise, I’ll never finish this and all the other news will be old!).

I will say that I saw a provocative piece by my old friend, Steve Malekian, regarding Liquidity Assumptions in the Repo Market. I have been seeing several articles about how 10 years now from the events of the Financial Crisis or Great Recession, we have now returned to some kind of ‘normalcy’. The banks are much better capitalized, forced to be so by over 300 regulations slapped on them and forced deleveraging to all market participants. Many people have been remarking how liquidity has returned to the market and is in abundant supply now. Now, I don’t know about you, but I see deleveraging and increased liquidity as an issue in semantics and timing. If you force people to slash their use of liquidity by as much as 60%, and it is still technically there, then there’s sort of more liquidity.

On the counterparty credit risk side, regulators certainly got things more transparent and eased questions about bank solvency, although the ‘too big to fail’ thing still lurks. There are less participants and the larger ones have crowded out some of the smaller ones. But, at what price was counterparty credit risk at banks reduced? Concentrating that risk into one, two, or three CCPs, may have reduced one counterparty credit risk, just to increase credit risk and concentration risk among only a few institutions. I remember one of the smartest money funds had told me that they now look at the CCPs’ membership lists and their waterfall provisions very carefully.

Anyway, Steve points out that bank balance sheets were slashed and client coverage was culled. As bank capital has been reallocated now back to the Repo Desks, for their smooth revenue stream, its allocation among clients is very different than it used to be. So, if you happened to be a client in the rare category of platinum (in terms of size and doing many of the product lines of that bank), you now are seeing more liquidity from that bank. But, if you are smaller or only doing repo or only doing thinner bid/offer spread repo, you are not receiving the prior liquidity or you are seeing much wider bid/offer spreads.

Remember that liquidity and balance sheet are fickle things that can change pretty suddenly. So, is liquidity overall up? Or, is this time different?

Anyway, I’ve paraphrased Steve, perhaps not perfectly, and added some of my own thoughts just to provoke discussion.

I see the Repo and Securities Lending market as having changed in many permanent ways. We traditionally had a credit intermediator, the broker/dealers (originally just the primary broker/dealers) and later prime brokers, who were the pipeline through their respective repo matched books for collateral providers to trade with cash providers, without the two sides ever knowing about each other or facing each other. That lack of knowledge of the other side of the repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis and the impact on some of the dealers that then cost their clients. Clearly, with that pipeline becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be found for cash provider and collateral provider clients. AVM’s Direct Repo™ was the first of one of such pathways. Since then, other pathways to these markets have been created, including: the Federal Reserve’s RRP program with cash providers, peer-to-peer financing as reported on Treasury OFR’s website between MMFs and Insurance Companies, As Agent repo through seclending agents and now some prime brokers, direct lending from beneficial owner to hedge funds who are short, indemnified As Agent repo, buyside to buyside Triparty Repo through two international clearing organizations, electronic all-to-all repo on a few electronic trading platforms like Elixium and BNY DBVX, FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products to entice certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, and other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (several still being worked on, particularly in Europe). I believe this evolution will continue and eventually we will see all of these pathways used, including the traditional pathway (to probably a lesser than historical degree) through the broker/dealers and prime brokers.

Upcoming Repo Industry Conferences:
 

• Finadium will hold a webinar on moving to SOFR, SONIA, and ESTER, the three principal LIBOR alternatives, on 1/15.
• IMN 25th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/5-2/6. I have been chosen as the Chairman.
• Finadium will hold a new conference on the Business of Collateral Trading in Frankfurt, Germany on 2/21.
• IMN will hold its annual Fixed Income Investor Network in Las Vegas on 2/24.
• RMA will hold its 16th annual PASLA/RMA Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Sydney, Australia on 3/5-3/7.
• GIOA will hold its 15th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/20-3/22.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/2-5/3.
• IMN will hold its annual Global ABS conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/11-6/13.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Philadelphia, PA on 6/18-6/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/17-9/19.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 9/22-9/24.
• Finadium will hold its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe in London on 9/24.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Naples, FL on 10/6-10/9.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its Fixed Income Leaders conference in Barcelona on 10/7-10/9.
• RMA will hold its 37th annual Repo & Securities Lending Conference in Boca Raton, FL in October.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its annual conference in Boston, MA on 10/20-10/23.
• Risk.net will hold its 25th annual Risk USA conference in NYC in November.
• SIFMA will hold its annual Meeting in Washington, DC on 11/18-11/20.

Federal Reserve News:

Fed Funds, which trade mostly between some banks and GSEs, opened yesterday at 2.25%. They will likely open closer to 2.50% on Thursday, as the FOMC tightened yesterday afternoon.

The next FOMC meetings are: 12/13/18, 1/30/19, 3/20/19, 5/1/19, 6/19/19, 7/31/19, 9/18/19, 10/30/19, 12/11/19, 1/29/20 (reflecting the Fed’s just announced tentative schedule for 2019).

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (16 banks, 14 GSEs, 101 money market funds from various fund families), is now set at the rate of 1.75%. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. Remember when RRP was trading at year-end for $465 billion? Well, on 5/15, there was only $20 million in bids submitted. MMF cash and GSE cash has moved out of the Fed’s RRP and into the Repo market, but it hasn’t really brought down the GC repo rate, which is strange.

If you are wondering about RRP, it is nearly extinct. In July, excluding month-end, volume averaged only $2.8 billion per day. It has just become a mechanism for the Fed to supply collateral when its scarce for money market funds on month-ends and quarter-ends, as dealer balance sheets dry up at those times.

According to FOMC members, the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise the benchmark Fed Funds rate to 2.50% at the December FOMC meeting, 3.00% in 2019, and 3.50% in 2020. If you are keeping score, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds target rate on these dates so far:

12/15/15 to 0.50%
12/14/16 to 0.75%
3/5/17 to 1.00%
6/14/17 to 1.25%
12/13/17 to 1.50%
3/21/18 to 1.75%
6/13/18 to 2.00%
9/26/18 to 2.25%

Quantitative Easing was ‘tapered off’ in 2013. The Fed still had $4 trillion of debt in 2017 on its books from that QE. In October 2017, it began allowing those holdings to gradually decline. For fun, the Fed Funds target rate was 5.25% before the Fed cut of 9/18/2007.

Yesterday, as expected, and true to form, the Fed ignored a President’s warnings and tightened again, raising the Fed Funds target rate by another 25bp to 2.50%, although Fed Funds have been trading a little lower. The Federal Reserve will propose a rule this year to simplify the stress tests for regional banks and to reduce their frequency, per Randal Quarles. The rule would apply to banks with $100 billion-$250 billion in assets.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

A tsunami warning has been issues, as a 7.4-magnitude earthquake rocked Russia’s eastern shore. In February 2017, two small seismic events occurred near the Oroville Dam in the Sierra Nevada foothills in California. A new report found that actually over 19,000 smaller-magnitude events have occurred near the Oroville spillway and may have caused the periods of spillway discharge.

The latest earthquakes:

12/20/18 7.4 82km W of Nikol’skoye, Russia
12/12/18 6.3 Pacific-Antarctic Ridge
12/12/18 4.4 11km NNE of Decatur, Tennessee
12/11/18 7.1 48km N of Bristol Island
12/9/18 4.8 9km SSE of Big Lake, Alaska
12/5/18 6.6 192km ESE of Tadine, New Caledonia
12/1/18 6.3 293km WNW of Saumiaki, Indonesia
11/30/18 7.0 12km N of Anchorage, Alaska

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began Friday, June 1st and ended November 30th. For 2018, Colorado State University experts had predicted that this season would be a busy, above average hurricane season. They had predicted 14 named Tropical Storms, of which 7 would become Hurricanes. Both are above the averages of 12 and 6, respectively. There were 15 named Tropical Storms, of which 8 were hurricanes, and 2 of them major. In 2017, they were way off the wrong way as well, with way more storms. They had predicted 11 Tropical Storms, of which 4 would be Hurricanes. Instead, we had 17 Tropical Storms and had 10 Hurricanes. Here were the 2018 Storm names:

Alberto done
Beryl done
Chris done
Debby done
Ernesto done
Florence done
Gordon done
Helene done
Isaac done
Joyce done
Kirk done
Leslie done
Michael done
Nadine done
Oscar done
Patty
Rafael
Sara
Tony
Valerie
William

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/18 and ended 11/1/18.

As for the weather, those of you who are visiting Florida for the holidays have missed our brief two one-day cold fronts, which brought temps down to the 50s and 60s and had everyone here scurrying for ski clothes. It’s rather funny how most people here are from up North (I95 East coast side from Atlanta, DC, Philadelphia, NYC, Boston, Quebec; i75 West cost side from Memphis, Chicago, Madison, Detroit, Minneapolis, Ottawa) all lost their ability to withstand slight chill. We are back up into the 80s, near record highs, with high humidity and unstable weather. The National Weather Service has issued a flood advisory through Monday morning, as broad system stretching from Wisconsin to the Gulf Coast is pushing east, and is bring rain to the Mid-Atlantic and South. Another system is expected to hit 12/27-12/28, but will mostly affect New England. That storm is expected to have heavy snow and hazardous road conditions. It will begin in the Plains and Great Lakes shortly after Christmas and head on to the Northeast. There is a high-wind warning for Seattle and Florida, two opposite parts of the continental US. Rainfall in Orland shattered a 107-year-old record. NOAA published its outlook for the country for January-March period and is expecting warmer-than-average temperatures for the western half of the country and likely wet conditions across much of the Southwest, South, and up into the Mid-Atlantic.

Sports News:

MLB:

The MLB regular season has ended. But, it baseball returns in less than 100 days! Let’s see, what happened since I last wrote on 10/7/18. Oh yeah, my Red Sox won the World Series, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers!!! It was the Boston Red Sox 4th World Series Championship in 14 years (2004, 2007, 2013, 2018), since breaking the 86-year Curse of the Bambino. In fact, with the Red Sox 4 Championships, the Bruins one Stanley Cup, the Patriots 5 Super Bowls, and the Celtics NBA Title, Boston/New England teams have won 11 Championship titles in the last 16 years.

The offseason Free Agency Hot Stove has begun in full force. The two biggest star free agents and likely largest contracts are Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Also, the owners have been meeting to discuss new rules for the game, including possibly banning or limiting defensive shifts for batter tendencies. The Yankees and Red Sox will have a game in London in 2019. The Yankees believe Red Sox-hater 3B free agent Manny Machado is a “perfect fit” for their organization. It sounds like they just have to agree on a price. Currently, the 26-year-old Machado wants a $300 million deal. Star ace Matt Harvey’s expected free agency frenzy has fizzled, but he was finally able to sign a 1-year deal with the Angels for $11 million. His former team, the Mets, are discussing signing free agent infielder Mike Moustakas. Jeurys Familia has returned to the Mets for a 3year/$30 million deal. The Mets also signed a catcher, Wilson Ramos, for 2 years/$19.5 million. The Rays added starter Charlie Morton for 2years/$30 million. The Nationals made a mega deal for starter Patrick Corbin for 6 years/$140 million. The Yankees gave CC Sabathia his $500,000 bonus, despite the ejection for plunking Rays’ Jesus Sucre, which would have nullified the bonus. They also re-signed him for one year/$8 million. The Yankees and pitcher J.A. Happ have finalized a 2-year-deal for $34 million. The Yankees also brought back a Red Sox pest, OF Brett Gardner for one year/$7.5 million. He actually was due $11 million in 2019, but the Yankees bought out his contract for $2 million and then offered him $7.5 million, saving themselves $1.5 million. The Dodgers re-signed David Freese for one year/$6 million. The Indians continue to discuss trading ace Corey Kluber and at least 4 teams are interested. Catcher Brian McCann has returned to the Braves for one year/$2 million. The Braves also signed annoying 3B Josh Donaldson for one year/$23 million. I’m only annoyed because the Red Sox let him go years ago and he continues to light the Red Sox up for other teams. The Nationals signed catcher Kurt Suzuki for 2 years/$10 million. The Nats also signed pitcher Trevor Rosenthal for one year/$7 million. The Red Sox re-signed 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce for one year/$6.25 million. The Astros and former oft-injured Indians slugger Michael Brantley finalized a 2-year-deal. MLB has partnered with DAZN to create live look-in show for baseball fans. The MLB and MLBPA have reached an agreement with Cuban Baseball Federation, finally eliminating the need for players to defect. Astros reliever Joe Smith will be out 6-8 months, after rupturing his Achilles tendon. Cubs’ Addison Russell’s ex-wife is revealing more details of alleged abuse in their marriage.

Little League World Series star Mo’ne Davis has made her choice of college and will attend Hampton University and will play on their softball team. She was not the first girl to play in Little League World Series history, certainly had the greatest impact, hurling 70 mph pitches and throwing shutouts. Her second LLWS start 4 years ago drew just under 5 million viewers on ESPN, the single-game Little League viewing record for the network.

Golf:

The PGA of America announced that it will be moving its headquarters from Florida to Texas! Renowned golf architect Keith Foster is facing a possible 5-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to illegally transporting between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of items made from endangered species of wildlife. He apparently imported the items made from endangered species such as crocodiles, sea turtles, sawfish, and migratory birds for his store The Output in Middleburg, VA. The clubhouse at Machrihanish Golf Club, founded in 1876, was destroyed by a fire on Wednesday. The PGA Tour is offering support for sports betting legislation. Last month, Rory McIlroy hinted that he would rescind his European Tour membership in 2019, but instead he has decided to keep it.

Fighting:

Boxing

Seven middleweight contenders are ready to face champ Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez just became a 3-division champion with a 3rd round TKO over Rocky. Matt Korobov is replacing Willie Monroe Jr. to fight Jermall Charlo.

MMA:

Conor McGregor returned to the Octagon to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229. Khabib, the Russian, was the undefeated (27-0) light heavyweight champion. I rarely watch MMA anymore, not just because of the $80 pay-per-view, but I happened to be at a restaurant showing it and I watched the entire undercard and main card. The main event turned out to be a historic one, even if it did not show the UFC in its best light, and harkened back to the Gulotta/Bowe boxing match melee at MSG (that I was at and in the middle of) and the infamous Tyson/Holyfield boxing match ear brawl in Las Vegas. First the result, Khabib won over Conor with a 4th round naked-rear chokehold that forced the former flamboyant champion from Ireland to tap out. But, once that fight was over, many more fights began, as the Las Vegas venue erupted in several fights. Bellator 213 was in Hawaii. Headliner Ilima-Lei Macfarlane employed a triangle choke hold to defeat Letourneau. UFC will be featured for a change on Fox. UFC in Milwaukee saw Al Iaquinta getting a unanimous decision over Kevin Lee.

NCAA Basketball:

While I was away, the college basketball season started. Kevin Durant says that Duke’s Zion Williamson is a “once-in-a-generation-star”. Disgraced Rick Pitino is finalizing a deal to become EuroLeague head coach. UNC announced an 8-year extension for coach roy Williams. UCLA is having trouble in the weak Pac-12 and Notre Dame was on a losing streak that was stopped at 2, but at a huge price, losing their best player Rex Pflueger, for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. No.12 UNC just upset No.4 Gonzaga. And that was after No.7 Tennessee had upset then No.1 Gonzaga. Penn shocked Villanova. 5-star recruit Vernon Carey has committed to Duke. Former Indiana star Eric Anderson has died at age 48. Indiana buzzer-beater beat Butler. Former 5-star recruit Quade Green is expected to transfer from Kentucky. We are only about 1/3rd through the season, but this is the latest poll from 12/16, and there are some household names up there, along with some unusual ones:

1. Kansas (10-0)
2. Duke (10-1)
3. Tennessee (9-1)
4. Michigan (11-0)
5. Virginia (10-0)
6. Nevada (11-0)
7. Auburn (9-2)
8. Gonzaga (10-2)
9. North Carolina (8-2)
10. Michigan State (9-2)
11. FSU (10-1)
12. Texas Tech (10-0)
13. Virginia Tech (10-1)
14. Buffalo (11-0)
15. Ohio State (10-1)
16. Wisconsin (9-2)
17. Mississippi State (10-1)
18. Arizona State (8-2)
19. Kentucky (8-2)
20. Marquette (9-2)
21. Houston (10-0)
22. Indiana (10-2)
23. Iowa (9-2)
24. Furman (12-0)
25. Nebraska (9-2)

NCAA Football:

College football season kickoff was on 8/25 and the season has ended, with bowl games already having started. Michigan LB Devin Bush says he will forgo his senior year and enter the NFL Draft. At least one NFL team is looking to hire Jim Harbaugh away from the University of Michigan. Say it ain’t so, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has said that he will retire after the Rose Bowl game. Georgia QB Justin Fields is reportedly looking at transfer options. 5-star recruit DE Zach Harrison has decided to go to Ohio State, despite Urban Meyer leaving. Some new Buckeyes decommitted after the Urban Meyer news, including safety Jordan Battle (who flipped to Alabama), QB Dwan Mathis (who flipped to Georgia). Current Georgia QB Justin Fields is now reportedly looking at transfer options.

As of 12/1, the official AP Poll is:

1. Alabama (13-0)
2. Clemson (13-0)
3. Notre Dame (12-0)
4. Oklahoma (12-1)
5. Ohio State (12-1)
6. Georgia (11-2)
7. UCF (12-0)
8. Michigan (10-2)
9. Washington (10-3)
10. Florida (9-3)
11. LSU (9-3)
12. Washington State (10-2)
13. Penn State (9-3)
14. Texas (9-4)
15. West Virginia (8-3)
16. Kentucky (9-3)
17. Syracuse (9-3)
18. Mississippi State (8-4)
19. Fresno State (12-2)
20. Utah (9-4)
21. Texas A&M (8-4)
22. Army (10-2)
23. Boise State (10-3)
24. Missouri (8-4)
25. Iowa State (8-4)

Here is your 2018-19 College Football Playoff and Bowl schedule:

12/29 4:00pm College Football Playoff Semifinal
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No.2 Clemson vs. No.3 Notre Dame

12/29 8:00pm College Football Playoff Semifinal
Capital One Orange Bowl
No.1 Alabama vs No.4 Oklahoma

01/07 8:00pm College Football Playoff National Championship
Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA

12/15
Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl
North Carolina A&T 24
Alcorn State 22

New Mexico Bowl by Progressive
Utah State 52
North Texas 13

AutoNation Cure Bowl
Tulane 41
Louisiana 24

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
Fresno State 31
Arizona State 20

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Georgia Southern 23
Eastern Michigan 21

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Appalachian State 45
Middle Tennessee 13

12/18
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl
UAB 37
Northern Illinois 13

12/19
DXL Frisco Bowl
Ohio 27
San Diego State 0

12/20
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Marshall vs. South Florida

12/21
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl
FIU vs. Toledo

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. BYU

12/22
Jared Birmingham Bowl
Memphis vs. Wake Forest

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston vs. Army

Dollar General Bowl
Buffalo vs. Troy

SoFi Hawai’I Bowl
Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii

12/26
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
Boston College vs. Boise State

Quick Lane Bowl
Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech

Cheez-It Bowl
California vs. TCU

12/27
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
Temple vs. Duke

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Miami vs. Wisconsin

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Baylor vs. Vanderbilt

12/28
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Purdue vs. Auburn

Camping World Bowl
West Virginia vs Syracuse

Valero Alamo Bowl
Iowa State vs. Washington State

12/29
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No.10 Florida vs. No.7 Michigan

Belk Bowl
South Carolina vs. Virginia
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Arkansas State vs. Nevada

CFP Semifinal Cotton Bowl
No.2 Clemson vs. No.3 Notre Dame

CFP Semifinal Orange Bowl
No.1 Alabama vs. No.4 Oklahoma

12/31
Military Bowl by Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech

Hyundai Sun Bowl
Stanford vs. Pittsburgh

Redbox Bowl
Michigan State vs. Oregon

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Missouri vs. Oklahoma State

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Northwestern vs. Utah

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
NC State vs. Texas A&M

O1/01
Outback Bowl
Mississippi State vs. Iowa

VRBO Citrus Bowl
Kentucky vs. Penn State

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
No.11 LSU vs. No.8 UCF

Rose Bowl presented by NWML
No.9 Washington vs. No.6 Ohio State

Allstate Sugar Bowl
No.15 Texas vs. No.5 Georgia

NFL:

The 99th NFL regular season is nearing its end, as we enter Week 16, with a game tonight, two on Saturday, plenty on Sunday, and one on Monday. My Patriots (9-5) have not done particularly well, falling to a last-second hook-and-ladder 69-yard 4 lateral comeback by Miami and Tom Brady uncharacteristically not completing the 2-minute drill on the 4-yard-line against the Steelers, but, luckily, they are in one of the worst divisions, so they won that, and they have two easy games coming up. They still might get a bye, but probably won’t go much further, despite having been the Super Bowl loser last year. Unfortunately, they are losing personnel right and left: today, WR Josh Gordon chose to quit the team to “focus on his mental health” (rumor has it he was about to suspended by the NFL for the 4th time in 4 years for drug use); TE Rob Gronkowski is now nursing 3 different injuries (not including pride for that blown last second play against Miami); WR Jules Edelman has the ‘drops’; RB/WR White appears to be in the doghouse; and QB Tom Brady is looking rushed and old. The Patriots have now fallen behind the Texans in the playoff rankings. Patriots’ QB Tom Brady and the Patriots reportedly had “tough conversations” following their loss to the Steelers. There have been a lot of surprises this NFL season, a lot more parity than usual, some huge upsets, a lot of OT and tie games, and phenomenal inability of many placekickers. Moving the Point After Touchdown from the 2-yard-line to the 33-yard-line didn’t have that much impact initially, but this year it was bizarre. Former Lions WR Titus Young has been released after serving 20 months in prison. Rams star RB Todd Gurley has been out with a knee injury but is expected to return against the Cardinals in Week 16. Saints QB Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton have moved up the list of great QB/coach combos. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers plans on playing against the Jets. The Raiders will reportedly sign former Bills QB Nathan Peterman. They have gone through 4 or more RBs and at least 3 QBs this season. Steelers RB James Conner is still nursing an ankle injury and says he is “not ready yet”. He made the Steelers and Steeler fans forget that their money RB Le’Veon Bell held out all season, which theoretically crippled the Steelers, but Conner was their shining star. Panthers disappointing season continues, as their one star, QB Cam Newton will be shelved this week as well, with a shoulder injury, after Monday night’s loss. The Dolphins only bright spot in a dismal season of no playoffs, ageless RB Frank Gore has been placed on the Injured Reserve with a foot injury. The Super Bowl Champion Eagles’ QB Carson Wentz (who did not play in the Super Bowl or win the MVP) has had a history of back problems, including a stress fracture in his back, that dates back to his college days. A couple of weeks ago, he missed practice because of back spasms, and now a CT scan has revealed a stress fracture in his back, ruling him out for Week 15 and now Week 16. Backup QB Nick Foles, who WAS last year’s Super Bowl MVP will finally get his fourth appearance of this year. The Eagles are not out of the playoffs yet, as they are 7-7 and only one game behind the first place, reeling Cowboys. But, they are playing the Texans. Ageless superstar Redskins RB Adrian Peterson says that he was inspired to keep playing by Packers QB Brett Favre, his longtime rival. After 12 years in the NFL, Peterson still does not want to retire, after just having a great year for the Redskins. Cardinals superstar WR Larry Fitzgerald says that this Sunday may be his final home game. Former NFL TV analyst Jon Gruden had an interesting year, taking the head coaching job at the Oakland Raiders for a lot of money and then trading everybody except QB Derek Carr away. But, he did get a ton of first round and second round draft picks to rebuild the team. Meanwhile, Oakland has filed a lawsuit against the Raiders. The Rams just signed free agent RB C.J. Anderson. Perhaps, they are more concerned about Todd Gurley’s injury than they let on. The Packers have reportedly met with former Broncos QB Paxton Lynch. If anybody is meeting with a former NFL QB, it should be the Dolphins. The Seahawks have signed RB Bo Scarbrough off the Jaguars practice squad. The Packers have placed RB Aaron Jones on injured reserve with a knee issue. Falcons may fire Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Defensive Coordinator Marquand Manuel, according to a new report, now that they have been eliminated from the playoffs. Redskins safety Montae Nicholson has been arrested on assault charges. Ex-Patriot Damien Woody says Rob Gronkowski is “a shell of himself” after all of his injuries. The Chargers are pretty banged up, with WR Keenan Allen out with a hip injury and RB Melvin Gordon out with a knee injury.

If you are thinking ahead to the Pro Bowl, the Chargers lead the NFL with 7 selections. Saints’ QB Drew Brees was named the starting NFC QB. The thing about the NFL’s Pro Bowl, which is supposed to be similar to the All-Star Games for the MLB, NBA, and NHL, is that it occurs at the end of the regular season, a week before the Super Bowl, whereas the other sports do their All-Star games midway through their regular seasons. I never understood why the NFL does this and I have never watched the game accordingly. Because, theoretically, the players from the best two teams aren’t going to play in the Pro Bowl, because they are getting ready for the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl is sort of a consolation game of the 3rd and 4th best players. If the Saints make the Super Bowl, Drew Brees will not be playing in the Pro Bowl as the starting QB. A ten-year-old could have probably figured out that marketing blunder, so why does the NFL do it? Well, I think it’s because of their other problem, injuries, particularly concussions. The Super Bowl would be marred if the absolute best players in the NFL were injured in the middle of the season in a Pro Bowl. The other sports don’t feel they have the same risks of injury. Interesting.

ESPN is reportedly thinking of ways to bring back the glory days of Monday Night Football and better ratings, including possibly adding Peyton Manning as an anchor.

The NFL has picked future locations for the Super Bowl. Minnesota hosted Super Bowl 52 in 2018 in its new dome stadium. Likewise, Atlanta will host Super Bowl 53 in 2019 in its new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In 2020, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami will host Super Bowl 54. In 2021, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa will host Super Bowl 55. In 2022, Los Angeles will host Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles Stadium. In 2023, Glendale, AZ will host Super Bowl 57 in University of Phoenix Stadium. In 2024, Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans will host Super Bowl 58. Clearly, the NFL is favoring weather and dome stadiums.

NHL:

The puck dropped on the regular season, for some teams, on 10/3. We are just short of halfway through now. The Lightning are way ahead (again) in the Eastern Conference and overall in the NHL, trailed by the Leafs, Sabres (that’s a surprise), Capitals, and Bruins (surpisingly mediocre this year). The Devils are in the cellar. Devils goalie, Cory Schneider, just went on IR with an abdominal strain. The Flyers are not far ahead and, so, just fired coach Dave Hakstol. In the Western Conference, there is a logjam at the top between the Jets, Flames, Predators, and Avalanche. The Kings are in the cellar. The Blackhawks are right there too, uncharacteristically. Their goalie, Corey Crawford, suffered another concussion and is back on IR. The Canadian teams have finally returned. Former Senators assistant GM Randy Lee pleaded guilty to sexual harassment charge. Penguins star Sidney Crosby had a heated shouting match with Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, as the Pens beat the Caps. There’s no love lost between these two teams, as Caps’ Tom Wilson dropped Pens’ Jamie Oleksiak in a fight less than a minute into the game. Caps’ Ovechkin extended his career-high point streak to 14 games, the game before, and two straight hat tricks (his 20th and 21st). Trade talk is increasing, particularly for the Blues and the Kings. The Sabres are terminating forward Patrik Berglund’s contract after suspension. The 2019 World Junior Hockey Championships are coming up and Team USA figures to be very involved. Don’t forget the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic coming up (outside in a stadium) on New Year’s Day! This year features the Boston Bruins versus the Chicago Blackhawks at Notre Dame Stadium (wow, they are really opening up that place, having just had their first concert there, Garth Brooks.) The fan-popular outdoor series began 11 years ago. 9 years ago, it featured the Bruins and the Flyers in Fenway Park, which ended in an OT win by the Bruins, while it was snowing. The Blackhawks have appeared in 6 outdoor games, 4 of them Winter Classics. This is the Bruins 3rd Winter Classic. The Penguins may be looking to trade Phil Kessel.

FIELD HOCKEY:

In field hockey, the World Cup concluded with Belgium defeating the Netherlands in the Final.

NBA:

The NBA season officially began on 10/3 as well and it has been all about LeBron James’ debut with the Lakers. The Rockets set an NBA record with 26 3-pointers made in their win over Wizards 136-118 on Wednesday. The Nets have won 6 in a row, topping the Lakers in Brooklyn. Heat guard Goran Dragic will be out 2 months after knee surgery. Timberwolves Taj Gibson tried to block a shot with his shoe. There is a full schedule of NBA games on Christmas Day, a kind of more recent tradition (like NCAA Football bowl games on New Year’s Day, NHL Outdoor Classic game on New Year’s Day, and 4 NFL games on Thanksgiving Day). The NBA trade deadline is 2/7. Free Agency is upon us now though. The Wizards will sign former Knicks guard Ron Baker. LeBron James keeps talking about the Lakers potentially acquiring Pelicans’ star Anthony Davis, although the latter keeps defusing the remarks. Hawks’ Kent Bazemore is generating interest. Jason Terry declared that he would be open to signing with the Lakers or Warriors. Bulls’ Jabari Parker expects to be traded. Lakers will probably trade Brandon Ingram. The Rockets are reportedly interested in Laker’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Thunder’s Dennis Schroder and Raymond Felton were suspended after a scuffle with the Bulls. NFL Draft is also happening now and Rounds 1 and 2 have been completed. The Pacers and Kings will take the NBA to India in 2019. Lamar Odom says he will play in the Dubai International Basketball League. C’mon, they couldn’t find and R word for a snazzy acronym DRIBL for basketball???

Travel News:

Just as we come up on another excessive traveling holiday period, Americans are again facing bad weather that should lead to thousands of delays and cancellations. Friday, 12/21, should be the heaviest day of travel, according to AAA. British Airways flew 4 kids to NYC to recreate the movie HOME ALONE 2, on a plance decked out with Christmas lights. A Korean Air flight attendant humiliated by an airline executive will receive $18,000. US and Mexico have announced that they have reached a deal on migrants seeking asylum at the border. A nudist park is up for sale in New Zealand. A Delta passenger claims a cleaning crew stole laptop left on an airplane. Donna Karan has a new travel-inspired pop-up store. A college student claims that Southwest Airlines forced her to abandon her pet fish at an airport. Speaking of Southwest Airlines, they are beginning their Hawaii route very soon. Britain’s second-largest airport has reopened, after a chaos with nearby drones.

Health News:

Legionnaires’ outbreak at a Wisconsin hospital has resulted in 3 deaths, according to officials. New research shows that veterinarians, especially women, are farm more likely to die by suicide. Some stem cell shots have now been linked to a bacterial infection. The US government is urging more doctors to write prescriptions for the overdose antidote. A new report says the obesity epidemic in the US is worsening. Most drugmakers are planning US price hikes in 2019. The deadly Ebola cousin virus, Marburg, has been found in West African bats. The FDA has issued a warning that some antibiotics, particularly those prescribed for an upper respiratory infection or urinary tract infections who are already at risk, can cause fatal heart damage. The antibiotics in the Fluroquinolone family might raise the risk of an aortic dissection in people already at risk. Interestingly, Cipro, which is one of the drugs in that family, one of five families of antibiotics, is the one that put me in emergency for antiphylactic shock twice. A new agriculture bill would legalize hemp. Teen vaping is now becoming a public health threat, according to the Surgeon General, and is many times more concentrated nicotine. He has officially declared it an epidemic among children and outlined the aggressive steps the government, including the FDA, will take to protect our children. The FDA has threatened an outright ban, if these efforts don’t work. Juul, the most popular vape product by far among teens, offers no nicotine-free flavors. Many think that the huge spike in teen vaping is because of the various ‘flavors’, but scientists think that it’s because of the higher concentration of nicotine. “A Juul cartridge, or ‘pod’, contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes,” according to the Surgeon General. A survey released Monday showed 37% of high school seniors have tried vaping, up from just under 28% in 2017. While e-cigarettes may help some adult smokers quit using more dangerous tobacco cigarettes, studies show that they’re of no benefit at all to teens. Nicotine is not only extremely addictive, “but it is uniquely harmful to young and developing brains that can cause learning, attention and memory problems, and it can prime the brain for addiction in the future,” according the Surgeon General. Guns are now the second leading killer of US kids. A new study shows that opioids don’t work that well. The romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak, which has finally ended, has been traced to one California farm.

Animal News:

A record 18-foot 150lb Burmese python was captured in Florida, breaking the state record. The state is currently conducting a hunt, as part of the South Florida Water Management District’s Python Elimination Program. Unfortunately, the non-native gigantic species has no natural predators here, especially at that size. Even alligators and crocodiles stay clear. It looks like fried chicken chain, Popeyes, has missed the mark on its new advertising campaign. Popeyes started using “emotional support chicken” meal carriers at Philadelphia International Airport, which PETA is furious about. They feel it’s a terrible jab at the raging national debate over emotional support animals on planes and people who abuse the program. The disposable tote is a carry-on box in the shape of a chicken and a sign boasting about its chicken’s “comforting” effects on travelers. Scientists have discovered 130-million-year old insects trapped in amber, right where they were born. Former nicotine research monkeys are now at a primate sanctuary. A new animal cruelty lawsuit has been filed by ALDF against Washington Drive-Thru Zoo Olympic Game Farm. According to a new report, 10 species are threatened by extinction, including red wolves, one of the rarest mammals on Earth (only 2 or 3 breeding pairs remain), due to lack of protection by the federal government, as the current administration is working on finalizing rules that will weaken the Endangered Species Act, despite 99.9% of more than 108,000 public comments preferring stronger federal protection. Scientific consensus indicates that we are in the sixth wave of extinction now. Other animals that are now in peril are:

• California condor
• Giraffe
• Hellbender
• Humboldt marten
• Leatherback and Loggerhead sea turtles
• Rusty patched bumble bee
• San Bernadino kangaroo rat
• West Indian manatee
• Western yellow-billed cuckoo
Toughie, the world’s last Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog has passed away and the species is now extinct. According to the WWF, elephants are still the most poached species in the world. Trophy-hunting US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has resigned from controversial position in Trump Administration, in response to numerous ethics investigations. Scientists released a new study in which they found rat poison in 85% of tested mountain lions and bobcats. Beginning on 12/18, Delta Air Lines began banning support animals on airplanes with flights longer than 8 hours, and will no longer allow any service or support animals under 4 months of age on any flight (due to USDA vaccination requirements). Roger, the incredibly buff kangaroo, has died at age 12.

Entertainment News:

While I was away, President Trump announced and awarded the following 7 people the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients (the highest honor a US civilian can receive): my Elvis Presley (finally), George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr., Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senator Orrin Hatch, Miriam Adelson, Alan C. Page, and Roger Staubach. The prestigious award is given to “individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House press release.

Sad news on Tuesday, as Penny Marshall, actress/producer, famous for producing and directing the movie BIG and the movie A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, and her long-standing TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley, died of cancer at age 74.

The Academy Awards has yet to find a replacement for host Kevin Hart, who surprisingly pulled out 48 hours after being announced. It was his dream his whole life to host the Oscars, but texts considered homophobic from his past came back to haunt him and forced him to withdraw. The Voice crowned a 14-year-old country singer as champion. Meanwhile, a former Voice finalist just butchered the National Anthem at an NBA game. A WWE professional wrestler just fractured his skull in a jump from the top rope that went terribly wrong. Singer Anca Pop’s last photo shows the river in which she died. Jimmy Kimmel is being slammed for a God and Satan sketch. Ellen DeGeneres is back doing stand-up comedy, after a 20-year hiatus. Mary Lambert is explaining how she survived childhood molestation and rape. Michael Rapaport is being attacked on Twitter for posting mean Tweet about Ariana Grande’s looks. Josh Duhamel has revealed tha the wants to find “someone young enough” to have kids with after split from Fergie. There has been a backlash from the entertainment industry regarding the NFL’s policy regarding kneeling during the National Anthem and the hiring of former QB Colin Kaepernick. Several artists have now declined to do the halftime show, and Maroon 5 has still not committed. Jay-Z is trying to talk Travis Scott out of doing the halftime show. A Beverly Hills 90210 TV series reboot is in the works. Bravo TV’s Andy Cohen announces that he’s going to become a father. Drew Barrymore continues to struggle with her issues and has started a five-part series where she invites people to share in photos of herself crying and in depression. Beyonce may have just secretly dropped 2 new albums, as new songs are appearing on Spotify and Apple Music, as of Thursday night. Vanessa Hudgens and Charles Melton have now joined BAD BOYS 3. Audrina Patridge and Corey Bohan have finalized their divorce, which was filed after only 10 months of marriage in September 2017. The divorce lasted longer than the marriage. There are rumors that Modern Family could come back for one final season. Kate Hudson is under fire for partnering with Weight Watchers. Why? Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton are apparently feuding, which is just like normal families. Gossip Girl alum Penn Badgley says ‘priveleged white people’ make up majority of acting industry. Rapper Juelz Santana has been sentenced to prison for possessing gun in airport. Halsey is responded to backlash over her The Voice performance, blasting “homophobic viewers.” Tommy Lee and his son Brandon have made amends after their physical altercation. Madonna is ‘shading’ Lady Gaga, accusing her of ripping her off again over A STAR IS BORN press tour, saying that she is using lines that Madonna had originally said years ago. Sandra Bullock is opening up about losing her father, 2 dogs, and crying in the bathtub. A judge has announced that Harvey Weinstein sexual assault case will move forward, after all the delays. Kelly Clarkson doesn’t want her kids to become musicians. Amber Heard claims that she lost acting jobs after making abuse allegations against Johnny Depp.

I have a pet peeve that has developed, having studied English and Journalism in college, I want to know when it became okay for television newscasters and reporters to start their stories with the subject, followed immediately by the pronoun, as in “Flu shots, they have been less effective…” or “The President, he said blah blah blah” or “Alec Baldwin, he punched…” or “Hurricane Michael, it will …” I just don’t get it. The proper noun initiated the sentence, so there is zero need to qualify it with an additional pronoun. If you think I’m kidding, listen to any news broadcast and you will hear this rampant misuse of the English language. I’ve listened to six examples just this morning on the Today show.

I’m still behind in movies, but not horrifically behind. I did see some 2017 movies recently: MEG (2 out of 10), MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: SKYFALL (8.5 out of 10, I think the best in the series), MAMA MIA 2 (7 out of 10, Cher stole the show), and THE POST (6.5 out of 10, beautifully historic yet boring). I still have not seen A STAR IS BORN, FIRST MAN, or BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, but must.

This week’s box-office was okay, maybe because of the weather. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE took No.1 in its debut, with $35.4 million (budget of $90 million); No.2 was also a debut, the new Clint Eastwood movie THE MULE, pulling in $17.5 million (budget of $50 million); No.3 was DR. SEUSS’ THE GRINCH which fell from No.2 with $11.8 million, in its 6th week (total of $239 million on a budget of $75 million, so no crying to the bank); No.4 was RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET, yet another animated movie, this one tumbling from No.1 with just $9.3 million in its 4th week (total $154 million on budget of $175 million, maybe some weeping. Wait, how does an animated film cost $175 million nowadays?); and No.5 was another debut, MORTAL ENGINES with $7.6 million box-office (budget $100 million, uh oh!). CREED II or Rocky 8, depending on whether you are on metric or not, had a mere $5.4 million for 6th place, but has make more than double its budget of $50 million. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY fell to No.7 in its 7th week, with another $4.3 million (up to $180.6 million now on budget of $52 million, a winner).

Movies coming out this week is a heavy load of movies: DIAL CODE: SANTA CLAUS/BLOOD BEAT (don’t ask me), MARY POPPINS RETURNS (only took 53 years for Part II, so atypical of Hollywood), ANTARIKSHAM, BATMAN RETURNS/GREMLINS (huh?), PADI PADI LECHE MANASU (now I’m wondering if they are just messing with me), SEETHAKATHI, ADANG MARU, AIRPOCALYPSE (what?), ALL IS TRUE, AMERICAN RENEGADES, AQUAMAN, BIRD BOX, BUMBLEBEE (smaller Transformer), COLD WAR, DIE HARD/TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (this is suspicious because in the ad Bruce Willis has hair), DIRTY DIANA, FOURTH QUARTER, KGF CHAPTER I, MAARI 2, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (I want to see this, as she is my ancestor), RENEGADES, SECOND ACT (JLo film which looks funny), SWING KIDS, WELCOME TO MARWEN (I want to see this), ZERO, VIRTUAL ASSASIN, THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, AURORA, HOLMES & WATSON (featuring WIl Farrell and the other guy from TALLADEGA NIGHTS, could be silly funny), IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, ON THE BASIS OF SEX, VICE, TAKE POINT, FANTASTICA, KILL MOBILE, SIMMBA, STAN AND OLLIE (I grew up watching them).

Technology & Space News:

According to the DOJ, Chinese hackers spent years trying to steal US technology. The DOJ is going after the Chinese intelligence officers now. 50 years later, Apollo 8’s astronauts tell of being first to orbit moon and see an “Earthrise”. There is a triple threat today, with the Winter Solstice, a full moon, and a meteor shower. Watch out for the crazies! Apple has changed its rules to allow in-app gifting. Kids have been apparently leery to join Facebook and YouTube Kids, favoring Instagram. US postal stamp prices are going up again in 2019. Kohl’s will be open 24 hours starting today through Christmas Eve.

US News:

A border wall fundraiser is among GoFundMe’s top 5 fundraisers ever. A US Government shutdown is looming and President Trump is vowing a veto of the stopgap budget, if it doesn’t include provisions for his wall on the Mexican border. The House then forced a Senate Thursday by approving $5 billion in border wall funding. The House has also passed a criminal justice reform bill. A porn star has been arrested for masterminding a murder-for-hire plot. The deputy who killed his relatives before committing suicide was a former Officer of the Year recipient. A 12-year-old boy has been charged with stabbing his sister to death and attacking his lobbyist mother. A former gymnast has lost a leg and arm to toxic shock syndrome. A DEA “double agent” has been accused of secretly working with murderous gang. Police have charged an Iowa man with the 1979 murder of an 18-year-old woman. A Salvadoran man sought sanctuary 9 miles from the White House. Illinois Attorney General has found 500 more Catholic clergy accused of abuse. The US military has ended its search for 5 missing US Marines after their crash off the Japanese coast. US Defense Secretary Gen. Jim Mattis is leaving his job, retiring at the end of February, after a clash with President Trump over Syria, following the President’s announcement that he would withdraw troops from Syria because the war against ISIS is over.

International News:

The Balangiga bells, taken by US Army soldiers from the Philippines in 1901 as war trophies, have been repatriated back to the Philippines. Two days after a shooting at the Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, in which 5 people died, French police have killed the suspected shooter. A massive sinkhole has opened up near an Indonesian hospital. Russian President Putin says convicted Russian spy Marina Butina pleaded guilty to a lie. ISIS may be behind a savage killing of backpackers in Morocco. Congo has delayed presidential vote until December 30th, citing a fire. US troops are preparing to withdraw from Syria, after President Trump declared victory over ISIS. Kurdish-led US allies in Syria say that withdrawing of US troops will aid ISIS. A celebrity spiritual leader, John of God, in Brazil has been accused of sex abuse. North Korea just said that it will never denuclearize, unless the US removes its nuclear threat. The detention of 2 Canadians has raised the tension in China-US-Canada dispute. A US sportswear brand has been traced to internment camps holding detained Chinese Muslims. A 3-year-old Indian girl has been raped on the 6th anniversary of the brutal Delhi gang rape. Germany has agreed to compensate survivors of WWII’s Kindertransport. Saudi Arabia has strongly rebuked US Senate’s “interference” in the Kingdom. At least 11 people have died in India from a suspected rice poisoning at a temple celebration. Australia has just recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Florida:

The blue-green algae disaster on the East Coast of Florida and red tide disaster on the West Coast of Florida (stretching 135 miles along the southwest coast) are thankfully over for tourists and the tourist industry. However, they still left piles of dead fish, turtles, and whales littered all over the beaches, particularly on the West Coast, and overall marine life was devastated.

If you are interested in seeing more famous bands or solos in concert, than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances, there are many coming to Florida, perhaps when you will be visiting:

Cher and Chic-Sunrise, January 19
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 14 (saw it, was awesome)
Fleetwood Mac-Sunrise, February 20
PGA Honda Classic-PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, February 28-March 2
Pink-Sunrise-March 1 (I might have to go)
Paul Anka-Fort Lauderdale-March 4
Elton John-Sunrise, March 16
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, March 17
Palm Beach International Boat Show-West Palm Beach, March 28-March 31
The Rolling Stones-Miami, April 20
Train & Goo Goo Dolls-West Palm Beach, July 6
Queen & Adam Lambert-Sunrise, August 17